The Horrific Week When the Cat Died, the Girls Graduated, and the Movers Arrived

Talk about stress. One Sunday morning in the summer of 2004, as I sat in my living room at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, my 20-year-old cat, Gus, died in my arms. My twin daughters sat near me, sobbing as they had known Gus all their lives. It was heartbreaking.

But that wasn’t the significant stressor. The fact that Gus died at the beginning of graduation week is what stressed me out. The family was coming in from all over to celebrate the girls’ graduation. I didn’t have time for the cat to die.

Oh, and the Monday after graduation, the movers were coming. Should I pull my hair out now? Even as I write this 17 years later, I can feel the tension rising.

After the cat died, I laid him in his carrier and called the Good Chaplain, who was leading worship services at the time. I thought service would be over, but it wasn’t. The chaplain assistant answered the phone.

“Is the service over?” I asked.

“No, it’s communion time,” she said.

“Oh, okay. When the service is over, tell (the Good Chaplain) the cat just died. But wait until he finishes,” I said.

She didn’t wait. She crept up to the Good Chaplain at the Lord’s Table and whispered in his ear that the cat died. I made my best Homer Simpson impression. Doh!

After we made funeral arrangements for Gus, we turned our focus to the influx of company. First, of course, the house needed cleaning, the cake needed ordering, and we needed to plan menus to feed all these people.

The girls were also busy with last-minute school items — getting their caps and gowns, graduation practice, and other necessities.

Then family members began to arrive. My parents, the Good Chaplain’s mother and stepfather, and his brother’s family arrived from Illinois. His stepmom, his aunt, and his uncle came up from southern California. We needed to pick up some people at the airport, and we had to make lodging arrangements too. And, oh, yeah, the movers were coming on Monday. So several stiff drinks were in order.

Graduation Day arrived — a lovely, hot Saturday afternoon at the football field of Cabrillo High School. We did not know until we left for the ceremony that the Gay Pride annual bike trip was happening that weekend, right outside the base main gate. It was entertaining to see all the colorful outfits the cross-dressers were wearing. Until our niece exclaimed loudly with the car windows open, “Hey, that guy is wearing a dress!” Thankfully, the nice person smiled and waved at her. But it opened up a whole discussion her mother was not ready to have with her.

We sat in the hot sun listening to all the obligatory speeches and waiting for that two-second time frame when they call your kid’s name. But, instead, my mind wandered to the list of things I still had to do. I remember commenting on all the people who left after their child got their diplomas.

“Hey, I had to sit through your kid’s moment. So the least you could do is sit through mine.”

Having the last name beginning with a ‘T’ put us pretty much at the back of the pack.

After the party, family members left, except my parents. They were going to help with the move. They helped watch the packers, the loaders, and the clean-up afterwards. They said they thought it was a smooth move — everything done for us and all. Deep down, I agreed.

We moved into our travel trailer and finished up the week with a farewell lunch at the chapel. My parents thought that was cool, too, and it was.

The stress level should have abated then, but it didn’t. I had so much stress built up in me I felt I would explode. I was snapping at everyone and crying a lot too. I just wanted to get on the road. And the Good Chaplain developed hives because of all the things he needed to finish before we left town.

Eventually, I remembered the adage, “This too shall pass,” (William Shakespeare in Hamlet) and I started breathing again. And, by the time we got on the road, I was relaxed and looking forward to the new adventures we would have in Alabama.

Until next time,

Vicki

Tell me about your most stressful move in the comments below.

Victoria Terrinoni is the author of the new book, “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse.” Check it out here.

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