Cats in Canoes

Harry Drabik

I might be fortunate having made peace with dead parents. I say because like me you may know people who late in life continue to carry on battling with the deceased. An elderly female friend rarely got through a day without reviewing her grievance. The oldest son got the family farm and also (in her mind at least) she was denied prompt medical care. How am I able to question the substance of her complaints? Doubt I can get far with that. But seems to me when most of the parties in the complaint are six feet under it might be a good time to ease up. I suppose all of them actually did as good as they could at the time. But even if all the others were selfishly unfair I doubt carrying complaint into the cemetery is a positive step.  

Parents and siblings have, of course, a powerful and important place in our lives. Think about how often association with OR avoidance of the above is a factor. Family matters. Diseased or unhappy past relationships need to be remembered and learned from. But I wonder if emotional or spiritual life is healed by regular review of hurt. If I have a cancer do I want to keep reminding myself how bad it is or get on with making the best-most while I can? Lot easier said than done, of course. And there are often fine rewards in attention from sympathetic others and the balm of self-pity. Don’t you know others who don’t feel good unless they recall feeling bad?  

Ironic isn’t it? But that’s how humans are. We can become stuck in loops. At 65 some still go around about life at 15 when parents wouldn’t cooperate with their habits and actively prevented the girlfriend or boyfriend from pseudo marriage. Hey, if you’re convinced mean parents ruined your one and only shot at life happiness who am I to ask “What?” I wasn’t there and don’t know the facts, but I can kind-of sort-of guess a buzzed mind might contribute to a questionable notion and to hanging onto it for dear life well after passage of the puberty that prompted it.  

For me it’s a question of asking myself how things work on a personal level. Am I happier and more constructive focusing on what was wrong and bad around me or do I find a way to get unstuck from things I never had power over and cannot control today? If and when I look back I want it to be for a good reason that hopefully makes life stronger and more useful.  

So, here goes on dear old mom and dad. Of course there were times that despite being a perfect child I rebelled. (A laugh pause is indicated here.) After the time of all-knowing and perfection I formed a truce with domd (dear old mom and dad) and began to think of them as “fun seekers” or sometimes “fang” and “fun seeker” with roles interchangeable. Following the teen years when domd were routinely annoying I found them profoundly puzzling. What made them tick; a grown child’s version of parents puzzling at what’s wrong with the boy? Well they did do strange things. I’d grown used to their arguing as a child, but in young adulthood I came to see this as championship level stuff. I’d hear the ruckus outside but find chilly silence soon as I opened the door. Was this normal in families? Not knowing I none the less supposed mutual silence was better than getting side A tell how awful B was followed by B’s version later. Being in a car with them was an immersion in cigarette smoke and singing. They were a perfect smoker team and vocally harmonized quite well for amateurs. A childhood family trip to Chicago was a half day of cig-fog and tunes only those striving toward senility would aspire to. (Familiarity with The Tennessee Waltz did come handy when I taught cross country ski skills to elders needing a rhythm.)  

I wasn’t there but suppose domd had a peaceful decade before I broke in. As a teen I fretted at having such old parents. I believed it great for them in middle age having a teen boy to shatter the silence. At some point treaties of mutual avoidance were arrived at. With the exception of laundry and food (part of their surrender terms) I was an independent nation. I’d just begun work around their 30th Anniversary coinciding with their decision to build a house on Twin Lakes. The lake move came after (figure that out) selling the boat and motor for decades kept unused in the garage while the car sat out. In a gesture (aka attempted apology) I bought an off brand and very robust USFS canoe at auction. Boat and trailer weren’t in my first-year budget. A canoe was. It cost $20.00. I have to tell you domd were neither impressed nor surprised. Mom who lamented for years about never going fishing anymore said flatly she’d never get in “that thing.”  

Not how it turned out. Incomprehensible as ever, domd thought the cats needed a canoe ride. I suppose cats think. The minds of ours were clear on sun basking and napping so close to the wood stove you’d suspect cat roast for dinner. I’m guessing but confident canoeing is not a topic ever found anywhere in the cat cranium. (Disprove that!) Surprisingly considering what they planned, domd realized the cat mind might not be ready for novelty. The cats were loaded in carriers before the voyage. Out on open water the cats could be let out to enjoy a view they apparently found terrifying. One cat hid wailing under a seat. The other decided on “get the hell out,” jumped in, and swam shoreward. Afraid it would drown, domd turned Navy Seal Rescue Team. Reaching shore first the cat ran for home. In Second, Place domd touched shore and overturned. The cat canoeing adventure was over except for months of suspicious glares from two unappreciative cats.