Cathy Marie Becker was born on September 28, 1956 in Kewanee, Illinois to Maurice Wilfred Becker, a farmer and June Anne Becker, a homemaker/secretary. As soon as she could talk, her parents asked her if she wanted a sibling and she kept saying no, she was happy as an only child. For years her parents listened to her but a month before her sixth birthday, her luck ran out. A brother, Jeffrey Arthur was born. Three years later another brother, Jon Keith arrived. When Cathy was twelve years old, a surprise third brother, Christopher Maurice arrived. Cathy did fight with her brothers but they all had their uses. When she got poison ivy she used her allowance to pay them to scratch her back. When she saw a spider she paid them to kill it. Jon came up with the brilliant idea of dousing the spiders in deodorant spray. Her brothers also provided her with entertainment. Jeff would perform as the dancing underwear man. She would tease Chris by telling him that his real mother was from China and was on a boat in the sea searching for him.
Cathy didn’t always appreciate her brothers and she didn’t always get along with them but she always appreciated her pets and she always took good care of them. Since she lived on a farm she had several pets. Some of her barn cats were named Tiger, Tabby, Midnight, Cuddles, Theodore, Gabrielle, Skinny and Chocolate Chip. Those are not the most original names for cats but she can be forgiven for that because she also had a cat named Hathshepsut. Cathy also had a few dogs and at one point she had a pet pig named Judy. Judy was a runt who had been abandoned by her mother. Cathy wanted to bottle feed the pig herself. Her father told her the pig was going to die no matter what but Cathy insisted on trying to save it. She had tried to save many orphaned wild animals but they all ended up dying in the end. Fortunately, under Cathy’s loving care Judy survived to adulthood. Unfortunately once she reached adulthood she met an untimely end. One day when Cathy walked into the barnyard she could not find Judy anywhere. She said “Daddy, where’s Judy?” Her father replied “Oh, I must have sent her to market by accident.”
To this day, Cathy questions whether or not Judy being sent to market was truly an accident but she has forgiven her father and moved on. She has also forgiven her father for the humiliation he put her through as a teenager. When Cathy was about 14 years old she was insecure about her flat chest. Maurice decided to order her a bust enhancer in the mail. He laughed as she winced in embarrassment. Luckily, Cathy’s mother was kind and well behaved so there wasn’t much Cathy needed to forgive her for.
Luckily although Cathy was never extremely popular, she always had adequate social skills and she always had friends. Her best friend was also named Cathy. These days Cathy 2 is more of a frenemy than a friend but that’s often the case with the friends you make in high school. Sometimes Cathy 2 was a little bit mean to Cathy 1 but Cathy 1 made it through childhood and adolescence without suffering too much peer humiliation. The time her pants fell down while she was playing dodgeball was rather embarrassing and she was embarrassed when she was scratching her nose in class and a teacher said to her “Miss Becker, would you please stop picking your nose?” but things really could have been so much worse.
Cathy was always a bright, curious, creative, intellectual, intelligent child. When she was about six years old she asked for a book on dinosaurs and wooly mammoths. Her parents claimed the book was too advanced for her but she insisted so they bought it for her. That book was not too advanced for Cathy. She read that book, she understood that book and she loved that book. When she was eight years old she moved on to a book about the explorer, Ernest Shackleton. Afterwards she placed a blanket over a card table and pretended to be Ernest exploring the Arctic in her boat. When she was a teenager she read In Cold Blood but that was not as pleasant an experience because she found herself worrying that Dick and Perry were coming to murder her.
Aside from one bad grade in math, Cathy always did well in school. After graduating from high school, she attended Northern Illinois University. She declared Biology as her major. When she took psychology classes, she liked them so much that she decided to add psychology as a second major. Since she’s super ambitious she added chemistry as a minor. She got a job in the chemistry/physics library where she annoyed everyone by being the world’s loudest librarian. Hey, it was fun to flirt with the cute guys who were checking out books. She had several boyfriends in college and she cheated on all of them but she didn’t feel too guilty about it because it’s not like she was married to them. She also managed to make friends that to this day are actual friends rather than frenemies.
One of Cathy’s boyfriends was named Paul. She and Paul had some interesting and crazy experiences together. One day when Paul and Cathy were in Cathy’s bedroom together, they heard noises coming from outside the door. Cathy opened the door and was shocked to see a woman laying naked on the floor. Thinking it was her roommate she exclaimed “Oh my god! Donna’s naked!” Paul said “Cover her with a blanket.” As Cathy placed a blanket over the naked woman, she exclaimed “This isn’t Donna! I don’t know who it is!” Paul stepped into the hallway to examine the naked woman. He didn’t know who it was either. Suddenly the woman got up, ran into the bedroom and locked the door. She then proceeded to scream about some guy named Mike. Cathy asked the guys who lived upstairs if they’d had a woman that they were missing. They said they did not. Then another guy walked into the house. He said that he’d been drinking at a bar with a girl that he was on a date with. As they walked home from the bar, the girl got really upset and started crying about her ex-boyfriend, Mike, She then stripped off her clothes and ran away. The guy had followed her trail of clothes to Cathy’s house. He was eventually able to persuade the naked girl to unlock the door. He wrapped her in a towel and took her home. Cathy decided that from then on she was locking her door. (When she told the story in class the next day, one of her classmates recognize the naked girl. She said that she was normally quiet and well behaved.)
The experience Cathy and Paul had senior year might be even weirder. One night as they were driving around town they noticed a strange orange light shining over the library. Like idiots in a horror movie they drove towards it. That orange light was a large orb that hovered over the library for about five minutes before it disappeared. Cathy doesn’t even believe in UFOs but to this day she claims that she saw a UFO. She and Paul eventually broke up but to this day they remain good friends. People who spot UFOs together and deal with a random naked woman walking into a house together, share a special bond.
