Hashtag Captions For All

I just got back from the Austin Film Festival which was fun and educational as always but this year it was also incredibly frustrating. My boyfriend, who is hard of hearing, came with me this time. He needs captions to fully understand and enjoy a film and that’s just not something they do at AFF.

Some backstory – like most people who don’t require accommodations, I never put much thought into the needs and concerns of people who do. And shame on me for that.  Seriously,  shame on me. Captioning is something I care about now because it matters to someone I love. It shouldn’t take having a personal connection to make me care about an issue. I should have, you know, empathy. The lack of which is at the root of the 2016 election and its hellish aftermath. But anyway – captions. Let’s talk about captions, because that is a place where we can actually make progress.

The FCC requires television programs to be captioned, but not DVDs video games, or internet/streamed content. Netflix  voluntarily provides captioning thanks to a lawsuit filed by the National Association of the Deaf. Why it required a lawsuit to get them to do something really easy and inexpensive that would greatly improve the experience of millions of customers is a mystery to me but you do you, Netflix.

Even television shows that are required to be captioned often do a crap job of it. HBO is the worst offender – entire lines of dialogue are missed, or the captions start midway through a sentence or they’ll change location from the top to the bottom of the screen and back. Game of Thrones is complicated enough, people.

Oh and live events? Forget that. The captions are understandably a bit behind, but sometimes they get so far behind that the captioner just skips ahead to catch up, leaving out content. Or the captioner apparently takes a bathroom break and lets a toddler mash the keyboard in his absence.

But at least there are some captions, and usually enough to figure out the context of what’s missing and if you’re watching with your girlfriend, you can pause the show and have her fill in the gaps. Online content? Is usually not captioned at all.

So, look, media makers, caption your shit, okay?

Whether it’s a narrative feature, documentary, short, web series, Youtube video,  Instagram story …If you’ve got moving pictures and spoken words, caption that shit.  Not subtitles – that’s just transcribing the dialogue. Captions include the dialogue and any relevant sounds – doors creaking, music swelling in the background, ominous footsteps, etc. Do not rely on Youtube’s automatic captions. Have you ever seen those? They’re great for absurdist theater, lousy for accurately conveying content.

Caption your shit. It’s just another digital file. It’s easy enough to do yourself, but if you really don’t want to, it’s cheap to have someone do it for you. Rev.com charges $1 a minute with 24 hour turnaround. There is honestly no excuse for NOT captioning. If you think inclusivity and accessibility are just snowflake PC buzzwords, fine whatever, then do it because captioning opens your work to a potential audience of forty-eight million adults who are deaf or hard of hearing (and that’s just the US).  Why would you NOT want forty-eight million people to see your work?

Calling out myself here –  I found out that a short film I wrote is on Vimeo and not captioned and I feel like such a hypocrite and/or jerk,   and have already reached out to the director to get that fixed.

So, we’re all going to caption our shit, right? Great. Now let’s talk about another problem: captioning devices in theaters.

Captioning devices allow an individual user to view a movie’s caption file. There are a couple of different varieties, but the most common ones are about the size of piece of bread, with a bendy neck and a base that fits into the cup holder. If someone is sitting next to you and using the other cup holder you end up with cold thighs from your drink and it’s not terribly convenient to constantly look down during the movie, but it’s better than nothing.

At least, it’s better than nothing when the devices work. They often don’t. Either something is wrong with the caption file, or the device itself is malfunctioning, or it’s not synced correctly, or its batteries are dead (or die halfway through).  It would take – oh – fifteen minutes, I suppose, to test the devices on a regular basis (or at least whenever a new film is released) but apparently theaters find it easier to wait until a patron who needs the device discovers it’s not working after the tickets and popcorn have already been bought.

We’ve learned to call ahead and ask – have you tested the captions on this movie? Do they work? It’s just annoying that we have to every time. Every. Time. Just imagine, every time you want to see a movie, calling around to X number of theaters and going through the rigamarole of finding a real person to talk to, and then explaining to that person what the captioning device is, and how you test it, and then trying to convince them to actually go test it and not just lie and say they did, all because the theater can’t be bothered or trusted to do it voluntarily.

And imagine too, that you are someone who loves movies and wants to see them in the theaters which – hello studios? Isn’t that what you are stress-eating your toenails about? People not going to the movies anymore?  Let’s look again at those forty eight million deaf and hard of hearing people in the US. Those forty -eight million people have friends  who would be more likely to see a movie if their buddy can enjoy it too.

