Friday, September 11, 2009

Loves Kids...and Mice

I had a cat once that made me crazy and saved my sanity...

In 1996 my family received our referral of a tiny baby in China. A few weeks later, expecting travel confirmation, I ripped open a letter from our adoption agency. We were informed that a Bureau reorganization within China had put our adoption on indefinite hold, and that it could be many months before we were able to bring our daughter home. I had an infant, but I couldn’t see her or hold her or nurture her. I couldn’t soothe her when she cried, I couldn’t be there when she needed me. I couldn’t control what happened to her.

I went quietly nuts.

From the outside, I looked like a fully functioning human being. Inside, I had worn myself hollow. My friend Georgiann, a wise adoptive mom and veteran of several failed private adoptions, looked into my eyes one day and gave me counsel equaling a slap in the face with a leather glove.

“You’ve got to GIVE UP control when going through the adoption process,” Georgiann told me. “This is out of your hands. You have done everything you can do without negatively interfering in the process--now you need to trust.”

So I took a deep metaphorical breath, went adoption-zen and channeled my depressed energy into a tiny kitten that needed a home. Yes, I already had a six year old child; yes, I had an adult cat--but I needed a baby to pull me through and I found a baby cat willing to take me on.

He was lively and smart and tenacious--he ran up walls, opened door-knobs and turned on light switches. When it was breakfast time IT WAS TIME FOR BREAKFAST and he walked up and down my body with his heavy Maine Coon paws until I fumbled my way out of bed to get him his kibble. He leaped on the dinner table and chased the children and was happiest in the middle of a gang of toddlers bent on terrifying kitty-play. This cat owned our backyard and half of our street and he had duties to perform to protect his people and his kingdom. He would howl to get out and he would sit under my window at 5:00 a.m and yowl to get back in. I would frequently snap and utter his cat name in vain, but it didn’t matter. He was incessant and stubborn and daring, and he loved us with all of his big lion-like heart.

He adored the baby we brought home from China and he was thrilled when we brought home her little sister almost four years later. He was part of the family bed and late night feedings; he kept me company during my divorce; he watched over us during our move and met each one of us at the door after a day at school or work. He worried when my eldest daughter went off to college, and stayed reassuringly close if one of us fell ill.

After 13 years of tending to us, he died in my arms. And with him went the constant undercurrent of his furry care and concern. Yeah, he was ‘just a cat’, but he life-lined me and I owed him. I had some lessons to learn before I held my baby from China in 1996, and he was both a step toward letting go, and a step toward loving.

This is much too heavy a legacy for one cat to have to wear, however, so my daughters and I trimmed the profundity down to a simple epigraph that summed our old boy up. We have sent it on to Cat Heaven with him, and we feel sure the recommendation should open some doors:

"Is okay with crazy; loves kids and mice."




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  1. Jean, I'm so sorry for your loss. My precious Yorkie died in my arms 11 years ago, and I still get teary. Thanks so much for sharing the story of your special kitty. Pet lovers will totally understand how special this family member was to you. I surely do. I just hopped out of my car last week, to admire a little Yorkie. My daughters, who were adopted several years after the death of my Yorkie, know that "Chloe" was part of the family.

  2. I am sitting here bawling. In 1995, at the beginning of my marriage, my (now ex-) husband and I went The Humane Society and came home with two kittens who were litter-mates. The two of them helped me survive the insanity of my first year of teaching and then the insanity of my marriage. They were there during the divorce and the ensuing depression. They were with me when I bought this (my first) house. They have been a constant in a life of never-ending change. After I got home from China 2.5 years ago, one of the brothers started to get thin. I didn't notice; I was trying to survive being a single mom to a very active and mobile 13 month old. Before my unseeing eyes, he disappeared into a 2.5 lb shell of his former self. He, too, died in my arms two years ago last month, on the first day of my preplanning for school. He was 12. Now I am watching his brother get thin. This time I see. The vet said he is just getting old. He has lost most of his body mass and walks slowly now, bones outlined by a thin coat of fur. I know he will be leaving soon and I grieve at the thought of it. Your post was a timely one. I am so sorry for the sadness you must all be feeling. Your epitaph made me smile through the tears. Thank you.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your fur baby. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Keep smilin!

  4. Just thought I'd update you. My sweet Buddy ended up dying in my arms on Thursday. I feel like reading your post three weeks ago helped me (in some small way) to acknowledge his imminent death. Thank you for putting into words, more eloquently than I ever could hope to do, how profound a role our animals play in our lives.