A Pounce of Cats, part 2

Or the Tale of Radcliffe Jellylorum

In the last post, dedicated to Chuck, Brent, and Shiela, which you can read here: When the River Won’t Flow: A Pounce of Cats, I told the tale of the cats that were members of the family while I was growing up. But the next generation also had wishes concerning a pet – and this is that tale.

Twenty-some years later, we had a little daughter who wanted a cat. I took her to a shelter, and we brought home a cat who had been returned to them three times. Some dear little kittens were hard to pass by. But our wise little girl chose the cat who had been returned to the shelter three times. That cat needed a forever home, and he was the one she decided to take back to live with us.

As this was our daughter’s cat – she got the right to name him. Frankly, I can’t remember whether this was a hard or easy job for her. But for a girl who had just recently reached double digits, I think she did an outstanding job.

She dubbed the lad Radcliffe Jellylorum. (Radcliffe after the Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, and also for Radcliffe Emerson, an Egyptologist in a series of mystery books by Elizabeth Peters that our daughter had just started reading; and Jellylorum from T.S. Elliot’s remarkable poem, “The Naming of Cats.”) Radcliffe lived happily for many years in South Carolina and then moved with us to Arizona.

He watched bird TV out of the windows in South Carolina, and he watched bunny TV out the windows in Arizona. He was a kind and faithful cat!


Posted in Animals, Family, Friendship, Life in these times, Marriage, Mental Health | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Pounce Of Cats

A reader of my blog suggested that it might help me deal with my grief to get a dog. He suggested that having a dog to take for walks, feed, and care for might help me to focus outside myself and my loss. In other words, to help me move beyond my grief.  It was a very thoughtful suggestion, and I certainly appreciated it. However, I replied that I am a cat person. To that end, I dedicate this blog post to three people: Chuck, Brent, and Sheila. Chuck suggested that I get a dog, and Brent and Sheila regularly send me photos of their cats.

When I was a child, some neighbors found a Mama Cat who chose their yard to have four kittens. I begged my parents to please allow me to have a cat. They said nothing. One day while running some errands, Mom drove to the library and pulled up right in front. She handed me her library card and asked me to pick up the book waiting for her at the circulation desk. I couldn’t believe my eyes — It was about caring for CATS.  I thought just maybe my parents would let me have a cat. But no. Better — I got two! I named the little kittens Rainbow and Smokey.

Some years later, one of my brothers had a cat named Phredric Phredricson. I was a wee bit concerned that Phred was a tad too interested in my goldfish: Ichthys, and Piscis.

But he behaved and didn’t eat them. One day when I was in junior high, Phred disappeared. We put an ad in the paper, and several people called us – but none were Phred.

Eventually, we got a call from a lady who lived near the high school and said she thought she had our cat. My mom was a teacher, and she picked me up after school to see if the cat was Phred. The poor little guy wasn’t. But the lady must have had fifty cats in her house, and she told us that her husband wouldn’t let her have another cat. How he would notice there was another cat we hadn’t a clue. There were cats EVERYWHERE. But my mom talked to me and suggested, quietly, that we adopt the little black cat. So after school, we went back and claimed him. My Dad named him Otto. Not just any Otto, but his full name was Otto von Bismarck.

Dog people have often told me that, unlike cats, dogs are very intelligent and will be loyal and go anywhere with you. Well, let me tell you about our brilliant cat who could tell time.

Around 3:30 pm on school days, Otto would often walk two blocks from our house and sit by the mailbox on Upton and Wellesley’s NE corner. That mailbox was on my way home from elementary school and high school. I walked south down Upton to get to Wellesley, where I turned to go home.   It was so nice to be greeted by Otto and then walk home together.

My Father, who worked downtown, would often take the bus home in the evening. If I noticed the time, and it was a little before 6 pm, I would say to Otto, “let’s go meet Dad.” Otto would immediately join me, and we would walk to and wait at the SE corner of Upton and Wellesley, which was where the bus would stop. It was a fairly busy street. But Otto would sit and wait patiently. When Dad got off the bus, the three of us would walk home together.

We had Otto for many years. In 1973 we were away for three weeks on vacation.  Our neighbor was taking care of him.   But when we came home, Otto had lost much of his fur and could hardly hold his head up. We think he despaired that we would not come home again. We took him to the vet, who gave him a shot and some vitamins to help him recover.  Otto healed in no time and lived many more years.

My parents kept Otto when I went to college and grad school, during which time I came home to get married. Otto was a remarkable cat.  Not only was he well-loved, but he often helped my Dad with his reading.   He sometimes kept my Dad company at breakfast, as well!  Otto was the last cat our family had.  But there is still more to the story.

Twenty-some years later, my husband and I had a little daughter who wanted a cat.  But that story deserves a tale all its own.  Stay tuned!