Oh and we can also revisit the lawsuit theme here, because it took multiple lawsuits in multiple states to get the courts to confirm that yes, captioning devices are a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act and theaters have to provide them. I guess “and make sure they work” should have been spelled out in the ruling.

I could now launch into a similar tirade about live-performance venues and assisted-listening devices but maybe that should be a rant for another day. I started off talking about the Austin Film Festival, that’s where I’m finishing.

Austin – do better next year. Encourage filmmakers to include a caption file. I’d prefer require, actually, but baby steps. Ask your venues if they have captioning devices. Remind the ones that are full time theaters that, in fact, Federal law requires them to have captioning devices. For your temporary screening venues, add captioning devices to the list of equipment you bring with you. TEST ALL THE DEVICES.

And again – even if you don’t care about inclusivity and accessibility (but I know you do, because it’s Austin) think of the press releases and media attention you could milk with this! You could set the standard for film festivals everywhere. It’s easy to do, and it’s the right thing to do, so do it.

Also – filmmakers – caption your shit!

Note: the use of “shit” is in no way a reflection of the quality of your work, which I’m sure is excellent. Caption it, so I can share it!




Bring on the Wonder

So we went to New York last month. We were there for a week, which is just enough time to see enough things to say you saw New York but also not enough time to see everything so you know you have to go back. city from brooklyn

We did all the touristy things, Statue of Liberty, tops of tall buildings, getting lost, recoiling in horror at the price of everything,  attending a Broadway show sweaty and disheveled from a day of walking. So. Much. Walking.

By day two, we all agreed that New York City was indeed, the greatest city in the world, and we should all move there posthaste. By day seven, a bit of the seamy underbelly had peeked out and the reality of a cost of living four times (at least) that of Dallas had set in. (I genuinely do not know how anyone in New York can afford to live there. Wherever we ate, we tipped generously, assuming that our server was most likely sleeping in the bathtub of a one bedroom tenth floor walkup she shared with eight other people. )

Money aside, I still want to live in New York.  Because the sidewalks are wide and meant for pedestrians, and there’s a sandwich shop and drug store on every corner. Because everyone has a dog, and the dogs are all incredibly mellow.

How mellow is this dog?

Because the streets are as full at ten p.m. as they are at ten a.m.  Because none of these people actually expect or even want you to talk to them, so you have that sense of community without the annoyance of interaction.  Because there is always something happening, right in front of you. Because New Yorkers hate Trump even more than I do, a state of being I honestly didn’t think was possible.

Because of this face:

paige in times square

This is wonder and amazement, my friends. And you seldom make this face once you are past the age of believing in Santa. Not unless you’re in New York.





Offred, Diana, and Me

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985 (before it was cool).  I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I did not read it because I was a baby feminist.  While I did subscribe to the still-bafflingly-radical notion that women are people, my primary concerns as a teenager were unrequited crushes and how to stop my hair being so frizzy.

Sidebar: At this point, I must apologize to my older daughter. She has always loved reading, and telling me about her latest library discovery.  It was through her that I discovered Harry Potter (which remains the only books we both like, btw).  Around age 13, the stories she was gushing over seemed to all have the same theme: girls her age enduring horrible circumstances in a dystopian future. The Hunger Games was one (which she read before it was cool) and there was another one, whose title I forget but which involved a gruesome sounding process called “unwinding”.

I remember telling her “Oh my god can’t you read anything cheerful!” I thought her affinity for teenage girls being tortured was some kind of metaphor for how she felt about my parenting.  But looking back at my own favorite books of my adolescence – Sybil, Helter Skelter, The Stranger Beside Me (about Ted Bundy) and yes, The Handmaid’s Tale – I realize that being super into tales of suffering is probably just A Thing that teenage girls go through.  So, sorry Natalie! Add this moment to the time you beat me at Scrabble and the time you were right about traffic conditions.

Anyway, back to The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it, liked it, and never thought for a minute it could actually happen. PornMobiles and PornMarts – nah. I mean sure, we’d probably have those things conceptually, but they wouldn’t be called that. Those are such blatantly fictional names.

Several years later, I was unpacking after a move and came across all my old books, including The Handmaid’s Tale. I settled down to re-read it (anything to avoid more unpacking!) but quickly discovered that I could not bear it anymore.  I’d since had children, and could not read Offred’s descriptions of losing her daughter without sobbing.

