Date archives "November 2012"

Saying Goodbye to Tiger

We buried Tiger on Saturday. When you have a very old pet, you hope they will give you a sign, letting you know that “it’s time.” And then, when they do, you don’t want to believe it. Tiger was 21 — really old for a cat — and we are grateful for every year we had with this wonderful, loving, dignified friend.

A few months ago, I wrote about how we had modified our home in order to help Tiger age in place. (Helping Tiger Age in Place). Since Saturday, I’ve been thinking about how Bill and I became Tiger’s caregivers as he became increasingly frail. Although the tasks were sometimes unpleasant, we did them without disgust or resentment. I was in charge of litter duty. During his last year of life, Tiger drank huge quantities of water because his kidneys were failing and routinely urinated outside the litter box, even though we had lowered two sides so he could step in more easily. I also cleaned Tiger when he fell into the litter because his hind legs could no longer support him as he squatted. I am not surprised that Bill was a wonderful caregiver; nurturing is second nature to him. But I am a let-me-cross-things-off-my-list kind of person, not a let-me-help-you kind of person. I am worried about my ability to provide the kind of assistance a love one may need some day.

Yes, I prepared my mother-in-law’s medications each week and took care of my mother’s medical bills, but these were list-type tasks, not the intimate, embarrassing, personal tasks that often accompany caregiving. I’m worried I won’t be good enough, or selfless enough, when the time comes. I know I did it with Tiger, but Tiger was not my husband or my parent.

Next week, we will rescue Jackson, a 12 week old kitten, from a nearby shelter, just as we rescued Tiger 21 years ago. It’s not that we are trying to replace Tiger —Tiger can’t be replaced. It’s that we have experienced the joy of living with pets and know that this is the way we want to live our lives. But I can’t get a replacement mother or husband a week later. Perhaps it is this permanence that makes caregiving for loved ones so much harder than caregiving for a pet. But who knows. I was a better caregiver than I thought I would be with Tiger, perhaps I will be better than I expect with the people I love as well. I hope so.

Bubbie, You’ve Got Mail


“Bill, the Presto machine says it has a paper jam.”

“Ok Mom, I’ll be over tomorrow morning Mom to fix it.”
“Tomorrow morning? What happens to my email that arrives tonight?”

Never did we imagine, when we got my 88-year old mother-in-law a Presto machine, that she would turn into an email junkie.

Bubbie loved the phone and had long conversations with her extended family daily. But as her hearing worsened, using the telephone became more difficult. The high-pitched voices of her great grandchildren were especially hard to hear. Communicating was such a source of joy for Bubbie. We worried that her world would get smaller and that she would be lonely. Email seemed like a logical solution, but Bubbie refused. She had not gone beyond 8th grade and had never used a typewriter. She wanted no parts of a keyboard or the Internet.

Bubbie was pretty stubborn, but so were we. When her grandson David told us about Presto, a computerless email system, we were excited, even though we had no idea how we would convince Bubbie to use it. Presto is a combination email printer and mail service that enables you to send emails to someone who does not use a computer. David opened a Presto email account for Bubbie and registered friends and family (Presto users only receive mail from registered senders, so they never get spam or viruses). The machine arrived. We set it up, installed the ink cartridge and paper, and Bubbie firmly announced, “I’m not using it.”

“No one will call me,” she said. “I like phone calls.”
“They will continue to call you,” we assured her.
“I won’t know if I should answer the phone,” she countered. (Presto works on your reguar phone line).
“We’ll program the emails to arrive while you are at dinner, so you won’t have to worry if you should pick up the phone when it rings,” we responded.
“I’m not going to like it,” she insisted.
“Look, it’s here and it’s hooked up. Try it. If you don’t like it at the end of a week, we’ll give it away.”

Bubbie glared at the machine for several hours, and went down to dinner. When she returned, she had email. Her great grandchildren had scanned in their homework and two art projects. Her daughter had sent humor and health tips. Cousins sent newsy email letters. Family friends sent political commentary. An army of people had been mobilized to make Bubbie’s first email experience glorious. We didn’t hear from Bubbie until the next morning, when we got the call about the paper jam. One day of email, and Bubbie was hooked.

Bubbie’s email interests were eclectic.  She liked letters, news, and health information. She liked political commentary, puzzles and humor. She loved art from her great grandchildren. Soon, her dinners were cut short. “I have to get back to my room;” she would say. “I have mail.”

At her request, I brought over a ream of paper and Bubbie learned how to refill paper on her own. She still needed help to replace printer cartridges, and that was when we would hear her lament, “You can’t come till tomorrow?”

“How come you never send me email?” she soon asked us.
“Mom, we’re right here. We see you every day. Why would we send you email?”
“Everyone else does.”

We had created a monster, we joked. But in truth, we were thrilled. Bubbie said that being part of the high tech world made her feel young. She had learned something new, and conquered something that had intimidated her. She felt special; she was the only person at her dinner table who was “online.” Best of all, email gave Bubbie stories to tell and information to share. Bubbie loved to communicate.

Physically, Bubbie’s world was very small. Her 8×9 sitting room — where she spent virtually all her time —  housed her TV, her refrigerator and microwave, her recliner, hundreds of family photos and her Parakeet, Pookie. Bubbie sat in the recliner to watch TV, talk on the phone, read books and emails, and slept in the recliner as well because it helped her breathe better. But emotionally, Bubbie’s world was very large. She had meaningful relationships, was passionate about world events, and conquered new challenges. Bubbie’s large world was made possible by many things — caring friends and family, an understanding physician, a very special bird — and by Presto.

To learn more about Presto computerless email service, go to