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A Riptide of Grief

Long ago, at Folly Beach in South Carolina, some good times were interrupted by what seemed to me to be an eternity of terror. If you have experience with riptides, you probably know just what I mean.

We were in hip-deep water when all of a sudden, I was pulled under by a riptide. I couldn’t get my footing. I remember seeing sand and sky over and over and over again. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stand. Finally, a hand reached down, got hold of me, and pulled me to my feet.

That riptide is what my life feels like at present. That is the most accurate way I know to describe the grief I have been living through this year. I try to get my footing. I try to set goals for myself to accomplish something each day. But riptides are a constant threat. Last night I cried myself to sleep again.

My dear mother was a widow for 13 years, and she died just two months shy of her 90th birthday. I am a widow for the rest of my life and am decades away from my 90th birthday. I have much to be thankful for in my life. But nothing in my life prepared me for the trials of this year.

How does one prepare to see the man they love climb to the top of the stairs and then collapse on the floor for lack of oxygen? How do you brace yourself for the news, that after today, there will be no visiting allowed in the hospital?

Thankfully, I was able to bring him home.

Ron and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary in January. Two months later, he was dead. We hadn’t even finished arranging our Ohio home. Dying intervened. We had lots of plans: things to do, places to go, people to see. Death had other plans.

This woman, who loved and was loved by her husband, is stuck in a riptide of grief. It keeps pulling me under.

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The Color of Grief

June 24th marked three months since my husband died. I am doing better. The country is divided and embroiled in attacks, mobs, destruction, death, all manner of hateful things. All I seem able to do is try to get through another day without Ron.

I have business tasks and legal chores to attend to, but I get so overwhelmed by grief that somedays I need to say no. It isn’t going to happen today. Instead, while doing laundry, I watched some Sherlock Holmes. That was what I could manage.

Some people seem to like being culture warriors. Not me. I’m just trying to learn how to be a widow. There are many different kinds of marriages. Some seem to be a kind of parallel-life business arrangement. Some seem to have settled into respectful friendships. Some I don’t understand at all. But it isn’t my business to try to understand why people have chosen the person they married. All I know is that I was very fortunate to have Ron. Like my parents, Ron and I were happiest when together.

Before I married the first time, at age 24, I had had seven marriage proposals. All of them were decent people: one was from another continent and another race; one was a lovesick boy. One was my boyfriend for three years while I was in college. But none of them were quite the right choices. I finally found the right guy to marry — and we made it through twenty-six years of marriage. To my life-long regret, I failed him when he needed me most. It is a grief that I have carried through every year since that time.

Then I married Ron. Ron did not have any protective armor. He loved me with a passion that carried us through all tides. There was nothing off-limits to discuss. When I got emotional and cried, he held me and told me to tell him about it. When I started hanging family pictures on the wall of the front stairs — he told me to put wedding and family photos of my first husband and our daughter. He wanted my daughter always to feel welcomed in our house. There are quite a lot of those pictures scattered around our house. There are beautiful pictures of his daughters in our house, and I have always wanted them to feel at home here.

Neither Ron nor I were perfect people. We were sinners who asked for forgiveness, picked up the broken pieces of life, and tried to go on as best we could.

Ron was an amazing man, generous to a fault, and for some unknown reason, he adored me. Beyond all that, he was my best friend. Since his death, I have managed some pretty happy days with friends and family. But rarely have I made it through an entire day without tears. They come less frequently now — but they trip me up none the less. I hate crying in front of other people, and so on top of the tears, I get frustrated and embarrassed that I can’t control them better.

My Mom was a widow for thirteen years. I was living in another state — but we talked nearly every day, and sometimes multiple times a day. In my whole life, I can only remember a very few times when my Mom cried. She and my Dad loved each other and loved getting into mischief together. Sometimes just escaping for a weekend — only the two of them. They had such fun together. My Dad’s death was surprising — from a Saturday until the following Wednesday was all the warning we had. Yet she kept on much less soggily than I have managed.

As much as I miss Ronnie, I am praying that the Lord will grant me many more years of good health. My Dad’s Mother lived to be 90 if I recall correctly. My Mom lived to be 89, about three months shy of her 90th birthday. I would love to be able to see my grandchildren grow up. Ron and I talked about many future adventures. Thinking about pursuing some of those adventures makes me very happy.

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Two Generations of Marriage Priorities

I’ve often written about my parents in the pages of this blog. They were each other’s intellectual equals. They were hopelessly in love with each other and knew how to have fun. You can’t have fathers without mothers,  and my parents were an extraordinary team. My parents were the perfect parents on the planet for me.  I could talk to either of them about anything and often did.  I was a surprise and the last of their four children.

