Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dear Cara (part two)

(Previous "Dear Cara" post)

There has been a lot of upheaval recently - in the household, in the local community, and in the nation and world.

I'll start with the household because that's the happiest news.

A little more than a month ago I was in Columbus and I was visiting your parents, and while the three of us were sitting outside, an adorable little black kitten walked up to us. Your mom reacted first, murmuring "oh oh" as a sort of knowing smirk appeared on her face. I looked to where she was looking and there the little guy was! He came right up to us, no fear at all. Your mom explained that he was a stray who had been hanging around the area recently and she had been feeding him sometimes. I picked him up and he started purring and almost immediately your mom was hinting, maybe I should take him home!

Believe me, I never had any intention of adding a third cat to the household. Poor Mitters is getting old and frail and I didn't want to introduce a new source of stress into her life. But the little guy was so cute and friendly - and sitting there, it occurred to me that it had been eighteen years since you adopted Mitters, and nine years since I adopted Eponine, so what if it was meant to be that every nine years a new black kitten joined the family? To my great surprise, I decided I was going to give it a try. Your mom let me use a carrier she had. That sweet little kitten slept almost the whole way from Columbus to Cleveland, which is funny because I've practically never seen him asleep since!

I decided to name him Gavroche, after the character in Les Miserables who is both (a) the character Eponine's younger brother and (b) a street urchin, so the name seemed doubly appropriate.

Meet Gavroche!

Little Gavvy (as I usually call him, often also just "Gav" or "Buddy") is such a delightful ball of energy. I know you'd adore him. He does want to play with the lady kitties and they don't want that, not surprisingly (I'd hoped maybe Eponine would be up for it, but nope). My biggest fear about getting a kitten was that Mitters would attack the kitten the way she attacked Eponine so much when we started living together, but that hasn't happened. Instead, both Mitters and Eponine are afraid of the new arrival. If Gavvy tries to pounce on Mitters, Mitters never retaliates the way she might do to Eponine; instead, she hisses and runs away. Meanwhile, Eponine seems unable to tell the difference between Gavroche's play attacks and Mitters's real attacks, and reacts in pretty much the same way to both. It's interesting to me that I sometimes find it funny when Gavvy goes after Eponine, but when he goes after Mitters I always feel bad and try to get him to stop right away. I think I'm projecting how you would react.

I do hope you wouldn't be mad at me for bringing this source of stress into the old lady's life. I'm doing my best to let her have her peace. Fortunately, the apartment has a lot more space than our place in Little Italy where we, and Eponine and Mitters, first lived together. I keep Gavvy shut in the back two rooms (where Mitters and Eponine didn't spend that much time anyway) whenever I'm not home or in bed for the night, and even part of the time when I am at home and awake. And he does seem to be getting better at not going after the girls as much as he did at first. It's so, so important to me that Mitters be happy - she's so precious to me because of how important she was to you. I remember sometimes you would ask me if I thought Mitters was happy. How can we really know if a cat is happy? But I think she still is. She still purrs a lot when I'm holding her or when I give her something yummy to eat. Going on nineteen years in a few months, the old lady is a tiny thing - at six months now (based on the vet's estimate), Gavroche already outweighs her - but she still seems to be in good health. I'm going to miss her so much when she's gone.

Having Gavroche around to play with (which he never tires of) has been a lot of fun for me. That's been good with the other things that have gone on recently.

