All by myself.
Next week, my wife and son will be going on our summer vacation to upstate New York without me. It’s the first time in many years I’ll be missing out on the annual trip. It’s not because our marriage is in jeopardy, nor is it because of a scheduling conflict. I won’t be joining them because I got spooked.
When our cat Rascal was first diagnosed with a serious heart condition back in May, I made the choice to stay behind so I could administer her many medications. Earlier this month, Rascal’s heart failed and she passed away. Now, without any medical obligations to four-legged family members, I was free to go on the summer trip. Except I wasn’t. Rascal’s sudden passing spooked me. Within a month of her diagnosis she had a second episode of congestive heart failure, and within weeks of that she was suddenly gone. It all happened so fast. Rascal had been a steady companion in my life since 2006. She was only eleven years old when she died. I knew she was getting older, but I thought I still had at least three or four years before I needed to start preparing myself for her health to decline with age. Instead, I lost one of my best friends in the span of two months. I was, and still am, seriously spooked.
We still have two other cats, Scamp and Mugsy. They’re younger and in good health. We’ve left them alone for the length of this annual vacation before, with friends generously going out of their way to come by and check on them. We were given those same options from friends and family this year, but the truth is that Rascal’s sudden departure has affected me in ways I’m still processing. Even through our brief weekend away for my brother’s wedding, there was an anxious voice in the back of my mind whispering, “What if something’s happened to the boys while you’ve been gone?” I know myself well enough to know that I’d be an anxious mess through the length of this year’s summer vacation, and that’s no way to spend a holiday. So in the interest of my mental health and anxiety management, I’ll be staying home with the cats this year.
I think it’s going to be awesome. I’m going to have the entire house to myself. No distractions from work. I’m going to have the opportunity to do major house cleaning and yard maintenance without having to worry about keeping my toddler safe from cleaning supplies and gardening equipment. It’s going to be just like things used to be, before the responsibilities of fatherhood changed my daily schedule. I’m imagining a productive week of writing, house cleaning, and yard work with a generous dose of relaxing however the hell I want.
But I know how it’s really going to be. I’m going to be in love with my week-long solitude for all of four hours on the first day before I’m standing in the living room thinking to myself, “Well this sucks.” The alternative, however, is a week of anxiety away from home.
Scamp and Mugsy better appreciate what I’m doing for them next week.