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Struggling a bit the last few days here, folks. The world’s best cat (the vet has made it official – they wanted to keep him and said he’s among their top 3 patients ever), Satch, has been sick and may have cancer. We’ve had several trips to the vet and spent gobs of money. And it’s awful when they’re giving him shots and squeezing his tummy and poking and prodding him and he gives me that look that says, “What have I done? I thought you loved me!” And there’s nothing I can do to explain to him what’s going on and how much I want to make whatever time he has left good.

My mom called a couple days ago, and, as always, my heart leapt onto a plane and deboarded in my throat. We text and email pretty much daily, but she rarely calls. So when she does, I have a moment of panic and assume something awful has happened to my dad. Rarely is this actually true. (Mom, I know you’re going to read this and feel guilty for some reason, but please rest assured that no guilt is warranted). When she called this time, she was visiting him and thought I’d like to chat with him, which generally goes like this:

Me: Hi, Poppa Bear!

Him: …

Me: Daddy! Are you having a good day?

Him: Yup.

Me: Excellent.

Him: …

Mom: It’s Emily on the phone. Can you say hi?

Him: …

And then Mom and I chat and he sits there either staring at her phone or off into space. Sometimes I break randomly into song and can get him to join in for a few words. Then we wrap it up and go on our merry ways.

This time, Mom said that Dad had had another choking incident sometime in the last week. The facility had not called her to tell her, which they are supposed to do, so we’re not sure what day exactly. But they had to do the Heimlich on him again. After the last time, they had a speech pathologist assess him and they were supposed to be cutting everything into small pieces at mealtime and only giving him a little at a time, so he couldn’t shove everything on the plate into his mouth like he’s that competitive hotdog eating kid. I’ve sat in on several meals since then and some of the staff remember, some don’t. So, no real surprise that it happened again. He didn’t seem at all phased by it by the time I talked to him, so no real harm done, I guess.

What’s hard for me, though, is the thought of him being scared or hurting in that moment. That thought kills me. If Dad is so confused normally, it’s hard to know what goes on in his head when he suddenly can’t breathe. Is he scared? Is it painful? Does he understand when the nurse wraps her arms around him and shoves her fists into his stomach that she’s saving his life? The fact that I can’t protect him from these experiences is awful. The fact that I can’t protect him from the dementia in general is worse. It’s hard to live with.

I’m surrounded by people and creatures that I love so fiercely but can’t save from their own bodies.

Mom called again today and said that, like normal, when she visited him today, he wasn’t really present much, but she was holding his hand and chatting to him, and when she said it was time for her to leave, he held her hand tighter, like he didn’t want her to go. Normally, he doesn’t seem to care much either way these days, so that was unusual. He kept holding on and kissing her hand, which led us to speculate that something from the choking experience earlier in the week had affected him, which, truthfully, is not likely. It’s more likely that she just got lucky and was there during a brief moment where the window opened and he could see her. Those moments are getting scarce.

So, like I said, I’m struggling a bit at the moment. Hoping that my cat and my dad know just how loved they are. And hoping that someday I can put all the broken little pieces of my heart in a locket to wear around my neck.