The purr of a Cougar

One of the things that I enjoy about rainy weekends is the ability to just lay low.

When I am not reading, I’m thinking about things to write about. Characters pop into my head and tell me stories, though so far I’ve not been able to piece any of them together as they seem so unrelated that to patch them together would make what probably would be an ugly story.

yang070714Have I blogged about how my cats help me with story ideas? Yang is especially productive. She warns me with her sharp claws that stillness on my part is mandatory, though typically her reminders are just a gentle paw to my face, though other times I have to hold her paws until her claws have retracted. Catapuncture to the face is not something I call soothing and relaxing.

Listening to her purr and only to her purrs, trying to chase out the noises of the house, of the wind outside, of the babble in my head. The to-do’s, the did’s, and the won’t get to’s. Again. Sometimes a little dribble of purr juice will drip on my face, which usually is followed by a good face rub. Maybe Yang drool is more like a magic potion that has to be rubbed in by her face for effective results.

To only be able to hear the purr of a cougar came to mind. One my favorite animals. I could put it on my bucket list. Wait a minute. I do believe I have heard a cougar purr.

tirwinI’ve told this story about meeting Terri Irwin, though she wasn’t the wife of the Crocodile Hunter. Terri Raines lived in Eugene, right down the road from me off of River Road. I don’t remember how I came to be at her house or who introduced us. She had a cougar; she told me that the cougar had been used in a Disney film and after they were done with the cougars, they released them to the wild. Problem was the young cougars never had any wild in them. Two starved to death and the third was taken in and used as an educational animal.

What I hadn’t thought about for a while was hearing the cougar’s purring while under Terri’s care; she was probably rubbing it behind an ear or two and my longing to do the same. I also remember watching the cougar while in it’s enclosure watch another one of Terri’s ward’s. A brain-damaged racoon that didn’t know enough to stay away from the cougar. Whether the cougar wanted to eat the coon or merely play with it, but it looked upon the stumbling creature with such intensity, flexing it’s great paws that were blocked from stretching out. Was the flick of the tail suggesting, “I wish. I wish. I wish.”

I didn’t have to wish for this experience to happen. Back in the early 80s, I had never heard of a bucket list, though what twenty-something has, or if they have, started to compile a laundry list of things to do before one dies. Yang has caused me to wonder how many of those things on my list have already happened.


This face

Earlier today, I caught a glimpse of my reflection. The lines around my eyes, laugh lines, used to fade when I didn’t smile. Maybe this just means I have had a lot to smile about or that I’ve learned a lot in my 56 years so far.20161009_me Unless I start doing something about my crow’s feet, my face will show my age. Has aging finally caught up with me? I’ve never looked my age.

me1960sI came across a picture of a cute little thing. I’m almost positive that it’s me.  I have no recollection the floor, but I have an extremely vague recollection of the toy.

me70sZip ahead a decade or so. My one and only time in Washington, D.C. I’m with the son of my father’s girlfriend, the one that he almost married, but with her ultra liberalism and my dad’s polar opposite, no one figured it would work. Was her name Penny? Mary? Yes. Mary even moved in with us for a very short time. It’s not like my dad had that many girlfriends, but she was one of my favorites.

parakeetI was going to throw in my high school senior picture, which is a great picture, but it does give away my lazy eye. I also couldn’t resist showing off my parakeet again.

When I look at my face and the changes it’s made along the way, I think of how much has happened that has effected my identity. One of the best things that ever happened was when my path crossed with Sylvia twenty-eight years ago.

10-09-2016-062802pmTwenty-eight years ago, Sylvia moved in with me to take care of me while I went through cancer treatment. Our relationship was young, just starting. She didn’t have to do this. I could have returned to Boston. That was half my life ago and just the beginning of the sacrifices Sylvia has made on my behalf, on our behalf.

Chronologically, my life feels lined up. As I mentioned, we’ve been together half of my life. Half of those twenty-eight years, we’ve been living in this incredible Dome Home that Sylvia built. For four years, she worked full-time while building the dome from the ground up, which was practically a full-time job in itself.

Today, October 10, 2016, we exchanged vows at the local courthouse, making our relationship legal. I wonder what will come our way in the next twenty-year-years.

Moments of Time

I have a three-ring notebook that represents the beginnings of me. I’ve blogged about how I have school records, teachers noting their observations of me, beginning in just my fourth year. Mrs. Parker must not have had twenty students in her nursery school class for her to take the time to note who I played with, what I played with, as well as my general attitude of life.

I look to this notebook to get a reminder of who I had set out to become. The creative one. The one who had an extremely long attention span as long as I was working on something I enjoyed. At four it happened to be clay.

On the outside of this notebook, I have my dad’s sergeant stripes of when he served in World War. It’s impossible to not miss my dad, though I have to admit that I don’t remember when he died. I remember it was July as we celebrated Deb’s birthday while he was in hospice, but other than that I don’t really have a great book mark to pin point a year. It’s not like the 1972 November election night, the night my mom died, though the trauma of her death to my twelve-year-old self, a general date may also have been gouged out in my brain.

