Hopes & Realities
When you have known an animal from 1999 to 2012 you grow accustomed to its presence. 1999 marked the first year I spent in the United States, living with my Aunt and Uncle. They had taken me in on a ~10 months visiting trip, which would allow me to start and finish my American pilots certificate. Much of the exciting time was spent in a wonderful house, which (due to my relatives very busy lifestyle) I had mostly to myself. I loved Irving’s Hot Dogs (at the time, for a German boy this constituted a full meal and if not, several of them would) and between flight lessons at the Bangor International Airport, it was either Dysarts Truck Stop, or incredibly greasy chicken from the Fairmont Market store in Bangor, right down the road from Bangor Savings Bank at the Airport.
My aunt (in one of her tricky, highly energetic ways) had somehow managed to teach me how to use a washing machine, an incredibly complex piece of monstrous machinery which converts funny looking clothes into wearable fabric. I obtained my type certification on the monster machine and comfortingly was able to step into the sunlight without supervision.
With us, at the time, lived two Maine Coon cats, named Smokey and Squeaky. Both known for their talkative nature we would spend many hours together, me in the tastefully arranged kitchen, pretending to be studying; and them rolling around on my books. Both incredibly well-mannered, these cats were fluffy, cuddly, nice and playful companions on any day. Their presence made my days lighter, reduced homesickness and gave me a welcome distraction when I thought I could study no more. Life was good! I had “Vicky” (1984 Ford Crown Victoria LTD) to scoot around in, at what I seem to remember to be the cheapest fuel prices in the world. Vicky loved her lube, in fact she loved it so much that I had a standard supply of no less than 16 quarts of oil with me, on any given trip. Vicky wasn’t fast or particularly sexy, just your off the rack, bubbly V8 with a nutty sound and rust holes the size of Russia! The interior was red, and smelly enough to scare every oh – so – willing – young – lady right back into her knickers, in fact I don’t think any living self-respecting female ever traveled in Vicky with me.
Oh… I am rambling again… just tell me… but when you do, try to understand that this was an AWESOME time in my life. Not a worry on the horizon, flying every day, in an environment I loved, nature, water, nice people, supporting relatives, friends, yeah, even my first American girlfriend. The country of unlimited opportunity had grabbed me and it had sucked me in. Smokey and Squeaky are elementary parts of this time by the law of primacy. They were first to greet me when I came home, and they must have wondered why I was so sad when the time to leave back to Germany came around.
During the following years I inquired on both of them, when talking on the phone with my aunt and uncle. Little did I know that both of them (in fact all four of them) would play an elementary part of my life when I returned to the United States for good, in 2004. My newly wed wife and I moved into the apartment I sit in today, writing this article for you. Constant parts of our life were, you guessed right… Smokey & Squeaky! With the hardest feelings I left this area by the end of 2004 to relocate and follow my wifes career choice, to southern Maine, for a time that would resemble the equivalent of a roller coaster ride and more uncertainty than I have ever experienced in my whole life before. During the time here in 2004, Smokey and Squeaky had literally occupied our little apartment, much like they did again in 2010, when I arrived back here, without a wife, out of money and ready to give up on my American dream.
A little over two years have passed since I moved back to the Bangor area, again, taken in by people who genuinely supported me, motivated me to go to College, and provided warmth, guidance and a feeling of safety to me, when I could not trust my own shadow. My dreams for a flying career shattered into nothing but dust and tears, two wasted years volunteering for the Seaplane Pilots Association in desperate hope to convert my skills and abilities into an aviation related opportunity… jobs ranging from LLBean conveyor belt specialist to, VIP Auto store assistant manager, grease monkey, general manager of a flight school, sales consultant for Jaguars and Landrovers, yes, I was even an Aircraft Acquisition Specialist for Cessna 400 series twins for a while doing international business… funny but true… nothing lead me to where I wanted to be. When I came here, all I wanted was to be a full-time flight instructor. Period. That’s all. The one thing I never became while here, was: you guessed right again… a full-time flight instructor. Don’t you think for one second that I have given up! Nope! Instead, I founded my pride, the www.seaplaneforum.com, became a Phi Theta Kappa student at my college, learned how to do websites and discovered my passion for Psychology, Counseling and Creative Marketing. I have become calmer, more mature, refined my writing… all good things – besides developing high blood pressure and getting fatter.
Whats important about all this is the fact that along for the ride wasn’t only relatives and my incredible parents and many friends. Along for the ride were (and often as the source of relaxation and laughter) Smokey and Squeaky. Do you know how it feels when you can’t trust your own shadow, but you can count on the unconditional love and attention from your pet? Do you know how two animals can make life so much less miserable, because they are so terribly ignorant to our human issues, and how they always take you at face value? They never cheat on you, set conditions for their love and affection and they are almost never too busy to “talk” with you.
We lost Smokey because he had gotten really sick and struggled with all kinds of little ailments. Even though he was alert, he wasn’t enjoying good health and struggled hard at times. Hopes flew high for the longest time, but often I wondered if he would be allowed to go in peace, or if his life would end not so suddenly, possibly during my time away from home. On the very day I traveled south to close one of the largest chapters in my life forever (picking up my remaining belongings from my ex wives house) Smokey’s curtain fell – one last time.
Contrary to Oliver’s sudden passing, this time I had the opportunity to feed him his favorite treat and literally kiss him goodbye, knowing that I would not see him again. And I knew why. What an utterly stunning experience on an psycho-emotional level, to lose a long-lasting partner and friend. An animal that had become and remained a daily part of my life for such a long time, gone.
I miss him a lot, still somehow waiting for him to come around the corner at feeding time. His brother Squeaky is (as expected) coping quite well, which is probably the reason why I am coping so well. Its down to the two of us, for now. Squeaky is to old to start dating again, and me probably to odd to find a woman willing to commit to me, be honest with me and most of all, grow with me. The next major change is already in the works. This time I am only half as afraid as I was before – for I feel as if I have been successfully through hell and back during the last 8 years of my life. This next step won’t kill me either.
Smokes…you’ve been gone since Tuesday 2/21/2012. If you’re reading this – know that you were a hammer cat and that I am proud of having had you by my side for this long. Rest in peace and say hi to all those souls we have lost before you. All the ones who mattered loved their animals, so you should be in good company!