Tuesday, July 27, 2010

kind of consuming

All day long I've been fretting and worrisome. Of course the angst is explainable, and once again it comes in the form of a 6-pound furball.

This same furball came into my life a little over three years ago. I was not in the market for a pet, but the Things insisted we look at the rescue place's offerings, and there was Albert, hanging out in a wire cage, chillaxin' like a mofo.

Who could say no?

The kittenish tuxedo cat came home with us soon after, with promises to love, honor, obey, and feed for as long as ye shall live.

And so it was.

But today there's one less bowl to fill at 8 and 5. One less friendly black and white body hopping up on the glider rocker when tired folk want to take a break in the afternoon, one less sleek body surfing the grass in search of voles or a patch of sun.

One less, because our buddy Albert the Cat has died.

Two days ago he stopped showing up for mealtimes. Stopped showing up to greet whoever was coming home. Stopped taking sand baths in the driveway. His absence was immediately noted. Something about this house changes when we thought he was gone, forever. When you notice something ISN'T there, that is the start of worry.

When what you thought wouldn't ever be there again shows up ragged, sunken-eyed, and starved in the driveway at 9 o'clock at night, that is the jumpstart of mourning.

When you pick up a bundle of what you know to be your faithful friend that looks as though the of the fuse of death has already been lit and he purrs contentedly against your chest even though you're sopping wet from a pool party and he's obviously as weak as skimmed milk, that is the beginning of grief.

It was instantly clear he something was terribly wrong. The huge flashes of pupil reflecting the car's headlights were a bright harbinger of a miserable evening. His limp body, resting tensionless against my heart, was no help for hope. Dude was done for. Whether injured and heat-struck, poisoned or hit by a car, whatever had him in its grips was as powerful as a tsunami. When we found him he was clearly flat on the ground, crawling toward home, maybe hoping we could help rid him of whatever it was that was working to eradicate who he had been.

But no. Not much help to be had.

A few licks of water were all the effort he could muster. A few steps across the floor was all the strength he had. Even after being settled into the bathroom with bed, food, and water, the only comfort he could find was to wrap himself around the scale on the cold floor, perhaps to protect against the terrible pains that caused him to yowl like a banshee every hour or so.

Our lad was dying in a terrible bad way. And I couldn't go help him. I had wiped up the drool, checked the gums, stroked the back, and said my prayers. To hover over him would have, I think, been to interfere with whatever comfort the quiet might bring or whatever process he needed to go through in order to meet his maker once it was over.

At some point between 1 and 6, the process was complete. This morning told the tale.

Biff took care of the mess that was part of dying. I can only assume it was awful, as his reticence to speak of it tells the tale in exactly no words. Albert found a temporary resting place in a Tupperware tub out back, until such time as we could dig him a good hole in the front garden to plant him under a butterfly bush. At 2+ feet deep we stopped digging, wrapped poor stiff Albert in an airplane blanket, and lowered him into the ground. Well, Biff lowered him. I stood stupidly by and watched from some other body. I was no help at all, except to water the ground with unexpectedly copious tears.

He was, after all, just a cat. They die all the time. So much grief seemed necessary but ...unseemly?

But, as Biff said tonight, even though he was a cat we might have spent only a few minutes a day with, he was a constant. A greeter, a companion, a source of continuous purr, a dashing friend for evening visits. To not have him there trotting happily toward us, tail up, when the car rolls into the yard is all wrong. To know he's resting just to the right of the front walk, a couple of feet under, with a dead baby robin as his guide to whatever is beyond, is heartwrenching.

Again, to quote Biff: "I'm tired of death." Enough already. Give us a few months off, OK?

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