Fizgig, My Pal

It’s been 5 days since I’ve seen you, but I haven’t stopped thinking about you. I still remember the first time I saw you, way back in the summer of 2004. Murray and I drove to Lake Louise to pick you up. You were so dainty and fluffy and I could hold you in the palm of one hand. I loved you immediately, and so did my boyfriend of the time and our room mate, both of whom were allergic but didn’t seem to mind your presence. This was before the days of Facebook or even picture messaging really, so I had to actually call all of my friends and tell them I had a new kitten. Naturally almost each person’s first question upon meeting you was: “What’s her name?” And for just over 6 months my answer stayed the same: “I don’t know yet!” Nothing seemed to fit until one day during our first spring together I was watching The Dark Crystal with my room mate (a different one, we had moved after the breakup with the boyfriend), and something finally seemed right – Fizgig! In the movie it’s spelled Fizzgig, but I’ve never been a fan of double z’s, so Fizgig is what you got. I think it suited you perfectly. You were the most fiercely loyal companion, just like your namesake. Plus it was super fun for me to say a million times a day for the next 12 years. That and telling you how much I loved your mittens.

I don’t know if you ever knew how sad I was during our first while together. I was having a hard time with lots of things, but I lost count of the times you would curl up in my arm in bed and I would bury my face in your soft fur and the tears would always stop quickly. You were such a good friend. Thank you. That’s why I always used any extra money I had back then, even though I was poor and working in a coffee shop, to buy you toys and treats. We took care of each other.

You would never eat food out of the bowl. It always had to be scooped out onto the floor for you. I say I accommodated this because I loved you, which is true, but I also did it because you’d scream at me until I did. You were such a little shit. Your best quality.

You used to hop in the shower with me all the time when you were a kitten. That was the funniest cutest thing. You wanted to be with me all the time, even though you absolutely hated water.

You loved treats, but were so picky that when we first got together I had to buy about 10 different kinds before finding one you would eat. Since then, I’ve always made sure to have that brand in the cupboard.

I learned so many of your other quirks over the years, from sleeping in the sink to beating up the other cats if I scolded one of them for something. You ran the house and we all knew it. Thanks for being such a good mama to us.

Remember in 2005 when we took a road trip to BC (where we lived for a few months) and you slept in the back window the entire time? 8 hours each way and you were perfect. You were so easy. Never any trouble. You were so weird – what kind of cat likes car rides? You always made me laugh.

In the summer of 2006 you hooked up with your first boyfriend and I got married. In the fall you became a mama and in the winter so did I. That was fun. The morning you went into labour I called in to work because there was no way I was going to leave you. Mostly because every time I tried to leave the room you followed me. Your only daughter in a litter of 4 was born into my hand because you had some trouble getting her to come out and I had to help you. I named her Tulip and she stayed with us after the other 3 found new homes. When my baby girl was born and I brought her home, your kitten and mine were instant best friends. They miss you a lot, but I’m giving them lots of extra love. They’ve been comforting me too, because some days this past week I’ve had a pretty hard time with how much I miss you.

Remember when Sadie was first learning to talk and she called you Piss-Piss because she couldn’t quite say your name? That was priceless every single time.

In 2009 and 2010 you comforted me through the end of my marriage. You would snuggle in and lay your face in my hand. Even when we didn’t have much else, we always had each other. You were one of so few constants in my life.

In 2011 we moved (again) and I started a new job. My first *real* job. I had pictures of you all over my office, like the crazy cat lady I was. The crazy cat lady you had made me by being you. We also got Codex that year, aka The Black Menace. You were the best mama to her too. She’s been wondering where you are, I can tell. She’s acting twice as crazy as usual. You’d keep her in line if you were here.

You tortured many of my boyfriends and melted the hearts of many of my friends over the years. No one knew me without knowing you. They all called you my shadow, but really you were my sunshine. I remember one time when Murray was living with us, we were sitting on the kitchen floor talking late at night. I was idly petting you as always, and he said to me, “You know, I really can’t picture you without her.” I said I couldn’t either. I still can’t. This feels wrong.

2012 to 2014 were pretty steady for us. We moved into a new place and I changed jobs again. I went on a few vacations and you tormented whomever was catsitting you, usually my dad. You knew he wasn’t a cat person so you were all over him any time he was here. Maybe I had given you a bigger personality in my head than the one you actually had, but I don’t care. That’s how I love. You were hilarious in my mind. Such a B. My B.

