Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The tenth good thing about Sizzle

Sizzle, when he joined our family
I suppose it's serendipitous that more than 16 years ago, when we presented Dill with three choices with which to name our first cat, he chose the one that's also a cooking term: Sizzle. That's not why he picked it, of course. I think he liked the spunk of the eponymous cat puppet on TV and it was fun to say for an almost 3-year-old.

For a loooooong time, Sizz lived up to his namesake's spunk ... even when we moved (and he spent an hour in his litterbox before venturing out to explore) and when we rocked his kitty world by adopting Austen (our second cat, a rather large ginger tom fluff-ball who once prompted the exclamation: What is that?) ... but every sizzle starts to fizzle, and our guy began to decline about a year and a half ago when he developed thyroid disease. Six weeks ago, Sizz went from bad to worse with a limp-causing, fast-growing lump on his knee...and we began the process of saying good-bye.

Big sigh. I believe Sizzy's mournful wails warned the Banshees that he wasn't ready. And despite his making garbage of three gorgeous wool area rugs, I wasn't either.

Our mornings start with a vocal greeting from Sizz and Austy at the bedroom door to make sure we know they want fresh food and water. I don't know how Sizzy got up the stairs the past two weeks, but I cuddled his ailing body on the way down. And our evenings begin with him circling the kitchen island as I cook and he M'ows for wet food or as we call it, crack. Then there're the second dinners and the thirds. I pamper him with thawed tiny shrimp for the last one.

When people say "you'll know when it's time," you will. And it's scary. Dill realized he wouldn't see Sizzy again, so he made his peace before returning to school. But I kept looking for signs; though for me they were too gradual to discern.

Until yesterday. I realized he hadn't moved much from the heating grate in the kitchen, so I brought some of his favorite shrimp to him... He ate most of it, then lost all interest. Late afternoon, other things told me it was time, so I rang the vet to make arrangements. We discussed this as a family, but I was elected to be the sole human to accompany Sizz. So I swaddled him like a baby in an old towel, packed up a couple shrimp in case he ... oh, I don't know ... I'm a Jewish mother who tries to be prepared for anything... and gently laid him on the front seat with the warmer on and drove to the vet; one hand on the wheel and one on his cheek.

It was quiet; it was quick and I was home within the hour.

This is the first time I had to do anything like this... and pardon the pun, but I'm kind of at a loss... I'm not a huge animal lover, but my cats became more than 'living furniture.' They wove into the fabric of our family. As a sleeping pre-schooler, Dill exclaimed: No Sizzul, I don't wantamawy you. And Jere was struck by the fact that within their same 16 years, Sizz was at the end of his life while he was approaching the prime of his youth.

Throughout this passage, I kept thinking about Judith Viorst's story, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, where a boy's mother suggests he create this list about his cat who just died as a way of dealing with his sadness. So, in no particular order, here are the 10 Good Things About Sizzle:

* He was our family's Alpha Male.
* He was more dog than cat, greeting us at the door and telling us when it was food time.
* He never brought home gifts of maimed birds or rodents.
* He lived in harmony with the boys' pet mouse and guinea pig.
* He came when we called for him and replied when we M'owed to him.
* He didn't mind when I affectionately started calling him "Old Man."
* He nipped at our heels as we climbed the stairs.
* He nipped at our hair from the back of the couch.
* He was very social.
* He showed his affection by pressing his forehead against mine, a kitty head bump.

So to celebrate Sizz, here's a recipe featuring his favorite food: Shrimp.

Here goes:

-In a bowl, combine 1 T olive oil, chiffonade (thin ribbons) of 10 or so basil leaves, zest and juice of 2 limes, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 1 and a half long hot peppers or 2 jalapenos thinly sliced, 1 t each ground black pepper and salt.
-Add 1 pound (16-count is good) peeled, deveined shrimp with tails on and marinate for 10 minutes or so while heating the grill. (Cast iron skillet works well too.)
-Grill (or saute) until pink and serve over jasmine rice.

Ah, poor Sizzy Kitty. I still look for you around the house and probably will for quite some time. May your memory be for blessing.