Phoenix and Muse were born into a litter of street kittens in downtown Manhattan, late August or early September, 2001.
Their mother died and the litter fended for themselves in a garage. Some garage man mistreated them and left them terrified of hands reaching for their faces.
A lady rescued the litter, brought them home, and took care of them until she could give them away.
I was suffering from the trauma of living in a virtual war zone. The bombing of just a few weeks ago choked the streets with opaque smoke and dusty ashes everywhere and the whole city smelled like burning computers. I sat on my roof in the evening and watched army helicopters circling overhead. And everywhere we went, we all looked at one another with different eyes, because we didn't know if this would be the last human being any of us ever saw. Policemen, soldiers, men with big guns. People lining up for blocks and blocks to donate blood—but nobody needed anybody's blood, because everybody was dead. The gagging stench was not so bad yet as it would be by Christmastime, when the rotting bodies had decayed into full ripeness. But the acrid smoke of burnt electronics burned itself into my brain. Ash, ash everywhere, literal ash, in the air, on the streets, in our lungs. The ash of skyscraper, of electronics, of innocent human lives. The ash of a dream that grew too big.
The Phoenix rises from the ashes, I told myself, in a helpless, blind, desperate attempt to live in a way that would make sense of what had happened.
I need to get myself a Phoenix, I said.
In the face of senseless death I needed some new life, something to care for, something that would anchor me to reality and give me hope and a new start. So when I saw Phoenix and Muse in a poster, with their black tortoiseshell kitten cuteness, I saw that it was time to do a big
grownup thing: get cats.
I picked them up from a brick tenement building much like my own. They were the last two left of the litter, and at first they were a matched set, both tiny. “This is Wiley and Riley,” said the lady. They were not keen on human contact. I took them to the vet on St Mark's Place (now a fancy Japanese neo-hipster boutique of some kind, like everything else on the apocalyptic contemporary thing called St Mark's Place), paid a ton of money for their shots, and took them
They didn't want to have anything to do with me. They were so small, they found a tiny hole in the back of the oven and snuck through it. I found them hiding in the oven. (Like any good Manhattan single girl, my oven was never once used the entire time I lived there.) They wouldn't come out as long as I was awake. I left out food for them and hoped eventually they would warm up.
After weeks, they started to come out when I was awake. After months, they would sleep
with me. But they were never people cats. I could never pick them up, and they wouldn't sit on my lap or anything. I couldn't reach down to pat them; they had to come to me. The patting was their call.
But they were all mine, and they were my first real grownup responsibility. I'd had a few houseplants and killed them all, within weeks. I hoped I'd do better with the cats. I wasn't very good at the cats, although I was slightly better with them than with the plants. The cats were alive and healthy. Cleaning the litter box on a regular basis was a new and strange responsibility. And Muse used to drive me nuts...she would get stressed out and pee all over the apartment. She would pee in my closet, on top of my closet, on the carpet, in the corners, in
my bed, and the apartment would stink of cat pee and my clothes would get ruined and I'd cover everything with baking soda...I was furious with her much of the time. But she was a typical New Yorker: nervous and stressed out.
Every time another guy came and went and cause me emotional pain and the cats curled up at the foot of my bed, I thought, man, they are racking up some good karma there. They are here for me, ready to purr, no matter how many guys disappear and don't work out and cause me heartache. At least the cats love me, I wailed.
Eventually I got afraid, as single girls who turn into single women in Manhattan do, that there was a strong possibility that I might die alone, and if I did, the cats might eventually eat me because there would be no one to fill their bowl.
And then I found a nice solid guy who was indeed different from the pampered entitled jerks I was used to meeting. And Phoenix and Muse and I moved in with Itai and his cats Shu and Buka. Shu and Buka were embarrassingly better at being cats than Phoenix and Muse were. They were well-behaved, affectionate, polite, modest, retiring, and snuggly. Phoenix and Muse, on the other hand, were neurotic, high-strung, standoffish, emotionally fragile, and divaesque.
