How A Cat, A Gun, and A Pillowcase Taught Me About Solving Problems

My family put the “dysf” in dysfunctional – just a sputtering of angry consonants. So you’ll understand that most of what I know about life, I learned in a way that felt a lot like holding a firecracker until the very last second you could let go.

Here’s a story about problem-solving that I learned from my family. A bit of background: even though my parents were divorced, they insisted on trying to live together for a while with all four of us kids. You get the picture: Lots of drama. Lots of excitable people.


And sometimes Gargoyle heads

My little sister found a cat that she named Gary. One day, the cat decided to climb up into the engine block of my mother’s Grand Prix and take a nap. When my mother later started the car, the fan blade caught part of Gary’s head and trapped him in the engine.


Bad Idea, Kitty

My mother burst into hysterical tears. My father, who always overreacted to my mother’s tears, decided to quickly solve the problem.

“Have you seen my shotgun shells?” he asked me, cocking open his 12-gauge.

This caused my sister to burst into hysterical tears. I did the only thing that I knew to do: call my Meemaw.

For a woman who was always so calm, my grandmother drove like NASCAR and was right there in minutes.

She surveyed the situation and told me to get her a towel and a pillow case. Which sounded so much better than shotgun shells. She used the towel to gently pry the cat loose and put him inside the pillowcase.

“He’s scared and this will keep him from scratching you,” she said as we loaded into her Delta 88, burning rubber to the vet’s office.


Not pictured: Bleeding cat, screaming children, Grandmother

The cat lived, albeit with a large scar above one eye that I’m sure terrified the neighbor cats.

And in this story are the lessons I learned about ways to approach a problem:

1. You can start crying

2. You can pick the most damaging, but “efficient” way

3. You can stay calm and collaborate

God help me, I am my parent’s child and I pick one and two way too much. It’s only taken me most of my life to figure out that number three really does work in almost every situation.


Image credits:

“Black Cat Is The Best” by Flickr user Calsidyrose

“Gargoyles on a mosaic in the Museum Capitolini” via Wikimedia Commons

“Stray Cat Touching A Car” via Wikimedia Commons

“Oldsmobile Delta 88 Coupe” via Wikemedia Commons


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