Both Sides of The Fence

Note: I realize this topic gets people riled up – all I ask is that you read to the end before commenting.  Thank you!


I’ve kept my mouth shut and my fingers still as the vaccination battle has raged and burned anew here in California and elsewhere across the nation over the past several weeks.  I’ve read articles, observed heated debates, seen some people show compassion and others spew hateful venom.

I read the heartfelt plea for parents to immunize, penned in the 1980’s by beloved author Roald Dahl who lost his young daughter to the measles in 1962.  My heart hurt when I saw photos of the infant infected with measles by unknowingly being in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with an unvaccinated child whose parents didn’t know what was wrong.

Sitting silently here at home, I felt empathy for both sides of this passion-filled argument because I am a mother who is not at all sitting on the fence between the two – I occupy both sides at the same time.

My eldest child is fully vaccinated and my youngest is not.  With a family history of having severe reactions to high doses of medications, ~ For example, I went into anaphylaxis from a large dose of Benadryl at age 5, and ever since, have been allergic to the medication doctors give in order to control allergic reactions.  Irony, anyone? ~ I chose to break 11 year old Ali’s immunizations into one and two dose applications over a series of appointments when she was little.  Sure, it meant more trips to the doctor and more co-pays, but her doctor, who had also been my physican for a number of years, agreed that it wouldn’t hurt, especially if it calmed my worries and kept her safe.  It seemed to be a very reasonable compromise between vaccinating and not wanting to harm my child with overexposure.

When Blythe came along, our insurance coverage was with an HMO that would not allow me to break up the inoculation schedule.  I offered to pay for the office visits myself and even the vaccinations, if necessary, but they refused.  When I then said I would take my two month old baby to see our former doctor and just pay out of pocket, they wouldn’t let me leave.  By the time they finally coerced me into allowing them to give her the full set of shots, the room was filled with several nurses and every pediatrician on staff, all of them telling me I was endangering my child.  Although they never threatened to call child protective services, they let me know that they all felt my parenting was not only questionable but negligent.

On that day, I allowed medical professionals to bully me into ignoring my maternal instincts, and I have made sure to never let that happen again.

The problems that began shortly after that couldn’t be directly tied to the vaccinations at the time.  Blythe was fussy and had a weird rash, she had screaming fits, her body would tense up and her eyes would bug out, but then she would be fine.  The doctor’s office said she had colic and eczema, and when the majority of the symptoms faded after a week or two, I felt okay about letting them give her the full course of shots.  Crisis averted, I was just an overprotective mother worrying for nothing, right?  Little did I know that her Central Nervous System had reacted to the preservatives in the vaccines and was on the verge of waging war on my sweet baby’s body with the slightest provocation.

I delayed Blythe’s second set of immunizations by a few weeks because we were celebrating my 30th birthday with friends and family, and would be traveling.  At 5 months old she was still having occasional screaming fits, but was otherwise a healthy, happy baby, developing on or ahead of schedule in every way.

And then.  I took her for her second round of vaccinations and our world spun upside down, around and in any possible direction other than right side up.  It remained that way for the next three years and I lived every moment of every day with the knowledge that I allowed my child to be injected with something that acted as a catalyst for more pain, more heartache, more turmoil than a child ~ any child, mine or yours or that kid over there, even the one who acts like a complete asshole half the time ~ should ever have to endure.

My point is this: We all love our children.  We want the best for them, to keep them safe and healthy and happy. The great majority of us would never knowingly do anything to cause harm to our babies.  Only two percent of the population has an adverse reaction to vaccinations, most of them mild, and that is an amazingly low rate, especially when we consider how many people, scores of them children, died or had long term complications from the illnesses that these vaccinations not only protect against, but have nearly eradicated in our modern world.

