Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Movie

I just finished watching the George Clooney film , "Up in the Air", via my cable company. I've been so busy lately, I have not had time to get to the theatre to watch a movie, so the "Movies On Demand" function of my remote is a welcome perk.
I'd heard this was a good film and the trailers looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I must say, I found the movie profoundly depressing. Don't get me wrong, it was well acted by all the principal stars, an interesting viewpoint from which to tell the story and very well executed, but from the first few minutes, I found myself silently sobbing. Tears streamed down my face intermittently throughout the whole picture, at the depictions of middle-aged people being told they were no longer needed and had been let go from their jobs.

I relate to this pain on a visceral level. I know first-hand, the utter despair and sense of worthlessness you feel when being told by your company that they no longer need or want you as a part of their operation. I know what it is like to be dismissed one day, left with no recourse, after years of dedication and hard work. I remember lying awake in the early morning hours wondering how in God's name I would pay my bills and fill my hours. I have an intimate connection to this terror; I know it personally.

None of it seemed real to Ryan, the protagonist. He managed to keep the ugly reality of his work neatly compartmentalized, and didn't let it get to him. He was unscathed by the hardship and pain of the strangers that he was paid to fire. The tables were turned on Clooney's character, when his romantic foil, Alex, showed him that his emotions were just make-believe to her, as much a non-reality in her life, as the emotions of the victims of his cold dismissal services were in his. In the end, although he'd started to become a sympathetic character and I did feel sorry for him, I think he sort of got what he had coming to him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Decline of Catboy

My male cat is now almost fifteen years old. Despite his geriatric state, he is sleek, active and animated most of the time. His glossy, black and white fur feels like satin, and his green eyes still shine. He is busy much of the time, watching the birds through the window pane, nibbling on my houseplants or dodging Rigby the dog, as she makes clumsy attempts to play with him.

He has always had a ravenous appetite, but last year he became insatiable, crying and begging for food immediately after eating his meals. He started following me around from room to room, wailing and reaching out to me with his giant, polydactyl paws, stroking the side of my face to direct my attention. Clearly, something had changed.

A trip to the vet revealed something that neither I, nor the doctor expected; Catboy has diabetes. The vet spent some time showing me how to inject him with insulin, which I must do twice a day, right after he eats his breakfast and dinner.
We bought him a special food for diabetic felines, which he ate with gusto at first. It was a case of large cans, but before the last ten cans were consumed, he'd rejected it completely. Back to the tiny, expensive cans that he had come to favor early in his life with us. A discerning gourmet of a feline he is, his birth in a dumpster aside.

His appearance has changed drastically in the past few months. The flesh has disappeared from his huge, multi-toed paws, leaving them thin and skeletal looking. His face is gaunt and thinner than that of a siamese. His spine protrudes from his back, the bones now prominent as he continues to lose weight.

Catboy’s life is approaching it’s natural end now- I know this. I have reached the mature age when romantic, overly sentimental notions of life and death have long since fallen by the wayside. I look upon the death of the body in old age as necessary and not something to be dreaded or staved off. All things must pass…It is the natural turn of events, but as it draws closer for him, I have been thinking lately about Catboy’s life.

If I had not intervened and left him to live his life as a feral cat, his life would have been much shorter. I have seen statistics that claim that a cat living outside has an average life expectancy of about three years. Feline Immune Deficiency Syndrome-the cat version of HIV/AIDS apparently rages through the feral population, and those cats whose owners let them roam out of doors are frequently exposed to it. Coyotes and fishers roam the backyards and vacant lots of suburbia, hunting small pets for food. Throw in speeding cars, ticks and fleas and the diseases they cause, and the outer world seems like a deathtrap for domestic cats. That’s why I have kept Catboy and Ceecee inside for their entire lives with me: for their own well-being.

But, what about the quality of that life? Would they have been happier outside? Chasing chickadees and bumble bees, rather than watching them from a window ledge, through a screen? Seeking out a sunny spot to sleep on the grass, rather than on my living room carpet? Climbing trees instead of bureaus? Would a shorter life outside have meant a more satisfying life for the cats, even with the risk of an early and perhaps violent end? Do I have the right to make this decision for them? These are the questions that nip at the edges of my mind now as I watch his decline. I think about these things, as I run my hand down his back and feel the vertebrae, now prominent, as the muscles and fat melt away from his bony frame.

I wanted him to be safe and sound, and that was the life I created for him, but he had no say in any of it. I wonder whether he resents me for keeping him a prisoner inside, even though my intentions were good. I believe I made the right decision. He has enjoyed a long life. I wonder whether he would say he has had a good life.
I sure hope so.