It’s the usual thing: I’m used to it by now. I’ve lost half a dozen cherished pets. My father died in 1993; my mother in 2010. So I know grief, having done it wearyingly often. But now it’s different. You know when that kitten first destroys the toilet paper that the day will come when you will take him to the vet. Not for his first shots, but for his last. You will be crying, and trying not to show your husband that you are. He, as well, is sniffling heavily. The veterinarian will inject the drug, and your cat will breathe one last breath. And then, he will be no more.
You’ve had time to get ready, of course. And that morning, when your cat could barely stand on his feet, when he was groggy, when he had stopped urinating…well, you knew it was time. Always before, getting the cat into the carrier was a struggle. Your husband grabbed the cat. You snuck into the back bedroom and opened the carrier. Then, as quickly as possible, your husband zoomed into the bedroom, and shoved the howling cat in. You zipped up the case as you husband retreated to the bathroom: the cat had scratched him badly. Oh, and he cannot stand the sight of blood.
He wants to take the bus, since it’s 75 cents, after all. But there will be the usual kids screaming on their way to school, or a drunk singing as out of tune as he is loud. So you tell him that you’ll pick up the cab fare—you, out of a job, but hey, this is your cat….
On the way there, the cat start to meow, and then your husband puts his face to the mesh and peers into the carrier. He calls the cat his special name, and you choke back the tears, knowing that you will only hear that name only a few more times. It will be the only thing said on that ride, since what else is there to say?
You’ve called ahead, and they know you at the vet. So there’s almost no waiting, since they want this over almost as much as you. So there you are, in the examination room, and you’ve taken the cat out of the carrier, now, since you only have him for a few minutes more, and he’s scared. And now the cat has buried his head in your husband’s armpit, and your husband is stroking the cat and reassuring him, and you are thinking that all of your life, all you’ve ever done is lose people and pets. It’s not true, of course, but it feels true, since grief is its own country. And when you’re travelling through that landscape, there is no other land imaginable.
The vet will come in, look quickly at you and your husband, and then turn to the cat. Should we try one last treatment? Perhaps if the cat stays overnight, gets intravenous fluids….
Overnight means that he’ll be alone, in a cage, and there are dogs, so how loud will it be? If the cat is frightened now, how will he be at three in the morning? This cat who has slept next to your husband almost all of his life?
Of course, the cat is 15-years old. So you might have another week, for which you’ll have paid 500 bucks or so. But you know: the kidneys are shot, the liver is shot, and it’s only a matter of time. Your husband looks at you, since he cannot—absolutely cannot—pronounce the death sentence to this cat. He is, after all, the cat we rescued as a kitten from the top of a tire of a parked car.
“I think it’s time,” you say. And you look at the vet and will him—he is going to back you up.
“I would support that decision,” he says. 15-years old? No kidneys? No liver? Of course, he’s going to support that decision.
Your husband nods, and the vet goes to get the drugs. First the tranquilizer. The cat relaxes, and then it time for the drug to stop the heart. And it’s just as it was when your mother died: death is both so real and so absent. You want to get away: you want to pay the obscene bill, and get the hell out of there.
You know the routine: your only challenge is to get through the rest of the day. Work, housework, essential calls—all those can wait.
If you can make it through the first day—and of course you can—then you set your sights on a week. After that, a month, then three months, then half a year. If it’s a pet, you’ll mostly be over it. If it’s a parent, a spouse, a brother or sister, you’ll still be mourning. You’ll cry in the morning, then get up and go to work, where you’ll tell everybody you’re just fine.
So I know the routine. I know every ravine and crag of that land called Grief. What didn’t I know?
That this time, it would be for my country.
Which is why I’ve decided to tell the people who voted for Trump to go to hell. Yes, I got through eight years of Ronald Reagan. I got through eight years of George W. Bush. And I was able—even for those atrocious presidents—to agree. You win some, you lose some: chin up, get over it.
This was not an election: this was about whether the core values and systems of my country would remain intact. Or whether a man of unknown but very probable demagoguery would sweep it all away. And no—it isn’t looking good. Ponder, for a moment, the interesting fact that St. Paul, Minnesota, is providing emotional support for schoolchildren in the public schools. This from my cousin Angela, who reports that her kids are worried about a classmate from Somalia. And then, of course, the report of a gay man badly bashed by a beer bottle. Or what about the 88 reports of people being bullied?
Can’t we state the obvious? For most of a year now, we have seen a bully: a man who admits to groping women, a man who mocks a veteran’s family, a man who…
…do I have to go on?
In short, we have elected a bully, and now, who can be surprised at what we are seeing? I stopped posting months ago on Facebook about Trump or Clinton: the dialogue was way too toxic. Are there good people who voted for Trump? Absolutely: I know two or three of them, and there are probably many more of my friends who voted for Trump, but have not said so.
But now, isn’t it time to move forward, shake hands, agree on what we can agree on, and move on?
That’s what we’re being told.
And that’s what I could do every other election.
This time, though, I can’t. I’m going to have to mourn, and mourn privately, as I have so often. I’ll go on, and I’ll fight those fights that come my way. I will be a gracious loser. May I also say that it important to be…
…a gracious winner?