Dear Random Granddaughter,

Grandma and I are looking forward to seeing you and Mama and Mommy this weekend. I hope you will bring the sketch of the chickens, Big Mama, Moll, and Little Peep, you drew. I hope that Big Mama will lay an egg for you as payment for the commission, but chickens are like cats; they don’t necessarily do what you tell them to do.

I have another commission for you, though this is a research project rather than an art work. It has to do with pets. When Grandma and I were married, we thought about getting a cat, but then we had a baby. We named the baby Random Daughter. Yes, the baby grew into your Mama. We thought both a baby and a cat need a lot of love and attention, so we decided to concentrate on just one at a time. When Mama was about two years old and still learning to talk, she had a babysitter named “Mrs. Nagy.” Mrs. Nagy was French and she had several cats. When the cats played with each other, Miranda thought they were fighting. When we brought her home from a day at the baby sitter, she said to us, “Kitty fight!” Those were some of the first words she said after “Momma” and “Daddy,” and “craggie.” (“Craggie” was how she said, “cracker” when she was first learning to talk.)

When Miranda was older, about 11 or 12 years old, I think, we were living in Portland. We still didn’t have a cat of our own, but a Siamese can who lived across the street came to visit us. There was a famous cartoon at the time about a cat looking like a meatloaf, so we called this cat “meatloaf.”
Mama always wanted a cat when she was a little girl, but because I am allergic to cats we never got one. When Mama and Mommy went to New York, they got two cats of their own: Tommy and Lulu. After Tommy and Lulu died, they got Sebastian and Sylvie. Sylvie is still alive, and may be the sweetest cat in the whole world.

When I was a little boy, we had many different cats. One was named “Twinkletoes.” At first she was kind of mean and scratched us a lot, but after she had kittens, she became much nicer. Later, we had a cat named “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” Fuzzy Wuzzy was not very brave. One day my mother saw a mouse in our compost pile. She brought Fuzzy Wuzzy down to the compost pile and said, “Catch the mouse, Fuzzy Wuzzy.” But Fuzzy Wuzzy saw something running and thought it might be dangerous, so he ran away. My mother was very angry. “Scaredy cat!” she said.

When Grandmother Christina was small her family had a dog, named “George,” and a cat, named “Perry.” She thought Perry was her special friend. When she felt sick and stayed home from school, Perry stayed in bed with her and comforted her.

Now we are wondering, what kinds of pets should we have? We have chickens. The chickens are a lot of fun, and they talk to us, and they lay eggs. On the other hand, they are not very cuddly, they don’t sit in our laps, and they don’t purr. Also, they are difficult to house train, but perhaps there is a special kind of litter box for chickens.

Both Grandma and I are somewhat allergic to cats, but we both like cats. There is a kind of cat called a “Siberian” cat which is supposed to be better for people who are allergic to cats. Should we get a Siberian cat?

It is rather dangerous for cats where we live. There are animals such as coyotes and raccoons that might eat a cat if we get it. There are birds such as eagles, owls, and hawks that might be dangerous for cats as well.

Perhaps we should think about getting a dog? We have some friends, Bill and Sherine, who have a big, brave fierce dog called an Akita dog. This kind of dog would probably be too strong and fierce for coyotes or raccoons to hurt it. Perhaps it could protect the chickens against any animal that would want to eat them. However, the dog would have to be convinced not to eat the chickens.

This is very complicated. Perhaps you have some ideas about what would be the best pets for grandparents to have. Perhaps we should just stick with our three chickens? What do you think?

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Weekend Plans

October 7, 2009

This weekend  we will babysit Random Granddaughter so the mommies can go out for a night. The advantage seems to be that we will do it for free and can be trusted with her.

We also are trying to get together with Mary from Peru, though we are having difficulty reconciling schedules.

I looked for Peruvian restaurants, thinking we could take Mary to lunch and she could discuss Peruvian cuisine with us. The good news is that there actually was a Peruvian restaurant near where she lives and works. The bad news is that it has been closed because of the building being remodeled. The good news is that it may open again some day in a new building.

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first. We look forward to seeing RG and having her tell us what she is doing in kindergarten and to seeing Sylvie as well, though she is getting kind of old for a cat.

I am allergic to cats, though my allergies seem to have lessened as I get older. My wife, who was not allergic to cats, has developed allergies as she gets older.

I am considering getting a Siberian forest cat. This breed seems to create fewer allergic reactions in humans than most other types of cats. There is a breeder in Albany, Oregon. I figure we would have to spend a week petting and testing one of their kittens to see if we could safely adopt one.

As I get older and feebler, it seems to me that it would be nice to be able to sit with a cat in my lap and pet it and listen to it purr.

