Inspired by the Great British Baking Show, Matt took up baking. Every year we go off to the pick your own farm to pick tart cherries. This year was a bumper crop. There is a zen to picking fruit. Sounds, concentration, attention in the moment. Once the picking gets started, it is very hard to stop. In this case, the trees were so loaded that we did not even need to move. We just cleaned off two trees and called it a day. Now we are swimming in cherries.
Matt turned some of them into a pie. It is called a double bake pie because you cook the shell empty, then fill it, then cook it again. Because the crust is baked and then filled, it stays nice a flaky and does not get mushy. It was yummy and pretty too.
Yes, we are all missing something during this time of shut in. For us, it was milestone celebrations. We had two. Matt turned 50 in March. It was right as the crisis started so we had no opportunity for a party or to go out for a fine meal. I made him a nice dinner, but it is not the same as going out for a big splurge meal with fifteen tastings and you roll out of the restaurant wishing you had not eaten all of that food and drunk all of that wine. Someday that pleasure will return.
Then we had our 25th wedding anniversary in May. Again, no parties. No visits. I made a nice dinner. This time it was close to a splurge. I found sea urchin on the internet and I made spicy sea urchin pasta, one of our favorites. We first tried sea urchin as a pasta sauce in Positano Italy. Sea urchin, known as uni in Japanese cuisine, is often served as sushi. So we knew we loved it. After we had it on pasta, we were completely hooked on a new way of eating it. So we roamed around Italy looking for more. Sea urchins have large spines like a porcupine and can do some damage if you step on one. They can also be an invasive species and they are wiping out the kelp forests off the coast of California. So it is good to eat them.
We are hoping that when this is finally over we will have a multi-purpose party/celebration for all that we missed. Better late than never.
I lost a friend. His name was Izzy. Izzy was a different kind of cat. He was extremely social. And curious. And very much into attention. Okay, those last two are most cats. But combined, it made him an animal who participated in everything we did, almost like a dog. So when we learned that he was terminally ill, we were suddenly presented with the prospect that someone we had talked to, sat with, played with and petted for 12 years would no longer be part of our lives.
I always knew that Izzy was really my best buddy. Sometimes I think I spent more time with him than I did Matt. I work at home so while Matt was off at work, Izzy and I hung out. We woke up together, we had breakfast together. He always shared my chair at the kitchen table. It was the most convenient way for him to get hugged and petted. Sometimes he sat next to me while I did yoga. If I was exercising, he would come to check things out. If I was laying on the floor, he came over and gave me a nudge. He came to see me in the afternoon when I was working. He liked to sit on my desk and lay over my computer. He sat on my lap every night while we watched the news. He sat on my lap when we watched movies. He liked to spoon with me when I was napping. Sometimes he just could not get close enough to me, particularly if I had been away. He was just always there.
Izzy was a big cat–18 pounds at his heaviest, about 16 inches tall and 32 inches long. He was just huge. He was an alpha male and walked with a big cat swagger. His tail was always up. He had a big loud purr. I used to tell him he had the biggest purr ever. It really was impressive. Sometimes it sounded like an organ playing three levels of music. He was incredibly strong, with big paws, and a grip that was kind of scary.
He really knew how to live and he lived large. I’d tell people Izzy was my role model. He could relax with the best of them. Sleep was his thing. He slept wherever whenever. Sleeping on his back, big belly up, legs splayed. That was Izzy. He had no worries. I made this hilarious video of him enjoying the fire in the drawing room. (We call it “the drawing room” because, well, why not have a drawing room? What is a drawing room anyway? I am not sure, but we decided to have one. I think this would be called the more formal “living room” in other homes, as opposed to the family room, which we also have.)
But more than anything, if we were there, he was there. We were eating, he was with us. We were watching a movie or tv, he was with us. We were sleeping, he was with us. He just liked being around people. Anyone who came in was greeted at the door and promptly asked for a pet or attention of any kind.
We had a whole back story for him. He spoke with a British accent, ala Winston Churchill. As you can see from the picture, he had a mustache and when we adopted him that was his name. I changed it to Izzy and we decided that Mustache was his spy name. We talked to him all the time. Or I should say I talked to him and Matt answered in his voice.
After the vet told me he was dying, I was stunned for a bit and then I just cried. A lot. It did not seem possible. He was so big and strong. Matt used to say a little bigger and he could eat us. But we could see he was going quickly. It was maddening trying to figure out when he should be put to sleep. The vet said, wait until he stops eating. The vet who was going to euthanize him advised we check his life score. Is he still participating, eating, doing what he likes? He certainly tried to the very end to be with us. He would hide but he kept coming out when he heard us. He came for dinner, he sat with us while we watched tv.
We have three floors and his favorite thing was to charge up the stairs. One day, he tried to charge and realized he did not have the energy or the ability to go fast. He seemed to not understand why his strength had gone. We encouraged him to take his time. Then he could barely make the steps anymore. He sat on my lap for a movie one last time. Finally, he stopped eating and we called the vet.
