Clarissa she is not. But Em is in the know.
There is a lot going on in her five year old life, and she is taking it all in stride. With the impending arrival of a sibling there has been plenty of talk of babies and new life. I let her watch The Business of Being Born not too awful long ago and she ate it up. She is curious and occasionally worried about me. I think she is right at the age where she can grasp just enough information to make her want more but not she is not quite ready to wrap her mind around the rest. MQD and I are perfecting the art of simply answering the question that was posed. Not too much information, not too little. We will be the Goldilocks of Sex Ed by the time it is all said and done.
About half of the time Em opens her mouth it starts with “Can I tell you something?” So yesterday in the car when she asked that very question it didn’t prepare MQD or I for what was coming. “Did you know you will actually have to watch your wife? Actually have a baby out her vagina?”
This is when I started furiously typing on my phone. Typically advice that Em dispenses is good. But the advice she gives MQD where she refers to me as “your wife” is classic. “And this is important to know. It is serious. It might hurt Mom a little bit.”
And for dramatic effect she begins to get choked up… “And it will come out of her vagina like magic. And you might be a little nervous, Dad. And a little excited. I’m just telling you. It is important that you know this stuff. You might start crying. And maybe we can at least read my baby books. I have two baby books. We can read them so you will know how it is.”
I had tears running down my face from laughter. I just want to make sure I get in the right line at the midwife’s office. I want the magical vaginal delivery, please.
Sadly, all conversation this weekend was not about Life.
I am not counting weekends between now and the middle of January yet. I don’t need to. It won’t be long before MQD has a shared Google spreadsheet “Things to Do Before Baby” with budgeted amounts of time and money in their own columns. But my Cook and Clean genes have been in overdrive. And I can feel the Becky Home-Eccy in me taking over.
My keen sense of smell had me in a frenzy again on Sunday. I woke up early, as I always do when I don’t need to actually go anywhere. I read in bed until 7:45 when my “Take Vitamin” alarm went off on my phone. I realized I should probably go upstairs and make sure Em was still alive. As I ran up the stairs I had the “I smell CAT PEE” shakes. I hoped it was the litter box with a fresh deposit. But as I hit the top of the stairs I knew I was wrong. As soon as I stopped at the landing and looked towards the guest room I knew.
Before the “I smell CAT PEE” frenzy took hold I did open Em’s door. To find her naked and cleaning her room. “What are you doing?”
“Well, I woke up really early and I figured if I cleaned my whole room right away it would make you really happy. And then we can just do fun stuff the rest of the day.” Girl after my 0wn heart. Her room was damn near immaculate. But even a total lack of legos on the floor, even all dress up clothes in the toy box, all markers in their box WITH lids was not enough to stop the CAT PEE frenzy.
A month ago it was on our bed. Cat pee. But maybe one of the cats got locked in the bedroom? Last week it was cat pee on the couch. But it was on a quilt, and easily washed, and perhaps since I had stopped nagging MQD about the litter box it hadn’t been dumped this week? And now it was in the guest room.
I turned to go back down the steps and stopped two steps down to open the window at the top of the stairs. I sniffed and dropped to my knees. And smelled CAT PEE. On the landing. When you are pregnant and already striking the pose of a keening old woman it is tempting to throw your arms in the air and begin to wail. I mean, in case anyone was filming a Lifetime movie about this poor woman and the CAT PEE I really ought to give them their money shot, right? But I’d have had to bury my head in my arms. On the cat pee carpet. And I just couldn’t be bothered Lifetime movie or no.
At first I was furious. And then I thought we’d just have to bring another litter box upstairs, if Stan can’t make it down the steps. And then I was broken-hearted. If you’re not following along at home, it was a mish mash of Kübler-Ross’ Stages of Grief. The last being acceptance. My sixteen year old cat that bites. That has never been particularly friendly. But that has lived with me in every home I have had since I was 20 years old.
She is unpleasant, as she has always been. But she has never peed in the house. I think it might be Time.
So, hours later, after the purchase of rubber gloves and oxy-clean and Spot Shot and Arm & Hammer carpet sprinkle…. I laid down on the carpet next to that damn cat. And then I cried like an old woman at an Irish wake.
Stanley and I reminisced. About the late nights on Mount Vernon Avenue in Williamsburg. And the time she scared my roommate, Greg B, so badly that he actually called out in the middle of the night for someone to rescue him from her. I reminded her about that creepy puppet I kept in a cabinet that she hated. She’d stare at the cabinet for hours. Switching her tail back and forth. We laughed about how she hid for almost two weeks in our master bedroom closet when we moved to the beach and how she hid again when we brought Em home from the hospital. I apologized for letting Fish chase her when he was a pup. But it was so damn funny to watch her big, fat ass hiss at his tiny floppy puppy face. And I apologized for the laser pointer shenanigans. Because that’s just really not a very nice game.
As we reminisced I realized that there isn’t much in the way of memories in the last few years. She comes out from under the bed every now and again to holler at the youngins. Hiss at Fisher. She jumps in bed with Em on occasion. But that is likely all the human touch she gets. Since we don’t tend to hang out much under the guest room bed.
I assumed she came out to eat when we weren’t home. Or rather I’d been hoping she was eating. But lying on the floor surrounded by the Lysol cat pee smell I knew what I was looking at was the end. And she bit me on the face. And it made me laugh. God damn that cat. I never really liked her, even as a kitten, and now she was making me cry.
So, the latter half of the weekend we talked to Em about death. She wants to have a party for Stan. With cat treats. And give her extra snuggles. The strange conversation we had about how when someone is really, really old they can die “any minute, right before your eyes” is perhaps worth writing down. But I can’t now. I need to go ahead and call the vet while I am already crying about that god damn cat.
Stan, you’ve been my “god damn cat” for almost sixteen years. You have seen a lot. Heart break, marriages, divorce, birth. You have not consoled me on one single occasion. But I knew you were around. And I guess I got used to the idea. That you’d always be around. I kinda thought you’d just live forever. It’s not the first time being wrong about something has made me cry.
Sitting in my lap on the floor in the guest room, Em put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Mommy, we can get another kitty cat, another little girl cat.”
And with big fat heavy tears of sadness rolling down my face I hugged her back and said “Oh, no, honey. Mommy hates cats.”
I’m gonna miss you Stanley Manley.