Perhaps they had lived with me too long. But, because Shu and Buka were extremely mellow, somehow all four cats lived in the apartment in reasonable harmony.
“I will never let anything happen to you,” Itai said, just as my student loans came due and the depression hit New York and my field dried up and I couldn't get a job. And he never did, and somehow we six all bumped along, down there below the bridge in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood by the Lower East Side (that also doesn't exist any more; now the Lower East Side is this hipster place full of blue glass high rises). Itai worked four days a week from ten to six for a boss who loved him, I painted and occasionally did work for Kiehl's, and the cats stayed out of each other's way. I calmed down a lot, now that I didn't have to worry about moving in with my scary dad and scarier stepmother in Florida and working at Wal-Mart. The cats calmed down too, and Muse never peed on anything. Itai and I got engaged, and I got a diamond ring from Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue. The one that Audrey Hepburn walks by in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Everything looked perfect and seemed like it would all be fine, forever.
The Last Great Sublet in Manhattan had to come to an end. As such we were faced with a decision: where to next? Either we could move to the not-cool part of Brooklyn (these days there is no such thing, even remote wildernesses like Red Hook are now trendy and on-point), or we could move to San Francisco, where we had recently had coinciding work trips. We waffled about it for two weeks, and had a move-o-meter on the fridge, where we could move our construction paper characters back and forth on a long line that had a Golden Gate Bridge at one end and some brick tenement buildings at the other. We both waffled a lot. And then we decided to move.
Bringing four whole cats across country was mad talk. Even though Shu and Buka were the better cats, I got all emotional and diva-ish, and Itai nobly acquiesced and gave his cats to coworkers. They lived out their lives quite comfortably in Brooklyn.
We stuffed the cats into their carriers, after I tried to inject-squeeze Benadryl into their mouths and they, panicking and foaming out the mouth, spat out all of it. Fortunately they were too frozen numb with terror to move, all the way from Lewis Street to our big fancy new-old apartment in the exotic foreign city called San Francisco. When we arrived, they wouldn't get out of their carriers. Eventually they made a break for it and hid behind doors as they did when they were kittens, but by now they were too big to hide. Out of consideration for their feelings, I pretended I couldn't see them hiding.
Eventually they got used to the new place. They never quite gave up their New Yorker attitude, and I never gave up my New Yorker area code, but together we saw each other through quite a bit. The cats were there waiting for us when we came back from the Auberge du Soleil as a newly married couple. The cats were there for me when the woman next door, whom I knew pretty well, died of alcoholism. The cats were there when I couldn't get a job, and the cats were there when I taped a backdrop to the dining room floor to paint it and when I pulled it up
the tape took the floor finish with it. The cats were kind of annoying, but hey, Itai did the litter box. Thank you Itai.
And then one day I had a baby. And now I didn't need baby-substitutes any more, because I had a real one of my own to take care of. Definitely a grown-up responsibility. Once in a while I marvelled at just how much the cats and I had been through together. The cats had seen me through an overly long string of sad Manhattan man-stories, and through years of being single, of being employed and of being unemployed, and through being a girlfriend and a fiancée and a wife and a pregnant lady, and now...I didn't need them any more because I had a whole human being and that was different. But I was stuck with the cats. I couldn't possibly get rid of them. I owed them. I had assumed responsibility for their lives. They were 9/11 survivors and I had made a promise to care for them and to provide for them.
But sometimes when they whined, or woke me up, or got their hair all over everything, or made litter box smells, or hairballed, or were neurotic and needy, or loud, or did one of the many, many things that animals who are not designed to live in apartments do when forced to live in apartments, I thought some seriously dark thoughts.
