Death and taxes!

Being over dramatic with that title? Maybe so, but these have both been on my mind recently. The deaths of people and animals to me seem to be equally distressing but some might find that statement rather offensive, but no apology as for me I’ve been lucky enough not to have to cope with the deaths of very close loved ones so far, but I certainly have lost several loyal, beautiful animal companions over the years. This was brought to mind by a friend who recently lost  her dear old doggy companion, a sweet old gentleman of a dog, and it reminded me of the sense of loss you feel whenever you walk in a park, walk on a beach, or just curl up on your sofa, if you have had a dog in the past.

The loss of a close family member is, however, looming as I see with great distress the way Alzheimer’s is slowly sucking the life and light out of my Dad. I don’t see him every day being a long way from my parents’ home these days so the difference always hits me quite hard, but I will soon be there for a full month to ‘cover’ all the care and support my sister and her husband are giving to both parents, so no doubt I will get used to seeing Dad as he is now, but doubt he will know who I am, but will treat me like any of the other smiling faces who try to communicate with him.

it’s a terrible disease that seems to short-circuit areas of the brain, bit by bit, and messes with your memory, behaviour, mood and mobility, amongst other things. It gradually separates you from the people you love, and you can only hope they will love you enough to stay and hold your hand even when you don ‘t quite know who they are. We won’t give up on our Dad of course because he was the quiet, hard-working, long- suffering rock of our family all these years and we loved his love of comedy, his passion for sport and his Scottish pride.  He could probably have gone to University and made more of himself but circumstances meant he had to work to keep his family and he did that without complaint or any sign of regret all his life.  He is a special person and deserves the good carehome, lovely staff and attentive family he now has.  He may live for years, but we are already grieving his loss which started some years ago.

This and another situation where a death has revealed that someone was not the person he purported to be, have brought these rather morbid thoughts to the fore, so forgive me the indulgence of stating hereley “living will” ….

I am happy enough to go into a carehome where I have good people looking after me, a view of the sea, good food and a radio. It would be nice to think I’ll be handled gently and with dignity once I have to rely totally on other people. 

If I am taken ill, do not resuscitate me to anything less than a mobile, normal life where I can read, listen to the radio, walk in a garden or on a beach and, hopefully, create things (painting, knitting, etc). All I possess on my passing, should go to my daughter eventually but can be enjoyed by my partner while he is living (like our little house) and if any of our animals are left behind I would ask my daughter to make suitable arrangements for them to be rehomed as comfortably as possible, preferably to friends who know them.  My body can be used for organ transplants if anything is in working order by then, and the remains should be cremated.

My partner has already been given instructions for my ashes to go off our beach in a “Viking” burial with a little boat set alight and a lone piper to play some of my favourite music. (Mixed metaphors I know.).  I’d like to think it will be a calm day where a few friends will gather and raise a toast to my passing and then swap funny stories of the daft things I’ve done in my life and how much I loved my friends and my family. I don’t expect family and frieds who are not in Shetland to travel for this – I’d be happy for them to get together for a nice meal and raise a glass to me there and maybe put a little donation to an animal charity on my behalf …

Well I hope that hasn’t been too maudling and I promise next time to be back to my usual shallow and slightly amusing self.

The smiling assassins …

There is no doubt that cats are at their best asleep … Not that I don’t love them when they’re awake but there is nothing more relaxing and therapeutic than a cat curling up to sleep on your knee. Well, unless you’re me, that is. Oh it’s great for a short time, then the fidgety legs kick in and I cannot stay still and so they de-camp and switch loyalties to enjoy the vast tundra that is Mike’s lap. Not that he is unoccupied for long, as our mob of moggies have all discovered the joy of perfect stillness. Not that Mike is a couch potato, far from it. At every possible moment he is out in the garden or his shed. When he does come in and is relaxed, he can stay still for a long time with anything up to 4 cats on or next to him. It’s a gift.

The one-way cat flapThe other reason I like them best when they’re asleep is that it’s the only time that all the little beasties are safe. I can’t be doing with dead little beasties offered up as tokens of respect and appreciation. Even less do I like LIVE little beasties flapping or scuttling around my house. My daughter maintains that we once moved house because the cat let a mouse go in the house. She ‘s not totally wrong. My motivation to find a new house was certainly revved up by the thought that this mouse could drop into my soup at any moment., although I had already been on the look-out (honestly).

We had been noticing our cat spending a lot if time looking up at a curtain rail. In the end, assuming it was a fly or spider that was mesmerising the cat, I decided to shake the curtain and a mouse bounced off my head, onto the floor. In sheer panic I locked myself into the downstairs loo and shouted My daughter, who was probably only about 6 at the time, to get her boots on and find the mouse!!! You have to understand that she was, even then, a shark loving, dinosaur expert who was not afraid of any living creature (except moths, and if forced to I could deal with those). Unfortunately nothing could be done to find this mouse and even a friend who worked for Rentakil and came armed with all his technical equipment (a shovel and a brush) had no more success.

Well ill we did move house and, to my undying shame and my daughter’s undying contempt, I re homed the cat. I know, I know. Despicable. But she did go to a good home, and I’ve learned my lesson, and all our animals have a good home for the rest of our lives and would be provided for beyond that if necessary. I’ve got no better at dealing with the wee timorous beasties but since Alex left home, Mike has taken over as mouse-tamer and,  if he’s not around,  I have to go out for the day and pretend it was all part of the plan.

We now have a proper cat flap but for a long time we’ve used a customs control sort of system. Show me you’re not “carrying” and I’ll let you in …but there was a cat flap that Mike designed some years ago. A one-way cat flap which it took one of our cats only seconds to work out. She could spring out one claw which would lever the flap up and then she’d put her head under it and climb in. The other slight problem was that the cat flap was cut out of the door itself and hung with it’s slightly uneven edges back in front of the opening with a rusty pair of hinges. More shabby cheek than shabby chic. It had to go and Mike was so fed up with me nagging him about the wind whistling through the gaps that he closed it permanently in the early hours with a six inch nail, but that’s his way, bless him.