If I suggest this scheme to my wife, she will immediately tell me it is a very bad idea and we will have a big fight over it.

Cats in the Military

August 7, 2009

I own a silly book which I bought for 25 cents somewhere called The First Pet History of the World.

The author talks about dogs helping in wars; no surprises there. I was entranced though by a section about cats assisting the military.

In 1967, the United States Army tried to use house cats to assist soldiers in the Vietnamese War. The goal was to take advantage of feline night vision to help soldiers as they patrolled in the dark. The author claims to be quoting from an actual military report on the experiment. I have no idea if this is really true or not, but I think it’s a hoot to read, so I will quote it here.

Soldiers were harnessed to tom cats and set loose in the jungle after dark.

Quoting from the supposed military report:

The animals led the troops racing through thick brush in pursuit of mice and birds.

Troops had to force the the cats to follow the direction of the patrol; the practice often led to the animals stalking and attacking the dangling pack straps of the soldier marching in front of the animal.

If the weather was inclement or even threatening inclemency, the cats were never anywhere to be found.

Often when the troops were forced to take cover, the cats took the opportunity to sharpen their claws on the boots of the troops, regardless of the seriousness of the situation.

A number of the troops traded their cats to Vietnamese women for their favors. When questioned about this, the troops claimed the animals ran away.

 

David, have you considered enlisting Little Liu?

 

Sylvie

Sylvie

 

Finally, a picture of Sylvie, the world’s most extroverted and affectionate cat. Sylvie never met a lap that she did not want to sit on.
Even though she is half the size of a typical feline, don’t let her small size mislead you. She is also a fierce and frightening guard cat. If a burglar broke into the mommies’ house, Sylvie would immediately walk up to him and start purring fiercely, no doubt sending the intruder fleeing in terror.

 

 

When Mary arrived on time at the mommies house, Sylvie, the world’s most extroverted and friendly cat, came out to greet her. I worried if the guests might be allergic to cats or phobic about cats. Mary petted Sylvie and scratched her under her chin and Sylvie purred. Not to worry, I thought.

Mary speaks English well, but she speaks slowly and thoughtfully. It seems obvious to me that she is translating from English to Spanish and back as she converses.

The first thing that had gone wrong in my careful plans became apparent. I had checked with Mary on her food preferences. She had said that she ate almost everything, but she didn’t like broccoli. I conveyed the information to Mommy and Mama.

Somehow the message became garbled. My daughter, concentrating on preparing a vegetarian-friendly meal for my other guests, S and F from Romania, prepared a quiche with broccoli and onions.

Fortunately, RD made the quiche half onion and half broccoli.

The second thing that went wrong was that after half an hour there was no sign of S and F from Romania. We decided to serve brunch. My daughter asked Mary if she would like a broccoli slice of quiche or an onion slice? Mary, polite as always, asked for onion quiche. Whether she was thinking This must be another strange American custom; whatever you ask not to be served they offer you anyway I could not tell on her impassive Inca face.

Soon we were deep in conversation. Everyone in my family listened in fascination as Mary talked about her childhood in Lima. In past conversations with Mary, she struck me as portraying Peru in a slightly rosy glow, though my policy is never to tell people from other countries about their own countries. In any case, she talked about a time when rebellion and terrorism and conflict wracked Peru.

When she was a small child her two older siblings (a brother and a sister) attended public school. Each morning and each evening Mary’s mother was terrified that they would be shot, or blown up, or kidnapped on the way to and from school.

Mary began to talk about her time in the United States. When she started graduate school, to support herself she worked nights at an assisting living center. Many of the people she assisted suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. My wife has been volunteering at a senior center. The main part of her volunteer activities has been relieving caretakers of caretakers of elderly people including those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Everyone was fascinated as Mary’s discussed her experiences and observations. Random Granddaughter was listening very quietly. What she was making of the conversation I could not tell, but she was listening intently.

The food was very good. Besides the quiche, the mommies prepared some giant muffins of various flavors ranging from hot pepper to mild. My wife had created a lemon braided twist bread which is renowned in our family. RG, as usual at a formal meal, ate a few bites but mostly regarded the food as if it came from a not very interesting alien planet.

 

Four year old children are narcissistic personalities. As parents and grandparents, it’s our job to help them grow out of that stage of their personality so they can grow into normal neurotic adults, rather than monsters. Random Granddaughter’s best friend, Mia, is possibly a young genius and has an authoritarian personality to boot; I hope Mia’s parents can convince her to keep her boots on the ground and not aimed at your grandchildren’s butts; I am hoping Mia will become no more than an awful boss and not a dictator by the time she grows up.