In 2015 you ran away from home one night and scared the absolute hell out of me. I thought I’d never see you again. I thought that was where our story together ended and was devastated. But then Tim found you at the neighbour’s, terrified out of your mind hiding under their bed, and brought you home. I was so happy to see you I cried, and you must’ve been glad to see me too because you rolled around and rubbed all over me. You slept on his side of the bed ever since though, because he was your new hero. I guess it took a rescue for you to finally acknowledge his existence after 3 years of completely ignoring him.

In 2016, earlier this year, you got sick. One day. Suddenly. You weren’t acting like yourself and when I started poking around I found a lump. It didn’t look healthy and seemed to hurt you when I touched it. I took you to the vet with our dear friend Jasmyn and that was when I got the worst news: Cancer. What kind of cat gets breast cancer? I asked you what you were thinking, but as always, you remained smug and confident that I would sort things out for us. Up until now I always had. The only option was a surgery I couldn’t afford, but with the help of so many incredible friends, we were able to do it. The generosity of the kindest people I’ve ever known allowed us to only need to pay for half of your surgery out of pocket, which I was able to scrape together. They had given us a second chance and we scheduled your operation for a few days later.

Jasmyn stayed with me all day the day you were at the vet having your operation, even though she was pregnant and not feeling good. She even sent a toy along with you that used to belong to her old cat. We’re so lucky to be so loved.

I went and saw you as soon as I could, and you were completely stoned. It would’ve been funny if it hadn’t made me so sad and scared to see you like that. I held you and rubbed your ears for a long time. You always loved that. I gave you lots of kisses and told you how much I loved you. You hardly moved. They had taken out several tumours and all of your mammary glands. You were drugged and spent, but you lifted your head to look for me whenever I moved out of view.

The next day was a different story. You realized you were at the clinic and you were not pleased. You wanted to come home. Because of the drugs and the cone, you kept walking into walls and chair legs. I’m sorry I laughed. You would’ve laughed at me too, and you know it. I fed you treats and hooked you up with some grade A medicinal catnip, which you seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

Finally, after a week, you were allowed to come home. You still had staples in your belly and lots of medicine to take, but thankfully I was working from home and was able to stay with you and take care of you. You slept most of the time, but at least we were together. I had to lift you onto the couch but whenever I did, you cuddled up next to me.

Unfortunately at your check up, the vet noticed you weren’t healing as well as he’d hoped. They wanted to keep you again and I was heartbroken, but wanted you well. The good news was he said you could stay at his other clinic, one just down the street from where we lived. We ended up spending a month apart, the longest ever, but I visited you every day. I was oddly proud every time one of the techs or your new lady vet would say things to me like, “She has a… strong… personality… hey?” I would laugh and tell them I knew you were a bitch, and it was ok if they said it. You were the best. You were so sweet but you never took any shit from anyone, and I loved that about you. I loved being one of the only people you consistently liked. You were good for my ego. But of course it didn’t take long for you to make yourself at home and win everyone over. Most of your stay there you were allowed free reign of the clinic, didn’t even have to be in a kennel. They all fell as in love with you as I was and wanted to make you as happy and comfortable as you could be.

In true Fizgig fashion, you got well the day I left for Twin Peaks. I was halfway there, 8 hours away from you, when the vet said you were free to leave. I wasn’t surprised. Tim brought you home in a taxi and I’m sure he spoiled you rotten that whole weekend. I couldn’t wait to get home and see you. Coming home to you was always one of my favourite things, whether after a day at work or a vacation. You would be so excited and would chat to me about all kinds of stuff, and then you’d shun me for am hour or two as punishment for leaving in the first place. That attitude. I sure do miss it.

When results came back from analysis of your tumours, they said they couldn’t guarantee anything, but that from the looks of things, the cancer hadn’t yet spread. It would come back eventually, because that’s what happens, but we had time. Maybe months. Maybe years. Either way, we were together as always, for now. You were finally all healed up and the future looked brighter than it had in awhile for us.

Only a couple weeks later, I found another lump. The vet said the location of it suggested it was presentation of cancer inside, not a tumour on its own. She said there wasn’t much point in removing this one. The surgery must have come a bit too late and your cancer had already spread to your organs from your mammary glands. She said an x-ray could tell us what was going on, how long we might have together, but that you seemed happy enough that maybe it wasn’t worth it. I said I’d rather not know. Since nothing could be done at this point, since it was almost certainly in your lungs and maybe elsewhere as well, I thought we should enjoy our time and take things day by day. You had been through enough. In the back of my mind though I made a promise to you: No more pain. At the first sign of pain, I would make whatever difficult decision needed to be made. Because I loved you. I couldn’t be selfish.

