Sunday, August 5, 2012


I like to write; I am currently working on a fabulous car thing that will be fabulous. But I need to write this post and I am dreading it. In a few minutes you will see why I am dreading it. One of my dear friends asked me about what happened with “Robert the Bobcat” after that post the other day. He went on to have other adventures, and he had other friends, but his demise was not a happy one and what happened has become entangled in events that occurred around that time, at least in my mind, so I must walk it back several months.

We moved to Southern California in August of 1963. We originally moved to a little suburb of San Diego called Lemon Grove, I was 7 at the time and what I remember is vague and strange and dreadful. That dread is also tinged with an iron heat that left the air tasting of metal and horror. Our apartment faced a supermarket wall and had only a southern exposure. The sun cooked that supermarket wall all day, reflecting the heat back at us, and at times the temperature reached over 130 degrees in our dwelling. No air conditioning.

My father had moved us to San Diego because my mother no longer wanted to live in Muskegon, Michigan. She was feeling isolated. My father had a good job and was spending lots of time at work, golfing, and going out with the partners. He was a CPA. She didn’t like being alone with just me, I guess. She was conflicted that way. Anyway, my father was drinking more than ever, so she badgered him into visiting her brother in San Diego. Once there, she talked him into quitting his job and moving out to So Cal. Imagine his resentment towards her. So, we moved. To this little shithole.

My father had no job, but with his pedigree, he soon found one. We also found a place to live. The selling point for this place was the bar that was on the corner, where my father was to be found most evenings after work. So, mom is still isolated and dad is showing his resentment by getting drunker than usual. Before I go any further, I have to say, if you have to have an alcoholic in the family, have one like my dad. He was always kind. He always had a job. He was always funnier than hell. Hysterical. My mom, poor mom. She was the absolute worst kind of co-dependant there is. Just awful. Capricious. Dangerous. Psychotic. But, the absolute best person in the world. I can’t say how much I miss her and how, even today my heart bleeds for her and how truly courageous she was and gallant. She loved me so very much and all of this I do, I do in honor and memory of her. She is that worthy. So is my father. He knew me best; he always knew I would turn out like this. She may have not been so sure. I hope this is just not soulful masturbation on my part. I hope you get this.

Anyway, we’re living in this goddamned hellhole with a bunch of other losers. My dad ends up in this job where he’s collecting money… oh. And, he’s carrying a .38. Wow, he’s working for a waste management company during the day. Brilliant. At night, he’s drinking himself into oblivion in this bar. There’s a couple who has a new baby who live directly behind us and they do nothing but fight all night. He slaps her around, the baby cries all night. My mother meets this woman, who has a son about my age. The woman isn’t married, so my mom offers to watch the son one night, while the woman goes on a date.

For a long time I was confused about what happened next, it made sense later on. I had a mouse in a cage in my room. We also had some fish in a bowl, but it had been so insanely hot, the heat had killed the fish. We had just had to have our one remaining cat put to sleep because he had feline leukemia. The bitch of a nurse wouldn’t even let my mom hold the cat when he was euthanized. My mom was crying and over-reacting to everything. She yelled at me once “God, I wish there were legalized abortions, when I was carrying you!” She never stopped apologizing for that. I’m sure she’s not the only woman who’s said that to cherished offspring.

For some reason, this boy was in my room and was really quiet. My mom went in my room. The door slammed. She was in there for the longest time. She came out, white and grim. I know not how much time had passed.

She told me the boy (I forget his name) was napping. What the boy had been doing was beheading my mouse and my mom caught him in the act. I didn't know this for years. I never even noticed my mouse's cage was gone. So, would I please go get my father from the bar. I did so. He was only mildly smashed and came home cheerily enough. My mom tried to pretend everything was okay. At this point, I wasn’t really in tune enough to sense if things were right or not between them. They weren’t bad, but they were about to get a whole lot worse.