The cats knew me when I had no ring, and then when I had a diamond ring from the Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue, and then when that diamond ring was joined by a plain gold ring from the Tiffany's here in Union Square. They knew me on that horrible day when I, having a long-distance affair with someone, took off my diamond ring that weighed so heavily on my finger, just to let my finger breathe, and I slipped it into my zippering jacket pocket with no holes, and zipped up the jacket pocket, and then one hour later unzipped the jacket pocket and the ring was gone, forever. (“The Baby Jesus took your ring,” someone said, and who's to prove them wrong.) They were with me on that horrible evening when Itai valiantly volunteered to get me
another diamond ring to replace that one and I said no, thank you, nothing could ever replace that one, which is true. They were with me when Itai asked for a divorce, and when I desperately protested against it, and when the proceedings started, and when I successfully stalled them for two whole years. They were with me the day I saw that Itai had finally stopped wearing his wedding ring, and they were with me the day I gave up and stopped wearing mine too. They were with me when Itai moved out and the first night that Aviv went to sleep at Abba's house for the first time.
But eventually it was just too much. I had given, and given, and given, and cared, and cared, and cared, for thirteen long years, and I sick to pieces of these cats. I was sick of not being able to invite people over without the risk of them stepping in cat barf. I was sick of litter boxes. I was sick of whining and cat hair and dandruff. I was sick of shredded furniture and clogged vaccuum cleaners. I was sick of spending money and effort on cat-care if I wanted to go on holiday. I was sick of neediness and of being woken up by someone who wanted...something. Even though it was cute of the cats to want to sleep with me, I...didn't want to sleep with them. I had shared a bed with too many beings for long enough. I had shared it with a husband, who breathed, and two cats, who got in the wrong places, and even with a baby, whom I was terrified of rolling over on and killing, so I put him on the outside edge of me, where instead I was just terrified of him rolling off the bed and dying. I had shared my bed for too many years and I wanted a good night's sleep with room and space to breathe. I had a little boy now who had real little boy needs, a real child, and I didn't need fake children needing me.
I was ashamed of the person I had become. I had become a horrible monster who treated the cats badly. Sometimes I treated them very badly indeed, like, it's a good thing the cat police didn't come along and catch me. I didn't want to be this monster any more. I didn't want to live with the guilt and the shame and the anger and the resentment and the burden and the humiliation of not being able to handle the burden.
But there's a lot of people who have second thoughts about their cats, and in a city like San Francisco, there's way more spare cats than there are people who want them. The SPCA was permanently full, the ronin freelance SPCA-esque companies were also full, and the other rescue and shelter-type companies were also full, with no intention of ever becoming unfull. I was afraid of posting the cats on Craigslist because I didn't want them to be used for science experiments. I was still responsible for them, even though I didn't want them in my house any more. I tried to put them into carriers to take them to the Headlands and let loose, but they wouldn't go, which made me realize that, like the animals in Madagascar, it would be inhumane of me to let what had become domestic animals out into the wild; they wouldn't be able to take care of or defend themselves and they would have unpleasant deaths. I wanted to take them to the vet and have them put to sleep. But the vet wouldn't do it. I was stuck with the cats, in a nightmare version of reality, where I behaved more and more horribly to them every day.
Fortunately, in the nick of time, a downstairs neighbour took Muse. And then Jacqueline the Cat Lady took Phoenix, in exchange for an initial sum of about $300 for vet stuff and then what equated to $1 per day for the rest of Phoenix's life.
Muse lived a happier life with Kathey and Kathey's cat than she would have had in our apartment. She got a woman with no children who lived to cuddle and cosset her. Then when Muse got cancer and died, Kathey not only spent the $5000 on caring for her, but, when I offered (out of guilt), refused to take a penny of my money to reimburse herself for that $5000. “I felt like she was my cat. I wanted to do it for her,” she said. As she stood there, softly weeping, telling me the story, I felt like a heartless ogre. I listened to the story with a polite sympathetic look on my face and nothing in my heart. Maybe I had too much on my plate at the time, but other than a tinge of wistful regret that death is something that happens, and that cancer is a sad way to go, I just didn't care. Aviv was more upset than I was.
