Monday, March 30, 2009

Memory Lapses - Limits Confronted

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

It is rather frightening to forget. Particularly when it seems to occur with growing frequency. I've twice forgotten a charge in the past two weeks. In the first case I was an hour late, and in the second 20 minutes. Both were waiting for me at school and no harm was done but... It is understandably disturbing and disorienting to not be able to remember a promised rendezvous just a few hours after you've made it, even if it is outside your regular routine. Thankfully children are more forgiving than adults (and these two were 14 and 17 respectively, not little children). But what's next?

Readying ourselves for Euro-Disney, I had put aside two rain coats and umbrellas for the boys. As we arrived at the station, I realized they were still on the chair in the kitchen. So, once in Paris, an unplanned stop by a store to get a warm jacket for Jonas became a necessity. Yet again, a mild but annoying and expensive memory lapse.

I can make a very complete list of what I've remembered. And it seems pretty impressive. But as is often the case, it is the details that are off, the forgotten one, that leaves its mark on our memory and our self-image.

My physical limits are gathering force and making themselves known to me in very humbling ways. I've taken on quite a bit this year, perhaps too much? I've my two children full time since September. Something that was never before the case, having had many au pairs and their father to share in the task during most of their childhood. In addition to my own children (seven and eleven) I have three boarders from their school to house and feed. These three are older than my own (14, 15 and 17). A situation which I prefer as I am coming to the conclusion, as time passes, that I can only handle so many small children. I do not feel up to parenting my boarders. I provide a warm and stable home, with good food, basic house rules, teamwork, etc., But parenting is something over and beyond this. I'm doing my darndest to succeed with my boys. Though I don't find it easy, loving my own flesh makes it extraordinarily worthwhile. However, extending this act to others is a stretch, and is it necessary? or desirable?

The twelve year old younger sister of my seventeen year old is now with another family. I learned, a bit painfully, that I was not up to handling her. We had somewhere, somehow, tacitly agreed to not raise our voices. But, in so doing so, her gift at persuasion and her stubbornness trumped my good sense. It is a relief for all of us in the house that she no longer be with us. Her sister has the time to concentrate on her studies, and is no longer her mother on site. My boys had never really gotten along with her, so they are not sad at her departure. And for myself, I was stumped. In many ways, I just didn't know how to communicate with this young child on the verge of adolescence, discovering fashion and make-up, refusing to read, always wanting to play games or write emails on my computer. Her blasé boredom was disturbing. And, though this makes me sound contrary and perhaps cold, when she gave me little gifts of wild flowers or some such, I wondered why? and is she trying to build brownie points with me for a future favor? I had to admit that being the 'in locus parentus' for a twelve year old girl who really needed proper parenting, not simply lodging and food, is beyond me at this point.

Another major failure this year is animal related. And for this, I imagine that my cats of yesteryear, i.e. my life in Seattle, are turning over in their graves. To catch and/or limit the mouse population in my home last year, I adopted a kitten. My au pair at the time, who adores animals, helped me house-break her, and was a great source of affection and care for this little cat. She very quickly became pregnant, and last June we had an adorable littler of kittens in the house. I was happy to have my kids experience this birth and all it entailed. True to pattern, our cat gave birth in Leo's sweater drawer (which brought back memories of my mother's cat giving birth in my father's sweater drawer). The morning the boys were awakened to those tiny mews under the bed was a magical moment.

I taught them to resist holding these tiny babies, at least till they could open their eyes, and to shower affection and gentleness on the mother cat. It was a very lovely month of caring for the babies in the kids' room, sharing this miracle with friends and more. Then, when I moved in with JP in July (renting my Avignon house for the theater festival), I brought mother and babies with me. They were settled into the garage, and I made sure all were fed and cared for, and cleaned up after them. I gave away all but one of the kittens (there were five) in the next few weeks, and planned to bring back one with me to Avignon, thereby having two cats (again, reminiscent of my childhood home warmed by a black poodle and two cats). I had both mother and daughter spayed, and looked forward to our return home.

At this point, however, things as the French say, "ont coincé." Rather than use the litter box, one of the cats (I believe the new one) starting crapping all over the house. I found many a gift under the stairwell, then by the toilet, then in the shower, then on a rug, then on a chair, then on the couch, and... thrice on my bed. At this point, I declared forfeit and put them outside. I could not manage my mentally deranged cats. I was not up to loving them back to good behavior. I've also developed allergies and so having them on my lap and petting them wasn't something I felt up to. No doubt a contributing factor to the situation. Friends seemed to manage with outdoor cats that they regularly fed, and so I tried this. I put out food daily, and made sure they did not come into the house. They mewed terribly, climbed the neighbor's scaffolding and leapt onto our bedroom window sills, begging to come into the warm house. But, I resisted and made sure the boys did too.

Then, we all departed for winter break. Knowing I've neighbors who feed their cats outside, I didn't worry that they would go hungry, and assumed we'd see them again in a week. But when I returned, the cats were no longer at my door. I've since seen the smaller one, but she's become very wild, and won't let me approach her. Her mother, I've not seen since. When I put food out, it is as readily consumed by another neighbor's dog as by the cats, and so, I've stopped.

I feel awful. I've had cats before, adored them, raised them, enjoyed them, and never had such issues with crapping all over the house. I think of Electra and Ziggy, my Seattle cats. I think of Puff and Toby, the cats of my childhood. But here and now, with two boys and a dog, plus my household charges, apparently, and most definitely, I'm not up to caring for two cats. Confronting my limits is anything but flattering.

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