Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
~ In My Life, Beatles
Memories work in curious ways. Some of us remember every detail of a certain moment. The human mind will work in ways that may add or take away from either pleasant or painful memories. Some of us remember things that happen to others in vivid picturesque quality. Sometimes it’s an event we all remember and what we were doing at that time.
But I think what’s most curious is what a person’s first childhood memory is. That tells a lot about what type of person they are, how old they are and even give insight to their personality as to how they reacted to it.
December 8th is a significant date for my memories. It’s my godmother’s (Mom’s best friend) birthday, for one. Several years ago, I went to a hockey game and found Gabby, the loudmouthed New York Ranger fan. So each year not only do I think of my Aunt Pam (who is still a significant figure in my life), we often have Gabby’s preferred meal of fried chicken and some kind of potato. Hey, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.
Yet, my oldest childhood memory surrounds one of the most memorable in just any kind of history, whether it’s popular culture or just general world events. The day John Winston Ono Lennon was brutally murdered in front of his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
I was only four years old, but I was two weeks away from my fifth birthday at that point. What I remember most was being in my mom’s car, listening to all the radio stations playing Beatles’ and John Lennon solo tunes. I didn’t know much about the Beatles when I was four. But I do know my parents loved them. I also remember being at my grandparents that day, and every television show had some kind of John Lennon tribute. I’m not sure I knew was a “tribute” actually was at almost five years old. But I do remember it being a sad and solemn day.
But out of death comes life. Sounds cliche, but it is true. John Lennon was no longer with us, but his music and art lived on in many different forms. I remember watching the Imagine documentary at 13 years old. My dad buying Julian’s album several years after John’s death, and remarking on the son’s songwriting and singing ability. The rumors that Paul, George and Ringo would tour with Julian. I always thought it was a good thing that they let the Beatles go with John. It wouldn’t be right to do things as “the Beatles,” making them a sideshow act. It was always those four.
I moved not too far from where John lived and was subsequently murdered. I try to every year make it over to Strawberry Fields on John’s birthday and life celebration on 12/8 to sing some Beatles’ and Lennon songs. Knowing that maybe I won’t see total peace and love in my lifetime, but for a brief moment we can Imagine it to be true. I hopped by Central Park to sing a few songs with the group the day I went to the Ranger game where Gabby was “born.”
I’ve often said that sports has been escapism for me. Music has been a form of creativity and sometimes inspires me in ways sports simply cannot. Sometimes, they intersect here on Gal For All Seasons. And like knowing my first childhood memory was surrounded by a musician I deeply admire and whose artistry I loved, sports and music often give me comfort in my life.
Death is a part of life, but life does indeed move on. Lennon was with us 40 years, and has been gone 37 years. Even my sports teams who have lived and been born again — 1986 Mets, 1994 Rangers — have probably more significance now or as much as they did when they were current. Though my first memory was entrenched in a very sad world event that shocked many, sports and music have brought me incredible joy and passion ever since.
In recent years, I’ve been able to follow another one of my passions: pet care. When I was younger, I thought I might be a veterinarian, but being the empath I am, I don’t think I could bear to see any animal in pain. As much as vets help them, I just didn’t think I could be a funeral director either. But I got to work with dogs and cats in providing their care, and I still had my cats, Cassie and Napoleon Dynamite, at home to keep me company (and most often, on my toes).
Cassie’s been with me since 2002. She was separated from her litter and was yowling for food and attention at two weeks old behind my old Jersey City apartment. We found a nursing mother and litter, she stayed with them, she was weaned and became my cat and life mate at about eight weeks old.
She and I went through a lot together. She lived with me for 15 years through six different apartments and in four different cities. Napoleon Dynamite Kitty joined our family in 2005. They didn’t always get along, but thank goodness for Jackson Galaxy in helping get them to at least coexist in our small space. There was a bad break up somewhere in there, and then a fun and happy marriage to her Pawppy.
As I relate to my earliest childhood memory, I related her life to certain sports milestones. She came into my life in the Mo Vaughn Mets era. She was there for three postseason runs for the Mets, the late season collapse in 2007, with both cats wondering why I paced so much watching late season games, needing every game to be a win.
I made the decision to move to New York City in 2008 after spending lots of time in the city due to work and play related to sports social media. I remember when she went hiding after I celebrated a Rangers postseason win a little too loudly during their 2012 run. And I’m pretty sure both cats wondered why I threw a box of perfectly good Domino’s boneless Buffalo chicken nuggets after Russell Wilson threw an interception in the last moments of Super Bowl 49.
She was a nurse when husbo couldn’t go to an early season Mets game in 2011 due to an illness, so she stayed in bed with him while I was able to go. She’d get annoyed when I wanted to sit on the same couch with her during a game, so I could, you know, watch said game. Or when I was trying to write a blog post or even Tweet from my desktop, she’d be like, I’m sitting on *MY* computer chair, Meowmmy. “I only let you sit on it when I say so,” her saucer-like eyes seemed to be telling me.
I’d like to think she was happiest in my latest home on 84th Street, where I finally feel connected to the city, my life and maybe that every shitty decision I made since 2009 came to some kind of pass. She had big windows and wide windowsills to lay on. As she got older (and fatter…), she couldn’t jump as high or as much as she wanted to. Earlier this year, we had an Asdrubal Cabrera bobblehead Mets giveaway. We kept the bobblehead AND the box. Cassie decided the box was a perch in which she’d alternately lay her head to watch the birds who sometimes congregated outside our windows. Or where I’d set her food dish, so that she’d eat her dinner before her greedy brother tried to say, “Yo, you gonna eat that?”
A. Bartlett Giamatti once said that baseball is designed to break your heart. Being a pet parent does that too. Along with bringing joy and if you’re lucky euphoria and laughter. We have no control over game outcomes, only our teams can do that. Sometimes as pet parents, we need to make difficult but necessary decisions to ensure that they are not in pain.
At 1:05 pm on Saturday, December 9th, we said goodbye to Cassiopeia Cat Cooper. Cassie. Poo Kitty. CCC. She was 15 years old. She was a sweet but sassy girl who had strong opinions about everything. She wasn’t always the friendliest cat, but she was a good cat and friend. I like to think I gave her a good life, and that she was happy when she crossed. In turn, as pet parents, we know we have the option to give them a peaceful and painless death. Unfortunately, we had to exercise that option today.
I noticed on Wednesday, she seemed a little off. Thursday, I was concerned. By that evening, I had decided to take her to the emergency vet. She wasn’t able to come home.
Death is an inevitable part of life. And today is the kind of day we always dread as pet parents. Yet it is a necessary evil. I brought her to the hospital on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Due to my life and memories I think of this event every year, even without the multiple tributes. Now I have a very personal reason of pain and loss to memorialize it as well.
Music and sports have helped me get through a lot of pain and heartache in my life. (And we all know sports have contributed to a lot of that heartache as well.) Cassie has been a great companion. Through the ups and downs in life and sports and art, I could come home knowing she’d be there (along with the boy cat). Eventually, I know I will instinctively stop trying to look for where she is hiding in the house. So will Napoleon.
Until then, I’ll give Napoleon a few extra love scritches, watch the Sounders, Rangers and Seahawks, and know that one day I will wake up, and this pain won’t be the first thing I think of. (And hey, if the Seahawks could win this weekend, that wouldn’t hurt either.)
Some pets leave an indelible paw print on your heart. I had Cody when I was growing up. And Cassie was my companion animal for my adult years. I will miss her for the rest of my days.
In my life, Cassie, I love you more.
Cassiopeia Cat “Cassie” Cooper
April 4, 2002 – December 9, 2017