Friday, June 19, 2009


Sitting on the mat with Rodentia the other night, I came to realize that the being I missed was not Rodentia as she was just now, but the Rodentia of four-five years ago.

I miss the Minister of Funny Noises 1, I miss Il Dulce2, I miss the cat who slept around my head for a winter 3. I miss the animal who would rub her head on my feet, who would follow me out onto the back porch, the cat who took such unabashed pleasure in catnip.

That cat’s been gone for a long time. I miss the cat who helped midwife me from old kitten to young cat, who showed me that I could take a broken spirit and help mend it, that I was not somehow destined to ruin everything I touched. It’s very much the reason I knit and wear lace.

Gareth asked me if I wanted to go to the pound or ask around for a kitten. This year’s crop should be weaned and ready to be adopted out. For a minute I was severely tempted. A bright bundle of fluff would certainly ease the pain of the protracted farewell, balm for a bruised heart.

But then, but then, but then. Vishnu is twelve (or thirteen? I’m pretty sure she’s thirteen, six years younger than Rodentia) and bringing in a kitten to a home with a well-established older cat is an unkindness. On top of that, Vishnu has wanted to be an only cat forever. If I had known and seen then what became so very clear a few years later, I would have turned down the offer of this particular kitten and sought another beta cat. Vishnu should have her time as a solo animal with all the treats and all the attention.

And one layer down: I would do nothing but put off the inevitable. Remember, a cat’s average span is fourteen years. I hope for another six-seven years with Vishnu, I really do. But I’m not going to have her forever. And maybe I’ll keep that in mind for the next little while, and take more photos of typical Vishnu and write a post or three about my flobbity goofball of puddy fat. I begin to see why my parents and relatives can’t let a moment go by without grabbing the camera and taking photos. I begin to understand the scrapbooking craze, the desire to have many pictures of our child, our pets, and put them together attractively with some notes about what was so significant about this shot.

But yes, even as I pick up and cuddle that sweet little fluffball and play with names (Barong? Gault? Walker??) right now I know that in fourteen years, give or take, I’ll be writing memoriam posts with a tissue wadded up in one hand. I don’t want to handle the double-think right now, where you delight in the frisky young animal and ignore the skeleton in the corner. Sometimes one can ignore it so well that one doesn’t see the scythe until it’s already in motion.

That may change. I hadn’t lost an animal to old age in . . . I don’t know how long. Since middle school, maybe. The other pets who died of just plain organic shuttin’ down did so very quickly–practically between one step and the next, like a Garfield nap attack. I had moved out of my folks’ house long before the family cat died, so I didn’t see her last days of hiding under the table in her cool dark quiet place. This has been a bitter new experience for me, keeping a deathwatch for a beloved animal.

1. Rodentia was always amazed that humans mate out of season. Just as we lit metaphorical cigarettes, she would hop up on the bed, wondering what was up with the funny noises. Of course, she was happy to stick around and have her head and ears rubbed for a minute or two. In a homage to John Cleese, we began to refer to her as the Minister of Funny Noises, and petting her at that time became “bribing the Minister.”

2. When Rodentia began playing with her toys by carrying them around like kittens and meowing at them, we were struck by her resemblance to a furry little dictator issuing orders to her ‘nip minions. “Go out and bring back the cat food! And thumbs! I need thumbs!!!” When you have a mind like a steel sieve, “Il Duce” quickly transmutes into “Il Dulce.” The leader becomes the sweet.

3. Go here and read this.

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