At the end of her senior year of college Cathy was not sure what career she wanted to pursue. At one point she had considered becoming a nun but she decided she liked sex too much. She considered becoming a teacher but she didn’t really like other people’s children. She considered becoming a psychologist but she didn’t want to listen other people’s petty little problems. She considered becoming a doctor but she didn’t want to be around sick people. After she graduated from college she did what many college graduates who want to delay entering the real world, delay having to decide what to do with their lives, and amass huge quantities of debt do. She went to grad school.
One evening during the summer before Cathy started grad school, she decided to go out for ice cream. As she was walking to the ice cream store she was approached by a black and white kitten. The kitten pawed at her feet and enticed Cathy in to playing with him. Cathy’s childhood love for animals had persisted into adulthood so she adopted that kitten. Being the literary snob that she is, she named that cat Demian, after the title character in a Herman Hesse novel. Demian was Cathy’s loyal friend and companion for 21 years.
When fall arrived Cathy began her pursuit of a masters in epidemiology at the University of Illinois. One of her professors was a man named Mircea Popescu. Mircea was a man who was 20 years older than Cathy and who had recently emigrated from Romania. Mircea was a man who seemed intelligent, interesting and exotic. After Cathy’s first class Cathy thought to herself “This is the kind of man I want to marry.” Through years of practice Cathy had become adept at flirting. She flirted with Mircea and he invited her to go out for coffee. They had a good time together but Cathy wasn’t sure if they’d really connected with each other, She gave him her work number but he did not call her. She told her friend Chuck, a fellow graduate student about the date she had with Mircea and she thought that was the end of it but Chuck decided to play Cupid.
Under the pretext of discussing a science experiment Chuck went to Mircea’s office. Chuck and Cathy had recently won a vampire costume contest called Love at First Bite. Their prize was a trip to Romania. When they won that contest they were featured in the newspaper. Since Mircea was from Romania, Chuck thought the contest and the prize might be of interest to him so he showed him a copy of the newspaper article. As Mircea looked over the newspaper article, Chuck said to him “You know Cathy and I aren’t dating, right?” He then gave Mircea Cathy’s home number. Mircea had interpreted the fact that Cathy had given him her work number as a sign that she wasn’t really interested but now that he had her home phone number, he decided she was interested. They went on another date and this time they hit it off. Their dating progressed into a romantic relationship and their romantic relationship progressed into marriage.
Most married women can tell you the story of how their husband proposed to them but Cathy cannot do that because Mircea did not propose to her. There was no single moment when Mircea asked Cathy to marry him or vice versa. It came about because when they were dating they decided to get an apartment together. They told certain people who were assisting them with apartment hunting that they were married because those people were conservative and would have been horrified at the thought of them living together out of wedlock. Eventually they’d been lying about being married for so long, that they figured they might as well actually get married.
Cathy didn’t exactly decide what she wanted to do with her life but in grad school she got a job working as a project manager for an environmental study at a wastewater treatment plant. This job involved testing fecal samples. Picking up shit was not the glamorous career Cathy had been dreaming of but she liked the job well enough. After she and Mircea were married, Mircea got a job offer in New Jersey and Cathy found a job in Manhattan so they moved to New Jersey, the armpit of the nation.
In New Jersey Cathy’s life continued to be filled with weirdness. One evening she woke up from a nap and found that the air was buzzing with a strange electricity. Demian the cat yowled, his hair stood on end and he hid under the bed, refusing to come out. Cathy went outside to see what was going on. Suddenly the sky flashed orange, then red, then green. She called the electrical company but they never provided an explanation as to what had happened.
Cathy’s neighbors were weird too. When Cathy and Mircea hired construction workers to build a fence between their yard and the neighbor’s yard, the neighbors threatened to throw boiling water on them. From then on they were referred to as the nasty neighbors. One day she heard what sounded like a kitten mewing coming from the basement of their house. Since Cathy always feels the urge to rescue animals in danger she walked into the neighbors’ yard and knocked on their door. As she knocked she noticed a putrid smell coming from the house. The neighbors never answered so Cathy called the fire department. She told them that she’d heard a kitten meowing in the basement and had smelled gas coming from the house. When the firemen arrived they asked if she was sure it was gas she smelled. They asked if it might have been putrefaction she smelled. “Oh god!” Cathy exclaimed. The nasty neighbors would not open the door for the firemen either so they forced open a window. A few minutes later they all came dashing out of the house frantically scratching at themselves. They were covered in fleas. The horrible smell was cat urine. There were about nine cats in the house. The nasty neighbors had been in their bedroom watching TV the whole time.
At one point Cathy decided to become involved in community theater. To her delight she was cast in the lead female role in the play Fools by Neil Simon. Cathy knew that theater people could be a bit weird but nothing could possibly have prepared her for the weirdness she encountered the night she went for a car ride with the play’s male lead. The guy had an eye patch so Cathy decided to ask him how he lost his eye.
“I removed it myself” the guy replied.
“Oh…um..well….how did you do it?’
“With a spoon.”
“Wow..that’s…er..why did you do it?’”
“Jesus told me to do it.”
“I have schizophrenia.”
“Gosh..uh..I’m so sorry..I hope you’re doing better now…”
“I am. It’s controlled with medication now.”
“Well…I’m…very glad to hear that..so…it’s awfully cold out tonight, huh?”
Later at a cast party that guy asked Cathy if he could see her alone outside. Cathy felt a bit nervous but he just wanted to thank her for being so understanding of his missing eye.