The cycling community here received a huge jolt in September when Shelli, who had been riding her bike from Cleveland to Seattle(!!) where she was moving to live with her boyfriend Max, was struck from behind by a car traveling 60 mph in Montana. I was so shocked and devastated when I learned of the news. We were all afraid she would die, but she's still here, now back in Cleveland at MetroHealth, and on the long road to recovery. It's been really wonderful how the community has come together in the wake of this horrible incident. The cycling community here in Cleveland is a great community to be part of, and I wish I would have involved myself in it more when you were still alive. I know you tried and were sometimes disappointed that I didn't come out to those events very often. In June 2014, you wrote this on your cancer blog:
This is the first Slow Roll my husband tagged along for, and I know he already knows this but it really made my day for him to go with us. I feel like I'm predominantly a social rider (though I have done plenty of distance tours and even a few time trials) and he's not - so it was sort of a big deal to me for him to ride along. Riding a bicycle is a huge part of my life, and my marriage is also a huge part of my life - it is nice when the two come together.
The sad truth is, for most of the time we were together, I felt limited in the amount of cycling I could do by knee and/or hip pain that would be aggravated by cycling. I chose to use most of that limited amount on recreational/fitness riding rather than social riding. This year, for whatever reason, I have been able to do a whole lot more cycling than in the past without incurring excessive pain, and have done a lot of riding both by myself and on social outings. I've finally been able to see what you loved so much about those Critical Mass rides! Shelli has played a big part in bringing me out for those rides since we lost you. She is such a great friend. Yvonne, another close friend of Shelli's who I befriended after meeting through Shelli at Critical Mass, has told me that Shelli would talk about you and me all the time.

For Critical Mass in September, we all put pink streamers on our bikes in honor of Shelli, and we rode to the hospital. Shelli was still in a medically induced coma at that time, but her mom and Kathy were able to see us out the window. It reminded me of when you were in the ICU at UH in November 2014 and Critical Mass rode there. I'm really glad to be part of such a great group of people - thank you for helping bring me into it!

I've also taken up mountain biking this year and I love it. I do wonder sometimes when I'm out on the trails if it's something you would have given a try - I bet you'd have enjoyed it if you did. In any case, I think of you whenever I'm riding either of my bikes.

So, those are the big upheavals in the household and local community. The national/world news? Donald Trump was just elected president. Of the United States. Yeah, I know.

I just looked it up, and he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, so you were already gone. Back then, nobody really thought he might win. My biggest memory of Trump prior to this campaign is from back when The Apprentice was new (and I didn't watch the show itself), Conan O'Brien did a really funny Trump impression on his show, mimicking The Donald's signature "You're fired" line. Ah, Conan. I remember how when we used to spend hours every night chatting on AIM, you learned to expect that at 12:35 am I would take a break for "Conan time" and then come back afterwards. Good memories. We stayed up so late back then...

But anyway, that's Donald Trump. A reality TV star. That's basically who he is. He has no qualifications whatsoever to be president. And now he's the president-elect.

The worst part is everything that he did and that came out about him during the campaign, and the fact that people still voted for him in spite of, or for some people because of, it. He was openly racist and misogynistic throughout the campaign in a way totally unlike anything I've ever seen in my life. He characterized Mexicans as rapists and talked about banning Muslims from entering the country and forcing current Muslim residents to register in a database. He encouraged violence against African-American protesters at his rallies. He insulted women in so many different ways. He picked for his VP the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, who has one of the worst anti-women's and gay rights records in the country. Even worse, not long before the election a tape came out in which Trump had bragged about assaulting women, just going up to them and kissing them ("I don't even wait") and even "grab[bing] them by the pussy." And then when he denied having actually assaulted any women and characterized the tape as "locker room talk" (wtf?), more than a dozen different women came forward and said he had assaulted them similarly to how he described it in the tape.

It disgusts me even writing that out. And enough people were willing to write that off or ignore it that now this horrific person is going to be our next president.

