Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Year

Two friends both happened to be in this region over the weekend: a sassy friend from Texas visiting Decaying Midwestern Urban Center and the cowgirl blogger HistoriAnn. Seeing them both was nice.

Another year has also passed, meaning my birthday is upon us. The good news is that you all can now legally elect me to be the President of the United States. Truth be told, though, I am not in much of a celebratory mood. I am feeling a bit high-maintenance these days, so drawing more attention to myself seems like a lot to ask. The news also seems to be riddled with untimely deaths, which is kind of another downer.

Nonetheless, it is always good to think about one’s life in relationship to others. At age 35, what were other people doing?

    If I were Mary Richards at age thirty-five, my closest friends, Phyllis and Rhoda, would move away to start two doomed shows new lives in San Francisco and New York.

    If I were Elvis Presley, my final film, Change of Habit, would have been released last year. I would have costarred with Mary Tyler Moore in it.

    If I were John F. Kennedy, I would currently be serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. This would be the year that I would meet Jacqueline Bouvier.

    If I were Jesus at age thirty-five, I would have risen from the dead two years ago.

    If I were Cher, this would be the year that I released a duet with Meatloaf. It would be another year before I starred in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean on Broadway.

    If I were Oscar Wilde, this would be the year that I published “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.,” my first writings about romantic love between men.

    If I were James Dean, I would have been dead for eleven years.

    If I were Montgomery Clift, I would smash my car into a telephone pole and disfigure my face this year.

    If I were Pancho Villa at age thirty five, I would be serving as provisional governor of Chihuahua in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. It would be another two years before I decided to launch an attack on New Mexico.

    If I were Harvey Milk, it would be another 12 years before I became the first openly gay elected official in a major U.S. city.

    If I were Saint Anthony of Padua, this would be my last year to live.

    If I were either of my parents, I would already have three children. The youngest would be seven years old.

    If I were Martin Luther King, Jr., I would become the youngest person to win a Noble Peace Prize this year.

    If I were Paul Lynde, I would be enjoying success on Broadway as the father in Bye Bye Birdie.

    If I were Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, I would be bankrupt from my failed expedition into New Mexico and would have been forced out of my governorship of Nueva Galicia this past year. I would also be very bitter.

    If I were Marilyn Monroe, this would be the last year of my life.

    If I were Pearl Bailey, this would be the year that I took the role of Frankie in the musical Carmen Jones.

    If I were Manuel Armijo, I would serve as mayor of Albuquerque while enjoying my wealth from sheep trading.

    If I were Walt Whitman, I would be finishing the first edition of Leaves of Grass for publication next year.

    If I were Queen Isabella I, I would take the town of Loja this year in my merciless campaign to conquer and control the Iberian peninsula.

    If I were Captain Kirk, I would have been commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise for four years. Unless I was the Captain Kirk from the recent film, in which case I would have skipped over all the hard work of earning that rank ten years ago.

    If I were Popé, it would be another ten years before Spain’s religious authorities would arrest me for practicing “sorcery.”

    If I were Truman Capote, this would be the year that I learned of the grisly murders of the Clutter family.

    If I were Gore Vidal, I would have spent this past year working on the sceenplay for Ben Hur.

    If I were the scholar George I. Sánchez, I would have just published my best known work Forgotten People, which drew attention to the poverty and unfair conditions in New Mexico.

    If I were Anne Bancroft, I would be cast as the "older woman" Mrs. Robinson in the film The Graduate this year.

    If I were GayProf, I would have finished (more or less) the Never Ending Research Project of Doom.

    If I were Reies López Tijerina, I would travel to Mexico and meet with former president Lázaro Cárdenas this year.

    If I were Wonder Woman, I would age another 2,456 years before joining Patriarch’s world to fight crime.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wrong Thing to Say

Losing my little cat has hit me quite hard. The past week has been filled with a sadness that won’t be easy to put to rest. The silence reveals the heartbreaking truth that he is gone from my daily life.

It has also sent me reflecting on pet-owner relationships. I had grown up with dogs, especially a cherished dog that was considered “mine.” Unlike those who have a strong inclination as a "dog person" or as a "cat person," I like both sets of animals equally. Consider me "bi-animal."

When an animal that you had a relationship with as as an adult dies, though, it strikes me as fundamentally different. Maybe it’s partly because, even though I had a tentative ownership over my dog, my parents still had the ultimate authority over her treatments. With my cat, only I could make those decisions.

Most people have been remarkably sympathetic. Those who haven’t, it seems to me, are more likely to have never really had a dog or cat as an adult. For some of them, noting the loss of my cat registers at about the same level as if I had said that I totaled my car. They understand it’s a bad thing, but can’t quite imagine it as a loss of a valued friend.

Indeed, some have misguidedly allowed their first thoughts to flow unfiltered from their brain straight to their lips. Since “pet loss” is seemingly difficult for such people to grasp, here is a list of things that are not that helpful to say upon the death of cat (all of which I have actually heard over the past week):

    – I didn’t know you had a cat.