When I first heard about the Hulu TV series, I figured enough time had passed, post-partum hormones had long since left my body, and I could watch the show without ugly crying.  And that much, at least is true. I don’t watch it and cry. I watch it and feel queasy.

It’s a claustrophobic show, taking place primarily in one house with rooms that have too much furniture and too much silence.  Most of the characters are in a perpetual state of terror, and the ones who aren’t get off on the fear they instill in others.  I still don’t think it could actually happen – “it” being the specific scenario of a theocracy established by murdering the President and everyone in Congress and women separated into clothing-defined castes and government-sanctioned nonconsensual three ways happening every month.

But the underlying concepts – that women are merely walking wombs, that you can’t oppress a group of people without the participation of some of the members of that group (I’m looking at you, Aunts) and that people who say they are doing the will of god are always coincidentally also doing the thing that most benefits them – that shit is for real.   I keep watching, even though it’s depressing as hell, because I know that not watching won’t make any of that less true.

But there is a balm to Gilead: the new Wonder Woman movie.

I am not a comic book person at all, and as a child I was way more into The Bionic Woman (she had better clothes, lived in a cool loft and had a dog!) but my god I fricking loved this movie.  No, no, I don’t want to hear about plot holes or too much CGI or pacing issues.

I’m not going to write an essay about the male gaze, or microaggressions or empowerment, I’ll just say that moment Diana emerged from the trenches, strode confidently into No Man’s Land and stood there, taking an onlsaught of bullshit from a bunch of dudes – that is the most apt metaphor I have ever seen on film.

And no, the romance with Steve Trevor wasn’t forced. Diana wasn’t motivated by love for Steve, his love for her merely reminded her that humans don’t entirely suck and are worth saving.

That is the message for our times. Whenever there is a terrorist attack, a bathroom bill, or President Baby Fists takes to twitter, we just have to remember that humans don’t entirely suck, and we are worth saving. We just have to do the saving ourselves because even though Gal Godot looks like a goddess, she isn’t one.  (Although she did wear FLATS on the press tour, making her my hero for life).

The Most Perfect Person in the World

Mary Tyler Moore passed away yesterday. It’s a bit lost in the daily saga of What Horrible Thing Has Trump Done This Hour but the tributes are starting to pop up. Her show was grounbreaking, Mary Richards was a trailblazer for single working women, an example that female characters can do something besides lament their singlehood and long for a man.  You’ll probably also read that MTM had juvenile diabetes and campaigned relentlessly to educate the public and fundraise. Her production company – with it’s sly kitty cat logo – was responsible for some of the best shows ever to be on television: the Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Lou Grant, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and of course her own shows.

But what I remember about Mary Tyler Moore is that she played the TV character who is most beloved to me: Laura Petrie.

I watched The Dick Van Dyke Show every day at noon on Channel Five – our local independent channel. I loved the show because it was clever and hilarious, but also because the Petries were – to use the parlance of the youths of today – my relationship goals. My original OTP.

They were perfectly in sync. When Rob was panicking about something (baby Richie maybe not being theirs, Laura getting her toe stuck in a bathtub faucet) she was calm and when she was freaking out (about their marriage perhaps not being legal, about telling the world that Alan Brady is bald) he was calm. They were partners. They were a team, whether it was singing a duet of “Mountain Greenery” at one of their fabulous parties, or solving the puzzle of the great Petrie fortune.

They were also clearly in love, romantically and sexually (separate beds notwithstanding). Even as a kid, I could tell there was a difference between the way Rob and Laura treated each other and the way say, Ward and June interacted. In one episode, when Laura was particularly dressed up one morning, Rob looked up from his newspaper and said the way she looked – he’d have to start taking the afternoon edition. And  “Never Bathe on a Saturday”, in which Rob draws on a mustache and slips on a smoking jacket , suggests that the Petries were up for a bit of role play.

I wanted to be a comedy writer like Rob – but I wanted to BE Laura. As Rob pointed out during an argument, she was “the most perfect person in the world.” Beautiful, stylish (those cigarette pants!),  talented, confident, smart.  And anyone who has seen my 90’s requisite Glamour Shot or photos from my wedding knows that I coveted Laura’s flip hairstyle. (I still do.)

Everything Laura was, was because of Mary Tyler Moore, who could wail “Oh Rob!” in one scene, and coolly declare her intention kill Rob’s old girlfriend in the next. (And hey let’s not forget she was only 24 when the show started, and had never trained in acting.)