We learned he had liver cancer on June 1. On July 1, it was time to say goodbye. In between we cried a lot. And hugged and petted him and just tried to make him as happy as possible. Most of the time I cried and cried and cried. I still cry. I am trying not to cry while I write this. But that is a lost cause. I am crying. I lost my best friend. Truly. They say in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. I had a cat named Izzy. There will never be another.
We had a last trip to Pittsburgh in early March for a Pens game. Then I had to rush to New York for work. It was on that trip that I could see the country was going to shut down. The virus was lurking. I did not like being on a plane. I did not like travelling. It was making me nervous even then.
I got home and the cancellations began, the closures, the shut down. Yes, we have been home bound since March and I have to be honest with you, not much in my life has changed. I have worked at home for 20 years. I was telecommuting before it became a thing. And I kept right on working. I have been incredibly busy dealing with coronavirus issues.
The rest of our life did not change much either. We don’t have kids, we don’t have commitments. We are unto ourselves in that way. While I know you would not believe this, Matt and I are quite happy to stay home. We aren’t big socializers. We have a few friends, but it is not like we go out and see people every weekend. We have everything we need right here in our own house—restaurant, gym, movie theater, garden and park. We are on-line shoppers so who cares about going to the mall. I haven’t been in a mall in years. So we are fine staying home. I go out to do the grocery shopping, mask and gloves at the ready. But other than that, we are existing in our own world. We eat take out on Saturday to help restaurants. We watch movies. Oddly, I don’t miss hockey. It is just too late now. I have no interest in whatever they plan on doing to start up again.
Concerts are one thing we really do miss. We had tickets to see the Foo Fighters this summer and a few other shows. All of our theater and concert tickets were cancelled, and I had to navigate refunds and credits. But somehow, we carry on.
It is the inability to travel that is killing us. We had plans to go to Peru this year. Well, that is not happening. Back in May we talked about taking a car trip in the U.S. later this year, but given the current situation, where would we be able to go and feel okay about it? This country is a mess. Places we thought we could drive to are hot spots now. It is just not worth the hassle.
So we wait. As we wait, I realized that this has taken away something very basic to us–we have nothing to look forward to. Our trips, even the ones to Pittsburgh or New York were something we could always call on to get us through the week. We are going somewhere. Some adventure. We would have a trip planned and head toward that date knowing we were on our way to something new and different. When we are at our wits end, we look at each other and say, let’s get out of here. Twice we have ended up in the South Pacific. Sometimes we have ended up in Bermuda. Now we are going nowhere. Maybe we will pull off something spontaneous if the circumstances change but I am not going to put much hope in it. Aye, there is the rub. No hope.
That does not mean our lives have been static.
Matt’s mom has pancreatic cancer. She is going through treatments and we have to take care of a lot of stuff because, you know, the U.S. health care system is based on the assumption that family members are part of the medical staff. Matt goes to doctor’s appointments, talks to the doctors and nurses to straighten out issues. After she had major surgery, they sent her home, too early in our opinion, and Matt had night nurse duty for several days. I work on cooking things she might be able to eat and keeping her pantry filled.
We have been to two COVID funerals—Matt’s uncle and his 99-year old grandmother, both contracting the virus while in nursing homes. Matt helped to put his grandmother’s funeral on Zoom. Imagine.
And just this past week our beloved cat Izzy had to be put to sleep. He developed liver cancer, the tumors had spread throughout his organs, and he went downhill pretty quickly. We had a few weeks with him after diagnosis. Nothing could be done, and we finally made the decision to let him go. We’ve been crying for weeks. I’ll write about that separately
Hey, and let’s pile on top of all this stress a pandemic and righteous protests and that horrible person in the WH and, man, I am depressed and angry.
How do I handle that? First, I have started trolling Trump on Twitter. It sure does help me vent. He puts himself out there to be called a dumb ass and I am happy to go there. When I hear journalists covering the WH say that you have to respect the office, well, no. The man in the office should earn or warrant our respect. You don’t get respect based on a title. Trump has done nothing to suggest that he is entitled to any respect. In fact, he invites derision by acting like a third grader. So just like in third grade, we give back what he gives. God bless America and free speech.
We did not go to any BLM protests, mostly because we were not willing to ride the subway and we were never going to find parking close enough for Matt to make the walk. But our spirit was with them and if there is a protest on the Mall in the coming months (I believe there will be) we may be able to attend that. I look forward to it.
I have been pining to help tear down a confederate statue. That would give me so much joy. Pulling down Robert E. Lee would be something to check off my bucket list. The Lost Cause has been an irritant to me for decades. But I never know when they are going to do it. I am not on all of the social media apps so it is not easy to find folks who are planning an ambush. But I am with them in spirit and maybe one day I can get in on one. And by the way, good riddance to Columbus as well.
That is my mind set and activities during the pandemic. Just trying to stay sane but with nothing to look forward to.