Later on that night, after I went to bed, my mother tried to take her life. I awoke to find myself in a car with my aunt and uncle, this is my mother’s brother Stan, who we ended up living a block away from and this is why, because my mother had to be committed. I was told she was "shopping." She was falling apart. My father never got over it. He, in his own way, adored my mother, he really did. But this crushed him. He was never really reflective, but very intuitive. That’s why I said what I said. He’s always known that I would make it because he just knew me. I have that part of him. My mom is the reflective one. She analyzed, probed, saw an issue from an infinite variety of positions because, not doing so? That shit can get you killed. I do that too. But she learned that only after she was so goddamned miserable, she thought she just might as well end it. Think on that. You’re in such pain, you’ll leave your child to the care of… who? Your alcoholic husband? Brother and wife? (which I think she was counting on, loving them and trusting them as she did) But, actually, I think, she didn’t think that far. I think she just wanted the pain to stop. Depression is a lying bitch.

The weekend in September 1963 my mother was discharged from the hospital, my father purchased a house that was a block from where her brother lived in San Diego. He also quit working for the Mob or whatever and got a real job. My folks were trying to fix things, but it was rough going; they’d be okay for a few days, then there’d be some hollering and furniture-throwing, and then things would be calm again. My birthday, December of 1963, this is where we met the famous Robert. Well, me being me, I couldn’t be content with 1 cat (bobcat!) I had to bring home a few more animals. Also in the neighborhood, there was this cute little black cat named Alfred, and he fell in love with my dad. The problem is, he lived with a family across the street from my uncle’s house, but would follow my dad home. Tiny little black cat. My dad would carry him back to his people.

One day, this little white, patchy kitten showed up, started this HUGE fight on our front porch with a couple of the neighbor cats. Robert was asleep on the porch. So this kitten hops on top of Robert and is trying to fend off these two Toms. Robert lurches to his feet, hisses at the toms and they take off!
My mom opens the door, the white patchy kitten runs between her feet, into the house, jumps into the tub and has an asthma attack. Robert saunters in, sits down and just looks at this pathetic scrap of cat.

My mom looks at me. She looks at Robert. Robert looks at my mom. She looks at the kitten. She’s not having a good day. She’s got blood in her eye. Between her teeth she says “Get that son of a bitch out of this house.”
I whine, “But Ma, he’s sick. Look at him, he’s all little and dirty. He needs food. I bet he doesn’t have a home…” blah blah blah…. yammer yammer. I wear her down. “All right, but keep him away from me.”

Odd. My mother has always loved animals. The kitten was hilarious. He fought with everything that moved and it was always the same thing. Fight until you’re almost beaten, get the “muscle,” Robert, run in the house and have an asthma attack in the tub. I named him Wabash because he had a purr like the Wabash Cannonball. He lived to be about 147. My mom made peace with him, but not in a way she would have chosen. He was bugging her one day; wouldn’t leave her alone while she was gardening. Her mental state was fragile. The most trivial stuff could set her off and I can honestly say I relate to that. She picked him up by one of his front legs and hurled him all the way to the back fence. Wabash hit that privacy fence with a resounding thud. Her meanness broke her. I turned to see her curled up in a ball, crying, crying.

She was nice to him after that, although, I don’t think he was ever her favorite cat. Personally, I think he would fake-limp sometimes when she was around. Just a suspicion. He was Robert’s buddy.

Alfred continue to show up, his love for my father unrequited. Daddy would laugh and say, “Alfred, you don’t belong to me. You can visit.” One night, Alfred showed up, staggering. He had foam around his mouth. We were horrified. My father stayed up all night. We tried everything, but this was before the days of 24 hour emergency vets. My father kept saying, “Alfred honey, if you live, you can stay, I promise, just live.” Alfred died just before dawn.

Two days later, another pet was poisoned, a dog I think. We were all trying to keep our animals in, but it’s hard to do and this was a different time. There had been 13 or 14 poisonings when Robert came home sick. My father came home from work and rushed him to the vet. Robert spent 2 days with the vets. No one ever said a word about us harboring a Bobcat. There probably wasn’t such a law in those days and he was sweet and so very sick. We brought him home from the vet after two days. All seemed normal. He was his usual placid self. He died in his sleep. He was just shy of being 2 years old.

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