When Cathy married Mircea she inherited a teenage stepdaughter. She got along well with her stepdaughter but she was ambivalent about having kids of her own. Therefore she decided to take the not trying, not preventing approach to family planning. In general that is a rather stupid and dangerous approach to take because not trying, not preventing is essentially trying and you might find out too late that you don’t really want kids. It worked out well for Cathy though. When she found out she was pregnant she was very happy. From the moment her daughter, Kira Alexandra was born on August 2, 1985, she loved her with all her heart. Cathy had decided years ago what she would name her daughter if she ever had one. Being the literary snob that she is, she read We the Living by Ayn Rand and fell in love with the name of the main character. Some people would consider it a bad omen to name your child after a character that bled to death in the snow at the end of the book but Cathy is morbid so it didn’t bother her.
The not trying, not preventing method of family planning worked so well for Cathy the first time that she decided to use it a second time. This time the timing was less than ideal. She got knocked up again when Kira was 10 months old. When her son was born he was so fat that everyone thought he was full term but he actually arrived a month early. Cathy named her son Michael Sterling. She had some hesitations about using the name Michael because it was so common and she hated the nickname Mike. She hated the fact that she had a nickname as a full name and wished she was named Catherine instead. She thought that maybe she shouldn’t give her son such a common name when she had given her daughter such an unusual name. She told herself that she was actually doing the unexpected by giving her son a common name. Since she gave her daughter an unusual name, people would expect her to give her son an unusual name as well but Cathy would show people that she wasn’t that predictable. She figured that as long as she insisted on calling him Michael, other people would call him Michael too and no one would default to the dreaded Mike. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. Most of Michael’s friends call him Mike and sometimes he calls himself Mike but to Cathy he will always be Michael.
Cathy also had some issues with her own middle name. Her parents claimed she was given the middle name Marie to honor her father Maurice but Cathy suspected she was given the middle name Marie because that was the middle name given to almost every girl born in the 50’s. She originally wanted to give Michael the middle name of Christopher to honor her surprise third brother who she had become close with in adulthood but Mircea objected because he thought it would offend Jewish people. Therefore Cathy decided to give her son the truly unusual middle name of Sterling. He has lived up to that name.
For most of his life Michael has been a fairly normal, well adjusted child and a fairly easy child to have. It was nice of god, fate or whatever force is out there to cut Cathy a break with her second child because her first child Kira has always been very abnormal, maladjusted and difficult to deal with. When Kira was a few months old Cathy began to suspect that there was something not quite right about her. While most of the other babies were lifting up their heads, crawling and exploring their environments, Kira just sat there. She expressed her concerns to pediatricians. They told her not to worry, that she was just a little bit behind and she would catch up in time. Cathy continued to worry though. As Kira got older she continued to lag behind on certain milestones and struggle in certain areas. She struggled with fine motor skills, visual spatial skills and social skills. She did not interact with her peers appropriately. She didn’t interact with them much at all. She flapped, paced, and touched her lips constantly. For a long time she could not write her name legibly or get dressed on her own.
There were also certain milestones that Kira met on time or early and certain areas she excelled at. She spoke her first word when she was 9 months old. That word was “No.” Her second word was “Cat.” The first two words she chose to speak were a very accurate representation of her personality.To this day Kira has a strong stubborn and argumentative streak. To this day she loves animals.
Cathy also has a strong stubborn and argumentative streak but she had met her match in her daughter. Cathy and Kira mostly got along very well but like any mother and daughter they had their share of arguments. One of their earliest arguments involved a doll Kira wanted for Christmas. Kira had requested Baby Uh Oh, a doll that peed and pooped in its diaper. Cathy maintained that a doll that did such things was disgusting. She tried to persuade Kira that she wanted Baby Shivers instead because a doll that stopped shivering when you hugged it was sweet rather than disgusting. Kira argued with her for a long time but she eventually agreed that she wanted Baby Shivers. On Christmas morning Baby Shivers appeared under the tree. Cathy didn’t think the doll was quite so sweet and charming when she realized you had to take off its head to insert the batteries.
Michael could be pretty stubborn and argumentative as well. One time when Michael was two years old he took Kira’s stuffed bunny into his room. Cathy informed Michael that he had to give it back to her. He retrieved the bunny, threw it at Kira and exclaimed “Here’s your fucking bunny!” Cathy knew that she should rebuke Michael for his bad language but she couldn’t help but laugh. However, when Michael was about 10 years old he replied to Cathy lecturing him with “Maybe that’s the case in your little Cathy world!’ and Cathy informed him she would not tolerate that kind of lip.
She didn’t actually do anything to punish Michael though. The truth was Cathy just wasn’t much of a disciplinarian. When her kids were misbehaving she would threaten to throw cold water on them and sometimes she went so far as to fill up a glass but she never actually threw the water. When Michael was involved in throwing pears at moving cars Cathy had hit her limits though and decided to forbid Michael from watching the baseball world series. When Kira called her teacher a bitch, Cathy decided a week later that she needed to be punished in some way so she told Kira she could not watch TV for the rest of the week.
We already know how much Cathy loves animals but again she had met her match in Kira. Michael was also rather fond of animals.Cathy was happy to have two kids who loved animals and were kind to animals. She always feared giving birth to a sociopath like the kid she knew who would bury baby birds up to their necks and shoot them. On the contrary, like Cathy, Kira and Michael tried to rescue every animal they came across that might be in danger. Unfortunately like the animals of Cathy’s childhood, most of the rescued animals ended up dying anyway but at least they tried.
