It was this last comment that got me thinking. Did I love my animals less when I had children? I don't think so but I do remember bottoming out in Los Osos.
We had moved to a duplex in Los Osos when my children were three and five. I worked in San Luis Obispo, about 10 miles away, and I managed to get my children into school and other activities in SLO (something that is rather harder to do now). We talked in the car, listened to tapes and the radio, and we went from work (where they often showed up after school) to gymnastics or some other activity, and often arrived home when it was dark. We often ate out, cheap meals, not very nutritious, in large part because I couldn't face my kitchen. The kitchen was full of dirty dishes. The counters were covered with food and dishes, the floor was not clean, the kitchen table was mounded high with whatever I was interested in at the time or possibly some parts of a school project. Even the piano was piled high with books, magazines, mail, music.
At the time we bottomed out Elaine and Mary were in grade school, but I don't remember just how old. We had acquired cats. One of these cats had kittens before I got to the vet to get her fixed. It seemed that our commuter lifestyle left us no room for actually living in this home. It was more a place to sleep, to get through the night, and it was pretty awful. One day we discovered that one of the kittens was throwing up. I thought it had eaten something bad and the illness would go away. I wasn't paying a lot of attention.
Then one night we slept on the floor in the living room. Did we do that most nights then? It's possible. I woke to see a kitten near me and I saw how thin it was. I was horrified. These kittens were dying right before my eyes and I hadn't even noticed. I could hardly sleep the rest of that night and the following morning I took them all in to the vet - except for one - or was it two? - who had already died. They were dehydrated and sick. Some survived. I don't remember what happened to them from then. There have been so many cats, so many deaths, over the years. But I paid more attention from then on. I am ashamed to say I learned from my mistakes, that many animals paid for my sins over the years. Unfortunately, so did my children.