And Then There Was One

My cat died today.

I don’t know what to write.

I’ve been trying for weeks to compose an appropriate goodbye post for the cat we lost in September, and now this.  I am overwhelmed.

I can’t think about either of them without a huge lump in my throat and water in my eyes.

It’s hard to type.

Rusty and Poupon.

My babies.

Dear Rusty,

A few months ago, you walked out into the yard as a seemingly healthy cat.  When you came back inside, you started sneezing and you really never stopped.

You got sick.  Maybe there was cancer growing inside you for years.  We will never know for sure.  All those diagnostic tests, and we never got an answer.

None of the medicine worked.  You couldn’t keep the liquids in your stomach.  The pills made you gag.  The shots had no effect.

You got i.v. fluids and oxygen too, but nothing helped.  You declined quickly.

In mid-September, we took you to the vet to have you euthanized.

It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made, but your breathing was labored, you had lost four pounds, and your energy was sapped.  It was time and we knew it.

Today, I feel relieved that you aren’t suffering, but watching you in those last few minutes was a heartbreak I can barely stand to think of, much less communicate here.

You were a big cat – tall, muscular, imposing – over sixteen pounds in your prime.  You were once a graceful and merciless hunter, catching birds in our small backyard whenever we let you out for a minute.

As you aged, you were still keen on the low slink through the grass to get a butterfly or lizard, but you generally did a lazy flop in the sun just short of your target.  Too much trouble when there’s a plate of Friskie’s just inside the door, I guess.

We got you and your brother over ten years ago, when I was pregnant with our son.  You were my faithful companion then.  We spent hours together, curled into the corner of our fat blue couch, waiting for the baby.  You seemed to know that I felt sick to my stomach and a little bit sad most of the time.  You fit perfectly in the crook of my arm.

You were such a comfort to me then – more than I was to you those last few weeks, I’m afraid.  I am sorry for that.  You should have had a fat blue couch and a fat blue mama to comfort your weary body around the clock.  I sat with you as much as I could, but life interrupted a lot.

Your brother and Poupon seemed to know you had something scary.  They really wouldn’t get too close to you in the final days.  Just typing that makes me so incredibly sad.  You deserved more from all three of us.  You really did.

I loved you, Rusty.  I hope you are healthy and happy somewhere now.

Dear Poupon,

Today was difficult.  I took you to the vet and got confirmation of what I already knew.  I had to let you go.  I held you for a while and I said goodbye.  I cried and I watched as the doctor administered the overdose of medication that would end your life.

I had no husband or friend beside me this time, but it seemed appropriate that I didn’t.  You were a gracious, independent lady of great strength, and I know I am meant to carry that legacy on your behalf.

I was just thirty when you tumbled into my life.  You were a fluffy, flea-covered kitten, abandoned and crying in a nearby yard.  My neighbor came around with you in her arms and asked us all if we knew where you belonged.  She even posted signs and placed an ad, but no one claimed you.  I was smitten.

For a few years, you played second fiddle to a smart Russian Blue named Shadow.  When she passed away, you moved elegantly into her place.

You were a funny girl, my Fairy Princess.  You used to wait outside the shower door to rub your flyaway fur all over our wet legs when we emerged.  You used to chase things that weren’t there and occasionally, you walked into a room and flopped your Rubenesque figure right upside down with your feet in the air.  You stayed like that for long minutes, daring the boys to come anywhere near you.  And you chortled.

I’ve grown up with you, my friend.  What will I do without the sound of your sweet voice and the clicking of your silly toenails on the tile floor?  You were a ballerina.  A big, fat, beautiful gray ballerina and I will miss you so very much.  I love you, Pou.

 

♥♥

Dear Betsy…

I said I wasn’t going to write about you anymore, but I have to say something tonight because I had lunch with your girls and my mind is racing.

I miss you.  I really do.

Today what really overwhelmed me is how much I want my son to know you.

It isn’t fair.  Everything is so hard for him already and he has to make it in a world without you and my dad.

That can’t be right.  It isn’t right.  It hurts me and I hate it.

I can’t stand the image in my head of what would have been.  I don’t want to know how easily my son would have fit into your life.

You would have gathered him in your arms and your heart and kept him safe, just like I try to do.

You would have helped him learn and laugh and love.

I know that as sure as I breathe.  But I don’t want to know it.  I really don’t.

Sometimes, I try to tell myself that we wouldn’t have been friends if you had lived.

I try to tell myself that we were drifting apart.

I try to tell myself that we were not interested in each others’ lives or kids or homes or hobbies or dreams anymore.

But that just isn’t true.

We drifted apart regularly, but we always drifted back.

We fought a lot, but we always made up.

We found each other ridiculous, annoying, rude, uninteresting, boring, petty, maddening…all the time…and then we didn’t.

So I know that picture of what would have been is accurate.

You would have loved my son.  You did love my son.

So I miss you for that, you know?

I miss you because you loved my son.

♥♥

It takes a while

After dropping off the little boy at school this morning, I took a brisk walk around the campus and through the adjacent park.

I probably needed to walk the loop more than once, but even that fleeting twelve minutes worked wonders on my foggy brain.

This has been a strange week.

My uncle’s passing and the daily updates from mom about the flowers and the neighbors with food and the service and the other little details that you can’t predict until you’re dealing with them, all of that is spinning in my head and kicking old memories right to the front of my thoughts.

I remember all of this from the week after my dad died.

It’s good to have those things to keep you occupied until you can settle into the fact that your loved one is gone.

It takes a while to do that, you know, to settle into it.

It takes a while to stop reaching for the phone to call him.

It takes a while before you stop rushing home to tell him about your day.

It takes a while before you think of where to put the thoughts and feelings you kept just for him.

It takes a while to like the holidays again.

It takes a while before you stop buying him trinkets or bringing home magazines with articles on the things he collects or the places he goes.

It takes a while before you stop getting an extra slice of cake or a few more oranges at the market.

It takes a while before you stop regretting this day or that day.

It takes a while to forgive yourself for fights and failings.

It takes a while before you can clean out his stuff and actually decide what to do with it.

It takes a while to remember all of the people who would want to know that he is gone.

It takes a while to recover when you stand alone in your house with the phone in your hand and you realize you have told everyone there is to tell and now you must face a conversation with yourself.

It takes a while to really cry and to feel the way you really feel – mad or sad or relieved or sick or lonely or not.  Happy or stressed or scared or buoyant.

It takes a while to decide where you think your loved one is and whether or not he sees you and knows you as this new person that you’re taking a while to become.

It takes a while to rearrange your life and to realize how you rearranged it for him before he left.

It takes a while to settle into it.

For me, it has been a long time.  Eight years.

Today, I finally stowed away some of the Christmas decorations.

In the space I made for them in my closet, I found a box with some papers in my father’s humored, unhurried, and purposeful hand.

I will keep the box, of course, and I will frame some of the papers one day.

But it could take a while.

This week reminds me that I am still unsettled.

P.S. I threw some tomato seeds into the yard a couple of weeks ago.  Can you see the sprouts in that photo?  They are teeny next to the fully established ornamental strawberry leaves, but they are thriving.  I can’t wait for this year’s crop to show itself.

And speaking of delicious produce, the strawberry patch at Main and Third is open for the season again.  Go get yourself a flat.  It’s worth the drive.

♥♥