Friday, May 12, 2006

Look What The Snow Storm Brought In


The time was circa 1992. I was in college. And the forecast was calling for a record-breaking snow storm to bombard the entire east coast - pretty much down to northern Florida. Snow in Florida and, oh yeah, it's Spring Break. Mukluks and bikinis!

I was an "old married girl" at this time living in sin with my wee bit older boyfriend who was long gone out of college. Instead he had a job. And he was sweet as pie. And probably the only guy I ever dated who actually "got me." We dated/lived together for most of 3 years. Ironically, my college romance was the most mature relationship I probably ever had. We actually talked about things. And he was an artist type - a damn good writer - so sometimes he would go into his shell when he needed to dip deep into the well to regenerate. Kindred. In fact, the only time he ever really annoyed me was when he was "blocked" and would play the harmonica to blues tracks. This annoyed me about him and I remember thinking at the time, "I can't live with this forever!" - knowing I was never going to commit to him long-term. Now I put up with much worse than harmonicas - the "sound of settling"? (but that is beside the point.)

His name was Pete.

This particular blustery Spring Break we decided to rent a car and drive all the way to Fort Wayne to visit my parents. They were living so far away at the time and I only got to see them a few times a year. Pete knew how much I was looking forward to this trip. And he loved my parents too. In fact, we were so damned determined that we were going to make it there, we ignored the blizzard warnings thinking there is no way Georgia was going to get that much snow and by the time we hit the more northern states, it would be long gone. Our plan was golden.

Were we ever wrong.

By the time we hit Georgia we were definitely driving in blizzard conditions. Sensible and patient Pete carefully maneuvered the highway as we crawled our way up 95. The carrot at the end of the stick - my momma and daddy. Well it finally got so bad that they were closing the highways down and forcing people off the road. The one exit we had to get off at had only one hotel and, oh, about a million people in our same predicament. I bundled up my "winter coat" - which was some flimsy suede jacket I got in a thrift store and had no lining. I was praying for a warm bed and - if I may push the envelope a little here - some cable tv. We weren't in line 15 minutes when the hotel turned on the No Vacancy light, with ne'er a care for the momentarily homeless.

"Shoo people. There's no room at the inn," said the Inn Keeper.

And I said, "Dammit!" The stress of the day and the disappointment welled up inside me. I knew we could not sleep in the car that night. We would freeze. I could feel the tears forming and a patented Lara temper tantrum starting to take shape.

When lo and behold Desperation and a Plan B appeared before my watery eyes when a young guy probably my age - college student - spoke up, "Hey I have a room - with two beds - and it is only me - if anybody wants to share."

To put a brand-new-in-2006 romanticized spin on the story....he was looking at me when he said this. Why, our souls connected. And yes, it was love at first sight! (So in the made-for-tv version of my life make sure that we reconnect years later and fall madly in love. That will make a nice Lifetime Original.)

I pushed Pete forward and yelled, "We do!" I was going to fight and claw my way if I was faced with competition. Heck, at that point, I could have starred in Indecent Proposal. His Redford to my Demi. (And Pete was a Woody, come to think of it.)

So that is how I spent the night in some northern GA hotel in a blizzard with some absolute stranger. I can't remember much about our Hero that night. I do remember he had to call his parents too. I can't even remember what I told my dad. But he knew I was with Pete so he probably didn't worry as much. I had the weirdest dreams that night that I was sleeping with some Ted Bundy. Pete, I know, slept with one eye open.

Alas morning came. And we were alive. And warm. And very tired. And the sun was shining!

BUT - to rain on my morning sunshine parade - there was lots of cleaning up to be done and Tennessee decided that they were going to barricade their lovely state from any other vehicle messing with their plans to plow. The TN border was closed. And they didn't anticipate it opening for a long while. Our options were to (a) wait in the small town at least all day and where nothing was open or (b) turn around and go home. We made the decision to go home.

I cried most of the way home.

And I didn't perk up until Pete said, "Well, I have the whole week off work anyway. How about we go the shelter first thing and get a cat?"

And this came out of the blue. I don't really remember us ever talking about getting a cat. But somehow, at this moment, it seemed like the best idea I had ever heard. Like, duh...this is going to make the crybaby feel better. I knew it. On any other day, I probably would have brushed off the idea. But, see, Pete knew me. And he always knew - even before I did - what was going to cheer me up.

The carrot at the end of the stick now....a little fur ball of my very own!

So the next day we drove to the shelter and when I walked in I was immediately drawn to this one fat sultry looking momma cat just kind of laying there nonplussed by all the people oohing and aahing over her competition, the kittens. Lindsey Lohans to her Meryl Streep. Amateurs. She wasn't playing up to anyone.

I looked at Pete and said, "That's Sophie."

Well, actually her name was Muffin. That was what the cage said. But she certainly didn't give off "Muffin air." It also said that she hated children and other animals and she liked to be the center of attention. It was a match made in heaven - I knew we could be fast friends! And when I held her in my arms I knew that from that day forward I was now going to shelter her from the snow storms.

On that day, I gave her a second chance at life. I learned that my little Miss Grumpy was going to be put to sleep the next day as she had overstayed her welcome at the Inn. If it wasn't for that snow storm....

It's fourteen years later and I had to make the very difficult decision to let her go yesterday morning. Her health failing, there wasn't anything I could do for her anymore. Deep down I know it was the right thing but it doesn't feel right. I made the mistake and stuck around the vet's office until it was over and I will never forget the bellowing I heard from her room. They say she went in peace but I doubt that. That breaks my heart.

I cried all the way home and through the night.

I wonder what Pete would say or do to cheer me up now....


RIP Little Miss Sophie Mae
c. 1987 - 2006

"...I'll show you in spring
It's a treachorous thing
Miss you
Kiss
The Lovecats..."
--The Cure

6 comments:

sassafras said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about your loss. It's so hard to let go of a pet. I watched my dog get hit by a car last August and it still haunts me. She was there through everything. Oh geez, here I go tearing up...

Original Me said...

Aahh, that is horrible sassafras! I can't imagine how that must have been. I'm so sorry for you. Thank you for your sympathy.

Kelly said...

I am a cat person, too, and I can imagine how hard that was. :-( So sorry!!

Mav said...

I'm like in tears right now...Why is it that there is always something contributing to my alcoholism...I'm gonna miss the little fur ball sticking her butt in my face when I sleep on your couch...

DetoxSmurf said...

I use to have two puppies i was very fond of. Then my ex girlfriend sold them to different owners! Grrrr...

Virginia Belle said...

detox, that bitch!

and i can't even stop to comprehend sassafras's story because i will start crying.

what i meant to say was...

i cannot handle sad pet stories. they kill me. especially the dog ones. i don't really like cats, but now that i'm a pet owner, i can feel my heart breaking just reading this. poor little kitty.

that was a heck of a blizzard. by my calculations, i was in about 6th or 7th grade at that point and living in richmond, VA. i remember there was a week where we didn't go to school because of the snow. bet it was the same blizzard.

my parents had to stay in a hotel once under similar circumstances. the stranger was a woman who snored so loudly neither one of them got a wink of sleep. they said she was making the pictures on the walls rattle!