samedi, juillet 12, 2014

The frayed tie that binds

I put down the phone on the table.

Then the tears begin to fall.

I've held them in over the past few days.

Nothing epic has happened.  There is no HBO-sized tragedy.

It is a series of moments, over the past few days, that has stretched me to almost a breaking point.

Wednesday night one of our cats, a black and white fireball called Inky, started to cough.

"Do you think there's something wrong with Inky?" I asked my son.

"No" he said, wandering from the kitchen to the living room couch, where he was watching episode #934 of "The Wire."

The next day, instead of switching his tail at a chipmunk on the deck, or waiting for me to anoint his body with water from the hose in the downstairs tub, Inky lay heavy-lidded on the bed.

When I called his name, he stared listlessly at me.

That afternoon I took him to the vet.  Cats don't normally like cars - and they know how to let you know that. Often.

 Dr. Levin wasn't sure what the diagnosis was, bur gave him an intravenous antibiotic, fluids and "kitty tylenol" ( the real stuff is toxic for cats, by the way), and sent me home with instructions: call if he isn't getting better.

I came home to an empty house (save for our other cat, a sweet and shy blind orange short-hair), and fell asleep on the couch.  When I awoke, Inky was snuggled against me, white paws resting on my arms.

Friday he seemed a little less lethargic, but still not his usual 'living large' feline self.

Give it another day, the vet advised.

Friday night, one side of his face was swollen.

Should I go to the animal hospital? Should I wait until morning?  I dithered.  For a few years, I have avoided yearly check ups because it's so tough to get this guy into a cat carrier.

We've lived alongside cats for years.  But like England and the U.S., Inky and I have a "special relationship."  By far the brightest of the felines who have peopled our houses, he is a challenging, energetic, and affectionate household companion - it's hard  not to be exasperated by his chutzpah, even harder not to love him without reserve.

The kid's dad had asked me how Inky was doing the day before, and he's not even an animal lover...but no word from my son (our daughter was away, and didn't know he was sick).


Finally, around ten last night, I picked up the phone and called my son at his dad's house, confessing my confusion and exhaustion.

Do you want me to come up there? he asked me.

I could use your help tomorrow, I said.  But you might be busy tomorrow morning. Yes, I am, he said.

Nothing more.

I'll let you know if I have to put Inky down, I told him, and said goodbye.


I managed.  Crammed the cat into his carrier, discussed possibilities with the vet,  get instructions for medications I'm not sure I can administer, then drove home with Inky's condition still ambiguous.


Then the phone rang.

Was i free to bring his sneakers down to his father's house today? He needs to take them to Philadelphia, where he will be working with severely disadvantaged kids this week on a team from our church.

Yes, I said.

After all, what else was there to say?

mardi, juillet 01, 2014

The great, shadowy, shadowed Thomas Eakins and his clergy friends

samedi, juin 07, 2014

Why I'm not a "feminist"

Labels distract. Provocative labels distract absolutely. 

Though they are sometimes necessary for the sake of brevity,  descriptors like "feminist," "evangelical" or "civil rights movement" are susceptible to some many interpretations that, however they began (someone's proud appropriation), they all too often become either generic or cudgels with which to beat your ideological foe.

I prefer to see myself, whether I'm delusional or not, as an advocate for human rights.

One of the most toxic effects of the debate over language (and yes, I know, naming reveals a lot about what we think about ideas, people or beliefs), is how it distracts us from the work at hand.

After all, trying to change abuse and violence is much harder than debating what to call it. Tossing words like virtual grenades back and forth is sometimes a way of avoiding have to confront the challenges in front of us.

There are multiple places around the world where women are denied even the most basic human rights.

Anyone with a soul was stunned by the murder of a young Muslim married woman by her relatives in Pakistan in front of her father and husband a few weeks ago. In the Sudan, a woman who won't renounce her faith as a Christian convert has been sentenced to die for "apostasy."

(A measure of our humanity is whether we can speak out on behalf of ALL women who are considered chattel, subject not only to warped family "honor' codes but to institutionalized discrimination by governments who find it more expedient to look the other way).

Ireland recently has been grappling with a dark and frightening past, not all that long ago, in which the children of unmarried mothers were termed "illegitimate" - and apparently left to starve, fall ill, and, often to die.

Even here in the United States, sexual violence against women is shockingly common.  If it takes a national movement to get colleges to pay attention to what's going on under trees, in student centers and in the dormitories, so be it.  About time.

As someone who has done some online dating (and as cautious as I am, which is very), I've had times when I was worried about my own safety. As a journalist, I've also felt vulnerable and afraid when faced with rage, both real and virtual, in a way that I think many men probably don't (though they, too, are often the target of basement crazies).

A few days ago, in what might be charitably be called an impish mood, I thought I'd post a quote on Facebook...just to see what happened, ya know. "It's better not to argue with women" was the quote. And, sure enough, a few people took the bait, innocent of the fact that the originator of said aphorism was Vladimir Putin.  My FB friends, male and female, wouldn't mistreat or stereotype women in real life.

Putin's attitude toward women would be irrelevant if he wasn't the leader of a country in which discrimination and violence against women is common.  

A month or so ago, on the NPR show "Tell Me More," I heard an African American male defend Donald Sterling's right to say the stuff  that landed him in a world of trouble with his NBA-owner colleagues and the rest of the world.

"Why can't a 100-year-old white man (Sterling is 80) have a private conversation with his jump-off?" asked the commentator (I paraphrase).

It will be a great day for the Clippers, and a better day for all of us, when someone else owns the team and when racism isn't endorsed, even (perhaps especially) in private.

But it will be an even better day when we actually treat African-Americans as equal in public and in private, when all women don't have to fear violence or discrimination, when naming and shaming aren't media fads.

Then perhaps we can finally get to the point of addressing the societal problems we have, the ones that hold us back as men AND women - because fixing what is broken is a much tougher job than fighting over it.