Remember in TV ads long ago in the 70s when product-makers would tout their "unconditional money-back guarantee" for their product that might work three days after receiving it. As a kid, I remember hearing those jumbled words, not really understanding its significance. However, if old age has taught me one thing, it's the price of unconditional and how its longevity factor is much more valued than any monetary replacement.
Yesterday, our cat died. Bear. I've known Bear as long as I've known my husband. In fact, Bear met me at the door before Len could get there. So, I guess I've know Bear the longest. My heart is broken. Len's heart is broken. Here's the way I look at this. Last week my ex-husband died. I didn't cry. I didn't mourn. He was a horrible man who treated his children and family as if we were trash. Not an unconditional fiber in his being. It was a very sad ending to life.
Today, I can't stop crying. I can't stop mourning. Bear was a companion who never judged or belittled or wandered; he simply loved his family the best way he could. And, he did. Until yesterday at 4:00 p.m. when he just couldn't handle it anymore.
He's simply a cat.
I mean, really. What we had to put up with!
I can have a white bed comforter. Yes, a beautiful, hotel-like, cushy-cottony comforter that will make our bedroom a beautiful place to relax. No worries of black hair being left on the foot of the bed or paw prints messing with its whiteness.
And, I can put away the towels that I used to cover all upholstery where he stretched out every day. The pad at the bottom of our bed or the chair in my office where he spent most of his days don't have to be covered anymore. The upholstery can now breathe.
Real flowers. I can have vases upon vases of real flowers on every table in the house. I don't have to put them 7 feet high in hopes that Bear won't climb and eat every last bloom. What do I buy first?
I can open doors again! I don't have to race in from the car, quickly closing the outside door before I open the kitchen door just so Bear won't escape. He did that one time, and luckily I found him. If not, I would have been the one that was homeless. I can take my time, leaving a door open a millisecond longer than before.
And, I won't have to say goodbye each time I leave the house or tell him when I'll return or to take care of Ty or to take a nap; I'll be right back. I can just walk out the door and be on my way.
No more paw prints on my floors. Less mopping to erase his steps and the floors will thank me.
No more litter box to clean. Can I get an Amen?
During the night, no more cat chases to wake us. We never knew what he was chasing, but when he settled down, we figured he caught it. Oh, and no more sweeps of the house after Len and I laid down. He always laid down with us and then immediately got up to check the house. Again, crazy cat in that nothing was every there. He just made noise.
I don't have to share my sweet peas with Bear anymore. I can keep them all to myself.
And don't get me started about the water. Leaving the water running in Len's sink for him to drink - he was insistent that it be running so he could get water. Never mind that he had a water bowl in the kitchen. It was never good enough.
What a nosey ghost. I couldn't go anywhere in the house with him following me. Now, I can do anything, all by myself.
Life is strange in that we think we know what we want. And when we have it, we want the complete opposite.
I look over my left shoulder to the chair that Bear occupied for close to eight years. It's empty. I can't read my work to him. No more meows for approval or a head tuck for disapproval. And when its time for a break, I'll not have a partner to accompany me to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or a guy to help me harass the outside cats through the glass door. And no one who races me to the bathroom. And no one to tell "good morning" or "let's go to bed."
And this is where the unconditional comes in. He was that. Bear defined that. For no matter what we needed - a head kiss or a cold nose on my arm - he always showed us that he was there. Even when I told him how annoying he was, he didn't care; he simply remained Bear. He had the longevity factor. Until the very end.
Lessons from a cat, I suppose. Constant. Remaining. Loving. Caring. Unconditional.
He leaves all those lessons behind and a family that became whole because he was there.
Who needs a white comforter and flowers? Not me.
It's the day we give thanks. In all honestly, we should do this everyday. Not just one day a year. We're hundreds of miles from those we hug on, but no matter what, we know how lucky we are. So, in honor of those organizational fools like myself, here's a list:
1. (Len) I'm thankful that we get to travel together.
2. (Judy) Totally agree. I'm glad you're the other half of Two Coots.
3. (Len) I'm thankful for communication with my sons, that I'm able to build a relationship again.
4. (Judy) There's nothing better than a do-over, a second chance. I'm so thankful that you are my second chance at love.
5. (Len) I'm thankful for our good health, which makes us able to enjoy all this.
6. (Judy) I'm thankful that you're the one with the good eyes, good body, good mind, good feet, good pipes. At least one of us should have clear sailing in order to help the other. Leaning is a good thing.
7. (Len) I'm thankful for you because you bring out the good parts in me cause Lord knows they are hard to find.
8. (Judy) Love makes that possible.
9. (Len) I'm thankful for the stories we get to share and the images we are privileged to capture. They will live forever for these people and that's an honor. Long after we're gone, our photos will be hanging on someone's wall. What an honor to have someone look at them and smile.
10. (Judy) What a privilege to share stories and moments. Not everyone gets to look in like we get to.