But.  But…  When your child is in the two percent; when it is your child whose body is tortured every day from within and there is nothing you can do to help or soothe; when your softest touch brings her pain; when her health problems increase with regularity and a flu that any other child would get over in 24 hours is life threatening; when she reaches an age where she can speak and describes the way she feels as being on fire inside; you can’t help but relive that moment in your mind – that moment when you held your happy, healthy baby on your lap and watched her get her vaccinations ~ created to keep her healthy! ~ and as much as you want to, with every fiber of your being, you know that you can’t take it back.  You can’t travel back in time and do it a different way, or not do it at all, because even that would be a better choice than this living hell; you just watch your child live with the pain.  And you?  You live in fear because danger lurks everywhere, threatening to take her from you without a moment’s notice.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that life for your child, and for yourself, and before you come back to reality, take a deep breath and be thankful that your child is among the 98 percent.  You don’t ever want to know what it’s like on the other side.

If you were to meet 7 ½ year old Blythe today, or for those of you who know her, to just observe her now, you would never suspect that she is the child I described above.  Believe me when I tell you that I gave the slightest, most gentle description of what life was like for her.  For us.

B face

Blythe is among the few who have been able to make a full recovery, after some other underlying health issues were discovered and managed.  She is, once again, the happy, healthy child I held in my arms so many moons ago.  In the years now that she has been well, I have made sure to thank my lucky stars on a daily basis for this opportunity to have a second chance at keeping her healthy.

I’ve wrestled with the choices several times over the past few years – should we take a chance and try to inoculate her again, now that she’s healthier, older and stronger?

Would it be safer for her to have a known thing – the vaccinations – in her allergist’s office so that we could hopefully deal with the possibility of anaphylaxis quickly enough to keep her health from plummeting back down into the abyss?

Or would it be safer to hope that she won’t come into contact with the illnesses the vaccines protect against and not risk purposefully pushing her into that fiery inferno that we both remember so well, that still haunts our dreams, even now?

But here we are with a measles outbreak.  Blythe is still unvaccinated and is at significant risk.  Her half-sister is three months old, too young to be vaccinated, and we have her to think about, as well.

I can see both sides of the argument.  The protective mother of a child who medically could not be immunized rages at the fact that parents who chose not to vaccinate for non-medical reasons have allowed our herd immunity to break apart in such a way.  I am relying on you, village, to help protect my child and you are doing a shitty job of holding up your part of the bargain!

On the other hand…. I do know what an adverse reaction to vaccines can bring.  I have seen it and lived it and watched my child suffer, and wished a billion times that I hadn’t let her be fully immunized that day.  If I had known what could happen, ~ what could really, really happen ~ to my child, I would have feared it, too, more than anything I’ve ever feared in my life.

Which brings me to my final point.  Blythe and I, along with the other parenting figures in her life, have decided that she needs to be vaccinated.  At this point in time, the risk of catching and/or spreading a life threatening disease is too great.

Can I take a moment to tell you how wonderful and brave my 7 year old daughter is?  And can I also tell you that for the past few weeks, as we’ve discussed this choice amongst ourselves and with her doctors, I have not been able to take a full, deep breath because my heart has taken up residence in my throat?

I am terrified.  I know what can happen.  I didn’t read it in an article or see it on television or hear a story about someone’s roommate’s brother’s friend’s baby.  I saw it with my own eyes and lived with it.  And yet, we are going to vaccinate our child because it’s what’s best for her, and for the rest of the population.

Talk about taking one for the team.

For those who have not vaccinated out of fear of what may happen, or because of previous adverse reactions, please know that there are Pediatric Allergists out there who have developed allergy tests for each and every vaccination.  Blythe will undergo an allergy test prior to every inoculation, which will be administered in the allergist’s office, one at a time.  If the tests indicate an allergy to any one of the traditionally used vaccination formulas, though, we still have options!

Organic vaccines with no preservatives (which are what cause most problems) are now available, and although they can be quite expensive, an allergic reaction to the test means that insurance companies must cover them.  They are mixed and kept on ice as they are overnighted, and must be administered within 24-48 hours of their creation.  Today, right now, in this privileged, scientifically advanced world we live in,  there is no reason for healthy children* to remain unvaccinated.  Research and find a way.  If I can do it, you can, too.

When I broke the news to Blythe that the allergist’s office could absolutely get her caught up on vaccinations and could also make certain she wouldn’t have an allergic reaction (as opposed to attempting to treat a possible reaction), she gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, threw her arms around my neck, and together, we cried.

