Sunday, October 12, 2014

Just a Word (a poem)

My raised eyebrow and intake of breath amuse her.
‘It’s just a word,’ she says with certainty,
this girl who looks too young to know.

True, we hear it everywhere,
even in movies portraying ancient times,
since saucy words from then no longer startle.

Repetition removes shock as well as meaning.
Yet – without attention to context – that word
gave The King’s Speech an R – for language.

I replay the encounter in my mind.
With so many words to choose from,
why get stuck on "f**k."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

She's Gone

She’s gone. She wobbled to her last nap July 24, 2014 and I’ve been untethered since.

I got her from Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, Oregon. She was eight years old then, a gorgeous calico Maine Coon mix who flopped herself down in front of me begging for a belly rub. Irresistible.

She became my family, the one who was always waiting for me. On arriving home, if she wasn’t at the door, I would call, “where’s that cat?” A heavy-weight, she would thump off the bed or chair and trot to greet me, meowing all the way. And, though the name I gave her was Simone, she probably believed her name was That Cat.

Her meow sounded like Mao, though I told her time and again he was dead.

I gave her a good home and she in turn gave me uncomplicated companionship. I miss her. She definitely approved of the wonderful townhouse apartment I found (have you ever seen a cat nod as though checking off desired items?).

Her last days weren’t easy for either of us. She had lost weight slowly after the move to California, which wasn’t all bad. She had, after all, been quite pudgy. And when we moved to my current apartment, a townhouse-style, she ran up and down the stairs quickly and scrambled onto the bed more easily. She still played soccer with me – she was the goalie – and batted her toys under the furniture. I think she enjoyed watching me search for them.

Then, near the end of June, she just nibbled at her food. I tried another kind. She liked it at first, but eventually quit eating that, too. I ground it up and mixed water in it. She ate some. I got canned food with lots of gravy. She licked up the gravy. A friend told me about a brand of tuna her cat had liked; Simone lapped it up. Then she didn’t.

She got very thin. I had water bowls everywhere – in each bathroom, in the kitchen, on the table by my reading chair.

She was still drinking water, going up and down the stairs, climbing onto my chair and over to the table for a sip. She still zig-zagged down the stairs ahead of me in the morning. She still went upstairs around nine and came back to peer at me at 9:30 if I hadn’t joined her. My puppy cat.

Then she didn’t. She got wobbly. She let me carry her upstairs or down – something she wouldn’t have allowed before, not without a fight, anyway.

Finally, on a Tuesday, I called the mobile vet. I was pretty sure Simone wouldn’t last to the end of the week. The vet couldn’t come until Thursday. And I’m grateful. I don’t know how Simone made it that long. On Tuesday night, she was restless and wakeful like my previous cat had been the night she died. But Wednesday morning, Simone was curled in her favorite spot on the bed, watching me as I woke.

She was on the bed when I went to sleep Wednesday night. Then, when I woke at 2am, she wasn’t. I found her on the third stair from the bottom.

For a couple hours, I sat with her, petted her, crooned to her, thanked her for being my special friend. She purred for the first time in a couple of weeks.

When I woke on Thursday, she was on the bed in her favorite spot. She tried to lead me down the stairs, wobbling and pausing several times. At the second to last step, she tumbled to the bottom. Not really a fall. I resisted rushing to her aid. She continued to the kitchen door. I kept talking to her as she staggered to the patio. And I kept talking because otherwise I would have been sobbing and I knew that would upset her.

The vet arrived right on time and eased us both through the process, then wrapped Simone in a towel and carried her away.

It was hard at first, not rushing back to the house, or dashing to the store in search of the perfect cat food, the one that would bring her back from the edge.

Now that she’s gone I’m learning to allow myself time. Time to shop at a leisurely pace. Time to visit friends and family. Time to feel sad and time to remember the good stuff.

And in September, I gave the rest of her things to a wonderful woman who rescues cats. Well, all but the water dish with “Her Majesty” in big black letters around the side. I’ve set a round candle into it and placed it next to her picture on my bedside table. I tell her goodnight and good morning and ask her opinion on my attire. Then I wish her sweet dreams.