Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: death

Einstein

Einstein in a Republic of Tea box.

I’ve had a tough few weeks with Einstein. It started about two weeks ago this past Thursday, when I took him in for his leukemia booster shot. He had a fever, so they refused to vaccinate him and told me to bring him in again in a week. I brought him home and over the course of the week noticed his belly grow. When I brought him in again, they said he still had a slight fever and thought he had worms. After administering the dewormer I approved, the tech who’d brought it out showed me how to take his temp under his forelegs and advised me to get a thermometer, and to bring him one week later. I took him home and hit the store for a thermometer that day. Over the course of the next week, his temperature fluctuated, dropping then rising again. And when I got home from my volunteer shift on this past Tuesday I saw how big his belly was. Since I had an appt on Thurs, I’d scheduled his next appt for the Weds before, so I took him in.

The prognosis wasn’t good.

He had Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also called Feline Coronavirus Disease. It had caused fluid to build up in his abdomen, and the vet told me it would move to his chest next. In all but one case of kittens with this illness, she’d seen only one survive, and I thought, One out of how many she’s seen? and made the hard decision. Einstein’s quality of life had already suffered. He spent a lot of time curled up in the Republic of Tea box he’d made into his bed, or tucked up by his food and water dishes. I think it hurt him to hold him because he’d stopped cuddling as much as he used to. I didn’t want to watch him deteriorate or force him to suffer an awful suffocation/drowning death, so I let the vet euthanize him.

Einstein was a happy, active kitten until the disease took him. He loved cuddles. Almost every time I made a cup of coffee or tea, he’d hop up on the table in my kitchen area to watch my process with my Brita pitcher—he tried so hard to understand what happened to all the water. Nearly every morning, he’d serenade me awake at eight o’clock or so, and he’d sometimes join me to lie on my hip or abdomen if I unclipped the hose from my CPAP mask and called his name, and we’d lie there together taking comfort in each other, dozing.

There won’t ever be another cat like him, and I miss him.

Bryce

I’ve been in a depressive funk for the past week or so. I rarely have depressive phases like this, where there’s little hint of the manic side of my typical mixed state. Most of them happen naturally, but this one I was thrown into by the hospitalization and subsequent death of one of my best friends.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve slipped progressively deeper into the depression. The week of Bryce’s hospitalization, I was able to keep a mostly positive mood going—until I heard of his death on Thursday the Fifth. To be honest, I had a phone call from another friend of Bryce’s, Anita, the night before, but I’d already gone to bed and had no interest in getting up to answer it because I was certain the call was from her to announce his death, which had been a foregone conclusion since he’d been taken off life support.

I stayed in bed and went to sleep, too tired to dwell on the bad news I was certain I’d hear the next day, but when I got up and got settled at my desk with my cup of tea the next day, I called Anita for the news. It was a shock, and, after we hung up, I immediately wanted to call Bryce to tell him what had happened—then remembered he was the one who’d died.

I have issues with attachment to people, but Bryce was one of those I was most attached to. We talked nearly every day, whether he was down south with his parents or up here. He was bipolar too, the more typical cyclic kind, though I can’t recall if his was Type I or Type II. All I know is that, periodically, anywhere from once to three times a year, he’d go through a severe depressive phase where he wouldn’t answer calls from anybody or make any unless he absolutely had to. So, there were periods of weeks or sometimes even over a month when we wouldn’t communicate, even if he was up here during a depressive swing.

But he didn’t have any such phases over the duration of this winter. He went down south in late October, if I remember correctly, and we commenced our near-daily phone calls to each other. Sometimes he’d have busy days and didn’t answer my calls, but he always made sure to call me the next day.

Bryce was kind of a brother in my eyes. I could discuss with him things I couldn’t discuss with anyone else but my therapist. It felt good to be understood by someone outside the psych care world, someone who knew what it was like to be bipolar. He was a writer too, and we frequently discussed our projects with each other. I trusted Bryce, I think, more than I trusted anyone else. I even felt comfortable discussing my gender dysphoria with Bryce, my asexuality, and my strong attraction to gay men, primarily because Bryce was gay too.

More than that, Bryce was a kind, generous, loving man. He was open-minded and never said a cruel thing about anyone in my hearing. No insults passed his lips, and he was able to quell my incessant digging-for-dirt personality simply by refusing to talk bad about anyone. Bryce made me a better person simply by being himself, and I tried to live up to the example he gave all without meaning to.

He had a lot to give, and a lot to say. Some of my favorite times with him—in person or on the phone—were those when he would tell me of his history. He did a lot for the gay community here back in the ’80’s, and encouraged me to get more involved in it these days. Frequently, he’d said he’d done his service already, but that I should get involved because of the good it would do me.

I don’t know what I’m saddest about regarding his loss: the fact he’ll never complete any of the in-progress fiction he was working on, or that he’s no longer around to share his wit and wisdom with those of us he left behind. He died halfway through his own story, and the hardest thing is knowing that it will forever remain incomplete.

© 2017 Ashe Elton Parker

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