A PTSD Memoir: Charlie Lopez Fitzgerald
1997 – 2014
By David Elijah-Nahmod
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine and David Elijah-Nahmod. All rights reserved.
David-Elijah Nahmod is a film critic and reporter in San Francisco. His articles appear regularly in The Bay Area Reporter and SF Weekly. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.
David developed Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) after surviving gay conversion therapy as a child and has found that many in the LGBT community suffer from severe, often untreated emotional disorders due to the extreme anti-gay traumas they endured. This column chronicles his journey.
“If you go, I’ll understand
leave just enough love
to fill up my hand.” — Rod McKuen
“His name is Russell,” I was told by the vet in New York City.
“No it’s not,” I said. “It’s Charlie.” And so I took a very frightened kitty home from the vet’s office who had rescued him from the street in the Upper East Side Manhattan neighborhood where I lived during the late 1990s. Until he died on December 4, 2014, Charlie was my closest friend, my family.
The first few months were touch and go. Charlie had been abandoned, and had obviously been abused. He was frightened and didn’t trust me at first. He hissed at me. Soon my hands were covered in scabs from his almost constant biting and scratching. Friends advised me to give him up because he was hurting me. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually considered it. Thank God I came to my senses and kept the little guy.
After about six months with me, Charlie began to calm down–I guess he realized that I wasn’t going to beat him, and besides, I was his food source! One night I was lying on the couch, watching TV. Charlie casually strolled over and gently lay across my tummy. As he purred gently, I looked down upon him and fell hopelessly in love. We were soulmates from that day forward.
In 1999 I became addicted to the daytime soap opera Passions, and was quite amused by a core family on the show who carried the unlikely moniker of Lopez-Fitzgerald. I laughed out loud the first time I heard the name because it sounded so over the top. On that day my kitty’s full name became Charlie Lopez Fitzgerald–I had his medical records altered to reflect his modified name.
When I moved back to California in 2003, Charlie sat quietly on the back seat of my rental car. He was amazingly well behaved during the five day journey, snuggling with me each night in motel rooms. He spent the rest of his life, 11 years, in the apartment where I still live.
Sometimes when I went out he would get angry, wrapping his paws around my ankles. He didn’t want me to leave. When I returned home he would greet me joyously, often jumping up into my arms.
When I sat at my desk writing stories, Charlie would sit on the window sill behind me. He was in heaven, in his own little world. I’ve not been in a relationship for many years, but with Charlie in the house I never felt alone. I got so much love from him, and I loved him just as much.
In 2008, a gay blogger subjected me to malicious, inflammatory and false stories which were clearly written out of anti-Semitism. Soon, several other gay bloggers jumped on the bandwagon, literally encouraging a conservative, anti-gay couple to harass me. Being subjected to this kind of hate from the gay and the anti-gay alike left me feeling the deepest despair I’d ever known. For a brief period I was suicidal–the only time in my life I ever had such feelings.
I began searching for a home for Charlie. As soon as I found one, I planned to kill myself. But I wasn’t able to find him that home. I felt responsible for his life, and because of this I didn’t end mine. A few weeks later, the police intervened on my behalf. The anti-gay couple ended their harassment of me and most of the postings about me were deleted.
Were it not for Charlie, and all the love I’d gotten from him, I might not have lived to tell this story. I owe that cat my life.
During the last six months of his life, Charlie began to slow down. His appetite decreased, and he had difficulty jumping onto his favorite perch. He was 17 years old. The vet advised me to prepare for the end.
About a week before he died Charlie stopped eating. I took him to the ER twice that week. On December 3rd I was told that he had a huge tumor in his tummy and would die in a few days. I took him home tearfully and tried to give him as much love as I could. The following morning he barely knew I was there.
On December 4, 2014, at 5PM, I sat with Charlie, gently petting and talking to him while he was put down. Right before he left he reached out and touched me. He knew I was there. Thank God for that.
A week later, I brought his ashes home. They now sit on a bookshelf–I still light memorial candles next to his urn.
A few months ago I went to the animal shelter and brought home a seven month old kitten. I could think of no better way to honor Charlie’s memory than to give a home to a homeless kitty. So many young, healthy cats are put down because forever homes can’t be found for them. And so I saved another kitty, just as I had saved Charlie nearly 18 years ago.
I named my new guy Russell, Charlie’s original name.
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