Warning: This is a long one. It’s about my cat. It’s all mushy, touchy-feely stuff. It’s not really funny, like at all. In fact, there’s a really good chance that it’s just long and rambling. Okay, you’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
I’ve said it here a time or two before and I’m sure I’ll say it again someday: emotions aren’t really my thing.
Sure, sure I have emotions, everyone does. I’m just not real adept at expressing them.
Happy, I’ve got down. I’m a pro at being happy.
Angry, I can do. I don’t do it nearly often enough, but I’m pretty good at it when the situation calls for it.
Sad, is a whole different story.
When I get sad, I’m not someone who necessarily likes to talk things out, that doesn’t really work for me. Lately, I’ve been sad and since I can’t really bring myself to talk about it, I figured I’d go with a different kind of therapy and write about it.
I figure I’m no good at sad, but I’m not-too-shabby at this whole writing thing, so it seems like the way to go.
With that said, let’s get right down to the sadness-laden nitty-gritty:
My cat, Tom S. Katt, died last week.
Tommy was a pretty old cat, fifteen to be exact, and we all knew that his time was running out, but it still sucks nonetheless.
To keep from going on some long-winded, blubbery tangent about how much I miss my cat, I’ll try to keep it short(ish) today.
I’ve been working on a longer story of sorts about him for awhile now. So if and/or when that ever sees the light of day, y’all can find out what a nerdy old cat-lady I really am.
Admittedly, the long version has become more of a feline version of “Marley and Me” than I’d hoped, but on the bright side it’s got no Owen Wilson and, well, roughly the same amount of Jennifer Aniston.
Anyway, today you get the short(ish) version.
We got Tom in 1994, back when I was ten, and he’s been a big part of our family ever since. He was quite the plump fuzz-ball for most of his life, but when I went home this past October he’d dropped roughly 10 pounds since May and was moving very, very slow.
His usual pissy, fighting spirit seemed to have been replaced by a desire to just lounge on people’s laps. He couldn’t go up the stairs anymore. He couldn’t jump up onto anyone’s bed anymore. He couldn’t even make the jump into a chair without assistance.
We all knew his time was running out.
I tried to take as many pictures with him as I could and spend as much time as I could with him, out of (now completely justified) fear that he wouldn’t make it until I came back for Christmas.
A week or so ago, on my weekly phone call home to the family—I’m a GREAT son—my Pappy told me that Tom was in pretty rough shape. He hadn’t been eating and had spent an entire day just lying on the floor, hiding in a corner.
He tried to sound the way Pappys are supposed to sound and went through the generic “old dirty animal” rhetoric that’s become his standard way of showing affection, but his voice sorta cracked which let me know it was serious.
My Pappy is a pretty stoic dude.
I can probably count the times I’ve seen him cry on one hand and I could hear him getting choked up on the other end of the phone.
I spent the better part of the next few days doing my best not to think about it, why start mourning a cat that isn’t dead. I tried to rationalize. I went even farther by thinking why should I mourn a cat at all…it’s just a cat.
That logic didn’t stick at all.
After fifteen years, a cat is no more “just a cat” than my brothers are “just dudes.”
He is family.
For years he’d slept in my bed with me and hung out with me when I was pecking away on an old typewriter, writing baseball stories and mini-novels that, to this day, have only been seen by his yellow eyes and mine.
He’s heard more of my dreams, secrets, and fears than anyone else. If for no better reason than because I knew he’d never tell a soul and even if he’d try, they’d just assume he was begging for food.
I rang in the year 2000 sitting in my bedroom eating day old pizza and ice cream with Dick Clark on the television and Tom licking away at my quart of cookies-n-cream beside me.
There was a brief period of time where I tried my hand at writing a series of stories starring Tom S. Katt as the protagonist.
Even when I’d been away from home for long periods of time, he’d still come right up to me when I got in the door and would barely leave my side.
The last time I was home he curled up in my suitcase so that I couldn’t pack to leave.
