Tortoises and Sympathy

On September 6, 2006 by Eden M. Kennedy

First off, I uploaded my video of Tortoise Descending a Staircase onto You Tube. I had to change the music because I really didn’t feel like entreatying the remaining Staples Singers for permission to use their music to accompany my cute pet movie. So if you watch it again you’ll find that the music is now “55th Street Boogie” written by Hound Dog Taylor and performed by Frank Goldwasser, aka Paris Slim. Jack produced the CD so to get his permission I just had to turn my head 45 degrees and say, “Do I have your permission to use this song?” So the asking was easy, though I’m sure I’ll end up paying in more ways than one. (More information about the CD can be found here.)

Secondly, I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who wrote a note of condolence or left a comment about Katie. It was really hard to read them without choking up, though a week later now it’s getting easier.

I have to say, though, that I got one of my favorite condolence e-mails the other morning from Michelle (you know! Michelle), and the reason it’s one of my favorites is that she followed the same template I normally do when writing a note of sympathy, which is to be sincerely sorry, and then to say something funny about the person who died, and then while wrapping it up to start amusing yourself by writing whatever pops into your head and then realize that you’re very sleepy. To wit:

“I was so sad after reading your blog again after a few months of eating blackberries trying to finish a poorly translated Borges novel.

RIP Katie. Maybe she is playing with Steve Irwin. Crikey!

Turtles have more personality than a lot of people give them credit for. The fact that the tortoise seems to follow you around trustingly is better than a good credit score in my humble opinion.

I’ve heard dogs really like the way they smell and will carry them around in their mouths. No, not credit scores. Turtles. Hopefully this will never happen with yours.

What do you think of…I think it has potential.

I’m supposed to be at work in 7.5 hours. This is not good. Not a good way to end a condolence letter at all. Dogs carrying turtles around in their mouths. Emily Post is fanning herself in dismay.”

I think it’s a sure bet that at the very least Emily Post flopped over once in her grave, but, you know, fuck her.

The day we put Katie down I put on some tinted glasses to hide my red-rimmed eyes and went to Chaucer’s to buy Jackson this book. (I picked it mainly because it had no mention of heaven, God, angels, etc.) Then, of course, I was the one bawling all the way through while reading it to him. He seemed so uninterested that I almost took the book back to the store, but a few nights later he asked me to read it to him again. This time when we were done he pointed to my cheek and said, “Just one tear.” I had also had several tears running out of my other eye, which I pointed out to him, just because that’s the hell of being my son, having your mom one-up you during the saddest week of your life so far.

But the book eventually served it’s purpose because it turned out that Jackson did want to talk about his feelings and he had plenty to say. Those who remember this post may be moved to learn that one of Jackson’s most wrenching regrets was that he hit Katie so much. At one point he cried, “It’s all my fault!” I immediately assured him that treating his dog’s butt like a bongo drum did not cause her to grow a cancerous mass around her heart, but you know. Great religions were built on less logical premises.

So Jackson’s trajectory through grief has been fairly normal. We started with denial (“I’m not sad at all!”), then anger (acting out and being kind of a dick), general sadness, and the other thing until we ended up where we are now, with sporadic non sequiturs in the middle of other activites, à la “I miss Katie” while I’m putting his shoes on his feet before school, “I’m still sad about Katie” while eating Goldfish by the pool, and “I still love Katie” pretty much any time he has a chance to think quietly. I tried the old “You can take all the love you had for Katie and give it to Cookie,” but Jackson said, “No, the love I have for Katie still belongs to Katie.”

So he decided to give Cookie some love of her very own.

The little smartypants.



40 Responses to “Tortoises and Sympathy”

  • I curious about the move to a new site, or if it’s not called a site, then a new URL.
    Jacksin gives good love.

  • whew… man Jackson sure nows how to make me cry. I feel the same way about my dog that I had to put down back in February… all the love still belongs to him. Children seem to know how to phrase things better than adults sometimes.

  • Now I’m all a bawling too. : ) (that’s as close to a happy sad smiling but sniffing emoticon as I could come)

  • I wish you were my mom when I was a kid because all you have done for Jackson would have made me deal with death a whole lot better (or at least I think it would have). My mom was pretty much the “suck it up kid” kinda mom. Came in handy sometimes but when it comes to dealing with the difficult stuff, it kinda sucked.

  • That’s damn cute! What makes the picture is Cookie’s expression of “ohmygod he finally noticed me…please help.”

  • i completely forgot to mention that you must go out and find Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant. I cried every time i read it ~before~ any of my pets died, and then afterward, well, you can imagine.

  • Jesus fucking Christ. Stop making me cry, woman.


  • P.P.S. I don’t know what happened with my typing but I promise I haven’t been drinking!

  • First, but not necessariy the most important thing, is that puppy makes my heart ache she is so cute. Honest to goodness heartache.

    I don’t know how old you son is but my daughter, who as less than three at the time our dog was put to sleep, is now six, still talks about Bob. I miss Bob, I want to talk to Bob, Is Bob in heaven, etc. I don’t know how much she really remembers but there is something there. I hope your son remembers Katie like that.

