I turn 60 in 11 days. On my 50th birthday I sat in a restaurant in Las Vegas with a friend and his son. Friend didn’t understand why I wanted to go out for that particular birthday and then it hit him. I lived alone at the time, having moved to Las Vegas after a few tumultuous years of losing two sons and the life I knew. I had gone from being the gregarious hostess of all parties and lover of fun to living on the opposite coast of where I lived the bulk of my life. I had few local friends. I didn’t care about that. I cared about living far from where the pain was. I didn’t want to live where there were constant reminders of the lives lost. My Dad, my Sister, my sons Chris and Dan.
I wanted a fresh start with no daily reminders and driving by places we lived and loved. So when I was 49 I moved to California, then Las Vegas. But I did miss something from the East. My daughter, grandson and my cats. The cats had not come with me because at first there wasn’t really a way to get them there and I was living in a hotel. I moved rather quickly when Chris died. I got on a plane after his funeral and never went back. My daughter Liz took care of the cats.
I had moved to California for a job. My dream job. I loved it. Then the direction of the company changed, Chris died and I said enough. And I left California the week after the moving truck from New York had finally showed up with some of my stuff. I repacked and moved to Las Vegas. A beautiful home overlooking the valley where I could see both the mountains and the lights of the strip. When you live in Las Vegas area you don’t go to the strip often, but you love looking at it. It makes you feel connected to people. You know there is a whole world of people – mostly visitors passing through – but people nonetheless. You can go and be among people without having to actually interact or be around them long term. It was a nice, anonymous way to live. For awhile.
Liz and Alec came to visit. They fell in love with the area. It was time for them to move as well. They came a few months later, with my cats. The cats finally were living with me again.
In the meantime I met a man and fell in love. He lived in NYC but loved Las Vegas and visited frequently. We were friends from an online community, we met in person at a conference, had a long distance relationship and it was totally awesome. Then the landlord visited one day with the news that he had to sell a couple of his houses and the one I lived in was the nicest with the best view so it was going to be sold first.
My time on the west coast and in the Nevada desert was about to come to an end. I moved to NYC to live with Vinny, driving cross country in August 2008 with a dozen or so cats. It made sense since he owned a house for me to move there and I wouldn’t have to worry about not having a place for my babies and have to leave a house because it was being sold. I knew someday we would move back west because he liked it out there too. But he had a home so that is where we went.
Many of my cats by now were seniors and I hadn’t gotten any “new” ones in many years. I have always had cats. Once I was divorced we always seemed to have 7 or 8. Then my son and I bred Maine Coons for a few years and we had many more. Life interrupted again in 2001 with 9/11 and I had to go live in a dorm with one of my sons for a year. Liz took care of most of our cats. We placed a number of them with other breeders and friends. Then Dan died and Chris and I moved into an apartment in Astoria Queens and we got our cats back. But then the landlords there decided they needed to rent the apartment to a family member. We moved back to Rochester to live temporarily with Chris’ dad. Chris and I got a trailer in a lovely trailer park and we had a home for ourselves and our cats where we didn’t have to worry about moving again. So I thought. That is when the job offer in California came up. I could work remotely. But I really was liking the warmth of the west coast. I started a long distance commute and decided to move there. Two weeks later Chris died. And when I got on the plane to go back to the west coast I knew I would not be back.
Moving in with Vinny I thought my days of having to rent a place and worry about having my cats with me were over. This was 2008. Over the next couple of years my seniors passed away to go over the Rainbow Bridge and be with Chris. In 2009 Chris’ birthday was coming up and was particularly hard for me. I had looked outside and seen a kitten under a chair in a rainstorm, but where we lived there were a lot of feral cats so that didn’t seem unusual. But this kitten looked at me in a way that I couldn’t forget. A few days later Vinny’s mom said she saw a tiny kitten that looked like it was in trouble around her house. So we put some food in a carrier and when the kitten ran in to eat we locked it in. Poor baby was terrified. She was undernourished and scared and sick. We took her in our house and made a special place for her in the office of our house where she could hide and be safe. Kitten formula, meds, heat and love brought her back to life. She only trusts Vinny and I, she is blind in one eye. As an adult she weighs all of 5 pounds. Her name is Snowflake because she is mostly white with a black back and a white snowflake on her back. We tried many names for her and that was the only name that she responded to. The neighbors called her the invisible cat because as soon as the front door would open she would disappear like a ghost. When we traveled to conferences whoever was house-sitting never got to see her.