Then one day your fluffy saucy tail stopped working. I came home from the movies and you weren’t at the door to greet me. I called you for a few minutes and when you finally came to me I noticed you were walking funny. Your tail was dragging on the ground. I burst into tears. You didn’t seem to be in any pain at all, you just couldn’t move or feel your tail anymore. This made me so sad. You were always so fancy and proud, and seeing you drag your lifeless tail on the floor when you walked broke my heart. Seeing it bent awkwardly underneath you when you were lying down hurt me so much. Because you couldn’t lift it anymore when you went to the bathroom, and couldn’t move it to clean it, I did my best to clean it for you when it was dirty. I think you knew that I was taking care of you, because you let me do this and almost always purred.

I could tell you were starting to really not feel well when you started spending most of your time alone. You would sleep in Sadie’s room when she was away at her dad’s, and behind the toilet in the bathroom when she wasn’t. You were always happy to see me when I came to you, but you didn’t include yourself as much. You were still eating and seemed otherwise content, but you uncharacteristically liked being by yourself. For the first time in over 12 years.

Our friend Darcy came by and took some gorgeous photographs of you and of us together. You weren’t overly excited about this, but he gave you lots of treats and we let you rest whenever you seemed tired. The pictures turned out stunning. Like you.

Then came that night. That sound. That look. You were sleeping on Sadie’s bed when it was her bedtime, kind of sitting up, propped against her pillow. Your ears were sightly back, but you were responding happily to our affection. Sadie decided she would sleep on the floor so we wouldn’t have to move you. I tried talking her out of this, but she insisted. As I gave her a kiss goodnight, you let out a slow intense cry. Just one, a few seconds long. Sadie and I looked at each other, our eyes filling with tears. She pulled the blanket over her head and cried hard. It was a pain cry and we knew it. I looked at you and you looked back at me with the look I hadn’t known I’d been waiting for. The look that said, “I’m sorry, but I think I have to go.” I didn’t know I would know this look. But I did. And the sound of your pain hurt me so deeply that I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. It would only get worse for you, and it was up to me to make sure it didn’t. I couldn’t let it.

I had recently taken a job at a junior high and was working there for the first time the next day. I was going to call the vet on my lunch break. When I went to make the call, there was a text from Tim saying he had made it for me so I wouldn’t have to. I was so grateful. I still don’t know what I would have said. This was the worst decision I had ever had to make, even though I knew it was for the best. Tim told me the appointment was for 5:30 that night. Murray said he would pick Sadie up for me and meet us there.

On my way home, I picked you up a whole cooked chicken (chicken was your favourite, and you always ate at least half of mine when we had it for dinner) and some flowers. I’m not sure why I bought you flowers. They were pink lilies and they reminded me of you. It also just seemed appropriate for some reason.

I cried as I sat with you on our kitchen floor and fed you as much chicken as you wanted to eat, and then put some more in a container plus some of your favourite treats. I put you in your kennel, with your favourite blanket, and we left home together for the last time.

At the clinic, your vet friends had a nice room set up for us with a fireplace and everything. They were glad to see you again but sad it was under these circumstances. They kept saying what a special cat you were and how sorry they were. We all sat on the floor – me, Sadie, Tim, Murray – and fed you chicken and treats and told funny stories we remembered about you. I told you again and again how much I loved your little mittens. Sadie gave you one last kiss goodbye and left with Murray. Neither of them wanted to stay for the next part.

The vet came in and explained we could have all the time we wanted with you. I appreciated it but it seemed silly. I knew there wasn’t much time left. I wanted all time with you and we were down to counting minutes. Every minute seemed shorter and shorter that day and my head was spinning. She explained they would put a catheter in your arm so that when we were ready, you would be ready too. She took you in the back for a few minutes, then brought you back to our room. The small tube was dangling out of the purple tape on your paw, your white mitten still showing. The vet explained how the procedure worked: First a sedative, then a chemical to stop your tiny heart. I signed something that said I understood. I paid them. I cried the entire time.

