Monday, May 30, 2011

Adieu Mon Felix

Putting a beloved pet to sleep is one of the hardest things a person can do. Two Mondays ago, I had to put my Felix down after a great 17 years together. It was a difficult decision to make and as much as I hated to do it, it had to been sooner rather than later. When I came back from my trip to California, I noticed Felix hobbling around and not to be his usual happy self. After a $400 ultrasound and blood test, I found out he had what was mostl likely cancer in and around his stomach. He was also bloated with fluid. Putitng him down was inevitable but first I wanted a second opinion.
After teaching, I raced home to put Felix, by now basket bound and not really eating or able to move much, into the car and get out to Dr. Wen on Long Island to see what he could do for my cat. Dr. Wen worked miracles with his Chinese herbs on Mama Suly and I thought maybe, just maybe, he could do something for Felix. The fates seemed against me that afternoon as I raced through the rain on the Belt Parkway, trying to get past the rush hour traffic. By the time I got on the Sunrise Highway, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to Dr. Wen’s by the time he closed. So halfway out to one vet, I turned around and made an appointment at my local vet for a second opinion but in reality to put him down. I think he knew too and sort of told me it was OK with his sad, painful meows.
During the botched trip to Long Island, Felix peed on his blanket so I had to stop home and get him a new one. I grabbed one of my patous from Afghanistan as he lay in the car, on the floor on the driver’s side. The rain was heavy and I was running late for my 5:20 pm appointment with Dr. Stronger at Animal Kind Vet up on 7th Ave. The garbage truck was lumbering up the street, slowing all traffic behind it. I sat in the car with Felix and talked to him, petted him and told him what a great cat he was, as inside I struggled with the decision I had to make. He gave me a long wail of a meow and I knew that there was no turning back. The trash truck was at the end of the street and I was free to go.
I wrapped him in the white patou that a student from Herat gave me last itme I was in Afghanistan. We walked into the vet’s office and the desk people knew from my sad face and quiet demeanor that I needed a room quick. A lady came over to ooh and aah over Felix, I turned toward the wall to shield him from her.
Dr. Stronger came in and was so great at helping me with this decision. She tolld me if I didn’t do it know, I would wind up doing it in a few days for she could see that Felix was in a lot of pain. There was no rush to make the decision, she took all the time I needed but in her kind way, she told me that since I was there I must have come knowing I needed to put him to sleep. Yes it was true, as the tears rolled down my cheeks, my hands softly petting Felix. I said OK and we made arrangements for his individual cremation. She went to start the paper work and they put up a screen over the window for privacy. In those moments when I was alone with Felix, I cried so hard and told him how much I loved him and how sorry I was for doing what I was about to do. He lay there as I cried into his side, his fur wet from my tears.
The assistant came in to have me sign some papers and take my credit card for payment. A few minutes later, Dr. Stronger and an assistant came in to put the catheter in to Felix’s front paw. They shaved his front right paw and searched for a vein. He came to life a bit, meowing at the discomfort and annoyance of being shaved. The assistant and I held him down and I calmed him down. Once they got it in, she prepared the tranquilizer that would make him doze off and the injection that would actually make his little heart stop beating.
Once the catheter was in Felix stood up on the table and made his way over to my lap. He settled in my lap and I calmly stroked him over and over as Dr. Stronger got the tranquilizer ready. There was no turning back, but part of me wanted to stop the whole thing and take him home for just another day. There was no sense in doing that, I’d just be back there one or two days later. I thought of poor Lulu at home, probably wondering where her daddy was, somehow knowing she would never see him again. As Dr. Stronger injected the tranquilizer, I felt Felix go limp and heavy in my lap. I covered my eyes, not able to watch my little friend go away from me, and sobbed. 17 years together drifted away in a matter of moments as the lethal injection did its job. The tears dropped down on Felix’s back as he slipped away from me. I stroked his back and held him in my lap, not wanting to let him go. Dr. Stronger checked his heartbeat to verify he was gone. I sat in the big metal chair, stroking him over and over, outlining the “M” on his forehead, giving one last tug on his ears and a rub on the nose. We sat there for 5 minutes, enveloped in grief and sadness in the quietude of Room 1. The tears continued to flow as Felix’s limp body lay in my lap. It was over but I wanted to stay just a little bit longer. After about 10 minutes, I gently lifted Felix onto the examining table and laid him out. I tucked his back paws under his body and curled his tail around his side. His head rested in his front paws and I closed his eyes with a gentle pet on the face. He would come back to me in a few weeks in a small tin as cremated remains to join Suly on a shelf in my office. Presently I had to go home and console a little black cat named Lulu who will never see her daddy again.
As I walked back to the car on this grey Monday evening, the rain had stopped and the cool air felt good on my tear stained face. Two gone, one more left. Death is inevitable and we must embrace it when it does come. As much as I was devastated to put down Felix, it needed to be done. He had a great life, was loved every day of that life and did not suffer long in the end. I will miss him surely as much as I miss Mama Suly, but we must enjoy the time we have together. Now I must enjoy the time I have left with 16 year old Lulu whether it be long or short. Those were my thoughts as I drove home in quiet contemplation.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thoughts on Osama (taken from my upcoming book)