RG would make a brilliant con woman; I hope that Mommy and Mama can convince her to limit her predatory activities to convincing someone to marry her and do her bidding and support her in the lifestyle to which she wants to become accustomed. Before reaching the age of five, she has discovered consumerism as a possible road to happiness. Yesterday, she decided to practice skills on me that she will someday aim at a partner with deadly skill and efficiency.

I spent yesterday babysitting my granddaughter. It was a tumultuous day, though not a cataclysmic one. I think I was able to achieve a draw. Of course, she is four and I am 64, so I think the odds were about even. I will be pretty busy for a day or two; I will tell you about RG and Grandpa at the zoo as soon as I can. For now, I will tell you it was a zoo at the zoo and while RG was testing meto see if I was napping on the job, I did not fall asleep at the wheel.

I think I still have my wallet, but I better check just to be sure.

It was a very busy day. My one day with RG will probably produce at least a week’s worth of RG posts.

Christmas Eve Dramas

January 1, 2008

I won’t say that Random Granddaughter’s dinner drama ruined eve of Christmas Eve dinner, but it did put a bit of a damper on the occasion.

The next morning she woke up ebullient and full of enthusiasm. It is remarkable what a night’s sleep will do to recharge the batteries of a three-year-old child. It’s not quite as potent a refresher for a 63-year-old not very grown up, but it helps some.

For breakfast, Grandma served waffles and sausages. She provided a topping made from fresh cranberries for the waffles. RG found the breakfast more to her liking and ate some of everything provided cheerfully enough.

I think it’s reasonable to describe RG as a drama queen. It’s probably appropriate for a three-year-old (of either sex) to be a drama queen, and food is a good theme for great dramatic scenes for young children (and not-so-young children of all ages) as my readers’ comments illustrate.

After breakfast, we went for a walk. RG went happily running ahead of everybody along the private gravel road until she tripped and fell on her face in the gravel. Fortunately her good looks were not seriously damaged, but she did have an opportunity to howl for a while.

It is my family’s habit not to exchange gifts at Christmas, but we are not obsessive about the policy. Although not wrapped or presented as a gift, the barn with the little animals was sort of a Christmas present for Random Granddaughter.

Before they headed home, RG provided some small presents (wrapped and provided by mommies) to Grandma and Grandpa. One of the mommies mentioned there were Christmas gifts for RG under the Christmas tree at home. It became apparent that RG was expecting to open the Christmas presents on Christmas night. She was not happy when informed she would not get to open them until the next morning (Christmas morning).

“I can’t wait,” RG lamented. A mommy told her that waiting made the gift more exciting, and explanation RG greeted with an expression I would describe as More insane stuff adults tell me with a straight face.

RG has not really learned yet to be acquisitive about material items, so I interpreted her frustration as wanting to have the excitement of opening packages rather than the excitement of adding something to her collection of material items.

[When I stopped by her house a few days after Christmas I learned this interpretation is probably true. RG’s favorite presents this year were some Dr. Seuss books provided by another grandma. She also got some new boots from yet another relative that Mommy thought were very fine but did not provoke much excitement on RG’s part. “They were brown,” said Mommy. “If they had been ‘hot pink,’ it would have been another matter.” That perhaps indicates RG is on the right track for her future as a teenager. In any case, Mommy did agree that opening packages was the main source of excitement for Christmas morning.]

Grandma Random is always worried that RG will be bored when she comes to visit us. It occurs to me that on each visit we should provide a brightly colored package for her to open. The package would be empty, of course, but I could provide her with homilies about the destination being more important than the journey, for example.

For a while, I used a little laser light as a toy to amuse Sylvie, my daughter’s little cat. Sylvie would chase the laser light frantically for a minute or so, and try to capture the little red beam with her paw, and then a little light bulb would go on in her head, and she would say to herself in cat language, There’s no there, there, and she would stop chasing the laser light.

I imagine Sylvie and RG could have a pertinent discussion about Grandpa and his crazy ideas about ways to amuse them.

Tinkle, tinkle

November 21, 2007

 

After Random Granddaughter finally fell asleep on Saturday night, after saying she would rather wander the house all night like Sylvie (the little black with a little white cat), my wife and I got ready for bed. My daughter and her partner were upstairs in their bedroom. My wife was in the downstairs guest bedroom. I was in the downstairs bathroom brushing my teeth.

We heard a little bell jingling. One of Sylvie’s cat toys is a small plastic ball, like a whiffle ball, with a bell inside. Sylvie, perhaps taking a lead from RG’s rebellious comments, had come downstairs to play with her toy and was batting it around on the hardwood floor. Tinkle, tinkle went the little ball.