    – I don’t like cats.

    – Your cat never seemed to like me.

    – A cat once bit me.

    – Cats aren’t that affectionate anyway.

    – At least now people with allergies can come to your house more often.

    – How long did you think he was going to live anyway?

    – He was just an orange tabby. Can’t you just get another cat just like him down at the shelter? I mean, it's not like he was a rare breed exactly.

    – My brother has a cat that destroyed his furniture.

    – Look on the bright side! Now you can get a dog.

    – Your cat died of kidney disease? Did he have a drinking problem?

    – Traveling will be much easier for you now.

    – You wasted a lot of money trying to save him. I wouldn’t have bothered.

Considered it a public service announcement from GayProf.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bad Days

Despite the gravitas (or maybe because of it), GayProf is surprisingly sentimental. I am already nostalgic for this morning’s coffee. Given that, you can just imagine that my relationship with my cat is emotionally charged. Sure, I have tended to play it a bit cool at times. In reality, though, I am more than devoted to him. He has, after all, been my most faithful companion for ten years. He accompanied me through the majority of graduate school, my first job, the end of a lousy long-term relationship, and too, too many moves across country. Through it all, he has been loyal and a source of friendship.

In those ten years that I have owned him, he has always greeted me at the moment that I have woken up and the instant I return home. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I always give him a treat first thing in the morning or upon walking in the door; but there also seemed to be genuine affection on his part that went beyond bribary. So when he failed to appear Wednesday morning, I knew something was seriously wrong.

Taking him to the vet revealed that he has kidney problems, probably a result of his aging process. Apparently there aren’t many signs that cats have degenerative kidney problems until they have already lost 70 percent of their kidneys. As the lab technician came back into the room with ever higher estimates of his care, I faced decisions that countless pet owners face every day. We all know when we adopt a dog or a cat that it is a forgone conclusion we will outlive it by many decades. How, then, do you balance the pet’s quality of life with prolonging its life? Should we think of pets as being more inclined to a “natural” life span than humans? Should we be more inclined to pull the plug on a dog than we would on Aunt Sally?

For me, I had always swore not to be the type of pet owner who artificially extends an animal’s life beyond reason. Sure, some cats can live up to twenty years nowadays. But have you ever seen a healthy looking twenty-year old cat? I pledged to never be one of those owners who gives their pets regular shots just to keep them alive.

But in that moment in the emergency vet’s office, I wasn’t debating philosophical questions about human-feline relations. Instead, it was my most beloved little guy who was at the precipice of life or death. I wasn’t willing to say that his time on the earth was up.

The vet assured me he wasn’t in any pain and could return to feeling normal after two days of in-hospital treatment (Will GayProf ever be out of debt? It seems unlikely). What the vet neglected to mention, though, was that he would probably need shots every-other-day for the rest of his life once he was released. Withholding that little tidbit struck me as kinda important in the decision-making process.

My cat did respond well to the treatment (even if being in the hospital with barking dogs (Why would a vet put cats and dogs in the same room?) left him a bit traumatized). He returned home Friday and, true to the vet’s promise, he is much as he was before he became ill – except the shots.

So my once ridged assumption about extending an animal’s life via home injections no longer appeared as clear cut. In this instance, my cat won’t be in any pain (except for the shot) and will likely feel entirely normal if he gets injections of subcutaneous fluids. Nonetheless, my cat is going to die from kidney failure. When that will occur is very uncertain. On this treatment, he could live for many more months, if not years. One doesn’t have to spend long on the internet to find an entire culture devoted to giving cats subcutaneous fluids. Most argue that it is no big deal and should, of course, be done.

But these aren’t a quick injection and they do seem like a big deal to me. Administering subcutaneous fluids requires the cat to be immobile for ten minutes or so with a needle in his back as he fills with fluid. I tried for the first time this morning and he only tolerated half the dose before ripping out the needle.

So, it has been an emotionally exhausting few days and I am left uncertain of the right thing to do. If the shots become normal for him, I am willing to do what it takes to keep him happy. It essentially means that I will be tethered to Midwestern Funky Town as he will die without the injections. Asking a friend to give your cat food and water while you are away is one thing, it is quite different to ask them to shove a needle in his back. Staying near home, though, is a small price to pay given his kindness to me through the years.

If, though, he is made miserable by the injections, I am not willing to inflict pain on him. Also, I will prolong his life, but I will not prolong his death.

None of this will be clear for some time. For the time being, I am really grateful that he is back home and feeling good.

Update: Even with treatment and the sub-q fluids, my cat’s kidneys simply could not keep his creatinine levels under control. While he had some great days when he first return from the hospital, his health and spirits declined over the past week. Because nothing would stimulate his appetite, the vet also became concerned that he would eventually starve himself to death. Much to my heartbreak, I had to let him go.

I appreciate, though, all the well wishes from the blogosphere. He was my best little companion.