This post was written a while ago, but I never got around to publishing it. I had rushed the initial draft and wanted something that I was happy with before I shared it. Unfourtantely, the second half of the semester got the better of me in terms of free time, but I finished it up and and I am ready to share it
On the morning of Saturday, October 27th, 2018, I called home in hopes to catch up with my family for a bit. I had just spent my past week putting roughly 50 hours into an assignment for my Data Structures class. At RPI, our CS1200 / Data Structures has an infamous homework, known as “Homework 6” that typically focuses on using recursion to effectively bruteforce solutions to various logic puzzles / games in a timely manner. In my case, I happened to have the problem of solving Slitherlink puzzles. It was definitely the toughest week of my semester, as the actual recursion was rather simple; however, the problem was making it go fast. It turned out the biggest problem with my approach was I kept throwing more code at the problem trying to essentially magically hit a breakthrough. It turned out that I had the capability of solving these puzzles rather quickly, but I was overlooking a few things. I managed to figure out how to speed things up considerably, but if I had just sat down and did some more thinking and conceptualizing the problem I would’ve shaved off a lot of unnecessary time hitting dead-ends. All-in-all, I ended up getting a B+ on my assignment, which I was really proud of, and I definitely could have gotten an A had I spent some more time quashing a few bugs, but alas, eye-strain got the best of me and I was ready to move on to another assignment.
It just so happened that this monster of an assignment happened to first come out over family weekend. It was the first time I had seen my family in person since Troy, New York became my new home. It was during this weekend that I realized how much I had missed everyone. I had been spending a lot of time just always being busy and the reality of this didn’t hit me until they had to leave. It was over the course of that week that I had realized I had to budget more time into my schedule into calling home regularly and making sure I was keeping in contact.
This brings us back to the start, I suppose. The homework was finished, my life was returning to normal, and I decided to call home. My youngest brother, Chris, answered the phone and I talked to him for a bit and then asked if Mom or Dad were home. He proceeded to tell me that the cat was sick and they were on their way to the vet. I quickly dialed my mom’s cell number and caught up with her and asked about the cat. They said they noticed he was acting funny the previous night so they wanted to make sure he was alright. They were surprised to hear that I knew because they didn’t want to upset me (pro-tip: Not telling me something is wrong is far more likely to upset me than finding out right away) and they weren’t sure what was wrong yet.
This was definitely bad news, but Carson had some battles before and he always pulled through. He was an older soul, about 14 years old and he had been an indoor cat most of his life. Although later in life he decided he wanted to spend some more time with the birds, and so we let him out on our deck where he mostly just sat under a tree and took in all the smells and sounds. Occasionally he’d take up brief adventures where he had gotten out via a window that was accidentally left open and went roof excavating, but those were more rare.
Later in the day I called back to check up on him and I had gotten considerably worse news, he had contracted pneumonia and was on oxygen. His heart had stopped and they had to perform CPR which led to him being on ventilator, although he did wake back up. Initially this news had made me rather angry since I had explicitly stated that I wanted to be in the loop and instead I was finding out his condition was far from “just not doing too well”. I can’t really fault my parents too much there, I simply am unable to be uninfluenced by emotional things going on in my life. Stuff like this makes everything harder and my school work definitely did suffer as a result of this, but it had to happen. It was really the first time I had taken time to process what was going on and what I was feeling in such a long time. They didn’t want to pose a burden on me, but that doesn’t matter. Grades can be fixed, assignments can be turned in late via extensions, and sometimes you need to take some personal time. Needless to say, that anger pretty quickly turned to heartbreak and I reached out to my grandmother, who always seems to be the person you need to talk to when you feel like your world is falling apart.
I called my grandmother around 10:00pm that night and had a long discussion with her about the cat. I got back to my dorm around 11:30, turned off of the lights, and just decided it was time for the day to end. For some reason, I didn’t put my phone on the charger and the battery died. Around 12:40 AM on Sunday, October 28th, my brother Michael got home from work and as he was walking in the door, the phone rang and he knew it could only be one thing. He quickly tried to call me and would immediately end up at voicemail because of that. He was really distraught because he thought I just had do not disturb on or something, and it’s something that I regret still that I couldn’t be available when he needed me. I was tired, both physically and mentally, but all I had to do was just put my phone on that damn charger. In retrospect, it didn’t change the fact that our family member, Carson, was dead, but it could’ve helped the initial hurt.
Carson’s loss was devastating for my family and. by the nature that I’m writing a blog post about him at 1 in the morning in the bottom floor of my student union on a Friday, it obviously affected me considerably. I had him since I was four. He was with me through grade school and all of middle school and high school. He would sleep in my room on my bed and during my high school days would frequently be sitting on top my homework while I was trying to get it done. Whenever I was having a late night working on some project or code, he’d be just hanging out in the room. I always had a work buddy, even if sometimes he made things harder by bugging me for more food or spreading himself out all over my work.
I’ve always been a sentimental person, which I think is a large part of my interest in archiving and preserving data. I spend a lot of energy trying to ensure information stays in existence; however, I don’t have the power to keep the important things in my life around. And that brings us to this blog post, because on here I make the rules, so Carson, you’re welcome to stay here a little while. I got plenty of server space lying around and their temperatures are pretty warm.
In memory of Carson “the Cat” Allwein: November 2004 - October 28th, 2018.
Published on 12/6/2018