Ever solicitous of her guests, my daughter came downstairs and spoke to her mother. “Is Sylvie bothering you with her toy? I can take it away from her if she is bothering you,” she said.

“No,” I heard my wife answer. “I like hearing the sound of Sylvie playing with her toy.”

A few minutes later I joined my wife in the guest bed. For a few minutes we heard the little ball with a bell inside rolling and tinkling, and then it stopped. Cats don’t have a long attention span with toy prey, though they will watch for a real mouse or bird for a long time. After a little while, we fell asleep.

I hope to be a humorist when I grow up. As I am now 13 years old in terms of my psychological and emotional development, but 63 years old in terms of my chronological development, this goal presents problems, though they may at times be funny problems.

I figure I have to pay attention to what makes people laugh, especially 3-year-old people.

Perhaps I can break into comedy by working night clubs for 3-year-olds.

Perhaps I can use Sylvie, my daughter’s small black cat with a little white, as a comedy partner.

Last night, Random Granddaughter was upstairs at her little house in the medium-sized city with Mommy getting ready for bed. All of a sudden, I heard RG laughing hysterically, for quite a long time.

I went up to investigate. Mommy had been saying to RG, “Time to put on your pajamas.” Mommy held out the pajamas to RG.

At that moment, Sylvie, as a very busy little cat, thought of an important errand to do downstairs. She dashed for the stairs, running straight into the pajamas, yanking them out of Mommy’s hands so that they covered her. Sylvie did not stop. A ball of pajamas with a little cat inside dashed downstairs, as a hysterically laughing little girl and her Mommy watched from the top of the stairs.

I’m not sure this works in print. However, when the cat-animated pajamas become a spectacularly successful series on Saturday-morning television, remember you read about it here first.

However, for this series to succeed, we will have to get the star to perform on demand every week. I don’t know about this. Pajamas are very moody and temperamental performers.

 

 

2K Sylvie’s Return

June 26, 2007

The visit to the car doctor took longer than planned and cost more money than I expected. However, overall, the news was good.

I got back to the barely extended family’s house a bit later than I planned.

Random Granddaughter was outside in the yard. My wife was outside in the yard. Sylvie was by the white picket fence looking out and looking cute.

“Hello, Grandpa,” said RG.

“Hello, RG,” I replied. “Are you and Sylvie friends again?” I asked.

“Yes!” she said. “Look!” She walked to Sylvie and petted her. She still isn’t entirely skillful at petting, but Sylvie seemed to take it in good humor.

“That’s very good,” I said.

We all decided to go inside the house. I took RG into the house.

“Where’s Sylvie?” my wife asked.

“She was right by the fence looking out,” I said.

“She’s not there now,” said my wife. She walked around the yard. She looked by her truck on the driveway outside the fence. She began walking around the house outside the fence.

“I just saw her run into the bushes around the house across the street,” she exclaimed. She was referring to a very well-landscaped house across the street to the north. I know where RG’s best friend Mia lives across the street to the east, but I didn’t know anything about this house to the north.

I took RG (who carefully looked both ways and held my hand before crossing) across the street with me to look for Sylvie. “Sylvie doesn’t understand she should stay at home,” RG told me. I agreed this was a grievous feline fault.

We looked around the house and the front yard. The house has many well-maintained bushes and trees in front and back. A little black (with a little white) cat could be well-hidden and hard to find in all the foliage. We called for Sylvie, though I don’t know if she answers to her name. (Cats generally don’t answer, period, except when they feel like complaining, making demands, or telling their owners—who are really the cats’ pets—off.)

RG was nervous about being on somebody else’s property. She decided she wanted to go home and be with Grandma instead of with crazy Grandpa who was obviously out of control again. I took her back across the street and returned her to Grandma.

“I’m going to see if anybody is home and tell them there may be a cat hiding on their property,” I said. I was a little embarrassed, but one of the things that happens when you get to be 63 years old is you worry less about making a fool of yourself than you used to. Well, I do. Your mileage may vary.

I knocked on the door. I could hear a television spouting sports, so I figured somebody was home. It took a while, but a woman about my age eventually came to the door.

I introduced myself and explained the situation. She introduced herself as Pauline.

Pauline asked me to describe the cat. She would tell my daughter if she saw it.

As we were talking, I saw a little black (with a little white) cat run across Pauline’s front yard, dash across the street, run through the picket fence, and up to the porch.

I thanked Pauline for her concern, expressed relief at the cat’s return, and returned to the house. My wife was letting Sylvie back into the house.

RG told Sylvie she should stay at home. Sylvie purred but did not look repentant.