Phoenix lived a prosperous and longer life with Jacqueline the Cat Lady and her ten other cats. Aviv and I visited the apartment once. It was a perfect cat heaven, designed entirely around and for cats. It also stank of cat and every surface was covered with hair and dandruff. But hey.
There were food dishes full of nutritious food, and there were a variety of climbable carpeted surfaces, soft cushions, plants, and places to hide. All the cats got along well with one another and Jacqueline the Cat Lady spent one-on-one time with every one of them.
Jacqueline the Cat Lady had a lazy eye and she was kind of funny-looking and very awkward and uncomfortable around human beings. She only really came into her own around animals, at which time she relaxed. She was also Jacqueline the Dog Lady; she had a small business walking dogs.
What kind of lady becomes a Cat Lady, I wondered. Then when we visited Phoenix at her
apartment, I found out. Somewhere in the middle of an hour of conversation about cats, and exquisitely un-emphasized, Jacqueline mentioned her lazy eye: she was blind in that eye. It had been something problem with her birth process. And whatever that issuewas (I forget what it was), it also meant that she could never have children.
And then I understood. This funny-looking, awkward, lumpy woman of a certain age, who was bad at social graces but had a warm heart, probably had a lot of experience being single, and was unlikely to suddenly become unsingle...but it didn't matter, because she was surrounded by surrogate children, all of whom needed her love and care every single day. “These are my babies,” she said, as one walked across her lap and stuck his tail in her face. Who was I to think she was pathetic, when she was getting her emotional needs met? As I saw her kiss and cuddle the cats, and talk about each one as if it were a person, I saw someone who had something that was working for her.
She was kind to Aviv, too, and gave him a Giants t-shirt. She was proud of being a New Yorker all the way. “I'm a Yankees fan,” she said. “I watch all the games. Phoenix sits on the couch and watches them with me. She's my New Yorker girl. We've gotta stick together, we New Yorkers.” —And I reflected that, in this sea of indifferent soft Californian schlubs who, when the sticks were down, didn't give a shit about their fellow man (or animal), Jacqueline truly was a real New Yorker. There was nothing fake about her, there was nothing nice about her, and there was nothing groovy about her, but when you were in a crisis, she totally came through for you, out of the blue, and she stood by her word. She answered the call. She was a woman of integrity and social responsibility in a sea of useless self-obsessed niceness. She had huevos.
And then suddenly a few days ago, Jacqueline called saying that Phoenix was sick. She had lost half her body weight and wasn't eating or drinking. By now Phoenix was about 105 in human years. Jacqueline said, starting to cry, and starting to talk way too much, that she would take Phoenix to the vet on Thursday. All I could think about was the money. Those vet bills were going to cost me anywhere from “way the fuck too much” to “nightmarishly, impossibly way, way, way the fuck too much.” Vets are expensive. And Jacqueline's raison d'etre was to give cats exquisite and beautiful lives. Grade A lives. Expensive lives. She was absolutely the kind of person who would spend $5000 taking care of a sick cat, but since this cat was still under my financial responsibility, that would be my money...and I knew if I didn't want to pay it, I would be forever branded a Horrible Person....
I felt guilty about not caring about the cat. I just cared about the money, and even though I searched my heart, I could not hear anything else inside it.
And then this morning Jacqueline called again. They were at the vet. Phoenix had renal failure. Her kidneys were shutting down and she was in pain and she wasn't going to make it. She wasn't drinking. She was suffering. First we said that Jacqueline would wait until Aviv and I
could visit her on Friday or Saturday. Then she called back—the vet wanted to do it right away and said it wouldn't be kind to the cat to make her wait, in pain.
To my surprise, I started crying in the middle of her phone call. I started crying at 11 am and I've been crying on and off ever since. It's clean, slicing, sharp grief, but still, inexplicable. I had believed I felt nothing but irritation about the vet bill. And yet here I am, then and now, tears rolling down my face, and pure, nonverbal, irrational sadness filling my heart. Over just a cat. A cat who annoyed me and frustrated me and was a pain in my ass. I don't know why I didn't care about Muse dying but when Phoenix dies I am just unhinged. I can't even put it into the past tense yet, because that will mean it actually happens.
