Column: Nothing lasts forever

Michael Alcorn
Posted 7/12/22

The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.—Gandalf

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Column: Nothing lasts forever

Posted

The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.—Gandalf

We lost our cat last week.

Kai was a sweet little girl… OK, I’m kind of lying. Kai was very sweet —when she was an only kitty and you gave her exactly as much attention as she wanted exactly when she wanted it; and she really wasn’t such a little girl — I’m sure if we’d consulted with our vet, she would have wanted us to help Kai lose about 10 pounds.

But she was a very cute cat. She was a tortoiseshell, with amber-colored eyes which often blended with her fur color and seemed to disappear. She loved to stretch, but not how cats usually stretch. She would watch us when we were exercising, until we’d get down on the ground at the end of the workout for a stretch or a little yoga cooldown; then, she would be right in our face, insisting on ten minutes of affection. Ending with a bite.

We really have no idea how old she was. We’d had her for 12 years, and she was full-grown when we got her. Which is part of the problem: she could have been as much as 18 years old, and we would have, in some way, been prepared for her deterioration. But for us, the end was quick and surprising.

But this column isn’t really about Kai. I mean, it is, but only in the context of other things. Kai isn’t the first pet we’d lost; in fact, if you count gerbils and hamsters and the rabbit (I kind of don’t, but…), we’ve probably said goodbye to 12 different animals. And each one of them has evoked a different response in death, because each one fit a different place in our hearts in life.

Each one hurt. And we’ve survived every one of them.

That’s why I think kids have to have pets. First, good ones (aka, dogs) give unconditional love, and what child doesn’t need to have that in their lives? I mean, sure, moms are great, but moms also are responsible for discipline and consequences and terrible things like that. Dogs don’t care—you got a bad grade? Fluffy still wants to play with you. Cats, also, don’t care if you got a bad grade. Feed me. And here’s a hairball.

Secondly, taking care of pets is the closest thing a child can get to understanding what it’s like to be a parent. To be responsible for the well-being and happiness of another gives kids a glimpse — a glimpse of what it is to be a parent.

But mostly, I think pets, unwittingly, teach one of the most important lessons any kid can learn: that all of this, the silly, the smelly, the fun, the frustrating… is all transitory. Nothing lasts forever.

I can’t help but wonder if investing too much emotion in the here and now is part of the problem for all these teenage shooters. If the only disappointment you’ve ever felt is when your TikTok doesn’t get enough “likes,” then you might just not have the skills and mental makeup to handle reality well. And then when—in spite of decades of interventions and assemblies—your classmates are mean to you, well...

But, if you’ve loved something, lost it, and noticed after a while that the world goes on, then I wonder if you just let some of the angst of high school slough off of you a little easier. I think, in some ways, it’s harder on adults, because we have not only our own pain to deal with, but the responsibility of helping our children process it.

But process it, they do. And they come out on the other side stronger, maybe sadder, but wiser.

And then you see it… white shores, and beyond, a far, green country under a swift sunrise.

Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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