Of all the tears we’ve shed over this battle in the past 7 years, at last… we are crying tears of joy!  The world is finally hers.

B back

*I specified healthy children because there are some with medical issues and compromised immune systems that would not be able to handle immunizations of any kind.  These are the kids we need to help protect!


Always Ok

Here it is December, and while I set a goal of writing one post per month in 2014 and even decided to try my hand at 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in November, I can say with fervor that I failed those goals.  I can’t even find the time to write one article per month for our local monthly publication which has generously offered to publish anything and everything I decide to write, as long as it fits into their word count needs for the month.  In 2014, they only published one article of mine, because that’s all I managed to submit.

So much has happened.  I got married in June (whoa!!) and 6 days later, so did my ex.  They’ve since had a baby, a little girl who is now three weeks old and I got to hold her and smell her lovely baby smells at less than 24 hours old.  My mom mentioned later than when she heard how much time I spent holding this sweet little girl who is the half-sister of my daughters and yet, technically, nothing to me, she worried that maybe it hurt me, somewhere inside.

Maybe it should have?  Perhaps when I held her, I should have searched for similarities between my daughters and this little baby and felt bitter about my ex-husband having another child with his new wife while I’m left unable to bear more children.  But I didn’t feel that way.  In the moment, I felt so grateful that they welcomed me into their hospital room and allowed me to be a part of this monumental moment in their lives.  I felt so much love for that little life, the sister that my daughters will grow to love and cherish.  And then, weeks into having her home, I had to smile as I listened to my ex describe sleepless nights and be thankful that it’s him and not me.

Sometimes, I worry that my military upbringing has taught me too well that when we move on, we move on in every aspect – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Should I be happy holding my ex-husband’s baby without any angst?  Is that normal?

This past Monday, we had to put our Dobie boy down.  His name was Hank.  I’ve written so rarely that I don’t even know if I’ve properly expressed how much he has meant to me, the last two years.  Over the past week, we’ve talked about how we shouldn’t be so upset, because he’s “just a dog”.  But he wasn’t just a dog.

How can I tell you how soft and velvety his ears were?  Dobies almost always have their ears cropped, but none of the 4 homes who adopted our Hank before us cropped his ears, and I was so thankful.  He had the biggest, dopiest smile.  He was such a love.  We had him in our tasting room every Saturday, and most Fridays, and even those who disliked big dogs,  or Dobies in particular, fell in love.

He loved to run the vineyards and his nose detected even the faintest hint of deterioration in the wines we had in barrel.

He was more than a dog.  He was the child we could not have together.

But over the past few months, his behavior had gotten to be questionable, at best.  We hired a dog behavior specialist (something you should consider being, if you want to make lots of money – seriously) and he said that with 50 years of experience, he had never encountered a dog like ours.  Not terribly promising, I must say.

He used to love playing with other dogs and then suddenly, he couldn’t.  He used to sleep through the night and then without warning, he wouldn’t.  Instead, he would just pace and poke us as we slept.  Finally, a friend mentioned that a dog he’d had in his youth had had a stroke and displayed similar symptoms, and so we made an appointment just days before our (delayed) honeymoon to get Hank’s brain scanned.

He had a tumor on his frontal lobe.  It was growing rapidly, which explained his discomfort and how unpredictable his behavior had become.

So, we put him down and I’m OK.

I’m Ok and I feel guilty for feeling Ok, because no one else in our family is Ok.  Hank was such a part of our daily lives.  He was the one who kept me from pressing “snooze” every morning; the one who chased down rogue balls on the golf course; the one who taught us to accept his adoration and love as though we deserved it.

I don’t know how to mourn properly.  I have lost so many in my lifetime.  I only know how to celebrate today, and those who occupy my mind even years after saying good-bye inspire me to reach out and make contact, but I’m always Ok.

I’m always Ok.  Is that Ok in the grand scheme of things?


Second Chances

When a caterpillar wraps itself up in a cocoon and the world goes dark and still around it, does it know what the future holds? 

