Category Archives: Journal – Vol. I

LIX. My Life on Parchment

Sunday, February 26, 2012 — After dinner last night I settled in and watched the movie Anonymous until the scene where the loud meowing occurred.

It was Keats meowing – not the poet, but the cat, in my face. He woke me up.

Anonymous asks who penned the works ascribed to Shakespeare. The story is cluttered with characters; and scenes crunch together oscillating between past and present, actions erupting into writers and players being arrested on stage, their speech censored, stories re-spun, performances cancelled: my life on parchment.

A substitute Hospice aide pounced on me Thursday. She showed up at our door early; I didn’t know she was coming: our regular aide was ill, she said. I asked the substitute to sit and wait while I went upstairs and collected Emma’s bath accoutrements. The aides give Emma a bed sponge bath each morning. I finished my preparations for the aide and gathered Emma’s things, about to descend the staircase. The aide hollered up from the downstairs hall, “Hello! Hello! Excuse me! Excuse me!”

{{{      }}}

I don’t know how to answer this. This – Well, what should I call it? – loud meowing occurred once before, when Emma was agitated and the Hospice continuous care bully nurse stood in the kitchen at the foot of the back staircase one night and shot the same words up at me, in the same militant tone. I find myself dumbstruck.

This time I said, “What did I tell you? I asked you to wait while I gathered Emma’s things. Please wait; I will be right there.” But she didn’t hear me; she talked over me and told me not to shout.

She phoned Hospice; she told them I was rude. I phoned Hospice simultaneously and spoke to our team leader. She said, “Didn’t [the scheduler] call to tell you the substitute aide was coming?” No, she did not. Had she, I would have been prepared for the substitute and for her early arrival. So, the aide and I were set up for this unseemly encounter. The team manager asked if I would like Geri, my social worker, to come. I said, “Geri’s good anytime.” Yes, and it was good she came, because this substitute refused to follow my directions (by which I was trying to ease her job on her first visit here), did not know how to draw Emma into a sitting position in bed so she could eat without choking, and ultimately left Geri and me standing holding bowls and glasses of food, while she maneuvered the tray table into position over Emma’s bed. There was more: it took three of us to do a job readily executed by one.

The fiasco turned serendipitous, though, because Geri had a cancellation and by the time Tess, our nurse, arrived and the aide had left, Geri had picked up lunch and the three of us ate and chatted in the warm sun on my front porch. Our camaraderie alleviated my trauma caused by the aide’s indecorous behavior. Earlier in the week, the team manager took me out to dinner, thus bolstering our Hospice team support. I must say, the excellent margaritas at the Mexican restaurant served as superb attitude adjusters.

This weekend, our state Attendant Services Care aide, Daphne, was invited to stay at the Showboat in Atlantic City and see Guns N’ Roses with Axl Rose perform at the House of Blues there. How could I say no, you have to stick to your normal routine and stay here in Delaware to bathe and feed Emma? A good friend suggested I call a healthcare aide who lives around the corner from us. Violet comes highly recommended and loves what she does. Her performance was a smash hit. I am thrilled to have her. Emma must be, too, for she even gives Emma backrubs. Hmm … I wonder if I paid her a little extra – I should be so lucky. Violet has offered her availability for backup almost anytime. Indeed fortuitous.

I would like to believe based upon this story the truth in Voltaire’s postulation that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Not so likely would the squirrel and the cat, though: This afternoon I grabbed Keats and held him in my lap in the dining room to brush him. He liked the backrub but the brushing got cancelled at his tummy. He squirmed and jumped down. As I went to pick him up, he latched his front claws into the rug. He was slippery. My nose dodging his lashing tail, I finally pried him loose, picked him up and brushed his tummy – hastily, against his will, while praising his beautiful fluffy fur jacket with the stripes and black dots that look like double-breasted buttons down the front. Preened and fluffed, he dashed outside and across the street where I spotted him streaking across the empty lot after a squirrel that ran up a telephone pole, pausing midway to soliloquize a diatribe against ill-mannered cats.

—Samantha Mozart


LVIII. I Am Keats

February 22, 2012 — Mmm-hello! I have pounced into the middle of this page to show you how very sweet and handsome I am.

I am Keats

I am Keats. Samantha tried out different names on me. That way I could choose which name I liked best. Most of them I just ignored. But Keats I like, because it is a fusion of Kat and Eats. Purrfect.

I like living with Samantha. She feeds me and brushes me and gives me toys. I like catching the tennis ball mid-air as it bounces down the staircase. I also like catching flies. Samantha likes that.

I have quickly established a routine here. In the morning I jump up on Samantha’s bed, tap my wristwatch, put my face in hers, and say, “Do you see me? It is time to get up and feed me.

