Sunday, February 13, 2005

Rocky Bob

My dear, beautiful, perfect daughter Stacey, soccer mom of 4, called a bit ago, and reports that her family has the flu. Damn. But it was so great to talk to her as always. Stace and I have that "being in business" connection, and we like to talk business, profit, advertising, yada yada. Stacey's homegrown business, Annabelle Handbags, is quite a little success story. I am totally proud of all my children.

So we passed about a half an hour gabbing, catching up. During our conversation, I mentioned that Marie and I have recently acquired five new birds, and that we have a total of six. I could hear Stacey turn and tell someone, which turned out to be my grandson Joseph, that "Grampa and Marie have six birds now", that "they are gonna be those crazy animal people", cat collectors I think they call them on TV, and we all three laughed.
I replied, "yeah, and newspapers are gonna start building up in every corner of our house too".

It was then that Stacey mentioned that her neighbor, a cat lover, but the owner of a spraying cat, had confided in Stacey that she is conflicted about what to do with their naughty cat. I can relate. Stacey said to me, "I just told her, do what my parents did, just get rid of it, tell the kids it ran away", and laughed, teasingly. There is more to this story.

It was about 1980, my daughters were 12 and 8. We had purchased a feline at a pet store, a beautiful gray long-haired kitten, and we named him Rocky Bob. You know, like in the old "Walton's" TV show, when everyone in the household retired for the night, each person would shout goodnight to others in the house, like, "goodnight Jim Bob", and "goodnight Billy Bob". At my house, this style of goodnighting would digress to..... "goodnight Stacey Bob", and "sweet dreams Daddy Bob", and then, properly, "goodnight Rocky Bob". So you had to be there.

The kids loved that cat. As he grew, he became a huge fluffy lie on your bed kinda cat, just a major lovable oaf. But there was one problem.....Rocky Bob peed the house. It was horrible. He would find a spot, and go for it, and man, that was one focused peeing cat. So of course, Dad pulled out all the stops to try and fix it.

There were all the pet shop remedies, and sprays. There was the cleaner stuff that makes one's home smell like a badly kept grooming salon. There was the new miracle spray that "actually binds to the urine and turns it into a completely different chemical", which also makes one's home smell like a badly kept grooming salon. I was beside myself with the tension this created in the house. It reeked, but the kids loved that cat.

I took to ripping up the carpet where The Rock had sprayed, tossing the carpet piece and the pad underneath, removing the finish from the hardwood floor underneath, sanding, refinishing, and then adding new pad and new carpet to match the old. In one spot, in the dining room, I did this three times. All the while, I was wracked with guilt, and considering the idea of getting rid of the cat.

Then, one day, all of a sudden, I had had enough. I got home from work, exausted, walked into the house, which smelled like, well, a piss factory. I found Rocky, (we had always had a "cat door", so the cats could come and go as they pleased) put him in the car, and drove him to the humane society. I would decide what else later.

Okay, I suck. I pretended I didn't know what happened to the cat. I was young. I was not able to tell the kids what I had done. I thought, I will tell them one day when they have families of their own, so they will understand.

It was completely painful then, nay, cowardly, to act dumb, and to walk about the neighborhood looking for Rocky Bob, calling his name, with the girls, as they sought their beloved pet. Alas, no Rocky Bob was found.

Many years, and, I think, a couple of grandchildren later, I came clean. The reaction was mixed. But as I saw today, with Stacey's lighthearted jab about it, this too has passed. I do regret doing it, not being honest about it back then. But being a parent and knowing the right thing to do is not always right there for one to grasp. Stacey and Amy, I'm sorry. But gimme a call if you find you have a urine machine in your midst.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States