How does it feel to lie there, completely alone, and sense yourself changing into something you’ve never been, while still yourself on the inside?  Fondly remembering the past, the only life you’ve ever known, but accepting the inherent truth that you no longer belong there.  The light must be blinding, when it’s time to come out and show your new self to the world.  How rapidly your heart must beat as you cling to the wood beneath your feet and feel the wind rustle your fragile wings for the very first time.  How long does it take you to build up enough courage to trust those beautiful wings to carry you to worlds you’ve never imagined?  I wonder, lovely creature, will you ever truly realize your fantastic beauty and all that you are now capable of, or will you spend your life believing that you are nothing more than a caterpillar?


I had the rare opportunity to witness a butterfly emerging from its cocoon this past weekend, amidst the fervent beating of hummingbird wings.  It was incredible, especially when, as we checked its progress over time, we realized that the fuzzy thing still inside the cocoon was actually a new caterpillar, who emerged from the other end over the course of the day.  I didn’t know they did that!  New life, from both ends of a cozy cocoon.

My mom told me recently, without me having mentioned the butterfly to her, that it’s time to lift my head.  When my former life fell apart, I spun myself a cocoon and shut out the rest of the world.  I didn’t know who I was, or who I was going to be.  I didn’t know how to explain why I needed everything to change without causing hurt, so I just didn’t say anything.  I hid myself inside that cocoon and began my transformation, not knowing what form I would take, or how long I would need. I just knew it was necessary to my survival.

The funny thing is, I emerged from that cocoon some time ago, experiencing the world close around me, but refusing to fly away from my safe and cozy place.  Had I witnessed that newborn butterfly trying to crawl back into its empty cocoon, I may have said, “Silly butterfly, you can’t fit back in there, now.  It’s of no use, you’re no longer a caterpillar.”  But there’s no telling exactly how long it takes a butterfly to realize what it has become.

I have such a wonderful, amazing new life.  One I never could have dreamed for myself.  I have experienced so much joy, growth, contentment and peace as I transitioned. 

But there was a part of me, possibly several parts of me, that were terrified to take flight.  I have these beautiful wings and the world is opening up before me, but what if I’m just a caterpillar?  What if these lovely adornments on my back are only an illusion?  Or worse, what if they are real, but I’m not worthy of them?

I have only mentioned him here once, the man I share my life with.  In a way, I’ve also weaved a cocoon around my love for him in some effort to protect it.  His name is Nathan.  He’s been there, patiently waiting for me, from the moment we met three years ago.  He has never minded that I move at the pace of a caterpillar carrying wings on its back.  But as I took each step, he told me stories of the way my wings dazzled in the sunlight and fluttered in the breeze.  He believed I could fly, long before I’d even thought it was possible, but he never pushed me to take flight.  In time, he helped me to not only see myself as he does, but to finally take a good hard look at my own reflection and accept all that I have been, all that I am, and the possibilities of all the things I may one day become.

I took my mom’s advice and lifted my head.  And you know what I realized?  I was already soaring above the ground.  But I was clinging to the remnants of my cocoon, carrying it with me, letting it weigh me down and keeping me from fully embracing my life and all of those who are in it.

So I let it fall to the earth below and flew freely, utterly and completely, for the very first time.


Good Leaders Aren’t Bossy

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the word “bossy” being used to describe assertive, successful women versus the word “leader” for men with the same qualities.  Personally, I have never called a bossy person of any gender a good leader, nor have I called a good leader, man or woman, bossy. 

The difference between someone who is Bossy versus someone who is a Leader, in my opinion, is the respect that they do or do not show and/or give to their supporters.

I am a natural Supporter – for lack of a better term, I often refer to myself as a “Beta”, the person who directly supports the Alpha.  In a wolf pack, the Beta is usually the Alpha’s mate and she is given an equal amount of respect by the pack as the Alpha, because they recognize her role as one of importance.

But for us humans, as women in leadership roles balk at being called Bossy, I’d like to give my perspective on the rarely recognized role of Beta, or Supporter, or as the masses often call us: the pee-ons, worker bees or followers.

