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WHISTLING IN THE DARK
May 5, 2010
 
You're getting pretty scrawny, I told What's-Her-Name this morning, as she tucked into her second breakfast. She certainly is: she's always been skinny, but these days her sides are downright concave. Yet she eats furiously, so I thought maybe she had a thyroid thing going on, or worms. But no. The vet said everything was fine. She's just getting bony. She's old.

Each of the cats is a different shape. Gypsy is currently the size and shape of a soccer ball, at the end of a long and virtually motionless winter. But past experience suggests that she will thin out over the summer, once she gets moving around the yard. Ben is large, but sleek and in decent condition; it's his less active brother Santana whose enormous tummy all but drags on the ground when he walks, an activity he tries to avoid. They're no spring chickens, either, Ben and Santi -- 13 or 14 if they're a day.

And Kitten? He is young, hard-muscled and sinewy. He never speaks, a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. Petting him gets you a strong push-back, his head rising beneath your hand in no uncertain terms. He is in the prime of one of his nine lives. He is the cat who will remain after all the others have gone home to Jesus.

I joke about the cats going home to Jesus all the time, whenever one gets underfoot or wakes us too early or racks up a big bill at the vet. I joke about their deaths. And then, when one of them actually does up and die, I am inconsolable. I didn't mean it. I didn't really want you to die. I was kidding about your going home to Jesus. I miss your little furry body right here with me. For weeks after, I seem to see the missing cat melting around a corner into the room like she used to, sleeping in her special box in Q's office, dozing in the sun outside. All the little special ways an individual cat has of being a cat, all different, each a distinct personality -- we miss them when they are gone.

It's too much too ask of a person never to be annoyed at a loved one -- life together is just not like that. But we don't have forever to be kind -- our time together is short. We're all going home to Jesus, not just the cats. So go ahead and joke about death -- though it may shock some people, it doesn't hurt anything, and it may make you feel better. Just remember, when you do it, that you're whistling in the dark.
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For many years, DIGNITY, the organization of LGBT Roman Catholics and their friends, has celebrated Mass every Sunday at St. John's in the Village. Also for many years, Barbara Crafton has preached on Mother's Day. It's the friendliest Mass in New York City, and all are welcome! 7:30 pm, Corner of West 4th and West 11th, just off 7th Avenue. www.dignityny.org
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Correction: Yesterday's eMo, "Turtle Watch," misidentified turtles as amphibians. They are, of course, reptiles. Thanks to Stephanie Pyonteck, who provided me with this concise explanation of the difference:

There are a couple of main things that differentiate amphibians from reptiles. Probably the most notable is that amphibians go through metamorphosis. They are born as aquatic animals with gills and during their development will undergo a number of changes in which their gills regress and they develop air breathing lungs. Also, they will frequently have their tails regress and their four limbs emerge, as in the transition frogs undergo from tadpole to adult. This happens to varying degrees depending on the species. Also adult amphibians generally have soft, smooth skin that needs to stay moist so that they can do a large majority of their oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange through their skin. Examples of different kinds of amphibians are frogs, toads, axolotls, salamanders, and the giant salamander "hellbender".

Reptiles on the other hand always have lungs and never go through an aquatic phase where they have gills. Also, their skin is generally tougher and covered in scales so that they can live in very dry environments. That being said, not all of them do. Many of them live in very wet environments, like sea snakes or sea turtles. Examples of different reptiles are snakes, lizards, chameleons, alligators and turtles.
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