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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Important: Open Soon

I can remember standing in the garage, watching, making sure I did not get too close.  I have always been an animal lover...  I am not sure if it was born in me, or if my older sister brainwashed me from a young age.  ( I have recently found my children's books from my childhood and about 95% of them were about animals... I would put money on the fact that she bought most of them!) 

Earlier in the year, my sister had a plan.  Bon Bon and Fluffy, our newest cats,  were going to get "fixed" this summer but not by our regular vet.  We adopted them from our neighbors who did not fix them.  They were littermates, and had been allowed to mate once...sigh.  One of their babies, Oreo, became one of my favorite cats of all time.

My cousins, Frank and  Linda, and their kids, Kim and Scott, were going to come home to visit, I don't think Nick was born yet...sorry buddy.  They lived in Pennsylvania at the time and were coming home to Rhode Island.  I remember going on a road trip to Pennsylvania to visit them with my Aunt Dot and Uncle Roger and my other cousins when I was young.  During the drive, we "kids" resided in the bed of the pick up truck, covered with a topper of course, that had a mattress in there for our comfort.  I remember they lived in a small duplex farm house...divided down the middle.  There were a bunch of kittens running around, playing on the porch.  To this day, every time I see a white kitten with a grey "tiara" of fur on the dome of its head, I think of this trip.  There were several of these "princess" kittens, as I call them, running around the farm.  I pleaded with my Mother, "Please can we take one home?!  Please?!" and the answer was a simple and straight forward, "No".  There were lots of chickens, and each morning I would hear the rooster crow.  I had never heard that sound before, and loved it.  Those who woke to it each morning were much less impressed by the rude early awakening. Kim and I would go out, usually with my little cousin Scott tagging along behind us, checking the hen's nests for eggs.  The farm had a magnificent smell of hay, and the sounds of all those animals...  oh, I just couldn't think of a more amazing way to live!  I wish I had a camera back then...

But now it was summer.  I was standing in the garage of my Aunt and Uncle, watching my cousin, Frank, spay my cat.  Frank was closer to my sister's age.  His daughter, Kim, was just a few years younger than I and we were pretty close back then.  I don't recall exactly how old I was, but I will guess perhaps ten years old.  As I watched, I recall thinking that there was no blood.  Why was there no blood?  Shouldn't a cat bleed when you remove it's parts???  Kim wanting to play finally distracted me and off I went.  I found out years later, that my older sister saw me out there that day watching Frank spay my cat.  She told my Mom, "She's watching!  Without vomiting or passing out!  She's going to be a vet!"

Well, I did want to be a vet.  I loved animals.  But early in high school I never thought I could handle the blood and guts part of it.  EEEWWWW!  So I toyed with the idea of becoming an English Teacher, a Journalist, or owning a pet store...  But by the time college came around, the old passion became new.  I figured, why not try to become a vet.  What's the worst thing that could happen?   So I declared a major in biology and pressed on.  Much to my amazement, and I think also to my Mom's amazement, I did quite well.  Perhaps this would work for me?  I was fortunate to have friends in college with good study skills, so I learned from the best.

My counselors told me how hard it would be to get into veterinary school.  My sister had contacts at another school that told her that I would never get into vet school from such a small undergraduate school.  Everywhere I turned, it seemed people were trying to tell me to accept defeat, before I got the chance to play.  I considered transferring to a "better" school, but chose not to since I would lose an entire year of credits.  That would be like flushing a year of tuition down the ...   I just busted my butt, and continued to try.  All this time, in the back of my head, I had an "in" cousin was a vet!

I cannot count the number of times I told friends, classmates, teachers, veterinarians, etc. that my cousin was a horse veterinarian in Pennsylvania, then Maryland.  Perhaps I thought that made him famous.  I presented his name expecting at some point that someone would say they knew him.  As I got into vet school, and met people from Penn or MD, of course the hope that they may have heard of him increased, still, no one really knew him.  But I did.  So I had an "in".

I come from a state that does not have a veterinary school, making your chance of getting into vet school extremely difficult, almost miniscule.  Most schools hold about 5% of their seats, for out-of-state students, and with 50 states out there, those odds are not good. The rest of the seats go to state residents, tax payers.  So to be afforded the opportunity to become a veterinarian was an honor.  It was an achievement.  It was reserved for the Top Guns of animal lovers.

I remember working for the first time as a receptionist in a veterinarians office.  The doctor came in to the office, and started searching through some papers next to where I was sitting.  I shot out of my chair and offered it to him as though I was a Private and he was a Colonel in the Army.  He laughed, we talked, and he and I were close from that moment on. 

My cousin, Frank, worked with horses.  That I knew.  I don't know much more about what he did, what he thought,what his passions were about veterinary medicine or anything else.  I couldn't even tell you how many times I have seen him since that time in the garage, but it wasn't very many.  They moved on to Maryland, and although his daughter, Kim, was one of my best friends growing up during the summers on Doire Road, we grew do so many friends and family members.  I have only recently found Kim on facebook, and had a few brief interactions with her such as sharing photos of our kids.  I am not sure if Scott remembers me, he was so young.  I am sure Nick has little idea of who I am and will ask Kim, "Do I know her?".

When I got accepted into veterinary school, I recall someone saying that Frank sent his congratulations.  I wish I could remember who told me.  But I smiled big.  Now I was "in"!

Today I got an email from my sister with a heading stating, "Important: Open Soon".  I of course opened it right away.  It read, "Frank passed away last night... he went to someone’s farm to check a horse and died in their barn.  They assume he had a heart attack".

I lost my cousin, no matter how distant all of us are now.  I lost my "colleague", my "in".   And this might sound odd, but hearing that another veterinarian passed away while performing their job, makes my own life seem that much more delicate, more fragile.  But that is not what disturbs me the most. 

Both of my parents are gone.  I know the pain that his children are feeling.  I know the feeling of shock, disbelief, wanting to turn back time, asking God for just one more moment.  I can remember thinking frantically, there has got to be something I can do to fix this, I just have not thought of it yet...think hard, think fast...while my brain whirled in a frenzy of thought.  But there was nothing I could do then, and there is nothing I can do now for them.

I know that nothing I say or do will take the pain away.  But perhaps knowing that despite our distance in the past years, that he was a great inspiration for me will give them just one more thing to love about him.  And perhaps these words will let them know how fondly I am thinking of them during this difficult time.

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1 comment:

ameow2002 said...

Geez can really write!