Thursday, February 14, 2013

The First Goodbye

She arrived in a cardboard box over twenty years earlier. The runt of the litter, she wasn't even chosen by my husband when he came to select a cat. She came free with his purchase of her sister, a somewhat larger, cuter kitten.

She was tiny, mottled brown and orange in colour, with large yellow eyes and pointy ears. She looked a bit like a gremlin but was far gentler in nature. She might take on a burly spider if feeling particularly fierce. She would follow me down the street as I walked my infant daughter to nursery school. I would fear for her safety on the road and turn round to chase her off back home only to find her behind me again a few steps later.

Her purr never worked properly. It stuttered like a faulty engine. I would wake in the night with it buzzing choppily in my ear as she licked my hair and dribbled contentedly on my head. She always drank my water. If I put a glass down she would immediately put her head in it. She loved barbecues, appearing as soon as the coals were lit and begging shamelessly for food, taking off across the shed roof with a piece of sausage held proudly aloft.

She outlived her better looking sister by eight years. I was worried she would be lonely and brought new kittens into the house, which gave her a second childhood for a while as she chased them about. She grew skinnier, tattier, louder, madder. She became a suitable mad old cat for a mad old cat lady. She only wanted human food and would yowl incessantly, annoyingly, until I caved in and shared. She developed a relaxed attitude to litter trays, preferring, in her old age, to go in exciting new places like games consoles, behind the television or in my shoes. Her favourite place to sleep was in a cardboard box on the landing.

She always hated travelling, being in the car frightened her. So the vet came to us because I couldn't bear to see her scared. The tumour in her abdomen, he told me, was the size of a cricket ball. I was doing the right thing, he said. Would I like to stay? Of course. I held her and talked to her and then she was gone.

My husband carried her out of the house in her cardboard box, an unconscious echo of her arrival so long ago.

It's no different to any other relationship, really. There will always, at some point, be a parting. It hurts and on some level we know it's inevitable but, for the most part, we forge ahead regardless, keeping our focus on the journey. If we didn't we would never have pets, children, lovers, careers or even new shoes, we would be too scared of losing them. This deliberate act of forgetfulness is what enables us to keep starting anew. The pain fades and only the silvery scars remain to remind us.


Hanna and Jim Stevenson said...

So beautifully written. I've got tears streaming. I had a beautiful tortoiseshell cat called Honey who followed me whenever i left home - down the road, into the sports field, and all the way into town if I didn't pick her up and take her home. She used to sleep wrapped round my head like a Russian fur hat. haven't thought about her for awhile but your blog brought it all back. Hxxx

cogidubnus said...

Hi Doris

I can empathise totally, as we've always been a little "cat-heavy", rarely having less than half a dozen around the place...over the years there really have been so many it's an effort to recall all the names, but their images stick in the mind.

I don't know what we do, but we must do it right because all of ours (with the exception of one truly sad road casualty) have lasted well into their teens and a number into their twenties.

You'd think you'd get used to their passing, but you really don't...ours make their final trip back home to be buried amongst their friends in the garden...we're seriously running out of space, but couldn't bear them not being where they belong - and that is something of a comfort.

We'll not be leaving this house I don't think, not until they carry us out feet first...

All the best

Doris said...

Thank you both for your comments, it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who cries buckets over my beloved feline fleabags. I hated having to leave Janet behind, buried in the garden at the house, but she will provide future archaeologists with some small bones to unearth and speculate upon.

cogidubnus said...

You're very far from alone Doris...

Best wishes from Harley, Manky, Mwnci, Caspar, Dizzy, Spudleigh,Cookie and Princess, all current incumbents, plus Billie the very confused Jack Russell...