15 December 2007

Dealing With Loss

I have been avoiding writing about this until now for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, I don't really want to concede that it's real. I guess I've got a mild case of Ostrich Syndrome . . or is it Flamingos that put their head in the sand? Either way, if I continue my nonchalance and naivete I can avoid dealing with my true emotions. Truth be told, the veneer is starting to wear thin.

The second reason I've avoided the subject is that I really don't like the thought of assigning blame for accidents. Sure, someone's responsible, but malice is conspicuously absent. Nonetheless, because of the depth of the emotional wound left there will no doubt be resentment and grudge holding, at least on a private level. My hope is that this remains in the correct perspective and isn't allowed to damage friendships that, as humans, should be more important than pets.

But the fact remains that a very dear member of our family is missing, and the likelihood that we'll ever see him again grows considerably slimmer by the hour. I got Phillip 10 years ago in Nashville. I adopted him and his brother, Terrence, from a woman who had raised them for their first year but could no longer keep them. I paid $100 for their 1-year shots, signed the papers and left that vet's office with two great cats. We spent a few days trying to come up with names for our new cats, and we finally settled on Terrence and Phillip. We gleaned the idea from the TV show South Park, the offensive and controversial adult cartoon that had just been launched on Comedy Central within the last year or so. Terrence and Phillip were the gassy twin bobble-headed Canadians on the show who became pop-culture icons, if only for a short period of time, due to their slap-sticky and crass brand of humor and music. If nothing else, the choice of names imparted a little personality to two otherwise un-interesting and low maintenance cats. And it gave them permanence in the family.

The cats moved with me to Miami for my short stint there and then made the long journey to Charlotte when I moved here in 2002. Two small apartments in a row proved to be too much for Terrence to handle, as he escaped from captivity later that year and was never seen again. We replaced Phillip's companion as best we could a couple of times, with the most recent addition to the family being a mom and daughter pair given to us by a good friend. The three have seemed happy together, with each having a distinct role in their relationships with each other, as well as having very happy niches among the humans. Girl, the mommy cat, is my little attention whore. Every time my lap appears, she's clammoring for a seat on it. And she isn't shy about it, either. She would routinely shove Phillip out of the way if she wanted some lovin'. Cheeks, the "baby", has always been shy. Her human companion of choice is Avery, which is not a surprise at all given her generally gentle nature. Avery's content to see but not touch the cats, and that's just how Cheeks prefers it.

And as much as I hate to admit it, Phillip was a Mama's boy. As much history and connection as I had with him, he always had a soft spot in his heart for Mandi. When she was pregnant with Lily, Phillip would eschew his normal spot on my side of the bed at night for his post near her belly. As though he could sense the growing baby inside, he'd curl up next to Mandi to offer his warmth and protection. He was a part of our family in so many ways that it's hard to imagine what it'll be like around here without him. Lily has gone with me on a few outings to look around the neighborhood for him. Last night before bed she asked me "Where'd Phillip go Daddy? He ran away?" I told her we'd look again in the morning. When she got up this morning, the first thing she told me after our good morning hug was "I dream about Phillip Daddy." I'd be lying to you if I said that didn't bring a few tears to my eyes.

So we'll go out again today and look, maybe hand out a few more flyers, and try again to delay finality.

13 December 2007

Favorite All-Time Gifts

Without trying to dust the cobwebs off of the gifts from Christmas' past, I will tell you that one gift I received this year easily has a spot in the all-time top 5 or so. And I've had it for a total of about 3 hours. Mom and Mark hooked me up with a big gift card to Wild Birds Unlimited, which was one of the few things I actually came out and asked for. I, typically, am not very good at pointing potential gift givers in any particular direction. I don't really like to feel like I'm asking for stuff, especially when they're typically just luxuries. Recently, however, I've developed this intense zeal for birdwatching, and I haven't felt bad telling folks that if the occasion for a gift arises that's a no-lose way to go.

So I spent some time planning my purchases, trying to maximize the new-bird attraction. New types of feeders will attract new kinds of birds, but only if they're anywhere near the yard to begin with. What I chose to get was a new pole system, which is customizable so I can add more feeders to it in the future if I choose. I got three new feeders . . a finch tube, a peanut tube, and a suet feeder. I also got stocked up on seed for my other feeders. The out-on-a-limb choice I made was a tray-type feeder to hang from the willow tree in the back yard. My hope with this one is to attract Northern Cardinals, which we see nearby but have not had an appropriate feeder for until now. The peanuts are supposed to attract woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees, all of which I've seen in the neighborhood but again have never offered appropriate food to. So we'll see how it goes. The great thing about these is that if for some reason they're not successful they can always be handed down to friends and family in locations better suited for these birds. Thanks Mom and Mark!

