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Saturday, December 6, 2014
A Saint, a Shovel, a Train and a Cat
HAPPY SAINT NICHOLAS DAY! It is the Feast Day for Saint Nicholas of Myra, the noble human being who became the inspiration for the jolly old elf we call Santa Claus. Nicholas was the epitome of kindness, particularly toward children. He is the patron saint of children, and of the Netherlands. That makes him particularly dear to me – as a Nederlander and as a perpetual child. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas – Sinterclaas – Santa Claus – goes from house to house on the night of December 5, putting treats into the shoes of good children and sticks or coal into those of the not so good. Diane and I have adopted this tradition and expanded upon it. We used to give our children an ornament and some candy in the night, to be discovered in the morning of the 6th. The kids liked this tradition so much that we do it still, even though they all are well into adulthood. But now there is another generation of children around us, an extended family of little people we know and care about. We now give these little ones small prezzies – the Dutch call them cadotjes – along with their modest portion of candy and an ornament. This leaves Christmas Day for family gatherings (okay, maybe a few extra gifts under the tree and in the stockings for the grandchildren). Saint Nicholas Day is our “Giving Day,” and I think Nicholas would be pleased.
Of course, there is a trick to getting the gifts to their respective homes, via mail or via Blokker’s Delivery Service. Snow gets in the way. We had a bit of the white stuff over the past week and a half, no blizzards or anything like that, but enough for me to start my winter routine of clearing the decks and the driveway with my trusty snow shovel. On a good day it takes 45 minutes to remove enough snow for easy navigation. Despite the outside temperature (one day it was 12 degrees F), I come back inside sweating. I want to say I’m getting too old for this s$@&!t – but, thank fully, I’m not.
Which, naturally, brings me to trains. Di and I are about to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at the end of the month. In all that time, and all the years growing up B. D. (before Diane), I have always wanted to have a large train to circle the Christmas tree. It did not have to be fancy or expensive, but I kept putting it off and putting it off. Too many kids, too many cats, not enough money for such a frivolous thing, too many trips departing on December 26 – I always had good reasons, and it felt kind of silly. But now I have my train, a battery operated plastic engine and four car whistle-blower on a perfect round track. It chugs around our very lovely Scotch pine tree happily, even joyfully. And the little kid in me is so very thankful. Oddly enough, the dog and cats couldn’t care less about the train.
We almost lost Kevin on Thursday. Kevin is our fourteen year old cat, one of only two left from our old cat raising and rescue days. Jane, the other, is fifteen. She is a young fifteen, though, and Kevin has been aging rapidly. But there is no more affectionate or obnoxious cat in the world. He meets me more like a dog than a cat, waiting at the door for my entry and very vocal in greeting. He sits on laps purring, often rubbing his head against you, casting his loving eyes in your direction and giving out a silent meow. He grooms the dog. He sleeps with us every night. He goes out of his way to make sure you notice him. But over the past couple of weeks Kevin seemed slower, older, a bit unstable and well off his feed. Then Wednesday night he did not come to bed, and Thursday morning he did not greet me upon my return from work. He did not come out for breakfast. I had to find him, and when I did he hissed at me, something he had never done. It seemed to both of us that he was telling us he was done with this life. He was suffering, and we did not want him to suffer. We called the vet and intended to have him humanely put to sleep. When we put Kevin in the crate, he didn’t even fight us. Tearfully, we knew it was time.
Like the noise in a car that disappears when you reach the mechanic, as soon as we opened the crate Kevin came out, plopped over onto his back, began to purr and bat at both me and the vet with his paw playfully. Obviously, he had changed his mind about being ready to depart this earth. Maybe it was the fresh air – I may never know. So he got a reprieve and we took him home. We know it is only a matter of time, but the time was not Thursday. It may be weeks, or months away. This morning Kevin was his usual self – head rubs, purrs and grabbing my pen as I tried to write these words. Kevin has the second loudest purr in the history of catdom. When he purrs, the earth rumbles; in fact, seismologists rush to Yellowstone to check if the super volcano is getting ready to blow. I will miss that purr, but not today. So, HAPPY SANTA CLAWS DAY from Kevin the Cat, and to all a good night.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..