I took Aviv out of school in the middle of the day so he could come home and say goodbye
to the cat. Itai was dubious about this. You could go so far as to say, “he was not happy about this choice,” nor did he think it was necessarily the best choice. Why bring up death? Why expose Aviv to sadness and death? But I thought about how Muse had died without us getting a chance to say goodbye, and how the news had hit him like a surprise kick in the stomach. I thought about how once my mom found my biological father Alan, Alan refused to let me meet my grandfather, his father Bob, even though this Bob lived up on the Upper West Side on Manhattan and I could have visited him, and he had gone to Columbia and was an engineer and sounded like an interesting guy. Then he died and I never got to meet him, and I will always resent Alan for making that choice for me. Sure, there's a photo of us together when I was two months old. But when I think, I could have met this man and someone else stopped it from happening and now he's dead, I am resentful. ….I thought about the Grandpa Bob I did
know, the architect and artist and Mad Man and farmer, whose last words for me were “study anatomy” for practice drawing the human figure, and whose triangle and french curve I so symbolically inherited. I knew he might well die the last time I saw him, but still, eventually he did die. And he's still dead. He's not coming back, even if I suddenly have something I want to tell him. ….I thought about all the people I knew who had died in 9/11. Ordinary people. One of the guys who operated the lift at the Second Ave Tisch building where I worked in props. Not coming back to work. He's dead. ….I thought about the security guard at Itai's office, with whom I'd had some kind of altercation and whom I had last seen while I was still feeling bitchy snippy things at him, and then he died of a heart attack and I never got to apologize or make amends for my behaviour. ….I thought about the young Indian guy with whom I had danced at a milonga, who two weeks later was killed in a car accident, with his girlfriend. ….I thought about the guy with whom I had danced at another milonga, who a few months later visited
Russia and was killed by a car while crossing the street. ….I thought about beautiful crazy Aunt Jenny, dead of cancer, now up there dancing on the clouds, much better suited for her than this
world ever was, and how she's still dead, no matter how good my somatic awareness ever gets and no matter how clever I ever become about thinking about how my body moves through space. ….I thought about Patrick Hearon, the Southerner of our high school group of dorky social outcasts, with his love of grits and R.E.M., and how after high school Patrick actually got engaged to my roommate and at-the-time best friend Olivia, and then when he was 21, his parents gave him a red convertible sports car for his December birthday, and he drove it too fast around an icy mountain curve, and crashed and died. ….I thought about my college friend Nate, the peaceful lover of Nine Inch Nails, who became the boyfriend of my at-the-time best
friend Jen, and saw Jen through her visit to the loony bin when she was diagnosed as manic-depressive and wouldn't take her lithium and was seeing things and had crazy conspiracy theories about her doctors, and then one day Nate went mountain biking up into the foothills of LA and el Niño sprang up and swept him away and he drowned in a flash flood and Jen had to identify the body with the bloated purple face, and it seemed wrong that he could die because he had been wearing his bicycle helmet. ….I thought about young, smart Amani Willet, a year ahead of me in high school, one of the cool beautiful crowd, Arabic and gorgeous and tall with dredlocks, who grew up and went out and got himself killed in service in Afghanistan.
I thought of the dead. I knew they were never coming back. And I remembered saying in shock to another friend, about the guy who got killed in a car accident, “how can he just...die? He can't just die; why wasn't I notified? Why wasn't I consulted first? I was planning on dancing
with him at the next milonga!” That feeling of the suddenness of death, and how it doesn't care if you got to say goodbye or not. It doesn't care if you have closure or not. And it's forever. I
understood that Itai didn't want to bring unnecessary suffering to his kid and didn't necessarily think this was Aviv's issue to deal with. But I made a call.
I said, if there's a chance to say goodbye, we should always take it. (Or something like that.)