12 December 2007

Boy, They Sure Learn Early

After Lily got up from her nap today I decided to go to Wild Birds Unlimited to pick out some new birdfeeders and accessories for the back yard. I got a gift certificate from my mom for Christmas and it was burning a hole in my pocket. I spent an hour this afternoon figuring out what I wanted to buy and how I could maximize my gift. So I loaded the girls up in the car and we went to the mall. As we walked in I asked Avery to help me keep Lily occupied while I talked to the salespeople about how to best maximize a couple of discount coupons I'd gotten. The lady suggested they sit on the floor near where we were talking and read Lily's book. I loved the idea and asked the girls to sit down. Much to my dismay Avery very matter-of-factly looked at me and said "I don't want to!" I was mortified that she was acting like that, and after a couple more denied requests I just told the sales lady that I'd have to leave and come back another time without the girls.

The drive home, while short, was markedly tense. Avery sobbed about my threats to punish her the entire way and Lily asked about 25 times "Why's Avery crying Daddy?" How pleasant. When we got home I expressed my displeasure to Avery again about her selfish behavior and told her to go to her room and leave the TV off. I was hoping to just calm down until dinner and then get over it. Little did I know that her plan was to go into full-blown recovery mode while she was sequestered in her room. I've gotta tell you, they learn the art of manipulation (which is what I choose to call it) awfully early. Here's what she sneakily delivered to the kitchen a few minutes later:

Notice how she included the sweet and innocent little dance picture from 2 years ago? That kid sure knows how to tug at my heart strings, I'll tell you what. I almost completely lost it when I read it. Not that I let her know that. I forgive her, but I'm definitely going to let her sweat it out a little longer. If she knew her little notes had that kind of power it'd be rough sailing for a lot of years.

11 December 2007

One Word . .

Douchebag. It may sound highly judgmental to assign someone a moniker like that after only a brief interaction like the one I'm about to recount, but I will personally guarantee you that this guy deserves every bit of it. In fact, other than the guy my sister dated last weekend, this particular individual may actually be the world's foremost douchebag.

Mandi and I were heading from her Mom's house to our dinner downtown yesterday when we decided to stop at the local CVS. As I slowed down and signaled to turn right I was almost t-bone'd by a guy in a white pick-up trying to make a left into the same driveway. I made eye contact and prepared for the worst while continuing my turn. I had the right of way and wasn't about to stop and let this jerk think I was the one doing something wrong. Such is my machismo. Anyway, he slowed down just enough to avoid me but then immediately pulled into the crowded parking lot and alongside me, heading directly into what would have been oncoming traffic if there had been anyone trying to exit the lot. I went straight and found a spot near the back, while he lurched to the right and parked crookedly in the closest handicapped spot to the door. I made a comment about getting out and punching him in the neck, but Mandi talked me out of it. Had she known then what we know now about him, she probably would have let me go ahead and clock him.

As we walked by his truck, parked crookedly and at least 2 feet into the driveway, Mandi wondered if he was really handicapped. I opined that I highly doubted it, unless they've recently made a-hole an official disorder. We walked in through the door and watched as our buddy grabbed a basket from the stack, in the process pulling it out so hastily that the entire stack toppled over and hit the floor. He cussed and flailed as he reluctantly cleaned up his mess. A few minutes passed and we didn't see him so our attention turned to the task at hand, which in this case was attempting to get our personalized Christmas cards printed out. The attendant we asked for help promptly disappeared and buried her head in some other menial tasks in a weak attempt to appear like she was busy, but in reality we are pretty sure she just had no idea how to do what we wanted done. Frustrated and wanting to get to dinner we headed toward the door, and on the way out our jerk-off friend from the parking lot hustled past us. He had a CVS bag in one hand as he triggered the automatic door, but instead of tearing out into the lot to move his illegally parked truck, he made one last stop that vaulted him to the top of the douchebag list. In a move that appeared premeditated due to its fluidity of motion, he stopped between the two sets of doors and knelt down in front of the store's Christmas tree. Then, as if they were parting gifts for random shoppers, he picked up one of the wrapped prop-gifts under the tree and shook it in an attempt, we assumed, to determine its contents. Mandi and I stood there in bewildered awe and just stared at him, then looked at each other and simultaneously asked "Did he just do what I think he did?"

For whatever reason, he put the gift back down under the tree and walked the rest of the way out of the store. He then got into his truck and nearly backed over a customer walking toward the entrance. When we got over our dumbfoundedness, Mandi and I tried to think of a time when we had encountered someone so utterly ridiculous. We couldn't think of even one.