The end of Guinness

Guinness Pint

Guinness Pint (Photo credit: Stephen Edgar – Netweb)

We discussed it at length and decided that we didn’t want one. We had one at our previous place which disappeared causing us to both be very upset. It was cute, but messy, especially when the woman from the letting agent came around to inspect the place.

The very next day after we made our decision, there was a knock at the door.

My family was outside bearing exactly what we decided we didn’t want, a kitten. It was the tiniest ball of fur you have ever laid eyes on, no bigger than a mouse. Jet black in colour with dainty white feet and a white bib under her chin. Her most distinctive feature was her eyebrows. They were fine, silvery white and arced out high above her head. We fell in love instantly.

“What are we going to call her?” asked my wife.

She offered a few unconvincing kittens names but I wasn’t persuaded. The name needed to fit and as she lay on her back on the floor with her white paws  up, she resembled a miniature pint of Guinness and so she was christened.

We were a bit worried at first because we already had a kitten called Tommy in the house that a friend asked us to look after whilst she was away. Tommy was twice the size of Guinness and was strong-arming her as they played. We needn’t have worried though because what Guinness lacked in size, she made up for in spirit. After they played for a short while, Guinness got the upper hand and from that point on, there was no more bullying.

Guinness was with us for a long time and it’s fair to say she had her fair share of quirks. Like she chose to use the dirt tray that lay just outside the bathroom in a particularly smelly manner when I was relaxing in the bath. She also would choose to noisily slurp out of my cup of water on the bedside table when we were trying to sleep. I used to say to my wife that I would die of some vile horrible cat disease because of the shared cup. She was incredibly good when any children came round, patiently allowing them to tug, prod and poke her with barely any protest.

But after 17 years, we returned to our home to find Guinness very sick indeed in my mother in law’s arms. She wouldn’t eat or drink. She couldn’t walk. We took her to the vets and the news wasn’t good.

Guinness is no more, which is sad. Very sad.

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A sense of perspective

Eye death

Eye death (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

On paper, I was very ill. The trouble was, I right at that moment in time, I didn’t feel very ill. Locked inside the hospital with the dead and the dying, I was akin to a caged tiger pacing around. I bore quickly at the best of times. After 3 days of medical confinement, I contemplated digging a tunnel.

In the TV room, there was a guy about my age, which was unusual. Most inmates could claim at least 3 decades on the pair of us. We were already on nodding terms. As I sat down on the sofa beside him, he asked me what was up.

I told him how frustrated I was with the continued confinement. I went on about the boredom, the tedium, the mind-numbing routine of it all. I was sick of the food. The TV set only had a dozen channels and what I wanted most of all was to go home. My diatribe must have lasted 5 minutes or so.

“Yeah – it’s no fun.” he replied laconically.

I looked at him properly for the first time. “How long have you been in here?”

“3 years.”

At that instant, I realised how stupid my frustrated speech must have sounded. I realised how selfish and insensitive I had been. Altogether too locked up in my own misery, it didn’t occur to me that the other people must have stories of their own. We spoke for an hour. He told me that he spent most of his life in and out of hospital. Born with a congenital problem, he had a lifetime of hospital treatment to look forward to.

I returned to the ward and for the first time, spoke to the guy in the next bed. A fellow patient now, not just one of the dead and the dying. He told me of his wife, how they’d been happily married for 60 years. Then a short while ago, someone decided he was no longer fit to drive so they withdrew his license and with it, their independence.

It wasn’t long before someone else decided that him and his wife could no longer cope and committed them to a care home. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, they were housed in different care homes. Together for 60 years, separated in a heartbeat, he quickly fell ill. It was a tragic story and I doubt it has a happy ending.

I will always be grateful to those people. They taught me a lesson I will never forget.