On the slope of a wooded hill near my home, the sun rises each morning and silhouettes a Pine tree that towers majestically above the rest.  It stands tall and straight, its limbs swaying gently with the rhythm of the breeze.  From here, on the opposite hillside, the pine appears to be the King* of the Mountain, surrounded by his subjects.  Over many decades, he somehow managed to get more nutrients and sunlight than the rest.  Even as the tallest and biggest tree, he withstood storms, floods, droughts, parasites and myriad other forces of nature, continuing to thrive even as others fell around him.


Pine afar













From afar, he appears to stand alone, greater than the rest.  In truth, he is superior because of what lies at his base.

Pine up close













He is tall and wide, rough and rigid, powerful and stoic.  His Queen*, his Beta, is a Manzanita.  She is petite and svelte, smooth and curvaceous, strong and resilient.  Long ago, they were each faced with a choice.  He could have used his might to dominate their shared space so that she could no longer grow.  She could have given up or grown in another direction, as the Manzanita sometimes will.

Instead, the beautiful solution they created allowed them both to flourish and share each other’s strengths, creating a lifelong, symbiotic partnership.

She will never tower above the others or be the first to feel the sun’s nourishing light, but she doesn’t need to – because he does.  When the wind comes whipping through the forest and his strength is put to the test, he doesn’t have to worry about his roots giving out – because she is there, keeping their foundation solid.  There are patches of her soft, silky bark growing on his trunk, and his pine needles are draped over her long and winding arms. 

To sit benePine & Manzanita Danceath them and be surrounded by their comfort is one of the greatest joys in my day to day life.  I am inspired by their tenacity, their acceptance of their natural roles, and their ability to be at once so dedicated to their mutual goal of survival and so respectful of each other’s inherent character.

In my mind, a great leader finds his or her Beta, whether it be a mate in personal life, an assistant or “right hand (wo)man” in professional life, and treats that person (or people) with the respect that they deserve.  Recognizing that alone, goodness can be achieved, but together, true, long lasting greatness is possible.  When such an amazing partnership is formed, other people want to be a part of it, crave to see it succeed, and delight in “following” their leader.

I used to try to be an Alpha, but for years now I have been a proud Beta.  I am an innate Supporter, and in that role – both in my personal and professional life – I thrive when I’m able to collaborate with a good Alpha and use my creativity, intellect, wit, attention to detail and quiet, nurturing nature to make magic happen.

I will always happily work with a good leader, but I refuse to work with someone who is bossy – whether they be man, woman or child.  Because I may not be an Alpha, but I won’t tolerate being walked on or disrespected.

How about you – are you an Alpha or Beta?  Do you think there’s a difference between being a Leader and being Bossy?

* I’m calling the Pine a He and the Manzanita a She because I spend a great deal of time with them and I feel that those “gender roles” are accurate.  However, I do feel that the Alpha and Beta in any relationship can be either male or female.


In Memory of our Beloved Snowstorm

Ali asked me a question about her toddlerhood recently and I looked at the archives here on the ol’ blog in order to reference exactly when the incident she was curious about occurred.  That resulted in me getting lost in my archives, reading about things that I know happened, but didn’t remember very clearly until I read what I had written about them.  That made me realize how important this space is – not to social media, or to other people who may or may not want to read what’s written here, but to me, and to my girls.

I’ve had a hard time writing over the last couple (few??) years.  I think it’s because I’m just not sure about my voice, about what’s ok to discuss in a public forum, about whether or not people I would prefer didn’t read my words are coming here in order to read what I have to say and hold it against me.

I want to preserve my memories.  The words I use to describe them don’t have to be particularly eloquent or creative.  My voice doesn’t have to be sure and seasoned.  And if those who would choose to use my words against me come here to read, I have to believe that my true character will always shine through, and that I have nothing to apologize for.



I want to write about Snowstorm, because I don’t ever want to forget.  At this point in time I tend to think that’s not possible, but reading through my archives and realizing how much slips through the gaps of my memory, I need to put this experience into words.