If I want to do the math, I can figure out the year my dad died. Is it odd that I don’t remember the year, but I remember that when my dad died, I was the age he was when I was born? Thirty-eight. That number used to seem so old, but now it’s nothing. Now that I’m fifty-six, thirty-eight would be a wonderful age to be. Perhaps I’m just wishing I wasn’t middle-aged.

In addition to school reports, I have things I made. Art work. Stories. Dating things wasn’t important. I’ve got a little book about Fat Sam that my classmates and I made. This was before Politically Correct thinking had been created.  The writing rather basic, so I’m thinking first grade or so. Names are not used, just initials. Maybe some names will come as I write. Susan C wrote the first page and I’m guessing the stick figure was also hers. “Here is Fat Sam sitting on the park bench. This is when he was Lazy Bones.”

Caple? I could cheat and use my Facebook Friends list. Susan Caples is the name that’s coming to the surface. Aside from the same name and attending school for close to eleven years, we didn’t have much in common. She played field hockey; I played ice. I think she played lacrosse in high school, but I didn’t start until college. I have a vague recollection that she majored in physical education and got her degree; whereas my physical education degree attempt ended after I tore up my knee. And I got all of that from looking at something she wrote a bazillion years ago.

Some of the initials in this little book that had been mimeographed don’t register any recollections.  D.G said of Fat Sam, “Now he is working in the park. He picks up the rubbish with a nail on a stick.” T.M. wrote, “Here is Fat Sam in his boat. He has become a fisherman.” Tim? Tom?

Did Susan have a second Fat Sam story? “Fat Same has a new job. If you need to have your telephone fixed Fat Sam will be right over.” Maybe there was another student with the S.C. initials. Maybe I was wrong about the first memory.

And then I come to mine. “Here he is a Policeman directing traffic.” I’ve always had a fascination with law enforcement.

The booklets must have been small group projects as S.C, D.G. T.M. D.S, and my S.H. were the only authors. Maybe if any of my readers are from my Weston Days of the 1960s, this might jostle some of their own memories?


mark1972Mark Henry Lange married into my family the summer of 1972. I was elated, gaining a brother, a big brother who was funny, kind, and extremely intelligent.

Even though my dad and Mark were both Eagle Scouts, they couldn’t have been further apart philosophically. My dad saw Mark, the soon-to-be Unitarian Universalist minister, as another adversary in his battle against Liberalism.

These are a few highlights of Mark’s philosophical stance:

“Mark graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in August 1968. In high school, Mark protested the war in Vietnam, supported Liberation fighters in Angola, and was the only white member of the local NAACP. “
I wonder how many children reared in conservative families go the opposite way, especially daughters from fathers and would guess that more of those children jump to the other side than children who are raised in a more liberal setting.

I remember telling my dad at this time that I wanted to follow my sister Barbara’s footsteps by attending the school where she met Mark, Marlboro College, perhaps one of the most liberal colleges in the nation, my dad said something like, “Over my dead body.”

There’s nothing in my memories of the summer of 1972 that suggested that my mom held nothing but positive feelings for Mark, but I was only twelve, and at that time was still under the illusion that one could live happily ever after. The wedding reception in our backyard on Pinecroft Road gave proof of that possibility, although not while I endured the detestable dress; there’s a photo of my mom dancing with my dad, and she looked as though she couldn’t be any more happier if she tried.

A few months later, my mom was dressed in the dress she had made for Barbara’s wedding, but this time for her own funeral.

So much for living a life happily ever after.

At one point, Barbara, Mark, and their black cat Stanley, moved in with my dad and I. I think at this point my sister Deb had moved on to college, and I was quickly becoming uncontrollable. I had always had a explosive temper, but my mom’s death exasperated the situation. Both were so patient with me.

I was led to believe that Mark  was an excellent husband, father, and minister. But Mark was far from a perfect individual. If his life w ere compared to a football game, it’s possible he was in the negative for yards gained. Transgressions against my  family caused me to turn my back to him.

When it comes to being wronged, my family is rather quick to sever ties. The family tree looks as though a chain saw has been used to cut connections. My dad and his sister were constantly fighting. My cousins have had their estrangements. It breaks my heart to think that grandchildren have been slighted over something that perhaps may be petty. The grandchildren are victims and miss out on a relationship with their grandparents.

Maybe I can’t compare Mark’s misdeeds. But I wonder if all of the good that Mark did with his congregation and his community was enough to make him redeemable, especially when he did nothing to me. Is there a  unwritten law that mandates me to exorcise him from my life for the things he did to my family?

A year or so ago, I added Mark, as well as his brother Guy, to my Facebook friends list, the first step in forgiving him for some of his bad choices.

marklangeA few weeks ago, Mark Edmiston-Lange died unexpectedly at the age of sixty-four. As it turned out, Mark wasn’t the best of husbands, at least not the first time around, and he may not have been Father of the Year, but I would like to believe that he did the best he could with what he had. Isn’t that the best we can hope for with the people in our lives, even the ones who drive us crazy.