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On the death of a beloved cat, the endurance of textbooks and, for fun, a word puzzle

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Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 10:00 pm

This has been a sad week at our house. Our loving little tortoiseshell cat, Muffin, had to be put to sleep.

She was 19, and life was not very good for her any more. We buried her under the big coastal redwood in the back garden. Cleo cat, who died in 1995, is buried on the other side of the same tree. I think it will guard them well.

As far as I can tell, we had Muffin for 11 years; she came to me from Phoebe Watt when Phoebe had to move to a care home in Seattle. Cleo was an older cat when I got her in 1986, so I didn't have her as long. It doesn't matter how long you have a pet; each creeps into your heart and leaves a lonely place when gone.

I can't speak of either cat - or our 10-year-old black cat Toby, who is still with us - without thinking of and thanking Dr. Ruth Smith and all the staff at Oakwood Veterinary Hospital who have taken care of all our pets for 20 years or so. I did not realize that it has been so long!

We were in St. Anne's church recently for the funeral of a dear friend, and I was struck by the beauty of the chancel. The hangings and altar cover were a beautiful shade of green (the liturgical color for the season), and there were calm and quiet green plants here and there against the walls. But what is the most imposing feature of the whole church is the large, compelling bronze crucifix hanging high on the wall behind the altar. Each time I see it, I don't see an ordinary crucifix that emphasizes death. I get reassurance about who is in charge and at the center of life. Someone once wrote, "He is the still point in a changing world." Truly so.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column featuring First Son, who turned 60 that year. Last year, not being sure how long I would be writing this column, I wrote about Second Son (who turned 60 this year) and First Daughter, who is a year younger. Flag Day was the birthday of Second Daughter, the last child, and, while she has some years to go before reaching 60, I felt it wise to be sure she gets her just due!

Second Daughter was always a prodigious reader, and, consequently, an excellent speller. She was better at it than her third-grade teacher, who let her correct the class's spelling papers!

She had her own fears, too. When I was assembling The Four to have their picture taken for a family Christmas card, I could not figure out why she was so reluctant about it. Turned out that when we talked about being "shot" (photographically), she thought we were taking about getting shots, and she hated needles. After being reassured that no needles were involved, she consented to smile a bit.

Like her sister, she took advanced placement classes and made CSF all through high school. A dividend for her was being a flower girl as a sophomore, for her sister's graduation. Steve Berkowitz was one of her favorite teachers. When I occasionally see him, he remembers her well. During the summer between her junior and senior years, she was tutoring disadvantaged students at UOP; I never heard many details about this.

I looked forward to her being an outstanding college student, but after a semester at Delta College, she admitted to being saturated with the classroom life, and chose to go to work at the phone company where her sister was working. That was the beginning step in a long climb upward. She began as a long-distance operator, moved into night messenger, then into supply. Realizing she could make more money as a splicer, she went to pole climbing school, and then was assigned to Lodi at one time. I often got a hail from the top of a pole or from down in a hole, and we had brief conversations.

Her progress in the company went on from there - office manager, customer service, public relations, and a whole host of other responsibilities. Many a time when a new function was needed, it was Second Daughter and a clerk who started it. When she moved on, that area had 40 workers or so. She worked in just about every department the company had, and was the only one in the PR department who had had experience in any other company area.

At one time, she was sent to a Midwestern state to study their system, and then came back and set up the crank call management system for this state.

She retired several years ago, having reached district manager level after 35 years. She took some time off and then went to work as PR for the Barnes and Noble book store in Tracy, until times got tougher and B&N chose to lay off all their PR people. Then came work for the San Joaquin County Association of Realtors, passing of the real estate exam, and now a very busy time as a realtor. (All right, Realtor. I have never agreed with that capital R!)

In and around all this, she found time to marry and have a son, in whom we all delight. Like the other "kids," she lives close enough to come by occasionally, talk on the phone often, and join in family gatherings. Like her sister, she delights in vacationing in Capitola, where our family used to visit Grandma (their father's mother) when The Four were small. She is funny, warm-hearted and generous, and I am proud of her.

Seems our governor wants to put textbooks online to save the cost of buying books. I agree with him in the case of the sciences or geography; these books are behind the times just about every year. But I don't agree in the case of literature, history, languages or philosophy and the like. These don't change as quickly, and they invite rereading and checking on bits here and there, and a book in the hand is easier to read, more portable and not susceptible to viruses.

Haven't had a word puzzle in a long time, so here's one from Rich Norris, who edits puzzles for the Crosswords Club. There are two familiar two-word phrases. Both have the same six-letter first word and the seven-letter second words are anagrams of each other. Phrase No. 1 is a certain food reaction; phrase No. 2 is a source of petty criticism. Work at this - I'll have the answer next month.

Gwin Mitchell Paden has been a Lodi resident for 52 years and has been involved with numerous community causes and organizations. She has had careers in newspaper reporting, public relations, advertising, the Women's Army Corps, and teaching - not necessarily in that order!

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