Here is a link to a former blog post – when I was a grumpy ECR/early Paracademic, emerging from my first horror post-doc nightmare, and finding words to wrap around my cynicism. Since then I have published a chapter on the same topic.
The post also starts with a video of my creature as a kitten…. so it’s a fitting sayonara to both academia and my darling little creature that accompanied my perimenopause.
To the last glass half empty glass half full post, I couldn’t Pollyannarise the biggest awful tragedy that struck me in the past 12 months.
My dear darling cat became horribly terribly sick last month. Friends gave me over $3000 which covered the vet bills. Friends have sent sympathy cards, and friends came over and helped me bury her in the backyard. My flatmates were wonderful…..
This last saga was just over 2 weeks ago: Valentines Day
Today her absence hangs heavily on my hands, in my belly, and in my throat.
I have been too busy to let this myself feel this much. I still felt the ghost of her head under the skin of my palm…. the shape of her face under my fingers, the patterns of stroking her chest and belly as we slept at night…..
Today, watering her burial plot where I have planted the seeds sent by the vet, filling her food bowls with water and leaves for visiting bees that she hated, watering the catnip and pot of grass I kept inside for her to chomp on as I groomed her….
Today, I looked at the soggy mud over where I buried her, and felt a terrible absence.
She is gone.
When I realised she was sick, I thought it would be like Eileen Myles “awakening” – and I would have a few months of messy merging as I nursed her in my room. she started sleeping on my bed, and I would feed her creamy food from my fingers, squirting water and painkillers into her mouth.
I still have sachets of “creamy treats” and empty syringes around the house.
She went so fast…..
I try to tell myself I did everything I could, but I look back on her sudden lethargy late last year, which I thought was arthritis….. and I realise why the injections changed nothing.
I curse my internalised fat cat shaming self, feeling relieved when she lost weight, instead of worried.
I now look back on her sulking under the bed in January with utter chagrin. I thought she was protesting at a house full of guests and kids and heat and chaos, but she was in unspeakable unspoken pain.
I look back on the day she meowed silently at me, leading me to her food bowl , and not eating… and me realising something was up. I remember picking her up – so light, and limp and not protesting as I put her in her carry case to go to the vet.
I remember friends being there. Driving me to vets, driving me back from vets. Waiting with me in the animal hospital waiting room.
I remember the friends cars who bore my howling wracking sobs, and the perfect silence of the friends who gave me the space to howl tears at her sickness, her death….
I remember my flatmates helping me: holding her down to make her swallow pills, hand feeding her creamy treats…. hugging me, listening to me…
I remember when she came home from the second ultrasound: plumped up on antinausea meds, appetite stimulants, subcut fluids and painkillers….. I remember her walking floppily and falling over. I thought it was the anaesthetic.
I remember her accepting thin slices of raw lamb from my fingers, like she used to as a kitten. We feasted on lamb that night. It was wonderfully cool, and she slept on a faux fur coat on my bed, and I patted her. I kept the window opening – thinking she still had a fever, but she was starting to get cold.
I think she knew it was our last night.
I didn’t…. I cleaned the house getting ready for a rental inspection (yes! on top of this)
I remember the calls from 2 vets asking about her in the afternoon…. that I missed. They knew. they suspected. I fished her out from under the far back corner of my bed, and noted that she still couldn’t walk straight.
I remember the strange limbic brain sensation with no words…. a back of the head and stomach clenching that warned me… that I ignored. I remember wondering if and when I should contact my ex….
She curled up in the sun on a windowsill that I lined with fake fur….. I patted her. She didn’t purr.
I tried to draw her…. I did draw her. Two inadequate sketches of that very particular face.
She hadn’t eaten or drunk all day. I tried to syringe a watery version of her favourite creamy treat – and she struggled against me and I spilled it over her fur and my clothes.
And then I knew, and I couldn’t stop sobbing.
Bawling my eyes out at my bewildered flatmate….. whose face registered pain and astonishment and sympathy and confusion….
Picking up her unresisting body and putting her in her carry case. Murmuring to my other less bewildered flatmate… did we hug? I don’t know. They were great. Drove me to the animal hospital and waited alone in the room for hours, while I went into the consultation room. with my little love.
I remember the friends who were online on messenger, who I could text to when I had no words in my throat just howls of pain.
I remember her trying to jump up on the furniture and falling.
I remember she let me hold her, sobbing, and hold her when a dog in the waiting room barked loudly.
I remembered the phone number of my ex and sending them a message.
I remember that time… waiting.
I remember my exes smaller body, which was not as I remembered it. I remember their enormous red wet eyes, after I gave them time alone with she who was our fur baby.
I remember that we both held her in our arms, as she received the final injection.
I remember that she didn’t struggle at all. No final animal panic. this was very different from the euthanasia of my childhood cat 22 years earlier.
The pentobarb went in… she didn’t struggle. Her pupils dilated. I felt her heart slow and her life left her body.
She was so exhausted at that stage – and yet so ‘normal looking’. Apart from the shaved bits and her yellowing skin where she had been shaved. Her face still had her serene cat expression…. she was still my familiar.
And then we left her.
I collected her body 3 days later. Cold, wrapped in biodegradable plastic and calico. I asked the vets to wrap her in her baby blanket that I adopted her in. I held what felt like a well wrapped large cut of meat in my lap on the way home.
I didn’t open it. I dug a big deep hole, and buried her.
I remember a really wonderful quiche and some marvellous scotch. I remember my flatmate’s child who was the perfect cat funeral accompaniment.
I remember my haze of denial over the past 2 weeks. People asking how I am going. Hah! numb. Doubling my dose of SSRIs. Preparing and mounting a show, helping a friend organise a massive symposium. Physical tests and job applications, and visits and business, and trying to remember to eat more than bread and cheese and chocolate.
And now I have stopped, and all I feel is a terrible, terrible ache.
Is it that her smell has faded from the house? Is it that I have washed her from my bedlinen? is this the bodywork of animal mourning?
I can’t say why this hurts so much.It’s wordless, stupid ache. silent tears and snot.