    And about Peanut: I’ve been sending the link out because it is so funny. I thought the original song was so perfect but I’m sure the new one works great, too!

    P.S. I’ve been lurking for a few weeks. I can’t remember if I have commented yet. Maybe on the Katie post.

  • Damn the tears.

  • There are many good things about this post. Jackson, of cousre, with the wise statement that Katie’s love still belongs to her.

    But this might be my favorite.

    Great religions were built on less logical premises.

    Nice way to stick it to the man cloaked in the bittersweet kids and pets post.

    And PS, I like peanut. He’s (or is it she’s?) got moxie.

  • When my amazing dog, Oscar died, I couldn’t even talk about him for months. I still can’t think about him without getting all choked up (it’s been 3 years) because a good dog just kinds gets into your heart and stays there, always. Before I had kids he was my baby. I love him still.

  • That picture of Jackson and Cookie is wonderful.

  • That is got-damn determination. Faced with what has to be pretty scary–lying on one’s back when one, you know, is a hard shelled critter–she does that unbelievably fantastic shimmy. Which should be a motto–when in danger, when in doubt, shimmy your ass right on out.

    I’ve been thinking too much about Katie and checking obsessively for your post that you all were doing fine. And you are. And Jackson is such a poet of love–he’s really right on. Even when they can be little peckerheads, they turn around and put words together so perfectly that they seem to reorganize what you feel.

  • He loves Cookie obviously. So glad you decided to get another pup right away. Probably not what the shrinks would tell us as adults but hell, as a kid it was the only way for me…

  • heart-wrenching but THANK YOU for bringing it up at the end with all that sweetness because i was quite ready to die of puppy sadness.

  • Warm hugs to all of you and deep sympathy in regard to Katie.

    Mrs. K, you are such an amazing mom. My little guy is only 8 months old, but I hope that I can teach him about this life with as much emotion, honesty and humor as you.

  • oh come on now–crying first thing in the morning is not the way to start the day.

    Thanks a lot!

    I’m glad to see that your transition is going so well–i mean it’s not easy to have such a wonderful friend and then boom there’s no friend there any more–there’s a whole. It hurts like shit but then the pain gets less and less as you get further away from the event.

    Your love for cookie is wonderful little Jackson! Good for you.

    I think I’m done now (crying that is) Love to you all.

  • “the love i have for Katie still belongs to Katie”

    the child is wise and good.

  • Jackson just broke me. He couldn’t be more spot on (spotter on?), if you’ve got an infinite amount of something why give someone’s portion away.

  • “No, the love I have for Katie still belongs to Katie.”

    alright, now i’m crying at work. gah.

  • What seal said. I think I’d better go get coffee now.

  • That is quite a headlock.

    Am also v.impressed that you can do asymmetrical crying.

  • Man, now I’m going to have to fake-sneeze to explain why my eyes are all watery. Lovely Jackson.

  • You have truly taught him how to love, if he can save his love that was just for Katie and give it elsewhere, too. What a little angel.

  • That is the greatest picture. And I see that he has evolved from bongo-style butt drumming to WWF-style headlocks. Now that’s love.

    Still thinking of you and Katie.

  • That Jackson is a smart cookie. Katie’s love DOES still belong to Katie, and he was very right to point that out. Has he figured out a way to get Katie’s love to her in a way that satisfies him?

  • Our son is also named Jackson and my sister’s chocolate lab is Cookie.

    I am not sure what this means. But it must be some sort of karmic connection.

    I heart your turtle.

  • Well now i look like a lunatic (which i should be used to), but i swear the first time i looked at this post i was redirected to another site “whatsthefuss” or something like that.

  • Good job, Jackson.

  • Good night, that’s a cute picture.

  • The CD information link is brokey — please tell us how we can get a copy!!!

  • tears in my eyes.

  • You go, awesome Jackson, dude. I’m glad he’s able to talk about Katie. Of course, I still talk about my dog who died close to thirty years ago. Rufus was such a cool dog.

    Cookie is adorable.

  • That picture is amazing! It has to heal your heart a little :)

  • He’s super-wise, and he’s absolutely right. You don’t just transfer the love to someone else. It still belongs to the original owner of said love. Fortunately, you are capable of manufacturing a seemingly endless supply of NEW love.

    You’re really lucky to have Jackson to guide you through this. He’s quite the sage.

  • That’s the right answer about his love for Katie; children are so intuitive, it’s amazing.

    My little girl lost her, very sad to say, babysitter of 2 1/2 years to a sudden, fast moving disease.

    I hadn’t thought to track her grief stages, but this is helpful because too now is at the point of saying, randomly at unrelated moments, I miss Janice. I think that’s a healthy sign…

  • There is a calm inspiration I feel when I come here I have not found on any other place on the internet.

    Very few real-world places, as well.

    Thank you,

  • THis is painfully cute.

  • First time at your site and I’m in tears. My Katie (Lady Katherine Mo O’toole) was a Dally, I had her from 12 to 26. After 3 years I still miss her as much as ever. I work with kids and I’ve worked with animals, it looks like yours are both amazing. With all of the love Cookie’s getting, there’s no doubt she will be too. I needed a good cry today. Thanks. I’m adding you to my bloglines:)