Some parents center their lives around their children. My parents didn’t do that. Their unshakable belief in God and their love for each other came first, then their love for their children.

My parents knew and loved my first husband. They were so proud of him and so thankful we found each other. They adored our daughter. We lived in South Carolina, and my parents lived in Ohio. It is cause for thanksgiving that my Dad saw his littlest grandchild five times in what we learned afterward would be the last year of his life.

Neither of my parents met my husband, Ron. My mom’s memory was failing, and although she was alive when I was corresponding, long-distance, with Ron, I would have had to tell her anew a dozen times a day. Instead, I told her younger sister, my dearest aunt. Ron and I traveled to Ohio and were able to spend some time visiting with her.  She loved him!

Decades before I met Ron, he went to a Marriage Encounter weekend. I’ve never been to one, so I am just sharing what he told me. As opposed to many who place their children at the center of the family, Ron was really struck by the teaching at Marriage Encounter. They talked about the need to keep the husband & wife as the center of the family and to tether their relationship to faith in God. Ron came to believe in the wisdom that families are stronger when they are anchored on God with the parents at the center of the family, not the children holding that place.  My parents seemed to know that intuitively.

Although I met many of my friends’ parents growing up, I still thought that my parents’ faith and love for each other were pretty ordinary.  Experiences in college and early adult life disproved that notion resoundingly.

My parents first were faithful disciples of God.  If you missed it, you can read about that here:   When The River Won’t Flow: Parking Athanasius Police Love    Next, after God, they were hopelessly in love with one another and put each other fist. Then came their love for my three brothers and me.

Although Ron never met my parents, nor they, him, he was a firm believer in God. After his faith in God – Ronnie loved me. He respected me, he was kind and thoughtful towards me. We had wonderful adventures together, and many dreams of future adventures. A favorite memory which I hold dear is Ronnie starting nearly every morning by going out on our back patio in Arizona and saying, in a lovely Scottish brogue, “Glory be to Jesus, it’s a beautiful day!”

Ron was blessed with two daughters, and I was blessed with one. Both of us were/are so proud of our daughters and their families. My marriage to Ron brought into my life his two loving (and funny!) daughters, their husbands, and extended families. Ron often talked to me about how thankful he was that in marrying me he also gained a loving (and funny!)  daughter, her husband, and their family.   God is good!


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I Can’t

I do not have it in me to fight culture wars.

It hasn’t yet been three months since Ron died — and I do not have it in me to engage in much of anything on social media.

Except, when people ask for prayers.  I can do that.

I can smile at fun family photos, leave my friends’ birthday and anniversary wishes.

I can offer my condolences when they are mourning the loss of someone they care about.

But today I can’t write a real blog post.  So instead, with just few moments left before publishing time,  I have written:   I Can’t.

Instead of writing a real blog post, I went out for my first bike ride on one of the two bikes which Ron and I bought in Arizona.  That was healing.  I wish he had been with me to go exploring.  But he is dead and I am not.

Culture wars are more than this 62 widow can deal with.   Forgive me for not spending hours fact-checking.  If you want to, have at it.  If you want to fight the culture wars,  have at it.

I don’t have sufficient courage, strength or tears left.

I just can’t.









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Our Dreams and The Rialto Theatre

Ron and I were able to celebrate eleven wedding anniversaries. I am thankful for every one of those years, but I must confess that we had plans for many more. Ron and I dreamed about many things we wanted to do:

  • He often talked about the two of taking a trip to Hawaii. He had been there multiple times, including twice with the U.S. Navy. But Ron’s niece and her family live there, and he wanted to take me there.
  • We both longed to go back to Wyoming, where we went on our honeymoon. We took a belated one, six months after we were married so that we could enjoy summer rather than winter weather. It was perfect.

  • He used to talk about taking me to Hong Kong, a place he had had fun visiting years ago, again, trips made courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
  • I’ve lived and worked in Switzerland and have traveled four times seeing many places in Europe. But Ron discovered that I had never been to Italy. He had visited Rome with some priest friends and loved it. He often talked about us going there.

Ronnie and I saw many of our dreams come true – both large and small. As much as Ron considered Arizona home, he had a strong desire to get me back to my home state of Ohio, where I was raised and went to college and where my brothers and cousins and many long friends live. Bless him, we accomplished that in 2018. We moved into an 1855 beauty, which is Ronnie’s and my last home.

Like many beautiful things, our home has some odd bits as well. At the top of the back stairs is a room that is like a huge landing measuring about 12 by 16 feet. Because of its location, we can’t turn it into a bedroom. So, at Ron’s suggestion, we created a theater with TV, movie pictures, etc. Ron proposed that we name it after The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona.

