The Last Leaf’s Youngest Daughter

Arthur C Rat and me, taken earlier today.( If I'd realised I was going to use this photo, I'd have washed my hair.)

Arthur C Rat and me, earlier today.

“There is no love without loss.”

There are two old men in my life. One of them is a rodent.

Of all the relationships which hid the skids when I lost it, the one between myself and my father is one of the ones which suffered the most. I found myself thinking of this recently, during a pleasant – if occasionally odd – phone conversation with him.

My problems, and Mom’s, soon overlapped, then continued to do so til the day she died. It’s a bit much to expect an elderly man with an ailing, likewise elderly wife to cope well with a daughter who was so frequently off her trolley, she might as well have been in a different supermarket.

Back to the rodent. He’s getting on, is Arthur. Once so fat that a friend mistook him for a guinea pig, he’s lost so much weight recently that he’s regained his svelter, more ratlike figure.

In a previous blog, I’ve written about the release I’ve sometimes found in talking to Arthur. I don’t know where the verb “to rat” – as in to tell, or sprag, on someone – comes from. So far as I know, Arthur has never betrayed a single confidence.

But he’s old now. I’ve taken to giving him “rat junk food” just to tempt him into eating. Yogurt drops, the brightly coloured things I’ve nicknamed “rat sticks”, peanut butter toast, even pizza.

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During a conversation in which Dad appeared to ask if I remembered my aunt (answer: uh, yeah…), he referred to himself as “the last leaf”. I’ve not known him to be particularly one for poetry, well, not since he read me “When We Were Very Young” and “Now We Are Six”. But that was back when he had (black) hair, and my mom put my hair up in rags, or those little pink plastic curlers.

“And if I should live to be
the last leaf upon the tree …”

Sure, I remember your eldest sister, Dad. And your middle one, and the youngest, and your brother, too. All the “in laws and outlaws”, as Tusa Becky used to say.

And, of course, Mom.

I bless whatever Powers That Be – if there are any powers, if there is anything there to bless or thank – that you’re still around, Dad. That you’ve lived long enough for us to find unity in not just nostalgia, but the present day, too. To talk about Ohio wine, and your printer problems.

I’ve had a comparatively long run now of relatively good health. But I’m conscious, ever so, of the treasure that is time.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll have Arthur to chunter to, or you to tease. And yes, I do value my human family above my adopted, rodent one.

But love is love, and loss is loss. History tells me that I have a gift for ballsing them both up.

Stay awhile yet, Artie. I love you, Daddy.

Sheila and Arthur Jan 2015

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