Sure, sure it very easily could have been that he was just comfy, but as a mourning former cat owner, I can believe whatever the hell I want.
Last Wednesday morning, I was at the laundromat before work and I called my Mama to check on him and she told me things weren’t looking good. She didn’t want to take him into the vet—most likely to avoid hearing the obvious—and she clung to the hope that he’d suddenly get better.
Unlike my Pappy, she didn’t mess around with trying to pretend she wasn’t sad.
For as long as I can remember, Mama has worked overnight shifts. When we were young it was so that at least one parent would be around the house at all times in case something happened to one of us.
After we’d all flown the coop, it was out of habit more than necessity.
During all those years, her only companion in the house during the day had been Tom, for fifteen years those two had the house to themselves every day from 8am to 4pm or longer.
She knew she was losing her best friend. She cried.
I nearly joined her when she—and don’t judge us, this is just what cat people do—put him on the phone. I heard him meowing and he sounded so weak and scared, I don’t even know if a cat can sound scared, but he did.
I spent most of the day trying to get it out of my head, but I just couldn’t.
She told me that she’d send me an email if/when he passed, because she assumed a phone call would just consist of us blubbering at one another for fifteen minutes or so and no one wants that.
Every day I avoided checking my email out of fear that there’d be an email telling me what I didn’t want to know.
Then, last Friday night, as Grace and I were leaving the house to go get some refreshments for my birthday party, my phone started to ring. As soon as I heard the tune, I knew it was Mama, and I knew Tom was gone.
We talked for half an hour and she cried and I, somehow, pulled a page from Pappy’s book and managed to be stoic. If nothing else, I think it’s because that’s what she needed more than anything else.
She told me that she’d finally given in and taken him to the vet on Thursday morning.
She told me that she came home and found him waiting at the door, meowing at her in a way that she interpreted to be asking for help. (Again, don’t judge the crazy cat people in mourning.)
She took him into the vet and, for the first time in his entire life, he got into a car without a struggle.
He sat in the seat like he’d been riding in cars his whole life. He’d meow at my mom and look out the window, then turn back and meow at her some more. It was just like a car ride with anyone else.
He didn’t struggle when they brought him into the vet, an event that used to result in a full-scale war of epic proportions. Back in the day, a trip to the vet usually resulted in piles of flying fur and flesh and pints of blood.
This time he was calm. He was ready.
They ran some tests and determined he had kidney failure. They could flush the kidneys and try to keep him going, but it would only gain a little more time and most likely, more pain.
Mama made the decision that no one should ever have to make and she told them to put him down.
After fifteen years, I can only imagine how awful that was for her. To have to actually say the words and tell someone you were ready for them to die.
She didn’t send me an email. She let a day pass.
In retrospect, I’m happy she didn’t send an email.
How do you encompass any sort of feeling and emotion in a few quick words?
Would you just say “Tom’s dead” or would you got into a long-winded, rambling tome like I’ve done here today?!
After I got off the phone, Grace and I went and got our refreshments. I spent the night blogging and then went to bed.
At about two in the morning, after thrashing around for nearly three hours, I finally got out of bed.
I did what anyone would do, I went to my computer and brought up pictures of Tom and I cried and blubbered like a small-child for nearly two hours.
I cried until my throat hurt and I was out of tears.
I cried until I’d run out of snot and Kleenex, thankfully these two ran empty at the same time.
I cried because I needed to cry.
I’m not a crier. Just like my Pappy, I can probably count the number of times I’ve legitimately cried on one-hand, but I needed to cry. I needed to be sad. I needed to feel bad for myself, Tommy, my Pappy, my brothers, and, mostly, my Mama.
So, for anyone who has seen me since then and asked me questions, about it, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for caring and thank you for your sympathy and thank you for simply being really great people.
I also want you to know that I’m not being brash and curt with my responses because I’m an uncaring douchebag.
It’s just that losing someone I’ve known longer than many of my friends, my girlfriend, my co-workers, and just about everyone reading this blog, well, that makes me sad.
…and I’m just not any good at sad.