Sunday, July 31, 2005

Transitions for both Dorian and her elderly cat, Speedy ...

Came home on Friday to a frantic call on my lan phone from Dorrie announcing through tears that Speedy was failing fast and could no longer stand and had stopped eating. It was not unexpected. Speedy had been obviously ailing for months and at the time that Dorian moved into her apartment two weeks ago, we'd acquired an 8 week-old kitten to soften the pain of the anticipated loss.

Drove over to her place to pick her up with the very frail cat lying quietly in the carrier (on a crocheted small coral-colored blanket made for her especially by Dorian). One look was enough to know that the end had come -- and that my dear daughter knew that.

She had been intending to stay with me overnight anyway, but now we would have another mission besides saving quarters by doing her laundry at Mom's. Now we would visit the vet for a final examination and possible euthanasia. And that's how it all worked out.

We drove to Berkeley on Saturday morning after finding no local veterinary clinic open on the weekend. So it was to the Animal Shelter we would go, or the SPCA might be appropriate if we could locate it. Discovered upon arrival at the shelter that they would not put the cat down without having a signed release from a vet. We found one nearby and learned that (as suspected) Speedy was hopelessly ill with liver or kidney failure with no chance of survival. However, it would cost $141 for the vet to euthanize her if they were to also handle the disposal. Having no wish to put my handicapped daughter through an extended experience of loss -- I bought the entire package and blessed my credit card in the process.

Dorian was not rushed, but sensitively allowed to sit and hold her much-loved pet until it seemed natural to leave her. I was grateful for that. She was tearful but resolute that this was the right thing to do.

We got back into the car, headed back toward Interstate 880 and suddenly noticed to the west, a sky filled with brightly-colored kites! It was Kite Festival Day on the Berkeley Marina and -- as if sent from on high -- the perfect event for this moment of deep sorrow.

We joined the heavy traffic headed for the Marina meadow, parked at the boathouse, and joined the throngs of moms and dads, babies and small children, dogs on leashes, all of the usual collection of beautiful Berkeleyans who might be expected to turn out for such an event. It was impossible to stay sad as we walked along the waterfront past the house boats and colorful sailboats moored there, took a moment or two to watch a wedding occurring in plain view on the top deck of a Red & White ferry anchored at the peer. Ahead of us high in the sky hundreds of kites of every size, shape, and color flew against a cloudless sky above the sky-reflected azure of the bay! There were all forms of fish, octopi, butterflies, birds, octagonals, geometrics, and two huge yellow cats! How fitting!

Upon arrival at the end of the long walk, we climbed a gentle mound and sat on the grass with hundreds of others to watch the kites against the sky. There were very serious adult kite fanciers with intricately-designed four-string models attached to a kind of spinner; children who had made their own at one of the tents, kites easily identified by their size (small), identical shapes, all white with pink tails; and some that resembled the huge gas-filled types common to holiday parades. From time to time there would be music on the sound system -- everything from bluegrass to Handel. It was impossible to not catch the high spirits of the day.

Several things stood out for me. The stark contrasts between the gentle character of the activity itself and the quiet in the people involved, and the headlines of "rumors of wars and more wars" I'd left behind on the car radio was startling. The "flying" was all-consuming and the "watching" serenity-producing. What a wondrous thing was this ... .

I felt that my two little granddaughters were probably somewhere in that crowd and hoped to catch sight of them at some point. But, surprisingly, there were so many little Berkeley kids of mixed-race -- little olive-skinned beauties with almond shaped eyes and waste-length dark hair -- that they would have been impossible to find. Berkeley appears to have become the mecca for such families, and for those who've given up all claims to racial superiority long ago. Here was this polyglot of humanity living in harmony together in a world at peace.

The flying kites became symbolic of so much for me -- not the least of which was the quiet comment from my mentally-disabled daughter just before we rose to begin the long walk back to the car, "... Did they do it yet, Mom? Do you think that Speedy's in kitty heaven, Mom?" In the environment of love and peacefulness that we were so much a part of in that moment, it was quite easy for this non-believing mother to say quite sincerely,


Photo: Dorrie painted this portrait of Speedy the following week -- to serve as the centerpiece for the memorial service she conducted in the courtyard of NIAD. Do notice the lovely white halo over her head; a nice touch. With Dorian, the staff and other NIAD artists paid proper tribute to the dearly departed in the noontime ceremony. I missed it since it all happened in that world in that world that she lives in where mothers can't always follow.

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