My favorite episode Dick Van Dyke Show episode- the one I would fake sick to stay home and watch if I saw it coming up in the TV Guide – is “It May Look Like a Walnut”, in which Rob has a fevered dream involving Danny Thomas, aliens with eyes on the backs of their heads, and losing his thumbs.  I know that for most, the name Mary Tyler Moore conjures up the image of a young woman tossing her beret into the air, but for me, it’s Laura Petrie coasting out of the closet on a wave of walnuts.

Goodbye, LiLo of Twilac.


Grocery Stores I Have Known

(Obligatory disclaimer acknowledging how long it has been since I blogged.)

So I love grocery stores. I always have.  As a child, I didn’t just have the plastic shopping cart and fake food; my mother made me an entire mock-supermarket in the garage. An old bookcase became my store shelves, stocked with taped-up empty food boxes and cans she had carefully opened from the bottom.  I even had a “conveyor belt” leading up to my cash register  – in the form of those low,  flat topped headboards that were so popular in the 1970’s.

Of course, even better than playing store was going to the actual store – always Fry’s Food and Drug. We were a seven-person- two-cart family in those days, full, heavy carts that even my big brother strained to push.

Generics had just come out in those days and while I imagine my mother could have used the savings, she refused to purchase them. I don’t know if it was the packaging – the original generic products came in plain white containers with the product name in stark black type – or simply extreme brand loyalty. Either way, our carts always had Best Foods Mayonnaise, Skippy Peanut Butter, Premium Saltines, Cheerios.

My parents threw lots of parties in those days, and I always knew when one was forthcoming, because cocktail rye bread, a tub of pimento cheese, and Sociables crackers would appear in the cart. Chex cereal, peanuts, and Worcestershire sauce meant the holidays – and my mother’s famous Cheerio-Pretzel Snack – were on the way.

Then my parents got divorced. We moved (every year it seemed) and my older siblings started moving out. Sometimes my oldest sister would take me for the weekend, and we’d visit her grocery store of choice – the locally owned Basha’s. Basha’s had two qualities I found fascinating: shallow grocery carts with enough room for me to sit underneath, and an in-store restaurant that was reached by climbing up a narrow staircase.  You could look out at the whole store from that restaurant and I loved to watch the other shoppers, what they bought, how long it took them to weigh the qualities of one cantaloupe over another.

I still went to the grocery store with my mother, but I didn’t pay attention to the food. Fry’s ran a promotion – a set of dishware you could earn through saving stickers.  They were ugly dishes, beige with brown trim, but I wanted them all: the serving bowls, the butter dish, the platter.

In college, my grocery store was a Safeway that I reached by bus, a task infinitely easier on the way there than the way back. As a broke student, I had no problem buying generic or store brand foods, but was always thrilled when my mother would come for a visit and buy me decent quality toilet paper.

As a young mother, I shopped at Smith’s. Since I was living in Nevada at the time, my local store had slot machines tucked between the Rug Doctor rental kiosk and the water cooler bottle exchange.  In  Newport News, Virginia, I found my grocery store zenith. I alternated shopping between the Hannaford’s and the Harris Teeter. Both were clean and bright, with smiling, helpful aproned staff, and appealed to longing for a mid-century existence (minus the institutionalized racism and sexism.)

Unfortunately, this all-too-brief period was followed by my grocery store nadir. My husband was in the Army at the time, and the Army  dumped us in a small town an hour outside Richmond. There were no options but the post commissary. The commissary wasn’t there to turn a profit and had no need for marketing. There were no endcaps, no displays, no free samples. Just one harshly lit, grungy-floored aisle after another.

Then we came to Texas, where they inexplicably call shopping carts “buggies” For the next ten years I had stability, the same address, and the same grocery store, an Albertson’s.

We spent a lot of time together, Albertson’s and I.  Sometimes I would stop by early in the morning – nothing like realizing you don’t have sandwich baggies while you’re packing lunch!  Sometimes I’d run in late a night for Popsicles and Tylenol, because a child’s favorite time to spark a fever is after eleven p.m.  The bakery offered free samples, but son’s favorite treat was a box of animal crackers, and I can still see his fat, dimpled hands hanging on to the string.  It was where we bought diapers and school supplies and Halloween candy and ingredients for baking Christmas cookies.

I walked there once, after a freak ice storm left the roads undriveable. I cried there twice.

The first time was my first outing after my youngest was born,  when I realized that after I put the baby’s carrier in the body of the cart, and my toddler in the seat, I didn’t have anywhere to put the actual groceries.  The second time was when I found out the store was closing.