It was a good thing that it wasn’t until much later that Cathy found out about some of the things Kira and Michael would do to Demian. He’s lucky he survived being stuffed in a pillowcase and dropped from the top bunk bed as the kids chanted “Sandy Claws is coming down the chimney!” They weren’t trying to be cruel though. They were just kids who wanted to have fun with the cat and didn’t know any better. Michael also wasn’t trying to be cruel when he left his pet earthworms in the closet with no food and water until they shriveled and died. He was just forgetful. They actually loved their pets. Although Cathy loved pets herself, she tried to put limits on the number of pets they accumulated. Unfortunately for her Mircea usually gave in eventually and got them whatever animal they were requesting. Cathy loved the dogs and the cats. She was less fond of the rabbit and the chickens.
As Kira progressed from babyhood to toddlerhood to childhood, she displayed impressive language and reasoning skills as well as a sophisticated sense of humor. When Kira was about 15 months old, Cathy was changing her diaper. She let out a fart and exclaimed “Caca burp!” When Cathy would say to her “You’re the best little girl in the world” Kira would reply “Mommy, I know that every mommy thinks their little girl is the best girl in the world.” When Cathy would say “I love you more than anything”, Kira would reply “More than Michael?”
Kira was obviously very smart in some ways but the areas in which she was well, stupid continued to present a problem. The preschool she went to complained that she never played with the other kids and that she flapped constantly. Cathy would say to Kira “Do you feel like if you don’t flap something bad will happen?” and Kira would reply “No, I just like doing it.” Even if Cathy never fully understood Kira’s need to and flap and pace, she never judged her or chastised her for it. This was very fortunate for Kira, especially since there were people in her life who did judge her and chastise her for it.
Cathy would say “Kira, do you want to invite a friend from your class over to our house?” and Kira would reply “No, Why would I want to do that?’’ Cathy would say “So that you can have someone to play with” and Kira said “I would prefer to play by myself.” When Cathy did manage to arrange a playdate for Kira she would put aside what she was doing to try to help Kira interact appropriately with her friend but after a few playdates the friendship usually ended.
Cathy tried over and over again to teach Kira how to do things like brush her hair, brush her teeth, wash her body,button her shirt, tie her shoes etc, but she just couldn’t seem to master those basic skills. She hired an occupational therapist to teach Kira those skills but that occupational therapist did nothing but play board games with her so Cathy fired her. She took Kira to psychologists to address the social skills issues. Terryl the psychologist suggested that Kira’s problems were caused by Cathy being so charming that her charm overpowered Kira and set a high standard for her to live up to. Norman the psychologist suggested that Kira’s problems were caused by the A.D.D he suspected Cathy had. Cathy did not consider herself to be super charming and she tested negative for A.D.D so neither of these hypotheses seemed like reasonable explanations for Kira’s problems.
Cathy suspected that Kira had some kind of disability but she had no idea what kind of disability she had and no one else did either. She obviously didn’t have an intellectual disability because she had excellent verbal and reasoning skills. She didn’t seem to have a learning disability because in those days learning disabilities were thought of as being language based. She obviously didn’t have autism because in those days autistic kids were thought of as being the kind of kids who were nonverbal and never hugged their parents. In school Kira was so nonverbal that she was diagnosed with elective mutism but at home she was very verbal. With most people, Kira was not very demonstrative or affectionate but with Cathy she was very demonstrative and affectionate. She would stroke her arms and her cheeks and say “Honey Mommy! Mommy’s so soft and cute!” She loved nothing more than to cuddle in bed with her mommy and Cathy loved it too. She let it go on throughout Kira’s childhood, adolescence and adulthood despite Mircea’s concerns that it would turn Kira into a lesbian,
Cathy subjected Kira to all kinds of tests but they never pointed to any definitive diagnosis. She was given vague diagnoses such as perceptually impaired and learning disabled and inaccurate diagnoses such as tourette syndrome. Still Cathy tirelessly pursued an actual and accurate diagnosis. Her efforts finally paid off when Kira was 12 years old and she was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder. Cathy then read every article on NLD she could find and attended conferences on NLD. At the end of one of the conferences one of the world’s leading experts on NLD said that the prognosis for kids with NLD was not good because these kids were just so messed up.
It depressed Cathy to hear this but she was not going to give up on Kira no matter how hard things got and boy did they ever get hard. By the time Kira hit adolescence, Cathy was not just dealing with a disabled child, she was dealing with a disabled child who was also emotionally disturbed. She was dealing with a child who had frequent meltdowns, cut herself and talked about wanting to die. Cathy did everything in her power to help Kira. She researched everything she could find on developmental disabilities and mental illness. Raising a Child with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, The Explosive Child and People with Autism Behaving Badly are just a few of the sample titles accumulated in Cathy’s vast library of books.
Cathy researched and pursued every intervention she could find for Kira. No intervention was too expensive or too time consuming. There were various psychiatric medications, there was ECT, there were residential treatment programs for people with mental health issues, residential treatment programs for people on the autism spectrum, learning disability support programs, there was individual therapy, group therapy, social skills therapy, occupational therapy and various other experimental treatments that most people had never heard of. When Kira was rejected by learning disability support programs because they only dealt with verbal learning disabilities, Cathy got Kira set up with other services. When Kira was too shy to reach out herself to professionals who could help her, Cathy reached out to them for her.
Kira didn’t always make her appreciation for all Cathy did for her known but she did recognize that she had gotten pretty damn lucky in the mother department. Shortly before Kira graduated from high school, the teachers in the emotionally disturbed class that Kira was in had the graduating students write and read letters expressing their appreciation to their parents. Kira began her letter by saying that she had learned some hard lessons in life but the hardest lesson she had learned was that sometimes people let you down. However, there was one person she knew would never let her down and that person was Cathy. She went on to describe Cathy as her biggest advocate and her best friend. She concluded by saying that she could not ask for a better mother. By the end of that letter Cathy was a sobbing mess as was everyone else in the room.