Aviv came home and Jacqueline dropped off Phoenix in the cat carrier so we could say goodbye while she walked the dogs. She was indeed quite thin now. And she had old-woman eyes. They weren't bright and shiny any more. They were clouded and tired. At first she meowed a loud protesting meow. But we sat her down on the floor in her carrier and we patted her and she calmed right down. She let us pat her. She turned around and let us pat her front and nuzzled into our hands. She got soft. She even purred. Aviv and I had a dishcloth apiece and we both quietly blew our noses and mopped our faces every couple minutes. It was sad, but it was good. I saw Aviv's beautiful little-boy-Reiki magic going in with his soft little pats. He patted me too. He put little flowers in my spine and they felt awfully good. Tears streamed down my face, even though this was the right time and the right way. She had had a full rich life, and she had been well treated and loved, and it was better to go now. We couldn't change what was going to happen, but we could make the energy of it as good as possible, and so we did: we Reiki'd the cat. It was the right thing to do. And we patted her and patted her. She looked at us, and it looked like she knew us, and it looked like she recognized her old house. She wanted to come out, and tried, but even though it might have been nice to hold her (as if she would ever let that happen), I couldn't risk the struggle and hardship that would have happened if she had had to have been stuffed back into the carrier. I didn't want her last hour to have stress in it, so I kept her in the carrier.
And then somehow we were all done. We were full. We had had a job to do and we did it. You always know when the Reiki tank is full. And we were sad, and we cried, and we patted the cat, and then...we were full. We stopped crying. She didn't need to be petted any more. We had had our session, and then all three of us were finished. It was like, “we're good now.” She turned around and rested, tired. Aviv and I were suddenly starving and ate like we hadn't eaten in a long time.
It was hard doing this on this day in particular because on this day in particular it so happened that I had needed bubble wrap for a package, and to get it, I had pulled my old oil paintings out of the cupboard to reuse their bubble wrap. But since I knew I would have to cut the paintings off the stretchers to roll them up for moving house, I had spent the morning photographing the paintings, while still on their stretcher bars. I had been surprised at how attached I was to the
old things, even though they were young and most of them not very good. There were still elements I liked about them, and some of them were still good. I had been surprised at how...I thought I would just slice them off and be done with it, but it was like I couldn't do it. And then there they were sitting all around the dining room, photographed and waiting to be sliced off and rolled up, traces of my old life in New York and my old life here, my past, a younger me, things I did...and here was the cat, too. When Muse died, it wasn't a big deal, because Phoenix was still left. But Phoenix was the last link with the life that I had had, with whom I had been. If she went away, there would be nothing left. Phoenix was the last living connector with young Jordana the twentysomething starving artiste in Alphabet City, and she was the last friend I had who had lived through 9/11 more or less with me. She was the Phoenix that rose
from the ashes. She was special. And even though I was at this point in my life where I was shucking all kinds of driftwood from the past, getting ready to move into my future, I still felt grief at losing the past. Even though the future would be the right thing, I felt a keen pain and loss at seeing my old life disappearing and dying.
There was something good about her coming back in this last hour, for this last life. There was something good about us being together again. We had been apart for a while, but we were together again, for a last time, even though it was short. I didn't love her the way I used to love her, but I did still love her, it turned out. And it felt like we were wrapping things up right. We had closure.
We gave Phoenix our last pats and closed her carrier door. It was ok.
Jacqueline took Phoenix to the vet and Aviv and I went to the plant store and bought three seedlings and a bag of dirt and went to the garden. It was the right place to go. I was proud of Aviv for suggesting it.
On the way there, Jacqueline had said she was going to have Phoenix cremated and had asked me if I wanted the ashes and I had said no. “You mean, after the big nap,” Aviv said. We had said that the vet was going to put Phoenix to sleep and she was going to have a permanent nap for the rest of her life. But it turned out there was a difference between how I said it and how Aviv heard it, and I liked his interpretation. Because his next sentence referred to what Jacqueline had said about how she could have taken Phoenix home and forced liquids on her and she might have lasted for another three months or so. “How long is the nap going to be? About three months?”