He participated in the decorating of it – complete with two of his western paintings, and an autographed picture of his hero, John Wayne, that we found on our honeymoon. From that start, Ron and I added many framed images from movies we love and enjoy. I hung three more pictures Sunday morning before church. I sure wish my Ron could have seen them, but I have no doubt he would have approved. We had good times hanging out in our Rialto Theatre!

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Litmus Tests and Lectures

In life, we are often called upon to make judgments. Sometimes officially — in our job, on a jury, whether the new employee is trustworthy to have keys to the building.

But litmus tests abound in social life as well. Often I have found them patronizing. In social life, such judgments often presume a great deal that could not be known by the person making the judgment. I know several people who have used litmus tests to determine if a person is adequately forward-thinking enough to be considered a friend.

I have a friend who said on FB that probably most white people don’t know any people of color. Their wording suggested that people may be acquainted with someone from another race but aren’t friends. Why do we feel the need to test those around us? I’ve heard the same kinds of comments from other friends for whom the litmus test is about gay people. How are litmus tests helpful? I’ve had black friends since kindergarten, and I’ve had gay friends since I was a freshman in high school, which is longer than the lives of the people who were posting those litmus tests.

Every day, people demonize those who vote for the other political party. According to Hillary Clinton, the entire opposite party is deplorable. Hillary suggested that women likely are told for whom to vote by their husbands. I confess that I enjoyed that. Even my dear mother, who was born in 1917, didn’t ask her husband for whom she should vote. But every political side and every group of people seem to think, at least at times, that those others are the problem. President Trump often says things that are obnoxious and insulting to others — often regarding the press — the Fake News — as he puts it.

I have a dear college friend, who went on to teach in college, who said that it was always important to examine what the opposition believes, chiefly, because it might show you the weaknesses of your position. Twice in recent history, I have been asked to suggest reading material that argued against the political and moral beliefs to which the person asking subscribes. But when I produced it, they refused to read it — because they refused to read anything by a particular author. In one case, because of something the author did 25 years ago; in the other, because the author was writing their opinion about a news event, not reporting news per se.

I have butted heads too often in the public square and have decided to keep my own council. But I will say this: a significant number of people have lost everything that they spent a lifetime building in the recent lootings and fires around the country. Many people have lost their businesses and the lives of people dear to them.

Please ditch litmus tests and lectures.

Instead, reach out, and listen attentively.

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Parking, Athanasius, Police, Love

As this last Sunday was Trinity Sunday, it came over me that I should tell you this true story. It is a bit of history related to me by two reputable people who repeated it over the years. The story did not change.

The Christian church generally uses one of three creeds during worship: the Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed (named after Athanasius). The Athanasian Creed is the longest, and, dare I say it, the hardest. It describes God, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit — in immense detail. The Athanasian creed’s purpose was to fight heresy. All three of the ecumenical creeds listed above are available free online. They are also often in church hymnals and might be in catechetical materials.

But let’s get back to the story of the man and the woman out on a date a long time ago. They were both raised in the church, but the man went off to college and became something of an unbeliever. He had a Philosophy professor who made him question his faith. He came away from that experience as an agnostic. He wasn’t sure that he believed in God. He doubted many things about God, as described in the Bible.

But he goes out on this date with a young woman. She was no slouch intellectually, and they started talking about God. It got a little interesting because she was a smart cookie, and he started spouting his questions about God’s existence. It became clear that they should pull off to the side of the road and talk it out.

It was not a short conversation, and then the Police came. The Police car pulled up behind them. The Policeman walked up to the driver’s car window, shown a flashlight in the car, and asked the young couple what they were doing on this lonely stretch of road on the outskirts of town. Their reply was decidedly truthful. “You wouldn’t believe us if we told you.”

The Policeman told them to move along, which they did. The culmination of that evening’s debate was this: she eventually persuaded him. In time he believed what scripture said about the existence of God.  Still, further, he believed in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as described in scripture and the creeds.

What a relief! Personally, I am very thankful for that. Otherwise, that couple might never have gotten together. Had that calamity happened — my three older brothers and I would not have been born. Not everyone’s parents debate Trinitarian theology on dates, parked at the side of the road, and questioned by the Police. But I am thankful that mine did — and that Athanasius (and Love) — won the day!

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Courage in the Public Square

Some days I wake up and feel as if I can take on the world. But in point of fact, I am tired, and these days the world is not a forgiving place. If you have an opinion and dare to voice it publicly, it needs sturdy roots to stand up to intense scrutiny.

I read a persuasive article yesterday that had extensive quotes purportedly by George Soros. I briefly researched the journal’s reliability but unearthed nothing in the middle, only absolute judgments, pro, and con. That seems to mirror where we are as a nation.

I retreat and wait. Many seem ready to kick ass and take names.
I do not have it in me.
I am tired of attack.
I am tired of grief.
I am worn.
I wait.

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