Three Down…and None To Go…

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Three down and none to go. No…I’m not checking things off my to-do list. Nor my bucket list. Nor any other list for that matter. Instead, I’m coming to terms with the death of our third cat, Leo.

Pets have a way of worming into our hearts and becoming ingrained in the rhythm of our lives. And that rhythm changes when they leave us. It takes some getting used to. Leo came to us only five years ago, when he was thirteen years old, adopted from a friend who was moving out of state. In the five years since, we’ve lost our other two cats, while each of our four children has moved in and out (and in and out). Leo lived through it all. His passing leaves a hole. We’re on the brink of being empty-nesters and, for the first time in twenty-two years, we are pet-less. I have mixed emotions. Kittens are so darn cute and it’s tempting to fill the void. But we’ll forego another cat adoption for now. We need some pet-free living for a while.

When I brought Leo to the vet for the last time, I didn’t expect to feel sad. He’d been in a lot of pain and it had become a real chore to take care of (and clean up after) him everyday. After I buried him, I didn’t expect to miss him. I only expected giddy relief at not having to clean up puddles of cat urine any more. But I am sad. There’s an emptiness here. At eighteen years old, Leo suffered from dementia on top of arthritis and thyroid disease. Today, when I don’t see him sleeping in his favorite spot, my first thought is, where did he wander off to now! I still expect to hear him meowing at the bottom of the cellar stairs, asking to be carried back up. I woke up this morning with an odd feeling because I didn’t need to hurry downstairs to see how he fared overnight and to administer his morning meds. And something feels very wrong with leaving the cellar door closed all day. It’s been left open for twenty two years to allow the cats access to their food dishes and litter boxes. Change isn’t easy.

When we adopted Leo, we already had two cats, so one more didn’t seem like a big deal. At the time, Smokey was seventeen and on his last legs. Smokey

He barely survived another month after Leo joined the family.

Gir was only a few years old then. She came to us via our son who rescued her off the streets of the city he was living in. He then ended up moving back home with us for a while. My son moved out, but the cat stayed.  DSC_0608

She was a quirky little thing and we never really knew how old she was. Last August, she seemed “off”, but without running a bunch of expensive tests, the vet couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with her. We took a wait-and-see kind of approach. She went downhill in a matter of days and was gone in early September.

So now we are cat-less. Now, I can vacuum up the cat fur, rip up the cellar rug that smells of cat urine and odor-cleaner, dump the litter box for good, and close the cellar door. Now, I can go on vacation without worrying about who will take care of my cats. Now, I can slowly adjust the daily rhythm of my life and maybe miss them a little less each day.

Vermont Beer-cation . . . and a Chair!


IMG_0484 (1)Last year, my husband and I travelled to the Burlington, Vermont area for a week. You can read all about it in Biking, Birding, and Brews. This year, we went back to the same area again. I considered calling this entry “Second Annual Biking, Birding, and Brews”, but even though we did mount the bikes atop the Subaru again, we didn’t ride this time. And our birding adventures were carefully planned around beer delivery times. So, really, let’s call this four-night trip a thinly disguised beer run. I’m not complaining, mind you. (If I feel the need to say that, does it mean I actually am complaining? Hmm.) Anyway…I did get a chair out of the deal! Stay with me here…

We arrived in Burlington just before dinner on a Saturday and serendipitously (gotta love that word!) met our nephew and his girlfriend in our hotel parking lot. Their brewery tour van was delivering guests to our hotel before bringing them to their hotel. We made dinner plans for the Farm House Tap & Grill. Once there, I enjoyed a delicious piece of salmon while my husband savored Hill Farmstead’s “Edward” on tap. 🙂 Our nephew described all the spots they’d visited on their brewery tour and recommended Zero Gravity Brewery. Of course, we dutifully checked it out the very next day…

Church Street in downtown Burlington is lined with small shops that range from chain IMG_0197stores to novelty, one-of-a-kind places. After our late dinner, most of them were closed. I remembered being disappointed by that fact last year, too. So, we peered into a few windows on Saturday night and vowed to come earlier on Sunday so that we could actually browse in the shops. Which we did.