I put your favourite blanket up on the table and lifted you up. I fed you more chicken and treats, rubbing your ears the whole time. My only goal was your maximum happiness at the moment of your departure. If I felt even for a second there was more I could do for you, or that you weren’t completely happy, I would drag this out forever. And I knew I couldn’t do that. I thought of your one short pain-filled cry the night before and I knew it had to be now. You were purring and didn’t want any more chicken or treats. You were licking your lips and blinking slowly, completely content. Max happiness had been achieved. I told Tim to go get the vet, now. I was rubbing your ears and kissing your furry head, telling you I loved you over and over, telling you how much fun we had had all these years. Your head was wet from my tears and snot. Sorry about that. You were purring loudly so I’m pretty sure you didn’t mind. Your belly was full of your favourites and you were being so loved I don’t think anything could’ve bothered you then, which is exactly what I wanted for you in your last moment. It’s what you deserved after being the most wonderful friend and companion all these years.

The vet came in and asked if I was ready. I said no but told her to go ahead. I kept saying, “I love you, Fizgig, I love you, Fizgig,” while still rubbing your ears and kissing you. I felt your purring. The vet said something. I felt your tiny head relax in my hand. I kept kissing you and whispering things. I felt you stop purring. The vet said something else. I didn’t stop holding you or telling you how much I love you. Then the vet listened for your heartbeat. She told me you were gone and how sorry she was. I was still talking to you and kissing you. The whole thing had taken about a minute. I heard the vet leave the room. That was when I sobbed.

I must have held on to you another half an hour. I knew once I let go, that would be it. I couldn’t stop feeling your soft body. I wanted you to stay. I wanted you back.

Eventually I knew it was time. I told you I would always love you. Told you I would always miss you. Told you I was going to let go now. I left the room like a zombie and waited in the front.

I didn’t want cremation for you. You loved being outside in the sunshine and I didn’t want you going anywhere except to a peaceful resting place when it was over. You had been the best cat and you deserved to rest now. They brought me your body wrapped in your blanket, all tucked in to your carrier. Your grey ear, the one I had been rubbing a few minutes before, was poking out of the door and for some reason this made my chest feel like it was going to cave in.

Murray had come back with Sadie. Murray and I dropped her and Tim off at home and then took you to his parents’ acreage just outside of Sherwood Park. We didn’t talk much on the drive.

Before you, I spent so much time out there. Murray and I were best friends in junior high and high school and this place had been a second home to me during those years. It’s lovely. Quiet. It’s somewhere I knew I could find you and visit you later and it seemed perfect. We found you a spot of your own under a big tree, a place where I thought sunshine and shade could both reach you. A place I could see you sleeping happily.

Murray dug. I couldn’t. I wanted to but I just couldn’t. I’m sorry. But I was right there the whole time.

It was dark by the time your space was ready. We took the top half off the carrier and together we gently lifted you out in your blanket, just your sweet face showing. We gently laid you down in your grave. I put 3 of the lilies I had bought on top of you. You were beautiful and I wanted to send some beauty along with you. Again, I was useless. I couldn’t cover you. Murray was on his hands and knees, so carefully and delicately putting handfuls of dirt back in. Then he started crying. He loved you too. We all did. I couldn’t move. I just stood there and watched, hugging myself, crying. I told Murray through my tears that I was sorry I couldn’t help him. He said through his that it was ok.

There was something poetic about him being the one to bury you. He was with you and me the very first and last times we saw each other. We’re lucky he’s our friend. I hope you like your resting place, even though I know it obviously matters more to me than to you.

Finally it was done. Our time together was officially over. I traced a heart in the dirt on top of your grave with my finger. I told you I loved you. I carried your empty cage back to his truck and he drove me home. To my new home, one without you.

I’ve been in a daze ever since. It feels wrong without you here. I’m learning what home and family feel like without you. Things I never wanted to know. But I’m also so relieved that the threat of your suffering isn’t looming over any of us anymore. It was the right thing. I hope you know I never wanted you to go. You had a life full of fun and love and happiness, right until your last moment. I would want nothing else for you. My grief is selfish. I want you here. I miss you. That’s all it is. I will do my best to remember you in a way that is thankful for our time together, for every laugh and cuddle, for all the ways you taught me about friendship and having a constant. You were the thread connecting the last 12 years of my life together. You connected the person I was when we met to the person I had become when we parted. In a lot of ways I am who I am because I loved you so much. I don’t want to lose that. I’ll never stop loving you, I’ll just have to find somewhere else to put it. I’ll never forget you. I was so lucky you were mine, and so lucky I was yours.

