Sunday, March 11, 2007

Me & Mike

Where do I begin?

When, after 3 dates, he wanted to kiss me goodnight and I laughed and said "I'm not attracted to you."

Or when he wanted to move in with me, and I said "Get your own place for 3 months and then we'll see."

Or when he wanted to marry me in England on our first trip there in April 2000, and I told him "Not yet, I want to wait 6 months from the day we were engaged."

I had all kinds of rules and hoops for Mike to jump through, and well, he considered and then jumped right thru 'em.

That is how he lived his life with me, full of gusto, full of trust and full of love. Everyone he met could feel it, and everyone he met was affected by him. Everyone misses him deeply. I miss him constantly.

The thoughts that come to mind these past days are filled with a sadness that we won't grow old together. But in the midst of that are thoughts of the happiness and the love between us since we went from friendship to lovers to newlyweds to celebrating 7 years of married life together. I realize what we were together, I will cherish forever.

Mike was a true Renaissance man. His early education was in Seminary school. He attended Law School, but got his Masters in Philosophy. I would tell others he was part priest, part lawyer and part philosopher...and that was not exaggerating his being at all! He was logical, he was calming and he was a true friend.

We had our love of our cats to bond us too. We met while showing our cats...he his Turkish Van and me, my Cornish Rex. He was kind to all animals, and would even carry a wasp outside whilst I was searching for the bug spray.

Our trips to England were memorable, too. I being of British heritage, Mike being drawn to the history and legends, we combined our interests and made each trip filled with cats, pubs, castles and even a visit to the Witches Museum in Boscastle. Each visit made us fall in love all over again.

This man was my husband. This man was friend to many. There will be no closure to the loss we who are left behind will feel. But let us all takes those emotions and those feelings, and make something good come from it.

Mark Twain said "The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." It seems that Mike figured that out a long time ago and we could learn, through him, a great deal about living and dying gracefully.

I so envy our cats. They just work with whatever hand life deals them. They don't worry about tomorrow and they don't regret yesterday. They just take things in stride and figure things out as they go, because they put one foot in front of the other and go on.

Sometimes that is what it takes--putting one foot in front of the other, until it gets easier.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Remembering Mike

Long legs, a delightful walking contradiction: he was ever the instigator and ever the charmer, quick wit and goofy humor, sarcasm and kindness. So many layers, I find it difficult to describe Mike without sounding like I'm referring to a bottle of fine wine. A truly rare person.

I met Mike through Teri. For many months, when Teri and I would speak on the phone, he was an allusive quip in the background. When I first met him at a local Cat Show, I had not expected him to be so tall. Usually when you meet someone that tall – after you speak to them a while – they seem to shrink with their personalty, become grounded, I suppose. But not Mike, the more he spoke, the taller he seemed to be! His intelligence was equally balanced by his lighthearted nature, which made his sarcasm oddly adorable. I'm not sure how he managed that, he could get away with saying things others couldn't. He made going to a Cat Show more unforgettable than the breeds being shown.

I took this of Mike and Teri's little Rock Stars,
when I met up with them at the show last month.

At the Show, I quickly noticed how completely enamored Mike was with Teri. Ever attentive, and helpful in showing and toting the cats around. As far as Mike was concerned, though, Teri took the prize every time! It was quite evident, in the little time I knew him, that when Teri was in the room, no others existed. It was a true joy to witness. Even when he could not sit near her during the judging, he would stand tall and keep his eyes glued to her reactions. He was one of the happiest men I have ever met.

The first time I held my Cornish Rex, Mike plopped her like a little rag doll into my arms. It was a truly special moment, I will forever treasure. "Aw, how cute," Mike said smiling, "the little Mud Hen likes you!" He then, of course, turned to see Teri's reaction. I believe every time he made her giggle, he had to restrain himself from falling over with joy!

Newborn Gizmo, he was born the day before I met
Mike and Teri in person. I showed Mike this picture,
he said it brought back happy memories for him.