In Ten Thousand Villages, I found a chair. I was first attracted by its colorful woven fabric which turned out to be recycled saris. But when I sat in it, I fell in love! I stand a whole five feet tall, so a chair small enough to allow my feet (not just my toes) to reach the floor is special. And the front edge of the seat curved downward rather than cutting into the back of my knees. A rare quality! The price seemed a bit high, but my husband suggested it would look great in my “meditation room”. The room he was referring to is my spare bedroom/ sewing room/ craft room that I also use for meditating. I’d painted the room “spring leaf” green several years ago — a bright green that makes me smile every time I see it. And my husband was right: the chair would be perfect in that room!

There was only one problem: the Subaru was full of beer coolers and bike tires and we needed room for our backpacks and suitcase, as well. There was no room for a chair. Could we make room? We weren’t so sure. Ten Thousand Villages has stores in other locations a lot closer to home, but even if one of those had a similar chair in stock, chances were the colors would be different. I really wanted this one. I think the clerks were as sad as I was when we left the store. But we had a few days to figure something out.

The cool, wet weather of Saturday and Sunday gave way to warmer sunshine for the beginning of the week. We scored several cases of Heady Topper

from Route 7 Liquors, the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, City Market Onion River Co-op in Burlington, and even a local gas station. We also picked up some Lawson’s Super Session #2. The coolers were filling up. But the outlook for chair-purchasing was bleak.

We visited the Ethan Allen Homestead two days in a row for some early morning, pre-beer-delivery birdwatching. We heard more birds than we saw, but the trail was pleasant.

We did see the usual sparrows,DSC_0214 (1) red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, goldfinches, robins, nuthatches, and even a lone mallard floating in the swamp. DSC_0182 (1)We also spied the back end of a deer snacking on swamp grass and found a colorful frog attempting to hide near the path. DSC_0243 (1) It was hard (for me) to leave all the wildlife behind to go stand in line for beer, but that was the deal. Meanwhile, I found myself brooding over the chair.

We spent a few hours one day hiking a 4.5 mile trail around Shelburne Farms. The trail started behind the farm’s street-front country store, and led us back over a hill to the farmhouses hidden from view, through the woods behind the farmhouses, and along a mowed path through the fields, stretching to the edge of Lake Champlain.

The views were breathtaking!

We met a few people along the way, but not many. We spied a few birds, sheep, donkeys, chickens, and goats, too. But mostly just the two of us walked through the expansive fields under the huge sky together. It almost took my mind completely off the chair. 🙂

On Tuesday, we knew we’d be checking out of our hotel the next morning. It was our last chance to figure out if we could fit the chair in the car. Maybe we could squeeze the large suitcase on top of the bigger cooler, which was already full of beer. I was willing to move my passenger seat forward and upright. Heck, I’d carry stuff on my lap, too, if it meant we could maneuver a chair in behind me.

We drove into downtown Burlington one last time. I carry a small tape measure in my IMG_0486purse which comes in handy every once in a while. So, we measured the space we’d made in the car, parked a block away, fed the meter, and headed to the store. When I saw the chair again, I almost laughed. It looked so small! It had grown bigger in our minds as we tried to imagine stuffing it into our cooler-laden vehicle! A different clerk greeted us and asked if we were the ones that the whole staff had been talking about and were hoping would come back for the chair! We were. She invited us to drive up to the back door and actually try to fit it into the car. If it fit, then we could buy it! And guess what??? It fit!

On Wednesday morning, we packed up the car, carefully storing smaller bags under and around the chair. I was so thrilled to have my chair that I hardly minded spending most of the day in the car. First, we drove northeast to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro for the limited release of Damon (an imperial stout named after a dog). Then we drove several hours south to Treehouse Brewery in Monson, MA for some Alter Ego and Green. Finally, another couple of hours brought us home. And at the end of the day, my chair was home, too. 🙂