Look, it doesn’t take much psychological insight to figure out that my fondness for grocery stores comes from the same place as my fascination with Disneyland and my longing for a house with a dining room.  Buying groceries every week is a thing that Normal Families do. and I have never wanted anything more in life than to be part of a Normal Family.

For a while, I had it. Or at least I pretended I did.

The year my Albertson’s closed, I was turning forty. I was separated from my husband, my business was going bankrupt, my oldest was a teenager and we fought all the time.  Something had to change. But I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t even admit to myself it was necessary – until I had to find a new grocery store, and realized I should get a new life to go with it.

For the first few years after the closing, both the Albertson’s and I just sat around, empty and deteriorating.  Turns out though, even abandoned properties have some value.  I taught my daughter to drive in the store’s now-empty parking lot, and my son used the old loading zone as a skateboarding ramp.  Eventually, investors bought the property, and now that space is occupied by a Tuesday Morning and an indoor trampoline facility. Right around the same time, I settled in to a new career, and even started dating again.

I never did pick a new grocery store. I go to Target sometimes,  or Tom Thumb. Trader Joe’s if I’m feeling fancy, Walgreen’s if I’m in a hurry. I don’t throw parties or collect dishes. I barely speak to most of my siblings, and have only  been “home” for the holidays once in the last decade. My kids and I live in an apartment that has no dining room, we may never go to Disneyland again,  and we are not a Normal Family.

And that’s okay. After years of chasing a life I was never going to have, I have finally accepted that’s okay.

We get what we need when we need it, wherever we happen to be at the time.

That’s good enough.





No, Actually, I Am Not Okay

*If you came for Tarts of Destiny, it will start Monday, the 10th. 

I am not a physically demonstrable person. For the most part, if I didn’t give birth to you, or you didn’t give birth to me, or we are not engaged in the sort of activities that would eventually lead to childbirth, please don’t touch me.

I am open to making exceptions. If you pulled me out of the smoldering wreckage of a crashed airplane for example, I would probably embrace you. And I must stress, this is not personal. It’s not you, it’s me, and my colorful potpourri of neuroses.

For many years, I have lived in the South, which is not the ideal location for a Non Hugger. Out here, hugs are exchanged as both greeting and farewell, even if you just saw the person a few days ago, even if the person did not recently survive a near-fatal experience, even if the person is a complete stranger and sending you intense “oh my god please don’t hug me” vibes.

Tip: If the person you are hugging did not open their arms as you approached, and went completely stiff, then finally patted your pack awkwardly with one hand, they  did not want to be hugged.

These past couple of days however, I have accept hugs gratefully.  When I turned up at work puffy-faced and red-eyed, and colleagues asked “Are you okay? Do you need a hug?” I replied – to my own surprise – “No, actually, I am not okay. My cat just died, and my children have been off visiting family for weeks and I miss them, and I’m getting divorced and my parents are aging and ill and I worry all the time about money and my god yes I would totally like a hug right now.”

Turns out admitting that you feel horrible and accepting comfort from others is not such a bad thing. If you google, you’ll find a bunch of articles telling you that humans have an ingrained need for physical contact and that the lack of it makes you cranky, depressed and will probably eventually kill you so this is not just anecdotal, it’s science.

The internet – despite its ability to connect us with anyone in the world at any time and in any state of undress – is not a substitute for human contact. I received many kind messages on Monday – and I appreciate them very much – but immediate relief  I felt when a bank teller squeezed my hand and said “oh you poor thing” was immensely powerful.

It takes a lot to change your basic personality. “Patience, fear and despair” are the primary motivators (h/t Stephen Sondheim) and I have never been patient.  I don’t think I will ever be the sort of person who voluntarily hugs (unless perhaps I write a reminder on my hand or enter every room mentally chanting “hug, hug, hug”) but I hope I can become the sort of person who graciously accepts and appreciates physical contact from my fellow human beings. And not just when my cat dies.

For Charlotte

I don’t like cats. I grew up in a dog family, I’m a dog person. My aunt had a cat, a calico named Ditto that would crawl all over me whenever I was visiting. So like a cat, I would say, to harass the one person in the room who didn’t want anything to do with her.

I don’t like cats, so when my son came to me, six years ago this month, and said there was a stray cat in our yard, and could we take it in, I said no.  My son has always had a soft spot for any animal; we had gerbils, hamsters, mice, a turtle, and a dog that he had rescued from a shopping center parking lot.  There was no more room, and certainly not for a cat.