As if dealing with Kira wasn’t hard enough, Cathy also had to deal with Mircea. Mircea was not an easy person to be married to. He had a hot temper and would often become irrational, would often fly into rages at Cathy over random and trivial matters. When Kira was seven years old Cathy had had enough of Mircea and decided to leave him. She originally planned on divorcing Mircea and moving back to Illinois with the kids but Mircea told her that if she just separated from him and held off on divorcing him, he would buy a house for her in the area. He bought her and the kids a lovely blue house that was down the street from his house. Throughout their childhoods Kira and Michael referred to that house as the new house and they referred to Mircea’s house as the old house,
When Mircea bought Cathy that house and asked her to agree to a trial separation, he was banking on Cathy’s wishy washiness and her inability to make final decisions. He figured that it would be years before Cathy got around to divorcing him if she ever got around to it. He was right about that. For years Cathy and Mircea had a bizarre married but not married relationship. Most of the time Mircea slept at his house but sometimes he slept at Cathy’s house. Sometimes he stormed out of Cathy’s house in a rage. One time he became furious at Cathy because he did not like the color of her soap. Another time he became furious with Cathy because she had put Christmas candles on one side of the house but not the other. He screamed that the house was lugaboo. Cathy eventually figured out that he meant lugubrious.
Cathy and Mircea’s strange married but not married relationship included family vacations. Mircea was just a joy to be around on vacations. On one vacation that involved driving around Canada in an RV Cathy found herself wishing there was a crabby camper dumping station where she could dump Mircea off. One day while they were driving Mircea kept criticizing her and berating her. Cathy lost it and said “Shut up, you cocksucker!” Mircea then proceeded to repeat “cocksucker, cocksucker, cocksucker” over and over again under his breath. Cathy said “Stop doing that. It’s really creepy” and Mircea replied “I’m just trying to remember what you said to me so I can tell it to the judge.”
Then there was the time they took a vacation to Arizona and stayed at a fancy hotel. Halfway through the vacation Mircea decided he needed to save money. He decided the family would no longer eat at out at restaurants. Instead they would subsist off of the packets of crackers, butter and jam that he had taken from the restaurants. Cathy informed Mircea that that was not an acceptable meal. Mircea replied “What are you talking about? There are many people in this world who would kill for a meal like this!” Cathy said “Yeah, maybe people living in a rural, poverty stricken town in a war torn village in Africa.” At that point Mircea busted out his crackers, butter and jam and exclaimed “Bon appetit, Mircea!” And to think, when Cathy went on a family vacation to Cape May when Michael was a toddler and she and Michael were peed on by a lion at the zoo, Cathy thought that was as bad as it got.
Cathy did eventually decide that she’d had enough of Mircea period and that she did not want to have any kind of romantic relationship with him. It was actually a trip to the dentist that brought her to that realization. While Cathy was having a root canal performed David the dentist asked her out on a date. Cathy declined. The next time she visited him he asked her again. She declined again. When he asked a third time she accepted. As evidenced by Mircea, Cathy has a certain weak spot for strange, inappropriate relationships with people in authority positions and people in helping professions who have her as a client. She and David hit it off so well that Cathy filed for divorce from Mircea. At first Mircea was very upset by this and fought against it. When David and Cathy went on dates he would show up in the parking lot. When he came to the house to pick up the kids he would start singing “We are family, all my sisters and my brothers and me….” He developed a bizarre fixation on David’s Jewishness and distrusted Kira’s school psychologist when he found out she was named Dr. David. Eventually Mircea accepted the divorce and Cathy’s new relationship though. Eventually Cathy and David got married. They lived not so happily ever after.
When Kira and Michael were little, Cathy mostly did freelance work from home. During that time she took a course on medical copywritng. She then obtained a job in Manhattan as a medical copywriter. She decided to break the news that she was going back to work to Kira while she was giving her a bath. At first Kira was upset by Cathy going back to work but she got over it pretty quickly. Even though Cathy worked long hours in the city, she still paid plenty of attention to Kira and Michael. Cathy sometimes felt working mommy guilt but that guilt was assuaged when she read a study that suggested that even if working mothers spent less time with their kids than stay at home moms did, the time they did spend with them tended to be of higher quality.
Besides when Cathy was away at work, she made sure Kira and Michael were in good hands with the highest quality babysitters, nannies and au pairs. Well,okay, there was that one babysitter who was batshit crazy, that one who killed Kira’s pet fish through her stupidity and the one who decided to go back to Spain and stay there before her contract was up but overall Cathy chose her childrens’ caretakers well.
One of the advantages of having nannies was that Cathy was relieved of some of the burden of preparing meals for the children herself. Cathy wasn’t a bad cook but she did have some issues with cooking. When Michael was explaining the family Thanksgiving traditions to one of the nannies he said “For Thanksgiving my mother prepares turkey, stuffing and potatoes but first she puts saran wrap around the smoke detectors so she doesn’t set them off.”
One day a nanny called the kids for dinner and said “I made you porkchops.” Kira replied “Those aren’t porkchops. Porkchops are black.” All the porkchops that Cathy had ever served to the kids had been black because she burnt them to a crisp. Whenever she went out to a restaurant Cathy asked for her steak extremely well done. If you asked Freud he might have told you that Cathy’s insistence on burning her meat until it was black was related to the traumatic loss of her pig Judy that she experienced as a child. She didn’t want to eat something that in any way resembled a live pig because she feared she might be eating Judy.