We get up; she takes a shower; afterwards I jump into the tub to lick it dry. Then we go downstairs. In the kitchen I parade across the floor and with my forepaw point out the cabinet where the food is stored. Samantha says I have come pre-formatted: I wait on the floor patiently, without jumping onto the table, and coach Samantha while she pours the food into my blue dish.

After I eat, I check my appearance in the glass front of the dishwasher, and then I am ready to go outside for the morning.

Hello, Elizabeth-cat. I hear you think you are a queen. Am I not handsome?

Sometimes I have a play date with a white cat. I don’t like that bully black cat, though. Sometimes I hide under the hedge in the backyard and look for rabbits. Often I curl up under the next-door neighbor’s bush and snooze until it is time to come in and eat again

When we have guests, I go into the living room to greet them. I jump up in the chair with them or sprawl out on the couch, proudly displaying my beautiful fur coat and demeanor.

Like ... what?

After they leave, I curl up in my little bed in front of the radiator in the dining room until dinnertime.

After dinner, sometimes I watch TV with Samantha; but when she reads, I curl up on a small, round, fluffy throw rug nearby. Then it is time for a bedtime snack, and usually I curl up on Samantha’s bed and keep her feet warm. Sometimes I prowl around in the middle of the night, but I am quiet until my wristwatch alarm goes off in the morning.

—Keats Mozart
with Samantha Mozart

Photos by Daphne, Emma’s healthcare aide.

LVII. Keats

February 17, 2012 — Tender in the night he flew to me, out of the blowing snow, just before Valentine’s Day. Come in, I said, I’ll give you warmth, and shelter from the storm.

This is my furry Valentine, the yellow tabby tomcat, with the spiffy striped knee socks and the swirly, marbled dark chocolate back, who adopted me.

I thought of naming him Valentino, my Valentine cat. I’ve called him that, called him Tino for short. He doesn’t seem to care for it. His attitude toward it is, “Whatever.” Anyway, it seems like a heavy moniker for such an intelligent, humorous, gregarious, well mannered gentleman.

I could name him Greg, I suppose. I’ve called him various names to see how he’d respond. Besides Cat, he responds best to Chicken. Ideally, I wanted a name from the humanities. Names I came up with are:

Teddy – for Teddy Roosevelt (adventurous, intelligent)
Matisse – for his beautiful colors and for his initial M on his forehead
Picasso – a little long; nor is he blue, rose or cubist
Pierre – from Tolstoy’s War and Peace
Henri – debonair French name; French artists’ name
Vronsky – the lover from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and those days I’m ready to throw myself under a train
Leo – for Leo Tolstoy, and lions, snow lions
Chekhov – great author
Oscar – for Oscar Wilde, but I already had a cat named Oscar, and my neighbors have a cat named Oscar; I’d call Oscar and all the neighborhood cats would come
Scotty – for F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I had a cat named Scotty
Updike – for John Updike
Scriabin – for Alexander Scriabin, one of my favorite composers
Sasha – for Alexander Scriabin
Misha – for Mikhail Baryshnikov
Diaghilev – for all the arts and humanities
Tchaikovsky – another favorite composer
Mozart – the obvious; too common, perhaps
Schubert – good – cats like trout and crooning lieder in the night
Orhan – for my favorite living author, Orhan Pamuk, author of the novel, Snow; but, then, Orhan Pamuk names many of his characters Orhan – it could get confusing
Hemingway – the obvious; too common, perhaps
Wolfe – for Thomas Wolfe – sounds like a dog
Steinbeck – possibly

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, she should name him [Obvious Clever Name].” Well, I haven’t come up with that one yet.

So, in the middle of the night, when he jumped onto my bed, I thought, “Keats.” (Or did he say “Keats” when he jumped up? Was it a waking dream?)

But, getting back to the M … Viewing it upside down it becomes a W – Wendell, for instance, or Winston. Looked at sideways, it becomes a ∑ (sigma) – ∑und (Sigmund).

And then, this middle of the night thing: Plus, I have given other family members names starting with K – my daughter Kellie and my dog Kolia. Sometimes when I was calling them, I’d get their names mixed up; I’d summon my daughter – “Kolia!” She didn’t like that; nor did Kolia appreciate being called Kellie. So now I will have three to confuse. My granddaughters, whose names both begin with S, will enjoy it, when I call the cat Kellie or Kellie, Keats. One will say, “Nana …,” flatly and roll her eyes, while the other will say, “Well, you know, she’s getting old.”

So, Keats it is. Sorry R and Kellie, I know you liked Valentino; but I think he would have preferred being called Chicken to Valentino.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee … Already with thee! tender is the night.  I am happy in his happiness.

