Jim had been expecting his mother to die for about fifteen years before she finally got tired of being old, infirm, and losing bits of what was once a sharp mind. She would have born the pain forever. That’s the way they used to make women. I know for a fact I am not like that.
But that’s not what I was thinking about, not really. Not quite. Only that one year we decided that she wasn’t going to die if we left town for a little while, so we took a vacation over Jim’s Christmas break.
Not to celebrate Christmas with family. There was only my brother left on my side since my father’s death. I felt rotten about leaving Glenn alone for Christmas, but Jim really wanted to get away for a while. His kids, of course, were all old and in Philadelphia or points elsewhere (for Chris). All we had to deal with, then, were Clea and Mouser: he was seventeen,naturally bad-tempered and having trouble eating; and she was sixteen, going blind, half deaf, and arthritic. And it hurt my soul to have to leave them with the vet for so long.
I can’t remember exactly why we decided to go to Texas, unless because I had never been anywhere west of central Arkansas, but that’s were we went, avoiding the cities for the most part, with the exception of Austin. The weather was fine, dry and crisp for the majority of the trip, and I enjoyed myself. Even went into Mexico at Matamoros, dirty and exotic and crowded. There were parrots in the trees. Foreign soil in a way Quebec could never be; Quebec was like East Tennessee only with lakes and people who don’t speak with their jaws clenched, this was bright and different.
I loved the differentness of Texas, too. Even the parts that were built like home, weren’t. Austin was the closest, but smaller and more comfortable than Nashville ever wanted to be. I think I could really like it there.
Eventually we wound up on South Padre Island for Christmas. The week before the snowbirds. Place was deserted. There’s probably a lot more now, but at the time there were only a few hotels, some newer condos on one end, and junky shops. Inland there is a park. I remember it as being wonderfully funky and wild. Most of all, of course, there was the Gulf. Why else have tacky swim shops.
I never could quite figure out, though, the reason for The Texas Cat House.
In what then was a quiet strip ( I understand SPI) outdraws Daytona for spring break nowdays, it was only a slightly naughty double entendre. It was in fact the southern version of Bertha’s famous Boutique. Being cat-sick, I could not resist the lure of the place. Bought a long-sleeved tee emblazoned with its logo, some special blend cat grass seed and a couple of toys to give the cats for Christmas, of course.
We had Christmas dinner in some motel restaurant. (Our own lacked a kitchen) It wasn’t great, but it was actually romantic.
Next day the town began to fill up and we decided to head back home. I packed up my goodies and called the vet to let him know when to expect us. That’s when he asked me if I wanted to be able to say good-bye to Mouser. He was failing. He was dying, certainly. Did I want to say “good-bye”? I told him no; put him to sleep and do it now. He sounded disappointed, as if he thought I didn’t care enough.
If that were true, I would be able to go into those gay feline boutiques without thinking of death.

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