I love you, Fizgig. I miss you. Thank you for everything. Rest well.

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Back in the day, when I could get a good night’s sleep.

Short stories unfold within that wounding sound
Who’s to blame for this heart’s beating?
I’m afraid no one knows
Wooden words fall to the floor
Like a curious confession
That light is too bright
Those portraits we come from
Look better in the dark
Coasting into transparency
I wish you well
From around the corner
In the backseat of a taxi
Hoping this is your worst
Because you said it first
Recharging my exclusion
In your secret meetings
You longed to be somewhere else
Heading in an opposite direction
The cost of staying blind
(may be greater than or equal to)
The price of seeing clearly
With a bill of health comes fresh new denial
Excuse me, this one doesn’t taste the same
No, sir, it isn’t as sweet
When it’s the friend of a friend
But it’s as close as we can get

Which came first – the victim or the crime?

Picture this
If you will
A surprise party for the dying
A sort of
Blank space funeral
Parenthetical grief
Courage in bold at the side of the road
I’ll catch the next train of thought from here
Are you an artist or a liar
Taking chances on the sky
Trapped in someone else’s mind
Force me up against my will
As the landscape shifts behind your back
Hypnotized by the exit light
You slept through the ending
Back when you stirred the change
Slowly
Like those years would last forever

After the funeral, we’ll go camping.

Not me, man
No way
She lost her crooked smile
Might’ve left it by the sea
She could’ve been drunk
In the passenger seat
Out of my sight
Out of her mind
She thought of fruit trees
And his middle name
How it reminded her of a song
From the time she first heard
She’d been pretending to see
What he’d been pretending to be
The ad said rain or shine
But skipped what’s in between
On the front step
She’d worried herself sick
Turning inside out
While they ate her alive
But the newspaper covered it up
That first night after the last morning
When the past offered advice to the future
As if it were a form of consolation
For a 30 year old teenage girl
No way, man
Not me
At least not recently

M’s Birthday

Last week when I spent time with M, her TV was on as background noise. There was some kind of vacation giveaway on whatever talk show was on and M made a comment about how she won’t be seeing any more beaches.

“No more beaches for me,” she had said with a smile that tried to convey an ‘I’m ok with it’-ness that wasn’t fooling anyone.

This stuck with me and after sharing some of my thoughts and feelings about this online, a very sweet (and die-hard beachcomber) friend offered to donate some shells and sand dollars so that I could take the beach to M. This idea brought tears to my eyes. In any other setting or context, I may have found the whole concept cheesy or gimmicky. In this case, I did not.

M never married or had any children. She was incredibly successful and fiercely independent. She’s traveled most of the world many times over. She lived a life of beauty, friendship, and photography. She was an astoundingly talented painter. And then, one day only a few short years ago, her body and mind began to fail her and her world changed. Not only changed, but shrunk to the size of a bedroom. Bringing this woman, this young- and free-spirited woman the beach in any small way, would be anything but tacky.

Today is M’s birthday. She is 93. I had all kinds of plans in the back of my mind the past few weeks for today, from the big and elaborate to the small and intimate. Until this morning, these plans were still up in the air, due to a number of circumstances and concerns. To make a long story short, the plan that had been the most concrete of any ended up falling through at the last minute. Luckily, I work best under pressure and M is easy to please. Short and sweet it would be. My daughter (who had yet to meet M) spent the morning making M a card, and we spent our afternoon running around collecting various items for her gift and our surprise visit to her. We stopped by the home of the friend I mentioned and picked up some lovely beachy treasures. We stopped at Party City and bought the hugest, most obnoxious birthday balloon we could find (a gigantic heart with a bright pink feather boa as a border), and 2 small purple balloons to go along with it – one with a 9, one with a 3. We had them all filled with helium and then tied together with shiny curly ribbons. We stopped at the grocery store for cupcakes because we ran out of time to make some. We stopped so I could buy a card. We stopped for materials we could use to make a tiny beach with the shells.

When we parked at the home, I wrote in M’s card against my steering wheel. My daughter added some sand to the little glass bowl we had found, and we took turns sprinkling in the sea-coloured gems we had found at a craft shop. We took turns deciding which shells to add and where to place each white sand dollar. When it was just right, we gently wrapped M’s beach in tissue paper.

We got into the elevator and I pressed the button with M’s floor number next to it. I realized I hadn’t given my daughter fair warning of what this place can sometimes be.