In September 2010 it was nearing Dan’s birthday and a neighbor walked up to the house with her husband. She was holding 2 black kittens and he was holding 3 others. They were days old and had been abandoned in the neighbor’s yard. They brought them to us because they knew I could help since I raised cats in the past. We didn’t intend to keep any of them, the neighbor planned to take one or two and others would take them as well. Something to note is that in that neighborhood most people had indoor/outdoor cats. I have never had outdoor cats in my adult life. Watching cats get hit by cars and busses made me realize that my babies needed to be safe indoors with me. Not roaming the streets.
The kittens – known collectively as the babies – did well once they were cleaned up and medicated. Their eyes had all been infected and they were covered in fleas. Daily baths and hand feeding had all but one doing well. The littlest girl was struggling. After she would eat I would hand her to Vinny and she would sit on his shoulder with a towel or blanket to keep her warm. We almost lost her more than once but she was a fighter and she made it. To this day she demands “ups” and runs up Vinny’s arm to his shoulder. We call “Babies, babies” and they all come running.
There is one issue with them. They don’t know they are cats. They don’t fall like cats, you can’t even put them down on the floor without them landing wrong. They imprinted on us. They could not go to the neighbors that would have them be indoor/outdoor cats because they did not know how to act outside. They have no cat instincts. The neighbor that brought them to us took one to her house for a visit and when it came back a couple hours later it was so happy to be home and was terrified over being there.
But it is ok since we have our own house and no one cares if I have 5 more babies. Right?
Until October 2012. Hurricane Sandy. We expected a couple of feet of water in the house. We put everything up on desks and tables. We put the cats in carriers and were going to leave them in our office on a desk. We were going to be upstairs at a neighbors house. Our house was one story. I had taken some important things up to the neighbors, computer hard drives, cameras, a little food and some jackets. The water started coming. We made the decision the cats needed to not stay in our office. We quickly moved them across to the neighbor’s house. As I handed the last carrier to Vinny to take upstairs I turned to close the door and the wind rushed in and fought me and the water started flooding hard. I barely got the door closed. It was a surreal “movie moment” where you see the actors battling the elements. Only it was real. And we watched from the neighbor’s windows as our house went under water.
I’m writing this all today because it is the anniversary of me arriving in Arizona after a cross country drive to a rental home. Four years ago we lost everything. We lost everything in our home. We lost the home itself. Me and my cats, we had done this before. Except for Snowflake and the Kittens. But they trusted me completely and knew that all would be ok. Even sitting in a car in carriers for 5 days they knew it would be ok.
Since November 19, 2012 we have had to move 4 times. Not because of the cats. Because each time the landlords decided to sell the house we were in. I have begun to wonder what I did to the Universe to not be able to stay in a house for more than a couple of years. I lived in NYC for 4 years and 3 months. That was the longest I lived anywhere since 2001 and 9/11.
And now I thought I found a beautiful home to rent in an area I love with a landlord that loves animals. Alas that is not to be. I moved in, I bought new furniture while Vinny was in NYC dealing with more house stuff back there. If I wanted to we can’t move back to NYC yet. Probably not for at least another 8 to 12 months. I went to pay the landlord additional pet deposits and she decided that I have too many cats and cannot stay. Or I can stay here and give my babies away.
I am almost 60 and I do not have a home, and if I want a home I cannot have the animals that have kept me sane and that love me unconditionally. I will not break their trust. I won’t get any more animals but those that I have need to stay.
This is not a choice I should have to make at this age. At this point in my life. I am good to people. I don’t abandon people or animals. I love deeply and appreciate the life I have.
So on November 19, 2016 I again need to look for a place to live because I will not compromise and allow someone to dictate if I am allowed to love my babies and keep them with me. I will compromise for a couple of months and have “the babies” live with someone while I hunt for a new place to be. And that is all I want. A place to just be. And a landlord that won’t sell the house out from under me while I get things together to buy my own or until we have a house to move back to in NYC.
For those of you that have followed my journey from the days after losing Dan until now, you know how much the west has healed me, how much moving to Arizona has been good for me. And you know my love for animals and nature.
I have to trust that this is where I need to be and that at some point the Universe will let me be and stop tossing me from place to place. I’m going to be 60. I want to “be”.
In 45 years I lived in 4 homes. In the last 14 I have lived in more than I care to count. I don’t mind being a nomad, I do mind being told how to live when my life doesn’t harm anyone.