I...caved. I could have said, no, it's a very short nap indeed. But instead I said, “maybe; I don't know how long the nap will be. It's going to be for the rest of her life. She's going to nap until everything is all done.” And this worked for him, and was, technically, true. In his mind, this meant a cat sleeping (presumably on a sunny windowsill at home) for about three more months. Fine.
But he surprised me. He wanted the cat ashes, that I had just turned down. I said, “but that's not the cat. The energy is the cat.” And he said, “but there is still some cat energy in those ashes.” I hadn't thought about it that way. I looked down at the plants in their bag. “Fortunately we still have some cat energy clinging to us because we spent all that time with her patting her,” I said. “Let's take that cat energy and put it into these flowering plants. And then we can plant the plants in the ground and they will grow and it will be like...” —and I trailed off. But he got it. “It's kind of perfect, for a Phoenix,” I said. After all, we had discussed before that Phoenixes were magical beings that were reborn from ashes, and that was how she had gotten her name in the first place.
We carefully took the little wisps of cat energy still clinging to us and put them into the plants.
Walking down the street, I saw him carefully touch his tummy. “I'm putting cat energy in me,” he said. Good repository. Then at Fort Mason, the little sorcerer reached out and Reiki'd the dandelions, filling them up with cat energy too. “I'm not going to Reiki the oxalis though!” he said. “It's a weed! It doesn't need any help growing!” We laughed.
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon. Exactly the kind that cats like to go to sleep in. The perfect kind of afternoon for taking a long drowsy nap in the sun.
Since Aviv clearly had a good idea...what the heck. I filled my palms with fireballs and sent some cat energy into the grass. Now the thing that had been a cat would now be growing plants and grass and a memory in our hearts.
We were both feeling quite freed and calm and happy about life. Life was taking its course, and things were happening in a natural way in the right time for them to happen, and we had had our time to grieve, and we felt good. So when an idea came to me, I felt it was ok to say it
out loud. “When I am very, very old, a long, long, long time from now, and it's time for me to go, please do the same thing for me.” This seemed obvious to Aviv. “Please take some of my energy and put it into some plants you like. And then it will grow and be beautiful.” He acquiesced quite naturally, as if doing so were a no-brainer that everyone knew to do. “But it's not going to happen for a long, long, long time,” I said, for my own comfort. “I hope I have at least 40 or 50 years left and hopefully more.”
But, we had discussed, nothing lives forever and it's better to have a full, rich life and go when it's the right time to go, than to just go on and on forever. We had been able to discuss this calmly and...perhaps cheerfully isn't the right word, but we were chill with the idea.
We planted our plants and watered our plot and gave it new rich soil, packed and fairly buzzing with life. “Of course it's alive! That's what makes it soil!” he said. That's my boy. We wandered around the garden and climbed a tree and checked on the crops and cross-pollinated a few flowers.
And then, in a moment that cannot possibly have existed on Planet Earth, one of those top-ten you'll-never-forget moments that was so precious, I could only silently observe it (and, since I refused to take a picture of it, I probably will forget it, which is why I mark it down here), I saw my son, beautiful and young and healthy and free and happy, and grown simply enormous, running up a grassy hill in the warm sunshine, and the sun was shining through a whole bunch of dandelion puffs, making them glow. It was extremely peaceful, and perfectly happy, and immaculately beautiful. It was a treasure of a moment, and it was so full of life, and of light...I felt like somehow, maybe things had to happen in this order or that they were somehow connected; the cat went for her Big Nap, and then here was this beautiful moment, fuller of life than any moment ever before, silent and perfect. This is why we have children, I thought. I was
We scampered on the lush green grass in the sun and turned cartwheels and I taught Aviv how to do a tripod headstand and we did parent-and-child acro-yoga and rolled around and stuck our butts in the air and we were happy.