Monday, September 20, 2010

It's not just a cat

Over the weekend, Dave and I found two stray kittens in the woods near his parents' house.  Not really strays, I suppose. They'd obviously been abandoned there, close to a park.  We tried to rescue both, but could only manage to get one of them.  A beautiful black kitten, about 8 weeks old.  Tiny, really, and certainly not able to care for herself in the woods.

Henry was initially terrified, wondering what the heck we were thinking putting wild animals in the car, but he quickly came around.  I don't write about him much.  After all, he's the normal kid, the neuro-typical kid, the regular kid.  Whatever you want to call him, he's the collateral damage in our house.  When Max is home, he gets virtually no attention, and I spend the rest of my time trying to make up for those deficient, lean times.

But then Henry came around, and named the kitten Rosie.  We stopped to buy her a bag of kitten chow, some milk, a litter box.  We didn't really think we'd keep her.  I carefully avoided using her name, just saying "the kitten".  Henry has asthma, some allergies.  And did we want a cat?  Henry's been begging for a pet since Max left for boarding school a year ago.  We've been saying no all along.  Too much work, not enough time...the usual excuses.  We just didn't feel ready to take care of another living thing.  But then there she was.  Was this the way we'd get a cat?

We told Henry we would consider it, and then he started sniffling, sneezing, with itchy eyes.  Perhaps we couldn't keep the kitten.  A friend said that some people get used to the cat dander after a week or so.  So maybe we'd keep her...see how it goes.  Henry was...happy.  I don't want to make it sound like he's an unhappy kid, because he isn't.  He's generally okay, satisfied, happy-ish.  He's not the kind of kid who overflows with happy.  When I ask him how his day was, he always says "good-ish, bad-ish" no matter how great it really was.  It's like a daily hit in the gut, that this poor kid can't just enjoy a great day at his wonderful school, but it's a hit in the gut I've gotten used to.  How happy could I expect him to be, really?  His brother has been virtually taken away from him, and he's not any closer to making peace with that than his father or I am.

He went off to school just delighted.  Bouncing in his booster seat all the way to school.  He brought a photo of Rosie to show his classmates.  I was feeling good today, like a great mom, like I let the universe decide something for me by dropping a kitten in my lap, and aren't I clever?

Then the phone rang.  It was Henry's school.  He'd been wheezing, and needed his inhaler.  I tried not to assume that it was due to the kitten, even though he hasn't needed his inhaler over a month.  Bad luck?  His inhaled worked just fine, and he got on with his day at school.  I picked him up from school at the regular time and he just couldn't wait to get home to see Rosie.  He was going to play with her, and tell her a story.  He wanted to read her the book he'd brought home from school, all about colors.  He just seemed so relaxed, like Henry at his best.

But while we played with the kitten this afternoon, Henry started wheezing again.  He's never needed his inhaler twice in a day.  It felt ominous.  How do I reconcile these things? I feel like Henry's happiness hinges upon this kitten, but his asthma is a mess, and I do need to keep the poor kid out of the hospital.  I talked to Henry, and explained that we might need to find the kitten a different home.  He nodded solemnly, and said he was going to go watch TV alone.  Later, he cried in my lap, and told me that he just needed a pet so badly, and that he just had to have one.  If not Rosie, then maybe a dog? A guinea pig?

Damn it, I don't want a dog or a guinea pig.  I want to keep this kitten.  It feels unfair, AGAIN.  Why do my kids have to get the short straw over and over?  Why can't Henry just breathe like a regular kid?  I have so little to offer him.  I can't make his brother normal. I can't always protect Henry when Max lashes out.  I want him to be happy.  Not deliriously happy, not happier than anybody else.  I just want him to stop suffering such terrible losses and not feel so alone in this world.  He already feels like he's lost a brother...he's certainly lost anybody's idea of a brother.  Why does he have to lose this kitten too?

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