If some part of you is anywhere
Take joy where you can find it
Life is short to scurry in fear
To cry lost in the darkness
I always tried, you know
To see you happy
But time undoes the best of our intentions.
I hope the sunbeam never moves from where you’ve found it
I hope pain never plagues you
But serenity and love abounds
A wish we all of us make
But sometimes don’t know how to claim
Forgive me if I failed you
I did the best I could
Thank you for these many years
You gave me what you had, I know
February 1984 – February 2003
Last week we euthanized Emily; she was almost 19. What with the progressive heart and kidney failure, the terrible gingivitis (which we could do nothing about; she didn’t tolerate any handling of her mouth, because it was so painful, and we couldn’t anesthetize her, because of her heart), the arthritis, and various and sundry other problems that would have required intensive management not available on the island, I was convinced I was making the right decision – but that didn’t make it the least bit easier.
I keep seeing her fuzzy gray muzzle, and the look on her face when I left the room for the last time. It always undoes me.
She represented the last tie with my childhood, really. I adopted her as a kitten when I was only – what, 13? Going on 14 – and I’m not sure I really remember who I was that long ago. She was with me for more than half of my life, and all of my adult life.
I asked for a couple of studies to be done; currently, although Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (an Alzheimer’s-type dementia) is a recognized syndrome in dogs, for which medication is available to alleviate some of the signs, no such syndrome is recognized in cats, and there are no medications approved for cats. For a long time, now, I’ve been convinced that Emily suffered some sort of dementia – she had every sign listed for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction – so I hope that poor old Em can contribute to the advancement of medicine for her species. It distresses me that cat medicine always lags so far behind dog medicine. I’ll be grateful if I never have to find a cat crying in the darkness because she/he got lost in her/his own house, and was stuck in a corner.
This week is the first of two “hell weeks” I have this semester – weeks in which there are multiple tests – and it’s finally almost over. The next one will be worse, with all four classes giving a major exam in a row; I’m not sure how I’ll make it through. There’s so very much intensive reading required in this semester, I’ve never really caught up, and feel like I’m struggling to just tread water. I’m starting to have that “dream state disconnect” feeling all the time, now, like time is stretched abnormally – you know the way time passes in a dream, in which you’re trying to do one simple thing over the course of hours and hours. In fact, I do keep trying to do one thing day in, day out: study, in the same place, for hours on end. And then I go home and dream about it. There’s never any variation, and never a break. However, I did pull off a B+ in gross anatomy, when the vast majority of my class outright failed (evidently, this is the norm; people pass the class by doing well on palpation exams and lab exams, which I’m getting A’s in), and a B+ in physiology (which, considering the class average, and Dr. Reich’s grading policies, is really an A – it was only 2 points down from an A anyways). And pathology, the class I was really worried about (it has very little structure, and a lot of new terminology; none of us could figure out what level of detail Dr. Njoku wanted, as he lectured on a basic level and put horrendous details in the notes), had its midterm yesterday – I missed two questions, one of which I knew but didn’t read the answer carefully enough. Today is another palpation exam, on the hind limb of the horse (I’m bringing carrots for the poor poked and prodded horses), and Monday is a bacteriology short test (which I really need to develop flash cards for – its on lots of genera of bacteria, which is the sort of stuff you can only learn by memorization), followed by the Gram stain laboratory test (joy; I get to stain my fingers purple again). If I can just get through today, I can look forward to the first/second semester catamaran trip tomorrow; I’m feeling decidedly burnt out, and really need some rest and recuperation. One week 'til the mid-semester break! Kevin and I will be heading for the neighboring island of Saba, a sleepy little tropical paradise with the best diving in the world – I can’t wait.
Tomorrow, in celebration of us all having made it through a rotten week, Kevin, my tutees (the Three Musketeers) and I will be heading for our favorite snorkeling spot with a bucket of rum punch – after, of course, the weekly race for the papayas at the fresh market (I’m currently in a papaya war with my bacteriology professor, the sweetest little old man you’ve ever met. Whoever gets there first gets the papaya. There aren’t that many to go around right now. However, the pineapple is in season, and is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted). I’m looking forward to petting the lobsters and watching the antics of the Fairy Basselets, my favorite purple and gold fish.
Currently, Kevin is investigating the possibility of getting diver certified; if it’s possible, I’ll have to get re-certified, as my certification card and log book got lost somewhere in the last move (and I don’t have the requisite photocopies to get a replacement). I’m getting pretty excited about it; I’d love to be able to move slowly underwater, rather than always having to dash back up to the surface. We’ll have access to some different and wonderful experiences, too.
Kevin has become an ice cream magnate – not only is he selling three quarts of ice cream to Turtle Jane’s (the coffee “shop” on campus) every other day, but now my classmates are ordering quarts of their favorite ice cream from him, too. It’s keeping him busy. That and the shelf-building project he’s currently embroiled in, in our tiny apartment. It should make the place more livable. (The new air conditioner, which Kevin and our landlord, Brian, installed with great pains, is fantastic – I can actually study at home, now!) Gradually, we’re making this cramped little space into a home.
Today is the deadline for the Centaur, our school paper – I sent in a few more poems. Previously, whenever I read the thing, I was appalled at what a scurrilous rag it was, so I sent in a poem last time to try to lift the level of the reading – it was all wretched gossip and hearsay. I met the editor yesterday (the one with the wise voice in the paper – the voice of moderation); she asked for more poetry. Contributing something of myself to my school makes me somehow feel more human, and less a ghost gliding through the program.
Outside, I can hear the monkeys calling to each other in the ghut. It’s raining, and daybreak is easing in gradually. I should go get ready for school.
The wind carries the green smell
Of cane fields
The salt of the sea
Turtle Jane’s has burnt the coffee
Landmarks of another day.
Life goes on.