Cathy did have some successes in the kitchen. Kira and Michael loved her beef bourguignon and they also loved a dish they’ve never known the official name of but that they have always referred to as pasta with olives. Although they referred to Cathy’s scalloped corn as junky corn mush, objectively it was quite good.
Cathy also had many successes in the work force. She eventually rose to the top as creative director of her advertising agency and boy did she ever put the creative in creative director. When she was working on a drug for endometriosis she created a video game called Escape from Endo. For another advertising campaign that involved some drug with the letter X she composed a rap song with the lyics “X X, gotta have X, baby.” She once redecorated her entire agency over night by painting the walls orange and buying trinkets from stores. An important client was coming the next day and they couldn’t have the place looking like a dump.
Cathy faced some hard times and some difficult decisions in her career but even with those she got creative. Ever the pretentious literary snob, she quoted King Lear in a resignation letter. A colleague referred to her as the Emile Zola of the advertising world because she felt compelled to stick up for the employees she felt were being mistreated. There was an employee dubbed Dinners Florentine That Cathy had to talk to about her bad breath but she did it as tactfully as possible. She had to fire some of her friends but she was so nice about it that they are friends with her to this day. She got one of her friends a job, only to have that friend betray her, earning her the moniker Benedict Amy.
It also wasn’t much fun dealing with shit being smeared on the bathroom walls. Then there was the time Cathy got a kidney stone at work and barricaded herself in the bathroom. A friend took her to the emergency room where the wait was so long that the friend considered lightly stabbing Cathy just to get bumped up on the priority list.
Cathy was never someone who went looking for trouble but sometimes trouble found her. One time Cathy and some of her colleagues decided to get another one of their colleagues a butt plug as a gag gift. The task of purchasing the butt plug fell on Cathy. As if purchasing a butt plug wasn’t humiliating enough, on the way to the adult sex toy shop, a woman on the street ran up to Cathy and slapped her on the face as a group of shocked bystanders looked on. “You looked at me! You looked at me!’ the woman exclaimed and proceeded to chase Cathy down the street, To Cathy’s relief, the woman then sped up ahead of her and ran away. Cathy then returned to the group of startled onlookers and asked if the woman had broken the skin. They assured her that she had not so Cathy did what she had set out to do. She went to the adult toy store and purchased a butt plug. “Would you like some lube with that?’ the cashier asked. “Nah, I’ll just tough it out.” Cathy replied.
Then there was the incident at the airport. Cathy had been waiting all day at the Illinois airport for a flight that was delayed by hours. Eventually she heard that the flight had been cancelled so she called her brother Jon to pick her up and take her home. As she was getting in the car she heard her flight being announced so she dashed back into the airport. She was in a rush so she asked the people in front of her in line if she could cut ahead of them. They said they were fine with it. The TSA agents on the other hand, were not fine with it.
“What do you think you’re doing? You can’t just come waltzing in here cutting in front of people!” an agent bellowed at Cathy.
“I have to catch a flight that’s leaving at any minute. The people said it was fine if I cut in front of them.”
“You should have arrived at the airport earlier.”
“I’ve been at the airport all day! This is ridiculous”
“Don’t you get snippy with me!”
“Look, I’m sick, I’m tired of sitting around at the airport hearing conflicting information about my flight and I have an important presentation at work tomorrow!”
“Show me your boarding pass!…Now what is it you’re trying to pull here?”
“What are you talking about?’
“This boarding pass says Cheng-Wei Fu. You are obviously not Cheng-Wei Fu. Trying to impersonate someone else, are you?”
“No, they must have given me the wrong boarding pass!”
“A likely story! We need to take you into our office now.”
The TSA agents then took Cathy in to their office and threatened to throw her in the Rock Island County jail. That made Cathy burst into tears. Perhaps it also made one of the TSA agents feel a little bit of sympathy for her because he said “Is there anyone whose custody we can release you into?” Cathy had them contact Jon and they agreed to release her into his custody. When she later went to tell the airport employees that they had given her the wrong boarding pass, they told her it was her own fault she had received the wrong boarding pass. A few weeks later she received a letter in the mail from the airport. It said they had been informed there had been an incident with her and that if she didn’t explain herself she would be placed on the no fly list. Cathy mailed them her explanation and apparently it was good enough for them because they never replied and she has been allowed on many flights since then.
Now that we’ve discussed Cathy’s education, career, family, personal life and the trouble she’s gotten in to, let us talk some more about Cathy’s hobbies and interests. Sometimes Cathy wonders if she missed her calling in life as a real estate agent or an interior decorator because she loves houses so much that Kira has diagnosed her as having Housepergers. If you’re having a conversation with Cathy and she changes the subject of the conversation to something else because she’s been distracted, 90% of the time she’s talking about a house. Whenever she sees a house she likes or finds notable in some way, she has to comment on it. Whenever she sees a house for sale, she has to look up the price even if she has no intention of buying it. She often has to be a creeper and take a picture of the house. Her creeper-ness goes even further than that though. If the house is abandoned she will break into it. Much of her free time on the internet is spent looking at houses.
Considering Cathy’s intense interest in houses, you would have thought she’d know better than to buy a house without seeing it in person but sadly she did not. In 2015 Cathy made an ill fated attempt to return to her homeland of Illinois and in doing so she moved into a house that she had only seen through pictures and videos. She knew the move was off to an inauspicious start when she realized that when the previous owners of the house left, they took the washer and dryer with them. Then there was the peeling paint, the broken window sills, the broken microwave door, the cabinets that were not wood as promised but plastic, the undrinkable water and the basement that was prone to flooding. A month after Cathy moved to Illinois she returned to New Jersey. To be fair it wasn’t just the problems with the house that caused Cathy’s return. The strange neighbor next door to her, the crazy neighbor across the street from her and the sex offending neighbor in back of her certainly didn’t help matters. The dead dog didn’t help matters either.
