Praemonitus, Praemunitus –

Back & Forth

I thought I would finish the year with a somber look back and a sober look forth but I’m having difficulty getting that into words. Why? Because I’m in a major back & forth with our resident teenager. We are having a battle of wills.

2019 began with our son turning fifty and a family member dying. Those are big events and they took place a day apart just two weeks into the year. The family had gathered at our place to celebrate son’s milestone birthday. Four of us went looking for Ryan who had been living with the dearly departed in another town but was unable to care for himself.

We had all known him since early days but none of us had visited with him for two years. The family member who had custody had been living alone with him during that period. There was little or no communication between us and her during that time. We didn’t know she was so ill.

We were searching the house when daughter found him. We knew because she screamed. Ryan was lying lifeless under the dining room table. We feared he was dead. His hair was all matted. He was stretched out on his side. His eyes were closed. He didn’t lift his head.

We brought him to our house. We gave him food and water. Within a few hours, as proof that he was recovering, he investigated every corner of every room before joining all of us in the kitchen. We shaved off the mats. As soon as I could get an appointment, I took him to the doctor. Under five pounds and needing daily thyroid meds but otherwise healthy. Good.

We established a routine. I fed him whatever he wanted and as much as he would eat and eventually, he decided that he only wanted a certain kibble and lots of fresh water. He got that. I cleaned his litter daily. There was clear evidence that what was going in was coming out. I gave him his pills morning and night. He got his treats. I combed him frequently. He slept when and where he wanted. He greeted visitors. He liked to be close and since we were renovating and unpacking, he had use of several cardboard boxes. After six months he had gained almost four pounds. His fur was sleek and shiny. The vet was happy. He had learned to sit on command. He had learned to get off the table while we were eating. We were happy. Ryan was happy.

We were three happy seniors until this past week. We had pretty much finished our kitchen renovation, so I moved his food. I had told him that this would be happening. He hadn’t argued. But he stopped eating. After two days, I started him on some soft food. He ate it … all of it … licked the bowl clean. But then he stopped taking his pills. And so, it began.

Us, applying sanctions: No pill – no treats. Him, absorbing the pressure: OK – no treats and no pill. Us, upping the ante: No pill – no keys to the car. Him: I’ll walk. Us, taking the nuclear option: No pill – no special soft food. Him, from his perch on the moral high ground: That’s cruel and unusual punishment. Us, our bluff was called, and we were forced to accept his position: You’re right – we can’t do that. Us, resorting to diplomacy and reason: The pills are important. You have to take them. Him, taking a stand: Make me. I put one in his special soft food. When he finished, the pill was laying, lonely and unloved, in the bottom of the bowl. He was sitting on his favourite cardboard box, having a wash, and looking smug.

I suppose that it says something about the state of the world, when looking back, that the most important story of the year is about a teenaged long-haired tuxedo and his recovery from near death.

I suppose it says something about the state of the world, when looking forward, that the most pressing problem of the coming year is to find a way to get a friend to do something that is good for him.


Stuart Syme

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