Tuesday, July 06, 2010

he gives and takes away (though not necessarily in that order)

In loving memory: 1993-2010

We got them almost on an impulse. Though I'd been desperate for a cat for at least a year, their actual acquisition was, well, not exactly planned. That seems to be the way things go around here.

They fulfilled their purpose with incredible success—bringing me comfort at a time when I needed it most. Deeply depressed and struggling through my first year of marriage, I knew, I just knew, I would feel better if I only had something I could hold. Turns out, I was right. That seems to be the way things go around here.

Both incredibly affectionate and gregarious, Max and Ruthie were the kind of cats that even the most die-hard dog people couldn't help but love. They brought an immeasurable amount of joy to everyone around them—well, except maybe Beth. But she was a good friend and tolerated them both, and her daughter found a great amount of joy from being around them, so that sort of made up for that. To everyone else, they were "the nicest cats I've ever met." And we would concur.

Ruthie was the first to go about five years ago—breaking my heart in the process. The only thing that got me through it was that Max was there, waiting, when I got back home. With Ruthie gone, our affectionate boy got downright needy, and in his desperation finally made friends with my daughter, who requited his love enthusiastically. Which made his passing this past week all the more difficult.

Seventeen years old this spring, Max had begun losing the spring in his step, as well as a significant amount of weight, a few months ago. I knew the end would come, and come relatively soon. I just was not prepared for it to come quite as quickly as it did. About a week after returning from our vacation, Max took a sudden turn for the worse. Not eating, barely drinking, and unable to walk, he laid around the kitchen looking like a sack of bones for a week before I finally made the decision no one who owns a pet ever wants to make. I made the appointment to have him put down.

Though I'd cried every night for a week, that night was by far the most difficult. I lay on the floor long after everyone else had gone to bed, stroking his ears and thanking him for loving me, and for letting me love him. The next day my daughter, because somewhere along the line he'd become as much her cat as mine, held him in the car on the way to the vet, choking back the kind of tears that take your breath away. "It's okay, Max," she'd croon as he cried, never one for the motion of the car. "It's okay." I flashed back in my mind to a ride some nine and a half years earlier—she is one and a half and we are moving to a new city. Max is in a carrier on one side of her car seat, Ruthie on the other, and neither are happy to be there. My daughter croons to them the entire three hour drive… "S'okay, Max. S'okay, Ruthie. S'okay…" It is not okay, today. Tears fall fresh and I blink them away, breathing deeply and focusing on the road. We get there all too soon.

I cannot begin to describe how difficult it is to watch your child grieve the loss of a beloved friend, especially as you grieve your own. Mercifully, we have a wonderful vet, and she was gentle and tender with all three of us. We brought him home and took turns rocking him in the glider, holding him one last time, baptizing him with tears that flowed from that place where love and sadness reside together in strained compromise, two sides of the same coin forced to live back to back. We buried Max that night, on the opposite side of the raspberry patch from Ruthie, and prepared ourselves to grieve for a good, long time. What we were not prepared for was what God did next.

She crawled out from under our deck this weekend—dirty, skittish, and underweight, but quick to warm up to our attention. We fed her out of compassion, and that was all it took for us to somehow get adopted. We named her Latté—her creamy tan coat the color of milk and coffee—and wondered if she would stay. She did. We wondered if she would take to the house. She did. We wondered if she would take to us as much as we had taken to her.

She did.

We've gone back and forth in our minds about this decision—questioning if we've minimized or somehow disrespected the loss of Max by allowing another cat into our homes and hearts so soon after his departure. What I've determined, after much soul-searching, is this: we did not go looking for this cat. This cat came looking for us. Somehow, God in his infinite wisdom seemed to know that there is a certain grief that can only be comforted by holding something warm and soft and purring, and he sent us that comfort. We are choosing to be open to receiving it—because, after all, what a better tribute to Max and Ruthie than to have loved them so fully that we would be open to loving that way again, in spite of the pain such a love will inevitably bring.

We will wait a week to see if any lost kitty signs pop up, and to see how Latté acclimates, and if all goes well, we will take her to the vet after that time and we will make it official. We will, in turn, adopt the cat who has adopted us. Almost on an impulse, we will open our hearts again to loving and being loved.

Because, well, that seems to be the way things go around here.

Latté, on Bub's lap this evening...


Kaleidoscope said...

Well, you certainly made me weep. Lots of tears attached to this blog post, Lorie. Thanks for your tender touch and for writing out of your treasure store of life experiences. Your narratives inspire me to hone my own skills.

Nancy G.

Julie M said...

Well, you need the Kleenex warning on this one. It's amazing how our pets so insidiously thread their way into our lives and our hearts, and how something so small can impact us so largely.
Well done.