But he insisted that I come outside and see her.  She was a small gray and white calico, a and obviously no stray; she was so at ease an affectionate with humans that she must have had a home once. She was also obviously pregnant.

She didn’t want to come inside, but was content to live on our front porch, eating scraps of meat, and later cat food we purchased just for her. My son named her Charlotte and was her companion most days.

On the first day of the new school year, Charlotte birth her kittens in the bushes outside my daughter’s window. My son warned me that stray toms might kill the litter, so that night, we brought the kittens inside and Charlotte reluctantly followed.  My daughter’s closet became their new home.

There were five kittens in all; two calico, two tortoiseshell (all female) and one male, a sleek, smoky-gray fellow that my children named Shiloh.  We found homes for the girls easily enough. By this time I had already decided we would keep Charlotte. She was litterbox trained, further evidence that she once had a family, and I just couldn’t see myself turning her out, as someone had obviously done once before.  We kept Shiloh, too.

Once the kittens were on their own, Charlotte grew restless. She would lurk by the doors, waiting for an opportunity to dash outside. She did get out a few times, once for three days. We finally found her on the roof; having gotten up there somehow, she couldn’t figure out how to get down.

A few months after one of Charlotte’s escapes, Shiloh became ill. He was listless, lost weight.  The vet said it was feline leukemia virus, and Charlotte tested positive as well. She must have picked up the virus during one of those outdoor jaunts, and brought it home to her son. He declined rapidly, and died within weeks of diagnosis.  For days afterward, Charlotte would roam the house, howling for her son.

But she herself remained asymptomatic, and after a while, it was easy to forget that she had a chronic and fatal illness.  With Shiloh gone, she gave more attention to the humans in her family, taking turns sleeping in our beds, nudging our hands if she wanted petting, taking up residence in any inviting lap.  She liked to lay on my keyboard while I wrote, and to steal spools of thread from my sewing basket to play with. She also liked to play with the soft “bullets” from my son’s arsenal of Nerf guns. The cap from a gallon jug of milk was also a favorite toy. Any actual toys, designed for the amusements of cats, were entirely uninteresting to her. And when we brought out the red laser light, she gave us a withering look, as if to say “Oh please. Like I’m falling for that.”

She clawed my favorite chair to shreds. She threw up into my shoes. She saved us from a freakishly huge cockroach. At random moments, she would tear through the house, chasing some invisible prey and knocking over anything  in her wake. She had no respect for the word “down”.

One time, she got very sick, and we were reminded that this is a cat with a chronic immune disease. The vet said to prepare for the worst, and we did. Said our goodbyes, talked about the rainbow bridge, cried.  But the next morning, she had – to everyone’s surprise – bounced back. It was a miracle.

When we moved,  I was worried. Cats don’t like change. Charlotte certainly hated the ride from old house to new. She spent the first week hiding under the buffet. But our new home has several windows, and is filled with sunlight, and that drew her out.  She quickly found several favorite places, both to bask and to watch the comings and goings outside. She started getting restless again, lurking by the door.  My son bought her a harness and leash and tried to take her for a walk. Her response was to collapse in a heap, non-violent resistance-style. We laughed. She stayed inside.

When she got sick again, it was the silliest thing. Fleas. The fleas are especially bad this season, according to our vet. Although we treated it aggressively, the flea infestation left her anemic, and that opened the door to infection. My kids were away on summer vacation, I wanted them to see her again. I wanted her to see them.  I asked the vet what we could do to keep her hanging on.

Which is how I, a person who does not like cats, found myself under a dining room table at one a.m. administering anti-inflammatories  and supplements to a cat with just enough energy left to try to claw my face off.

There was a brief period when she rallied, and I thought we were going to have another miracle, but one day I woke up, and I could just tell. Her body was hunched over, the look on her face was one of exhaustion. It was Sunday, the vet was closed, and though he is a kind man, and would have opened his doors just for me, there didn’t seem any point.  I stayed with her, stroked her, managed to get a faint purr.  I called my kids and they said their goodbyes via speakerphone. Maybe it was easier because of that first brush with death. We’d pre-grieved.

In the morning, I wrapped her up in one of my son’s blankets, took her outside and laid her in the grass. She lifted up her head for the first time in hours. I would like to think she was happy for a moment or two.  Then I drove her to the vet, and let her go.

I still don’t like cats. I loved Charlotte.