His love of cats, and his love of goats was a testimonial to his big heart. At the show I was able to share with him some pictures of my new kids, he grinned like a little boy, thanked me, and said," I needed a goat fix." That comment still amuses me to this day. I couldn't predict what was to tumble from his mouth next, this I found intriguing. His laugh, very infectious, no one can ever say he was a bore. I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with Mike and Teri, while they were showing their cats in my town.

When they were here, they were kind enough to have dinner with me. Eating dinner with Mike and Teri was so much fun, it's always a pleasure to enjoy good food and great company! So generous, and caring, watching them share tastes of what they ordered was so sweet, they did it without thought. Such a natural love. I felt like I was an extra in a good-old-fashioned Romance film! After dinner, they held hands to cross the street. I am indebted to them both. True love is no longer something I am only able to associate with my parents. I know how I want to be loved now, and it no longer seems impossible.

I feel so honored to have known Mike Thorsteinson
. I believe there are genuine people whom come into your life that make this world a better place, that make you laugh and smile, that make you think more deeply, that inspire you, and that bring you joy. Remembering him will always bring a smile to my face.


Monday, March 5, 2007

Farewell, Mike

I met Mike through my cat. Of course. I had fallen in love with Ray from a picture on the FurryDance website. His name was Raisin, and I had just lost my old Burmese named Raisin, so I saw it as a sign. I filled out an application that would have gotten me into Harvard, had dozens of phone and email interviews with Teri, until finally she was reassured that I was the right person and agreed to send him to me, FedEx. I tracked Ray like a package as he flew all the way across the country to New York City.

Teri and Mike were living in Oregon then, and when I was out in the Northwest on business I made a detour to come see Ray’s “birth mother.” How would I recognize this woman I had only spoken to on the phone? Easy. She was sitting next to a vintage jag with a Cornish Rex on a leash. My kind of gal.

“I hope you don’t mind sharing a bed with 12 cats,” she said. To me, that was about the best offer I’d had in years. We drove to Teri’s little house where I got to meet the whole mishbucha. Ray’s mom, Bella. Teri’s very first Rex, Bo. Spot, Mike’s Turkish van. We talked endlessly about our cats. Is there anything more interesting? Then, when it was time to go to sleep, Teri insisted that I would be more comfortable in their bed and graciously took the hairball...I mean sofa...Mike said that he would sleep in the van because he was working the night shift and didn’t want to wake anyone when he came in.

Shall I underline this last sentence? That was my introduction to Mike.

Not long after, Teri and Mike packed up the cats and headed east, to just outside DC. This was great for me, because we could hook up at the cat show at Madison Square Garden, and I could act as tour guide during one of Teri’s shopping sprees at Christmas time. Now, being at a cat show with Mike was a special kind of treat. Sitting by the cages while he held court, patiently answering the same dumb questions over and over, pouring drinks, fetching hot dogs.

Away from the show ring we had some fabulous meals. Indian. Korean. Middle eastern. I loved showing Teri and Mike my favorite haunts because they got such a kick out of it, and I loved introducing them to my friends because we always had some off-the-wall conversation that sooner or later left everyone gasping for breath.

Yes, we had laughs. I remember Mike taking one look at Ray, the first time he came to my apartment in New York, and proclaiming, “He’s a horse!” This offended me mightily, which in turn delighted Mike. But when I decided on a whim to enter poor Ray in the Feline Agility competition at Madison Square Garden, Mike took me in hand, explaining everything—and tried his damnedest to keep a straight face while Ray sat in the middle of the ring and did NOTHING.

Lots of food, lots of laughs, what else is there? Well, there’s kindness, and integrity, and friendliness, and depth…

Right before I got that horrible shocking heart-breaking email, I had been thinking that I should get in touch with Teri and Mike and go down to Virginia and see them. They hadn’t come up to New York over the holidays, and the prospect of a house full of Rexes and two of my favorite people was tempting. And I was thinking then, too, how strange it is that you can have known someone for such a short time, and have seen them on so few occasions, and still feel such a real connection. It’s like what Spencer Tracy said about Katherine Hepburn in Pat and Mike: “Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce.”

Mike was a uniquely beautiful and dear person. I will miss him.