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Hall_Wedding_Jeanne2 - Version 2Several weeks ago we had the great good fortune to rendezvous in Annapolis, Md. for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Stop and think about that: in the time since Jeanne was born, we have gone from mankind just learning to fly to walking on the moon. From the age of steam to splitting the atom. From the normal problems of the day consisting of distributing ice and removing horse droppings (for want of a better term) to supplying the device in your pocket that can access the world’s knowledge in seconds with power. The rate of change in the world’s knowledge and capabilities has accelerated to an unfathomable degree, and she has been watching the craziness her entire life. And she’s still going strong.

It was a pretty special weekend. Family and friends came in from Utah, Montana, Florida, California, Arizona and New York. For the first time since I joined this family, all four of her children were in the same place at the same time. We shared meals, sat outside on a cool August day (and let me tell you, just having a cool day in August in that part of the world is special; there’s a reason Congress adjourns in August), and talked talked talked. We also ate ate ate! It was quite the whirlwind of activity and Jeanne was going strong the entire time. In her own words, she was “floating on air.”

During her birthday lunch, we went around the table, each of us telling a story or two and thanking Jeanne for this and that. A couple of common themes, mentioned several times, struck a chord with me. Her love of travel, which was passed to her children, was one. Another was her love of reading. Both of these are passions of Patti and mine, and it was wonderful to acknowledge to her the results of the seeds she nourished. Having the opportunity to let her know how we felt was a moment that many of us don’t get to share with our loved ones, to the detriment of us all.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

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On a spring night in 2002, Patti drove from our house across the causeway to an appointment. When she turned off the car, she heard a strange sound coming from the engine compartment. It wasn’t a meowing, more a weird squawk. When she popped the hood, she discovered a 5- or 6-week-old kitten had hitched a ride on top of a brace under the hood. That’s how Nikkie (or Nicky, or Nikky, or whatever) came into our lives.

We named her after the William Powell character in the Thin Man movies. Her “sister,” adopted shortly after Nikki adopted us, was named Nora after the wife in the same movies. From the very beginning she was a bit on the odd side, which is saying something if you know anything about our feline partners. She was extremely shy. We have many longtime friends who have never laid eyes on her except for perhaps a quick flash as she ran to her safe spot under the guest bed. We had a cleaning lady for a couple of years who only glimpsed her now and again. When we would hit the road, sometimes for many weeks, the cat sitters would only see her if they knew where to look. She would come out into the common areas if people were staying the night, but only reluctantly. We were her humans and that was enough for her.

Nikki and Nora tolerated each other and were friendly enough, but not close. They seemed to divide the feline chores about the house. Nora is our huntress, tracking and killing the many lizards on the back porch (which she then eats, sometimes followed by a nice puke). Nora also tracks and locates spiders for me to remove, much to Patti’s disgust, and one time presented us with the still-twitching front half of a black snake that somehow got into the house. Nikki showed little interest in the hunt, but she was our protector. When one of the neighborhood cats presented themselves at our bedroom sliding door, she would attack. She never seemed to learn that there was glass in the way, but she got an ‘A’ for effort.

She was a picky eater, so when we changed their food a couple of months ago for something more suited to older cats she only picked at it at initially and started losing weight. Since she was a solid cat we didn’t pay much attention, but she kept on losing until we finally became concerned. We scheduled an appointment for after our return from a trip to Annapolis, but when we got home she was weak so we took her to the animal emergency room. I won’t go into the experiences of the next two weeks. All I’ll say is that we had a very sick cat. Very sick.

Last Friday, September 4, we put Nikki to sleep. While it was totally the right decision (both the vet and the vet tech agreed that it was time), it was obviously a difficult one. Although Patti and I had discussed this moment and were “prepared,” we really weren’t. An important part of our family is no longer here and we have a hole in our universe that is completely disproportionate to her physical presence. The three of us are (very) slowly coming to grips with our new family dynamic. We’ll get there.

But our “special snowflake” still has her claws embedded in our hearts and always will.

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