If you are squeamish, I apologize.  This is for me – graphic detail about what I experienced, so that years from now, when Blythe asks me what happened and I feel she can handle it, I will share my memories with her.  Or maybe not, I guess we’ll just have to see.

In the summer of 2010, shortly after Blythe turned 3 and was still in the throes of her myriad medical issues, she was in the habit of waking up at ungodly hours, unable – or unwilling, it would sometimes seem – to go back to sleep.  On a warm day in July of that year, she woke up before the sun.  I decided to lay down with her in her bed in hopes that she would (please god just let her, just this once) go back to sleep.  But eventually she heard her father stirring around the house.  We owned a construction company whose shop was on our property, and with the summer heat we had the crew starting just after sunrise.   Darling little Blythe heard her dad leave the house and was intent on taking a walk down to the shop to wish him a good morning.

Just to be clear, while the child regularly woke up – and stayed up – during the night, she had never requested that we walk down the dirt road to the shop when it was barely light outside.  This was an isolated incident, one that was never repeated, so it’s especially significant that we happened to walk along the road that day.

On our short walk between our house and the shop, we saw something white in the middle of the dirt road.  At first we thought one of our crew had dropped a t-shirt or a rag, but upon closer inspection we discovered a tiny little white kitten.  His eyes and nose were so thickly coated with crusted mucous that he couldn’t open his eyes to see, nor could he smell.  For all intents and purposes, the tiny little helpless kitten had laid down in the road to die, and the ants and fleas had already started to treat him as a corpse.  Had we not taken a walk at that particular time on that specific day, he would have been run over by one of our crew heading out to work.

Blythe got to him first, and begged me to save him.  A lover of animals, I had rescued many a cat in my time.  I quickly sprung into action.  I took off my sweatshirt and wrapped him up in it, rushing him back to the house where I cleaned the bugs and mucous off of him the best I could with warm water.  He never made a sound, never fought me.  I thought for sure he would die.

A few hours later, our veterinarian gave me somber news.  The kitten was infested with pretty much every parasite known to felines and would have to be quarantined for a minimum of three months.  He was severely dehydrated and malnourished, and had an eye/ear/nose/throat infection that was so severe that it indicated a permanent, incurable condition was present.  I would have to give him subcutaneous saline injections, and if he wouldn’t eat – which was pretty likely since he couldn’t smell – I would have to force feed him and hope that he would eventually eat willingly on his own.  The prognosis was not good.

I can’t begin to explain to you about the rapid rate at which Blythe’s health, behavioral and emotional issues were gaining momentum at that particular time.  It was as though every moment of therapy that brought improvement in certain areas gave birth to new issues, new problems, new hurdles.  Her sensory processing disorder, which seemed to be getting better in so many ways, was simultaneously getting worse in new, stranger ways.  Her behavior and emotions – ruled by her innate feeling of being on fire inside – were at times overwhelming, for both of us.  To be perfectly honest, I was afraid.  Afraid that I couldn’t keep up, couldn’t help her, that we were losing ground faster than we were gaining it and that the daily battles we were fighting were going to result in a lost war.  Not to mention that my marriage was spiraling crazily out of control and my husband was behaving like a paranoid delusional lunatic, but I digress.

The magic that happened between Snowstorm and Blythe is indescribable.  His soft, gentle spirit calmed her inner fire.  His fragility, his need to be saved brought out in her a side I’d never seen.  She was willing to endure whatever sensory discomfort was necessary in order to help him.  He was so close to death, and she chose – at three years old, this child chose – to put his needs above her own, every day.

To be sure, we saved his life – she saved his life – but he saved her, too.  He was the most amazing, sweet, tolerant, loving cat I’ve ever known and while he loved the rest of the family, too, the bond between Snowstorm and Blythe was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

We saved him from certain death in the middle of our gravel driveway in July of 2010 and so, when I found him in the middle of yet another gravel driveway of a different home in January of 2014, I couldn’t help but think to myself, later, that some force in the universe must have made it so.  We were granted his presense in our lives for that short period of time, but it was a fluke.

