07 February, 2024

Death of a Friend

Crayon art by Jon Gronberg.
I didn't know Jon Gronberg as well as I could have. We met online in 2021 when a mutual friend introduced us, and we started playing games, sometimes weekly, over the next three years. I never saw Jon in person. I always interacted with his multitude of screen names: metatroid, antocitizen, arkanoid, etc.. I never saw his face; we only spoke via voice chat on Discord. But he was a friend, nevertheless, and life is now less with him gone from it.

Jon was a consummate gamer. In a condolence letter that Katherine and I wrote to his mother after his death, we talked about the games we would play, and how skilled he was in various genres. This was the Jon I knew: a fun person to play with.

We also wrote about the conversations we would have over Discord. As Katherine put it: "He strongly advocated for what he believed in during our many and varied talks, and he liked to have extensive and deep discussions on philosophy, politics, ethics, and even just jokes while we played." This was also the Jon I knew: a debater with strong communist beliefs.

And, of course, I cannot fail to mention how helpful he was with charitable work. He volunteered his time to problem-solve technical web stuff for me on a regular basis. He was always ready to lend a hand. Looking at his professional website, I see that he worked with lots of various charities over the years, not just mine. This was also the Jon I knew: a kind, giving person who loved to do good.

We didn't always see eye-to-eye. Our politics differed; our choice of how to relax differed; sometimes even the genres of games we preferred differed. But he was always, first and foremost, a friend whom I enjoyed playing regularly with.

The mutual friend who introduced us knew Jon as a close friend for twenty-five years. This loss has truly hurt him. He mentions it briefly in his latest blog entry. I don't know how to best be there for my grieving friend. They were close in the ways that only decades-old friends can be. The loss of such a close friend is hard for me to fully wrap my head around. Our mutual friend (whom I've known for 11 years) is now at a silent retreat for a few weeks. Hopefully it will help him to clear his mind and process the grief well, but it does mean that I have no way to contact him nor help him through this grieving period. I feel inadequate to the task.

I will miss you, Jon. Thank you for all the good times.

04 February, 2024

Ashley, Sammy, & Shelby

Sammy & Shelby as kittens in 2011.
I'm devastated, but also relieved. I'm heartbroken, but also feel that this is the best outcome.

Last month, Katherine informed me that the inlaws of one of her coworkers had died suddenly, and they were having trouble finding a home for their three cats. Sammy and Shelby were over a dozen years old and Ashley was rather feeling his age at sixteen, and likely wouldn't make it to his seventeenth birthday. Our home has felt rather empty for the past three years, ever since Jasper passed on. We'd been talking about taking in a cat that needs a home — maybe an older cat who would otherwise have trouble finding a forever home. But we hadn't yet gotten to the point where we were actively looking. Among other things, we need to purchase a new front door to our home, and it made sense to wait until after that before we began to look. But fate, it seemed, had brought us this opportunity, and we felt like we should take the plunge. After all, they need a home; we have a home. What else could we do?

Ashley (aka Pirate).
It was a big change from what I was expecting before. Taking in three cats instead of one is a BIG difference, as any owner of multiple pets can tell you. And adopting cats sight unseen was scary; what if they didn't like us? What if we didn't mesh well? But I was ready to take on the responsibility, come what may.

Katherine reminded me that this was not a sure thing. They wanted to ask the greater family first to see if they could take in the cats. These cats were family after all; they wanted the chance to keep them together and visitable by everyone. But so far they had had no takers, so we were to be the backup, just in case no one had the capacity to take them all in.

I understood, but at the same time, I wanted to learn more. I looked up their two humans, Richard and Karen Matta, who had both passed away in the course of only a few weeks. I learned about Richard's avid stamp collecting, seeing several of his posts on a philatelist forum. I learned about Karen's quilting, seeing her help several new quilters by answering questions on Quora. These were very nice humans, and I felt so bad about Ashley, Sammy, & Shelby losing both of them so suddenly and unexpectedly.

Richard was also amazing at photography. His flickr account has hundreds of photos, and some of them are of the three cats he lived with. (These are the pictures you see here on this blog post.) Sammy and Shelby are absolutely beautiful sibling rag dolls, and Ashley (who also goes by Pirate) is a gorgeous black cat who looks so gentle and lithe fitting on shelves without the risk of knocking over various highly breakable-looking items. As I looked through these pictures, I found myself falling in love with these three cats. Even though taking in three cats is a massive ask when we were only looking to take in one, I had already convinced myself that we could make it work. I proudly shared Richard's photos with Katherine and we collectively prepared ourselves to adopt these new members of the family. We might not be able to replace their previous humans, but we could at least give them a loving home for them to live out the remainder of their lives.

And then, as Richard's funeral was held, and their family flew in from out of town, we received news: we would not be taking in these cats after all. I was devastated — but also relieved. I was heartbroken — but I also knew that this was the best outcome for these cats. They would be able to stay in the Matta family, albeit in a new home with different humans. They would still be able to be visited by the sons and daughters who they had grown up with. They would still be able to visit their former canine housemates. They will have better lives staying in the family than they would have had they had become orphans to be adopted by strangers, no matter how loving we might be as strangers to them.

It's sad to think that we were so close to taking in these three cats, to changing our lives to help them, house them, and love them, only to realize after we had warmed up to the idea that we wouldn't be able to adopt them after all. But it is also happy, because I know they will be well taken care of in the Matta family, and it means that we can go back to our original plan of only taking a single cat that needs us.

To Ashley, Sammy, and Shelby: I wish you a good life. I'm sorry that your beloved humans passed on; Richard and Karen seem like wonderful housemates who took very good care of you for almost the entirety of your lives. I hope you will do well in your new home. <3