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Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Memoir Paperback – January 17, 2002
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Full disclosure; I've loved and lost many cats. It's not true that "after the first death, there is no other." Losing anyone, from a friend to a family member to a beloved pet is terrible. Perhaps losing a pet is worse, because pets are absolutely dependent on us, and the burden of that responsibility is a grave one.
How do we know when it's the right time to euthanize a friend like Ms Horn's Veets? We don't, exactly--but we try to balance doing the right thing with our reluctance to lose the unique bond we have with our pets. Despite her heart wrenching and so familiar second guessing, Veets had the perfect end to a lovely life.
I sing in a choir, so understand and regularly experience the healing alchemy of music in groups. It's not a coincidence that the music seems to mirror the emotions of the singer and at the same time, provide the discipline and support to survive otherwise unendurable circumstances. It's interesting that even though this book was not about music in the way Imperfect Harmony is, music is a major player in Waiting for My Cats to Die.
Despite Ms. Horn's self deprecation and affirmations of loserdom, her courageously shared musings on aging, loneliness, and the choices she's made resonated with me. Her interviews with very old people reveal some surprising insights, and are as varied as human experience. I hope Stacy Horn can be comforted by her own work. She is NOT a loser!
As a woman of about Horn's age, who has certainly made some similar mistakes (except, were they, really?) I love her insights, observations, and explorations into what it means to live--and to die. This book has given me much food for thought, I know that, just as with Imperfect Harmony, I'll be recommending and gifting this book to my pet owning, aging women friends--and to anyone else who appreciates beautiful writing, history, and the sharing of experience.
I recently recommended the book to a friend, and decided to do a reread. I almost never reread books because I have so many on that to-be-read pile. But I loved this so much, so this was going to be the exception.
The memoir is written by Stacy Horn, a single 42 year old woman, who lives with her 2 diabetic cats in Manhattan. She is obsessed with death, and is having one hell of a mid-life crisis.
What makes this book so different than many others of its ilk, is the author. I have never read a book before where I wished I could be the author's friend. She is so honest, and so open, and so terribly terribly witty and funny. She is able to express the angst that comes with aging, yet also make us laugh in the process.
Mixed in with the very funny stories of her two cats, her dating life, and her tales as proprietor of an Internet discussion forum, are some truly profound thoughts. This book is the whole deal.
Many of those who have reviewed Waiting for My Cats to Die on Amazon rave about it. However, there are a couple reviews that didn't care for the book, or Stacy for that matter. One called the book "childish, pointless" and another found it "only occasionally funny." They found her "whiney" and her "obsession with death was depressing."
I admit I don't care for Stacy's whining at times and her language is a bit unacceptable in my house. But she writes so well and has published some of her deepest, darkest thoughts (during her midlife crisis nonetheless) for us to read. Not only that, she confronts her feelings and thoughts about death - a taboo topic for many people. What courage. I feel like the reviewers who left not-so-nice reviews didn't give her a chance. Perhaps they didn't finish reading it or else they would find that Stacy does pull through in the end. She finds some peace, even though she is first to admit she hasn't reached a "blissful state of enlightenment." (In case you ever read this Stacy. I have a question for you. Looking back, did writing about your midlife crisis help you through it? Or, was it purely time (and aging) that offered that "biological drug" that pulled you into a state of indifference?)
Stacy is witty and is obviously not afraid to talk about anything. Her memoir is honest and at times, very humorous. I feel that the topics she covers in her memoir, along with the life questions she asks (especially the elderly she interviews), provoke readers to examine their own life.
I could make a list of things called "How I am not like Stacy" because I believe that beyond our obsessions with history and death, we probably wouldn't get along. Our lives are very different - on top of the usual, I don't even have cable televisions and I'm allergic to cats. But, like Stacy, I have questions that will never be answered. I panic. Like Stacy, I am terrified of death. "We all disappear," Stacy wrote. I panic. I don't tell anyone. Stacy does. Her memoir tells us me I am not alone.
Have we examined our own death lately? What adds up to a life? "In the end, what's left?" Stacy asks. "The rate of decay is heartlessly swift. A short time after I die all I'll have to show for myself is the debris that may or may not be found by someone who will never know who I was, and who can't know that what look like trash to them was treasure to me."
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stacy.