10:32 am - Wed 12/25/02
TUE 12/24/02 9:10 pm
Yesterday, shortly before 1:00 in the afternoon, Leo died.
At 12:30, I'd checked my voicemail. There were two messages, at around noon, from Dr Woods, one of the vets at the Angeles City Animal Medical Center (When she didn't reach me directly the first time, she'd tried my work number); Leo's condition had taken a bad turn--he was still throwing up, had become lethargic, and was starting to have trouble breathing--and she needed to know what I wanted to do next.
When we spoke, she reiterated his condition. She said that while they had been trying to "keep costs down" with his treatment, now the only options were either to get more "aggressive" (By transferring him to some kind of Mayo Clinic for cats)...or to have him put down.
Quietly, sadly, I told her it was over. She said I'd need to come in to sign the papers, and I told her I'd be there within the hour.
After I hung up the phone, I called Cary, to tell him the news (And to make sure I remembered how to get to his place for Xmas).
Then I called Sharon Q., a coworker at the bookstore. She'd had an accident at home the day before, had badly injured her knee, and was in the hospital, probably for the rest of the holidays (Her daughters, Robin and Michelle, who also work at the store, had given me her number at the hospital). I'm not sure exactly why I chose right then to call Sharon; I guess, in part, I wanted to postpone the inevitable, and maybe remind myself that I wasn't the only one having a not-too-Merry Xmas (But I didn't end up actually talking to Sharon; First I got a "this number is not in service" recording, then it just rang and rang, with no one answering).
As I drove to the vet, I thought about whether I wanted to see Leo one more time before the end. I also wondered if they'd want me to pay the remaining charges right then--for the two overnights, and the euthanasia--or if they could bill me.
I was a little teary-eyed, but felt fairly composed, and resigned to the situation.
When I got there, I spent a few moments in the waiting room, then was ushered into the exam room, where I waited a few more minutes before Dr Woods, a kindly African-American woman, came in to talk to me.
She said she had tried to reach me at home; A short time after we'd gotten off the phone, she turned around, and Leo's breathing had become "agonal" (I couldn't find the word "agonal" in the dictionary, but knew from the context of the situation, and her demeanor, that it wasn't good. And one definition of the word "agony" is "the struggle that precedes death").
She administered oxygen, but he didn't respond, and he "passed".
At first, I just felt blank. I remember looking down at the floor, surprised that things had happened so quickly.
Then when she asked if I wanted to see him, I started to cry (It's occurred to me recently; I think I've cried more out here than I did in twenty years in Lansing).
(I opted not to see him. I just didn't think it would help my state of mind to see his lifeless body. But in the days since, I've wondered if I didn't make a mistake; As things stand, I keep half expecting him to walk past me here in the living room. I'm thinking now I could maybe have used the closure.)
I left them to dispose of the body, having no idea what I'd do with it, and told Dr Woods they could have the cat carrier if they wanted (It's a pretty nice one. It was a gift from a friend back in Michigan).
There wasn't any issue with me paying right then, so between my desire to leave ASAP (I know it wasn't the first time they've seen someone cry at the vet's office, but I was still embarrassed), and my desire to not rack up another $200 or so in credit card debt, I practically bolted from the building.
On the way home, it struck me that I'd gotten the "divine intervention" I'd asked for, even if it wasn't quite what I'd had in mind; Leo's timely demise meant I didn't have to sign his death warrant, and saved me, I'm guessing, another $75 or so (Later, I thought it was interesting that, without knowing it, I procrastinated about getting to the vet's office just long enough for Leo to die on his own; I got there probably within 15 or 20 minutes of his "passing").
When I got home, I didn't really know what to do with myself.
Leo's food and water bowl were still out, so I washed them and put them away (Though the litter box, with fresh litter--in preparation for his return from the vet--is still in the other room).
Then, since I didn't have any food, I went to Ralphs and got groceries.
When I got back, it was basically past time for me to get ready for work. I thought about calling out, but that felt like I'd be exploiting Leo's death (And I didn't want to leave my coworkers short a person, two days before Xmas). But I wasn't in the mood to rush around to get ready for work, so I called, told John what had happened, said I was running late, and that I'd be in as soon as possible.
And I went to work.
I took Leo's presence in my life for granted. Thought it didn't really "mean" much to me. But now the apartment feels emptier, lonelier. There's no one to say goodbye to when I leave, or hello to when I come back.
Probably my favorite thing he would do, and this is something he'd only really started to do in recent years, is just fall against me as I'd lay in bed, and nestle against my ribs.
I'll miss that.
Yesterday at work, I was thinking about how, without a family or significant other, a lot of my "Xmas traditions" for the past number of years were things that happened at Schuler Books (Where I worked back in Michigan).
On Xmas Eve, Mary Ellen would bring in a crock pot of sloppy joes, and people would bring in side dishes and desserts and pop and what-have-you, and we'd have a potluck throughout the day.
And as time went on, and many of us had known each other for years, there would be lots of cards and presents exchanged (Rhoda would usually buy things from the dollar store; One particularly inspired year, she bought a bunch of people "Virgin Mary" nite-lites).
And at the end of the day, when the last customer had left, we'd have a champagne toast, to celebrate "another Xmas season with no fatalities", as I liked to say.
I'm missing all that stuff right now.
Work yesterday was busy, but not really insane (John O. suggested we were probably taking a hit because of the Barnes and Noble at The Grove, which wasn't there last year).
John didn't schedule me for the register at all yesterday (I wondered if that was a bit of kindness on his part). I was at main info for a couple hours, then had lunch (There was pizza), then spent the last couple hours up on the second floor, periodically helping customers, but basically just killing time till we closed at 7:00.
A short time ago, I talked to Lauren, who's here in LA visiting her family.
We're going to do something on Friday, which I expect to be fun.
So I've got something to do today--I'm going to Cary and Kay's sometime after noon--and I've got something to do over my "weekend".
But I'm still feeling pretty blue...
But one nice thing--Since today is wednesday, I'm getting a rare three-day holiday "weekend" (I've never gotten used to the idea of having to go through a Xmas retail season, having one day off, and having to go right back at it. And the time right after Xmas is basically like Xmas minus the holiday cheer; Everybody seems to have time off but me, there are a million returns (Honestly? From years in retail, I think books are a fairly bad Xmas present, unless you know exactly what the person wants), people are bringing in their $100 gift cards and wanting to get change after buying a $2 magazine, and all kinds of fun like that).
I was thinking earlier that I avoided writing about certain things in here, things I think about every year at this time, because they seemed...distasteful.
I always wrestle with a lot of Xmas guilt, a lot of loneliness and self-pity, and a lot of embarrassment over how much I want to get when I know the focus should be on giving (My underdeveloped "Inner Parent" knows that's what Xmas should be about, but my all-too-well-developed "Inner Child" wants a lot of presents with his name on them under the Xmas tree).
Well, I guess this isn't the cheeriest Xmas entry, but that said, I would like to wish all my friends/fans/readers/well-wishers Happy Holidays. And I hope you realize, better than I seem to, that it isn't what you get, but what you give that counts
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