It was mentioned that Cathy enjoys taking pictures of houses. She also enjoys photography in general. She has forced her kids to pose for many artsy, bizarre and morbid pictures. We already know about Cathy’s literary pretentiousness and her love for books but over the years she has also had a love for certain television shows. Some of her favorites have been The Wonder Years, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Seinfeld, Home Improvement, South Park and Mad Men. If you’ve read this biography and you’re familiar with those shows, you should have no trouble figuring out why Cathy was drawn to them.
In recent years Cathy has developed another love that may rival even her love of houses and it certainly rivals the love she has for certain family members. That love is Starbucks. Cathy goes to Starbucks almost every single day, sometimes multiple times a day and she often stays there for hours at a time. If you’re ever looking for Cathy and you can’t find her, try checking the nearest Starbucks. Whenever Cathy visits an unfamiliar area the first thing she does is look for the nearest Starbucks. The more Starbucks that are in the area, the higher Cathy’s opinion of the area is. Cathy always orders the same thing at Starbucks- decaf venti almond milk java chip frappucino lite with extra ice and extra chips on top. If the drink is not made exactly to Cathy’s specifications she returns it to the baristas. The baristas are usually okay with this though because Cathy has developed a friendly relationship with them since she visits their coffee shop so often. If Cathy is unable to visit Starbucks she sends someone out to get her drink for her.
Although Cathy’s foray into community theater ended when she became pregnant with Kira, to this day she is a frequent patron of and generous donor to McCarter theater. If the person she’s attending the theater with does not treat her with respect, she leaves that person at the theater and takes the train home. Cathy is also a connoisseur of music and a frequent patron of the philharmonic. She enjoys classical, baroque, renaissance, folk, rock, emo and celtic music. The Stolen Child set to music by Loreena McKennit was the perfect song for her because it combined folk music, literary pretentiousness and morbidity. She would play that song in the living room over and over again. Over and over again her own children were traumatized as they listened to the story of the child who was lured into the waters and the wild by the fairies who told him that the world was more full of weeping than he could understand. Kira and Michael were used to being terrorized by their mother though. Cathy liked to scare them by putting on the vampire fangs from that costume contest she won with her friend Chuck.
Now that we’ve talked about the things that Cathy loves, let’s talk about some of the things she hates. Although Cathy loves animals in general, she hates spiders. One time as Cathy squashed a spider with a shoe, Kira said “Mother, you told us that we should not kill an animal because its life is all it has. You’re taking away a spider’s life.” Cathy replied “It’s a spider. It doesn’t deserve to have one.”
It was actually a spider that proved the depth of Cathy’s maternal love. One day when Michael was a toddler she saw a giant spider on his leg. She was terrified of touching a spider with her bare hand but she had nothing else to kill it with and it was endangering Michael so she did what she had to do.
When Cathy returned to New Jersey after her ill fated move to Illinois, her neighbors probably weren’t too sad to see her go because in the month or so that she was there, she managed to run through the streets screaming and disturbing the peace twice. Both times an animal was to blame. The first time Kira knew all too well that it was because they had just found that their beloved dog had suffocated on a chip bag. The second time Kira was out on her trampoline when it happened and wondered if someone was being murdered. It turned out Cathy had reached into the mailbox and touched a big hairy spider.
The only thing that comes close to Cathy’s fear of spiders is her fear of Grandpa Munster. Cathy always had a certain affection for The Adams Family because Wednesday Adams reminded her of herself and later of her daughter, Kira. She never had any love for The Munsters though and she had a burning hatred for Grandpa Munster. In childhood she would run screaming out of the room whenever she heard The Munsters theme song playing on TV and thanks to Nick at Nite she could not escape the show in adulthood. Kira, being the evil child that she was, would find pictures of Grandpa Munster and trick Cathy in to looking at them. Her second husband David was even more evil. At work he sent her an e-mail with a pop up picture of Grandpa Munster. This caused her to run out of the office screaming and to call in a co-worker to remove the offending picture. One April Fools Day David put Grandpa Munster pictures all over the bedroom and the bathroom.
Cathy also tends to develop a dislike for anyone who looks like Grandpa Munster or any of the munsters for that matter. She dislikes Ted Cruz who reminds her of Grandpa Munster and she dislikes Paul Ryan who reminds her of Eddie Munster. Of course her dislike of them has more to do with their behavior and policies but their resemblance to the Munsters certainly doesn’t help. Mitt Romney doesn’t resemble a munster but Cathy disliked him anyway. However, now that Cathy is facing the prospect of a Trump presidency, Mittens seems like quite the gentleman in comparison.
And so it goes. Cathy has existed on this planet for many years now (although you could also make a case for the argument that she’s existed on her own planet.) She’s had some good times and some bad times. She’s had some successes and some failures but overall she’s done very well for herself. When she attended her 30th high school reunion her gym teacher said to her “I’m so glad you turned out okay. I was really worried about you.”
Cathy has experienced some major changes in her life but you know how they say the more things change the more things stay the same? This seems to be very true with Cathy’s life.
Now instead of constantly having bizarre heated arguments over seemingly trivial matters with her first husband, Cathy constantly has bizarre heated arguments over seemingly trivial matters with her second husband. Now instead of having a black and white cat that runs under the bed in terror in reaction to bright lights, loud noises and the paranormal, Cathy has a black and white dog who does the same thing. Instead of having to deal with her father causing the untimely death of her pet pig, she has to deal with her father making insensitive remarks in reaction to her dog’s untimely death. Shortly after her dog suffocated on a chip bag, she advised her father to cut the chip bags he used in order to protect his own dog. His response was “Now, why would I want to do a stupid thing like that?”