11. (Len) I'm thankful for Bear, our kitty. When we come home, he yells at us, but I'm thankful he's there to yell at us. He doesn't like us to leave.
12. (Judy) He's a pill, that cat. My shadow. Not many cats get a book dedication.
13. (Len) I'm thankful for Thanksgiving lasagna. Cooking is a great way to remember people and traditions. When you stand in the kitchen and cook what your parents did, what your mom made, what better way to have them with you forever.
14. (Judy) I'm a coverted Thanksgiving lasagna lover. Brings out the wanna-be Italian in me. Food is one of those ultimate connections. My mama made me tomato soup when I was sick or sad. It's been 8 years since I've tasted her comfort.
15. (Len) I think that's all the highlights, dear.
16. (Judy) A good list that is sure to grow.
17. (Len) One more, I'm thankful for family and friends that we have re-connected with. It's great to be welcomed home. And the people we've met along the way, so amazing.
18. (Judy) It's staggering to think of the experiences we have shared and the people we have met simply because three years ago we decided not to sit still. Take that, old age!
They say that gratitude produces happiness. We are happy UP TO HERE! With gratitude . . .
Thank you for supporting and following and sharing Seeing Southern and Two Coots Travel.
there comes a point when we all have to run away. for me, it's this thanksgiving. this is the year when the two of us pack up our sicilian lasagna and meatballs - along with homemade resee cups and peanut butter cake (the closest thing to southern tradition in our home) - and head to the north georgia mountains for cold air and renewal.
the drive reminds of many i once made. as a college student and newlywed, i'd always travel to clarkesville to see mama and daddy and be renewed by mama's orange slice cake and dried apple pies. years later, there's the one i always made the tuesday before the traditional thursday to pick up my aunt sophia and her decadent chocolate cake. we'd always stop by KFC on the way home for hot wings; that was our secret.
for this drive, it was only one cooler filled with pasta and sweets.
now it's thanksgiving morning and the parade is over, the fire is blazing, and memories are invading. len is talking to his northern family - in animated italian - and becoming the talker he swears he is not. i claim the fire and think of my children. we're spread on different continents, but even distant cities might as well be a world away. thanksgiving will live primarily in my mind for the majority of years to come, a realization that i'm not sure i'm ready for. my children and len's children lead faraway lives, our parents are gone and the immediate family are not close. so we will hold memories close and even though it's just the two of us, i'm beyond thankful. i'm grateful for the life i'm so privileged to lead.
so wool socks, keep me warm! memories, keep me warm! it's almost time for lasagna.
the sound jarred me. heavy metal combining with concrete. i expected horns and tires screeching in downtown snellville, georgia, but not a sound so out of place.
i stopped at a red light on a hectic street, taking a look at my phone for anything urgent, when a sound startled me. i looked in my rear view mirror thinking initially someone had rear-ended me. nothing there except a car at its proper distance. but out of the corner of my eye - two lanes over, i noticed a man and woman on the sidewalk, just a few inches from the path of cars. in their fifties or so, dressed in jeans, not looking out of place. for a brief moment, his hand reached around her waist, pulling her closer, protecting her from the dangers of traffic. she looked up at him, thanking him with her eyes. tucked safely under her right arm, the woman held a rolled up blanket. odd, for sure, i thought. he let go, bent down, and she watched as he began his work. hoovering over a manhole, he picked up the heavy cover that lay askew. he heaved with all his might, and he shoved it to the side, crashing against the concrete. this time, it had fallen far enough away to expose the entire cavern.
and then my mouth dropped, and i forgot about the traffic.
as the man watched protectively, the woman slipped into the darkness, deep inside the ground. once she was inside, he followed. the heavy cover moved, swallowing the couple.
i sat in my car. in my warm car, sipping on my starbuck's latte and feeling ashamed. a horn from the impatient driver behind me urged me to move along. i wondered if they had witnessed the two people? did anyone else see? they had to have seen. most were lots closer than i, but as if it had been an illusion, traffic picked up and life carried on.
i've been back to that intersection a couple of times, hoping to see them again. i haven't. i still wonder who they were and why they were there. i remember their faces. not a sign of despair, only concern and worry for the one beside. i still feel ashamed of my unfettered whimpers.
so this thanksgiving, i will remember the out-of-place sound of metal. i hope that if ever i get to the place in my life where blankets and beds are luxuries rather than necessities, i will approach each day with gratitude - no matter what the situation might be. if god forbid, a hole in the earth becomes my sleeping quarters, i will be strong and hold on to my partner for strength. i will not care what others say or see, but will keep my eyes fixed on the one who loves me, for therein lies my hope. i will not be ashamed by what i must do for love or for survival.
my heart tells me its time to take another trip to snellville, just on the off-chance they are there. i hope they aren't. i hope they are inside four walls this thanksgiving, enjoying each other without the trappings of metal.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.