I replay that day in my head so often.  The cats are only allowed outside during the day and we open the bathroom window because it has a slit in the screen for them to go in and out.  It had been cold, and a little rainy, so the cats hadn’t wanted to go out.  We were on our way out the door for school and Snowstorm had planted himself in the middle of the doorway.  “Do I want to be in or out?” he seemed to wonder, as he looked up at me.  We were running about 3 minutes behind schedule.  I nudged him out the door and hustled the kids into the car.  As we got buckled we laughed about how he always rolled around in the dirt right where Hank, our dog, peed when we let him out in the morning.

January is a busy month for me, and I admit that when I got back home an hour later, I didn’t even think about the fact that Snowstorm was outside.  I didn’t call for him, and I didn’t open the bathroom window.  I just came home and got to work.  Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to pick up the kids.  Nathan had left for the winery, which is just down the road from our house, an hour or so before.  Usually he and Hank walk, but this time he drove, because he had to haul some equipment over.

Whether Snowstorm got caught up in his truck then, or whether he wandered over to the winery and got caught up in there later, we’ll never know.  But when the girls got home from school and couldn’t find him, all three of us were in a panic.  We called and called him – yes, we have trained our cats to come when called – and he didn’t come  home.  Nathan said later that he could hear us calling for Snowstorm from the winery and wondered what was going on.

A short while later, Nathan left the house for wrestling practice about five minutes before us.  Normally, we all drove together, but we’d been having some trouble with Blythe’s enthusiasm for wrestling and our compromise to get her to see the season through was that I’d take her to wrestling, but we didn’t have to stay for the second session for older kids.  Nathan was the coach for both sessions, and wrestling nights often had us at practice for three full hours.

Snowstorm was lying in the middle of the road, still as can be.  My headlights found him and I was the first to see that there was something white in the road.  I told the girls to stay in the car and went to him.

He was still alive.  One of his back legs was badly mangled, and the side of his skull that laid against the ground was crushed.  His breathing was labored and as I petted his soft, silky fur, his tail moved.  I had been trying to block him from the kids’ view, but they saw the swish of tail and knew he was alive.  I didn’t want them to see him this way – so very near the brink of death, with blood and bits of brain matter soaking into the gravel beneath his head.  I didn’t know what to do.  Here he was, this wonderful member of my family fatally injured and yet not able to die, and my kids watching from the car.

Not knowing what else to do, I tried to strangle him to put him out of his misery.  In the movies and on television, strangling looks so easy – he was so small compared to me, and so near to death, I thought for sure I could do it.  But he wouldn’t die.  His broken body struggled for breath and I could not end his life.  I could hear Ali and Blythe crying and screaming from the car.  Ali was yelling, “Do something!!” and at the time I thought she was talking to me, but she explained later that she was talking to God.  In the lessons they’ve learned at the church their dad and his girlfriend take them to, God will answer your prayers if you’re pure of heart and deserving.

They haven’t yet forgiven “God” for finding them and dear, sweet Snowstorm, undeserving.

The girls called Nathan from my phone, which was in the car, and he came back.  By the time he arrived, I had wrapped Snowstorm in a towel to transport him back home and on the short ride, he passed away.  I held him in my arms, swaddled like the sweet angel baby he was, while Nathan dug a hole in the backyard.

He is not the first cat I’ve had to say good-bye to.  But his death was by far the hardest one I’ve had to deal with.  I feel so terribly responsible.  I neglected him on that day, the only day I’ve ever neglected him, and he died.  He died a horrible, tragic death and all we can figure is that he crawled up inside the drive train of Nathan’s truck to try and stay warm and got stuck.

Blythe cries for him all the time.  Our kitten, Zeus, who was supposed to be mine since my cat, Eema, passed away a year ago, has gone out of his way to be sweet to Blythe.  I told her that Zeus could be her cat, and she’s thankful, but he isn’t Snowstorm.  No one ever will be.

He was her knight in shining armor.  He saved her when nothing I, or her counselors or doctors or specialists did seemed to work.  He was kind and sweet and loving and gentle and now he’s gone.  So terribly, tragically, permanently gone.

And our hearts just can’t seem to heal.

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