May 1, 2011, late in the evening a yellow header flashes on the Yahoo News page. Osama Bin Laden is dead. I look at the words in disbelief. Such news so late on a Sunday evening? I click on the link to get more details. It is one of those moments in life you will remember, a monumental event that makes you stop everything. On Face Book the word spreads fast, my phone is beeping with all sorts of messages about Osama. One student in Toronto, students at colleges in Massachusetts and Kentucky, one in Kabul. We all can’t believe the news and share what we know as we await the President’s speech on the White House website. I post the news on Face Book and quickly former students from all over the world comment on it and soon it turns into a lively debate of comments about what this means for Afghanistan. Despite the happy news, some of my Afghans remain skeptical that anything will change in their country. Instead of an end to all the terrorism, someone new will step in to take over the reins and just to show the world that Al-Qaeda is not dead like bin Laden, that there will be new attacks. We shall see. For now the world rejoices at this news. I recall news images of people in the Middle East cheering and clapping after the attacks of 9/11. That made me the angriest, that somewhere in the world people were celebrating as my city was recovering from the worst thing it has ever seen. Now it was our time to celebrate, to cheer at the death of one man who was responsible for so much evil. On the other side of the world in enclaves in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere, men devoted to Osama bin Laden are grieving their loss and try to piece their lives together and carry on. Will they put down their weapons, go home and get an education or will they pull deeper into the evil and terror that has become a normal a of life? The world waits, my Afghans wait, and in the meantime, we celebrate.

Afghanistan needs good news, and this surely is a source of happiness in a pessimistic world. There is a long road to go before Afghanistan sees the lightness of an educated, peaceful country, but this is a step in the right direction. Some may not see this as the right direction but it truly is. Afghanistan can no longer remain backwards, illiterate and ignorant. It is time that it stepped in to the 21st century. Modern times have ripped the lid off this country hermetically sealed in darkness and ignorance for so long. Like that French tightrope walker who traversed between the Twin Towers, Afghanistan walks a precarious rope. It can have a treacherous fall back into extremism and being terrorized by Al-Qaeda and other factions or it can keep going forward toward enlightenment, rational thought and progress. A generation has been lost to the horrors of war and the Taliban. It is not their fault, their education and dreams were snatched away from them. Someone younger will step in to change things, rebuild and make a difference in Afghanistan.
My Afghans will make that difference. They will be the generation that will make their country a strong, peaceful country. Even though some may be in Canada, America, Turkey, Pakistan, and other countries around the world, like the waters that flow down from the snow capped peaks throughout Afghanistan, they will come home. Water cannot be controlled and it flows where it wants to, but my Afghans know that wherever they go in the world, their path will lead them home. Now is not the time for many but it will be soon. Very soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Are My Sunshine-Part 2

Children singing is the most beautiful sound in the world. As long as I can hear it, I am a happy man.

You Are My Sunshine-Part 1

This is the reason for what I do. As long as I can see childrens' bright, happy faces and hear their lovely voices, I am a happy man.