“So… I should’ve mentioned this. Sometimes people are crying or even shouting in the hall or in their rooms, but they’re ok. They’re just a little bit lost inside sometimes. It’s nothing to be afraid of or to worry about. If anyone talks to you, you can talk back, even if you aren’t quite sure what they said. Also, if – ”

She nodded and looked away and upward, not a care in the world, and interrupted me with, “I know, I know, Mama. It’s fine.”

I’ve gotten used to that response lately and should’ve expected as much from my bold little redhead.

We reached M’s floor and walked to the end of the hall. I could see M was asleep in her wheelchair, but just dozing,

“Hey you, Happy Birthday!” I didn’t quite shout, but said at a loud enough volume to wake her.

She woke up and looked at me with some confusion. “Who is it? Who are you?”

“It’s me – Amanda!”

“No it isn’t. You’re not Amanda,” M told me.

I laughed and gently touched her shoulder. “I promise you, it’s me.”

M continued to stare up at me. “I’m sorry. You don’t look like you today… Oh well! What have you got there?”

I showed her the big balloon and then explained if she wants to tell people the 9 and 3 on the other two actually go in reverse order, I’ll back her up. She thought this was funny.

I introduced my little girl to M. They hit it off right away and made some small talk while I crouched down and tied the balloons to a weight in the corner of M’s room.

I asked M how her day had been, and was very glad to hear a friend from her old apartment building (whom she hadn’t seen in almost two years) had stopped by to see her. I teased her a little bit about the fact that it was a gentleman friend, and she gave me a playful slap on the arm, as she often does.

My daughter and I gave M her cards, which I read out loud to her due to her poor eyesight. She told my girl she had done a beautiful job with the hearts and cupcake she had drawn on hers. She made a joke about the text printed on my card, but cried when I read her the note I had written inside. I gave her a long hug and cried too.

Then a nurse came in and was in quite the hurry to take care of some business with M, so I told M we would leave her be but just wanted to stop by and wish her a Happy Birthday. She thanked me. Then I remembered our gift. I asked the nurse to please hold on one minute, just one minute. She wasn’t happy with me but backed up.

“Do you remember last week when I was here and we were watching your show and that lady won a vacation to the beach?” I hurriedly asked M.

“No… No I don’t,” M replied. The odds had been about 50/50 and I had known this.

“Remember? She had to answer the trivia question and at the last minute she got it and we couldn’t believe it? And then you told me how you’d never get to see the beach again?”

M gave me a long look. I could see tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t remember that, I’m sorry. But… But you brought me the beach, didn’t you?”

I passed her the bowl. “I tried,” I said.

She held it in her hands as I pointed things out, tears rolling down both of our faces. I explained how a friend had given us the shells and how my girl had added the sand and how we tried to make the coloured stones look like the ocean.  I rushed through it as the nurse glared at me impatiently. M told me it was beautiful and thanked me. She held my hand and told me she loved it.

I took the miniature beach back from M and placed it on M’s only small table in her little bedroom world as the nurse began to wheel her away. I arranged the cards, ours and the ones from her other friends, around the table so she could easily see each one when she returned.

I remembered the cupcakes.

“Oh, we brought you cupcakes!” I called after her, for some reason on my tiptoes, like that would help my voice carry. “I’ll leave them on your nightstand so you can eat them for a midnight snack!” (She’s been waking up hungry in the night lately.) “Happy Happy Birthday!” I hollered one last time, still on tiptoe.

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” I heard her say from around the corner.

I could hear her smiling.

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Maybe

I spent time with M yesterday morning and she made a comment about how she will never visit a beach or see the ocean again. This was simply a statement, not a complaint. I didn’t know how to respond except to reach for her hand and give her a smile I can only hope conveyed my genuine… what? My genuine what? I don’t know if there’s a word for it. Sympathy? What is that feeling called when you look into someone’s eyes and all the firsts and lasts that blur together to make up a life, your life, flash through your mind? What is it you feel when you stand at one end of time, barely beginning, and you are touching the weathered paper skin of someone’s hand at the other end? Relief? Thank god for the years I (assume I) have left? Thank god I will see a beach again? Maybe it’s helplessness. I can’t help. I can’t offer her some of my years, some of my physical strength. I can’t reassure her she will travel the world again. She won’t. Sometimes reality is solid and truth is frustratingly less fluid than usual. I can’t make anything better for her beyond whichever moment we are in. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe it isn’t. I can’t get this out of my head today.