I've tried to imagine how you would react. Obviously, you'd be horrified. You had so much compassion for people and the rights of women, LGBT people, and other marginalized groups were such important issues to you. Would you be as shocked as I was? I think hardly anyone actually expected him to win, but some people were more shocked than others. Both at Trump winning and at what has happened afterwards. I feel like, although your attitude about having cancer was amazingly hopeful and optimistic, when it came to human nature you might have been a little more cynical than me, so maybe you wouldn't have found it quite as shocking. But I know you'd be so saddened to see all the incidents that are happening now of Trump supporters harassing and intimidating minorities and women. It is a really scary time in our country and world. It's like living in a nightmare. I can honestly say the only events in my whole life that could compare in their effect on me are 9/11 and your death. In certain ways, this is worse. Because in both of those cases, I felt a great sense of togetherness as people united after a tragedy. In this case, I and others do have a lot of support from friends and family, but I also know there are a whole lot of people out there who are against me and against people I care about, and that the representative of those people was just elected to lead our country. It's nauseating and terrifying. On the night of the election and in the days since, I've really missed you a lot, more than usual. I'm glad my parents came to visit me on Thursday; it was planned weeks ahead without thinking about the date (and back then I wasn't expecting this election outcome) but it turned out to be good timing. We went to L'Albatros, my first time there since your death, and had a great dinner as always. I'm so grateful for everything my parents have done for me and for the fact that, although their political views have often differed from yours and mine, they are very compassionate people who fully recognize how awful Trump is. I can only hope and pray that more people like them who are closer to the middle of the political spectrum will come around and see what a danger this all is to our country and help stand up against it, because the far right wing seems to be past the point of no return. And it's really, really frightening.

I had a nice outing today. I was taking my bikes (yep, both of them!) over to Blazing Saddle on the west side, and when driving through Gordon Square I noticed a lot of people walking around outside. I decided to check it out after dropping the bikes off and I discovered it was an event called SouperBowl CLE at which, for $25 (going to the West Side Catholic Center, a homeless shelter), participants could walk around the neighborhood and sample almost thirty different flavors of soup, each made by a local restaurant and served at a local business (some bars or restaurants and some other shops as well). It was a great day for it, sunny and brisk - reminded me of November 4, 2006! Being out there in the community, getting a taste of all the great local businesses and supporting a great cause, it made me feel a little better about the world. A very good thing at this time. There was so much delicious soup. You'd have loved this event and I wish you could have been there with me. Along the way, I bought a couple of items that made me think of you:

I've started to pick up your penchant for wearing colorful socks. I've picked up a lot of things from you in the last year and a half, actually. When I'm out with friends or my parents, I often marvel to myself at how much more talkative I am than I used to be. I've also picked up your love of baking pies. I've actually gained something of a reputation for making both delicious pies and delicious ice cream. For your birthday I hosted an ice cream social and made twelve different kinds of ice cream myself, and I was told that I should go into the ice cream business! Who knows, perhaps some day I will.

There were a few particular stops in the SouperBowl that reminded me of you as well. One of the restaurants that supplied soup was Aladdin's, so that one's obvious. Another soup, made by the restaurant Vita Urbana, was a roasted apple and sweet potato soup and I swear, it really reminded me of the soup at the restaurant the two of us had lunch at in Monteverde on our honeymoon. For a moment I was transported back to Costa Rica. The final, and most emotional, of the memory inducers was a stop at Stone Mad Pub. As I approached the establishment I realized I'd been there before. Just once. And I was with both you and Shelli. I went inside and just stared at the bar where the three of us had sat for a little while, my eyes welling up. That was the night (May 31, 2014) after Critical Mass when this picture of Shelli riding in the back of our car was taken:

I'm pretty sure we were right outside Stone Mad when we took that picture. Such fun times!

What else? Well, you'd probably like to know that Cleveland finally won a major sports championship this year! Yep, the Cavs won the NBA Finals in a seven-game thriller over Golden State. It was so amazing to experience. And the Indians made it all the way to extra innings in game seven of the World Series before losing - to the Cubs, of all teams. A lot of people said that was a sign of the apocalypse. And then Trump was elected...

I wish you could have watched those series with me. I know you weren't as big a sports fan as me, but you were always excited to see Cleveland teams do well. You would have loved it.

I've also been to a lot of really good concerts. I got to talk to both Daniel Brummel (who was filling in on bass for Nada Surf) and Will Sheff at recent shows, and I told them about you and what their music had meant to us! I'm really glad I was able to do that. I also got sad thinking about how if you were still alive, the two of us together could have had similar conversations with them, minus the tragic parts.

All in all, I've been having a pretty good 2016. This week has been very tough, though, for me and for many, many other people. I hope we can all continue to find the good in life through hard times, and to fight to make the world a better place, just as you always did.

I love you. As you would often say to me, now more than ever.



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