Samantha Mozart
… with John Keats
& F. Scott Fitzgerald





LVI. Falling Star

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 — The days and months flash by like lighted windows on an express train at night. But when you’re waiting of an afternoon for someone to come and you don’t know what time they will arrive, you huddle with the minutes and hours as passengers on a platform next to an empty track.

Such was my case Monday waiting for Tess, our Hospice nurse, to arrive. She said she would be here sometime in the afternoon from about one o’clock on. I kept looking out the windows, listening for the doorbell, or the phone; I folded the laundry on the bed in the front bedroom, the one that used to be Emma’s, so I could see her car arrive on the street below. But no doorbell rang, no phone. I waited and watched four and a half hours. No one came.

The trouble with my being strung along is that I don’t know I am until it’s too late. While waiting on the long, broad platform of afternoon watching for the nurse to arrive, I lost four hours of travel time, the expenditure for my ticket to my financial security at the end of the line. My Silk Road journey to riches could be cut off at any moment, lost in the dust of Emma’s lurching departure and my subsequent itinerary of obligations pursuant to settling our affairs.

Tess had stopped by last Thursday and placed a dressing on Emma’s bedsore, the day before the gel mattress arrived. The dressing, on Emma’s coccyx area, is designed to stay on for five or so days. When Daphne, our aide, opened Emma’s diaper Monday evening at 6:30, we saw that the dressing had fallen off. Since the wound is inside Emma’s diaper area, Daphne and I feared infection onset. This would not have happened had Tess arrived as scheduled to change the dressing. Dr. Patel had told me that as Emma’s immune system shuts down, she could succumb to infection. Daphne cleaned the wound and affixed a fresh large square bandage to it, because we didn’t have on hand the padded, healing dressing that Tess had used.

Since it was after regular business hours, I had to call the Hospice answering service for an on-call nurse. I told them specifically that I wanted a nurse to come and replace the dressing. The nurse from the Islands, the one who is on perpetual vacation, came in an hour and a half, arriving at 8:30. She hovered over Emma with her broad back to me.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Changing the bandage,” she said.

“But, what specifically are you doing?”

“Changing the bandage.”

“What is the process? What kind of bandage?” Tess had explained the type of dressing she used, its purpose and effects, how to care for it while it was in place.

“God be with you,” said the Islands nurse.

“What type of dressing is it? What are the steps you are taking?”

“Go with God. God be with you.”

And so it went, and then she left. She was here 10 minutes.

I didn’t want Emma to get an infection. I didn’t know what kind of care she had just received, what type of remedy. All this nurse had done, apparently, was to remove the bandage Daphne had put on an hour and a half earlier and replace it with one just like it. I was beside myself; I was distraught; I was in tears.

Just tell me what you are doing there to help my mother. That’s all I ask. Simple.

Monday night I slept little.

When members of the medical profession control you by not giving you information, they cause you to suffer. And, I don’t believe in suffering; I had to find my way through this situation. It hurts when you have trusted someone and then you discover you cannot. It is traumatic when you care about the welfare of another and you can do nothing but watch and wait.

Tuesday morning I phoned Geri, my Hospice social worker/bereavement counselor. She is the only one I trust. She is straightforward and truthful. She is an excellent mediator. She made some phone calls.

Tess called later Tuesday to tell me she had other patients to visit and wouldn’t be able to come. Her normal visiting times are Monday and Thursday afternoons. Tess said that she was at our house at 1:00 Monday. She said she rang the doorbell, waited, rang it again, then phoned but didn’t leave a message because she knows that I don’t like people to call when they’re at my door because then I have to go answer the phone instead of answering the door. So, if she called, I had no idea. I never heard the doorbell or the ringing of the phone. At 1:00 Monday I was right here, folding laundry.

Tess said she thought maybe I was in the shower. Why would I be taking a shower when I know she is coming? That doesn’t make sense. Tess has been coming here for two years. She knows us; she knows our habits. She has been often too busy to visit us lately. I really like Tess. She is a great nurse, and as I have said, a Mother Teresa.

Maybe Tess is the friend I lost when I saw the shooting star presaging I would lose a friend as happens on those rare occasions I see a falling star. I should have closed the shutters, drawn the curtains.

Ultimately, the team manager, a nurse, came Tuesday afternoon, changed Emma’s dressing and brought some extra. I asked Daphne to come over so she could listen to the team manager and get instructions. The sore is healing. The team manager gave me her cell phone number and told me to call her after hours before phoning the answering service so that she could contact the on-call nurse and apprise her of our specific needs. That is comforting.

Yet, there is a hole in the sky, an empty track of a star that faded long ago.

Samantha Mozart

LV. My Furry Valentine

He had left my flower bed just before dinnertime, returning later, when I was out on the porch after eating my evening meal; I brought him in, he declined the food I put out for him, and settled into my bed for a cozy, comfortable evening. I was certain by then that he was much loved by his people.