To this day Cathy does her best to rescue wildlife in peril but she’s learned some lessons from her previous wildlife rescue attempts. The last time she found a baby bird on the sidewalk she made a makeshift nest for it in a tree close to where she found it and never checked on it again.She knows that when it comes to baby birds, despite your best efforts, the story is unlikely to have a happy ending so it’s better to just give the story a happy ending in your head and not allow that happy ending to be crushed by reality.
Now instead of having to deal with the humiliation of having a teacher assume she’s picking her nose, Cathy has to deal with the humiliation of having actual nose pickers in her family, Now instead of feuding with her neighbors over building a fence she feuds with them over their encroachment on her juniper bushes. Now instead of testing fecal samples and dealing with bathroom shit smearers as part of her job, she’s throwing bags of her dog’s feces on the neighbors’ lawn to get revenge on them for encroaching on her juniper bushes and making up lies about her.
Now instead of coming up with creative ideas for work and dealing with work drama from her office in New York City, Cathy does that from home. Her life is one long conference call. Cathy does worry sometimes that at this point she’s too old and wrinkly to be successful in the advertising world but she’s still a force to be reckoned with.
To this day Cathy is still a pretentious literary snob. In her spare time, which she doesn’t have that much of, she loves to read. She’s a member of a book club where she regularly scoffs at the inferior literary analysis skills of her fellow members. There are however certain members of that book club who are even more pretentiously literary than Cathy is. The book club recently experienced a great schism and nearly fell apart as the result of a certain member deciding that a certain book did not meet her high literary standards. The book club did manage to survive minus the super pretentious literary snob.
Even aside from discussing and analyzing books,Cathy derives great benefit from all the reading she does. She has developed an impressive vocabulary that she uses to her advantage whether she’s trying to endear herself to people or demolish them in an argument. Kira did suggest that she might want to rethink her use of the word niggardly because it doesn’t mean what most people are going to think it means. Cathy returns the favor by pointing out to Kira when she’s mispronouncing the big words she uses.
Cathy is enjoying getting the last laugh over some of the things Kira teased her about in childhood. On one family vacation Cathy weighed herself on a scale at a truck stop. Kira then went screaming through the truck stop “Mother weighs 126 pounds!” as if Cathy was the biggest fat-ass ever. Kira passed the 126 mark years ago. On another family vacation the family went hiking through the forest. On the return hike Cathy became tired and an elderly lady made it back to the starting point of the trail before Cathy did. Kira teased her about that for years and aged the woman by about 10 years every time she told the story. These days when Cathy and Kira walk the dog, Kira regularly tells Cathy that she’s going home because she can’t handle walking anymore. Cathy continues to soldier on for another half hour.
Cathy also takes pride in the fact that she knew better than Michael did what he wanted to do with his life. She originally suggested that Michael major in infectious diseases and Michael said he had no interest in doing so. He went on to get a degree in infectious diseases. Cathy originally suggested Michael go to medical school and he said he had no interest in becoming a doctor. Michael is now a doctor. Cathy is very proud of her son’s accomplishments but unfortunately achieving those accomplishments meant residing in Texas for long periods of time and Texas seems to have warped Michael’s mind. Michael has always been Cathy’s normal, well adjusted child but these days he’s pushing the limits of normalcy. Cathy wonders how she managed to give birth to a Trump supporter.
Kira was a difficult child to deal with and now she’s a difficult adult to deal with. She continues to be dependant on Cathy and Cathy continues to do everything in her power to help her. Kira has been through some very rough times and has put Cathy through some rough times. Kira has made some progress recently though. She’s still crazy but not completely batshit like she once was. For years Kira was a complete recluse but now she’s reached out to her friends again. She’s actually followed Cathy’s lead when it comes to having weird, inappropriate relationships with people in authority positions over her and people who have her as clients in helping professions. She’s good friends with her teachers and therapists.
For a while Kira had lost the streak of literary pretentiousness she inherited from her mother and she did not read or write. Now she does both, although her reading time is significantly diminished when she has to focus on long writing projects like this biography.
Unfortunately as Kira’s batshittery has decreased, the batshittery of Cathy’s other relatives has increased. When Kira was six years old she gave Cathy’s brother Christopher the moniker Mr. Crissy. These days Mr. Crazy seems like a more appropriate moniker. Cathy just seems to be a magnet for batshit.
Although Kira will never have the high powered career that Cathy has and superficially she will never be as successful as Cathy has been, in many ways Kira has followed in Cathy’s footsteps and in many ways they are a lot alike. It’s not uncommon for people with Kira’s type of disability to say that they just can’t picture themselves without their disability, that without their disability they wouldn’t know who they were. Kira has always had a hard time relating to this because as far as she’s concerned her mother is her without the disability. Put aside the constant emotional meltdowns, the stereotyped movements and the severe executive functioning impairment and you’re left with the creativity, the intelligence,the morbidity, the quick wit, the dark, dry sense of humor, the stubborn, argumentative streak, the literary pretentiousness, the love for all animals except spiders,the extreme introversion and disdain for mankind as well as the extreme lovingness and affection for a select few including each other.
Remember Cathy’s friend Paul? He of the naked woman and UFO encounters? One time when Cathy was talking to him about Kira he said “Kira’s not just your daughter, is she? She’s your kindred spirit.” He was right. That’s another thing that will never change.