Saturday, February 11, 2012 — It’s snowing. When I got up this morning, the dogwood branches outside my window looked like chocolate candy drizzled with sugar icing. The roofs and lawns were coated white. A good day to snuggle in front of the fireplace with that certain someone. Now midmorning little snowflakes continue to fall, small pearls from heaven mixed with tears of joy; the offering has become a wintry mix. (Sounds like a salad, doesn’t it? “I’ll have the wintry mix with raisins, sunflower seeds, rigmarole, romalade dressing, and an il postino to drink.”)

Three days ago, a handsome fellow came schmoozing – a yellow tabby tomcat. He wears smartly striped socks, has dark chocolate marble swirls on his back, butterscotch and chocolate whiskers and butterscotch eyes. I was sitting on the front porch and out of nowhere he came running up the steps to me – “Mmm-hello,” he said. He rubbed against my legs, jumped up onto the bench, rubbed the chocolate M on his forehead against my arm and, finally, climbed into my lap. Tom that he is, he peeped in the window, seeking Emma, I suppose, or more likely, chicken. He wears an attractive collar. Someone loves him. He’s conversational and knows English – when I say house, he looks at the house, and other words I say catch his attention. So, he’s got people. But, I’ve canvassed the neighborhood and no one seems to know where they live.

The night before last, I think he was out all night, because he was on my porch before I went to bed and lying on my next-door neighbor’s porch when I got up the next morning, Friday, the 10th. A mean-looking black cat, back arched, tail raised in a question mark, had him pinned against the wall, ears back. “Stop that. Go away,” I called to the black cat, as I stepped outside to pull my mail from the box by my door. The black cat looked at me and said, “I hear you, but no dice. I’ve got this guy right where I want him.” I went inside and put on my shoes and headed next door. The black cat saw me coming and left. The schmoozer came running to me. “Oh, thank you, thank you,” he said.

I sent Linda, my driver, to the pet store to buy cat supplies while he was curled up in the tulips and daffodils in the flower bed in front of my porch — gearing up for his night on the town, I guessed.  When he finished napping, around dinnertime, he disappeared and then came back. I brought him inside and poured dry food into the little blue cat dish Linda had picked out for him. “No thanks, I’ve eaten,” he seemed to say, “But I’ll have a drink of water.” He explored the house, upstairs and down, up and down the front and back staircases, rolled around on the living room rug where Jetta, our teacup poodle, used to spend her time, and then was ready to go out.

OK, that’s it, I thought. I guess he’s going home, back to his loved ones for the night. I told him that I’d come out and look for him before I went to bed and if he was here I bring him in. I looked later. I didn’t see him.

He pulled a typical cat trick, I decided. All cats come with a bag of tricks, given to them by their mothers when they are kittens. He just wanted to come in the house, inspect and see if I had anything particularly enticing to eat. “Cats work really hard to get you to feed them,” a friend who has two cats told me.

Later the next day, today, the 11th, the schmoozer came around after the snow melted. He napped in my flower bed awhile, then he disappeared, leaving a circular indentation between the sprouting tulips and budding daffodils.

Sunday, February 12 — I ate dinner last night, looked out on the porch after dinner, didn’t see him, then went to bed early. I woke up around 1:30 in the morning. It was snowing. The ground was frozen in white that looked like thin cake icing. The temperature was 24 degrees Fahrenheit; the wind blowing 30 miles an hour. I stepped out onto the porch. He came running up to me. I brought him in.

Oh, no, I thought. I’m going to have a cat sleeping on my pillow and I’m allergic to cats. Besides, it was not exactly the face on the pillow next to me that I had envisioned waking to in the morning. Nonetheless, I fed him – he ate this time and drank some water; I set up his blue litter box for him, and then got back into bed. He joined me. My feet were cold, and that’s where he slept all night – on top of the blankets, at my feet, keeping them warm.

He doesn’t seem interested in Emma; he just lets her be. I suppose he has a sense about her condition; besides, she’s not up, running around feeding him and pouring litter into his box from a 25-ton bag.

As soon as I got out of the shower this morning, he jumped into the tub and lapped up the little puddles of water. Apparently, this is far more interesting to a cat than drinking water out of an actual bowl placed next to his blue cat food dish in the kitchen. He hasn’t wanted to go out today. Who can blame him? It’s too cold.

“Amber Persuasion,” my friend R calls him.

My father’s birthday is February 11. Before he died in 2004, he told my stepmom, who loves dogs, that she’d probably replace him with a dog and name it Howard, my father’s name.

Who knows if he’ll stay, my furry Valentine. If he does, I shall decide what to name him. “Once you give him attention and bring him in, you’ll have a friend for life,” my friend, Jean, a cat person, tells me.

Samantha Mozart