It's hard to believe you are gone. Sometimes it feels like you are still here, like I'm on my computer and you could easily just be napping in the other room. But then I'll see some cute cat video, smile and laugh, and that will be the time when I'd want to find you and cuddle for a bit. I'd even love to have to jump up on the couch and try to crawl all over this laptop. There are many things I see now that runs differently in the apartment. For one, I can walk blindly in the dark to the bathroom at night and not worrying about stepping on you, or god forbid one of your "presents." I can leave food or a dish of rhinestones out without the risk of having either knocked over. I can keep my fish and plants near the window sill now. But I want you to know, I never once think "I'm glad to not have to.... anymore." I miss you more than anything. You were a joy to be with, always. Even when you were sick. I never resented having you around or any expense that came with being your caregiver.
When I think back, the entire day was like a flash. We were lazily laying around the apartment, you were still breathing hard but otherwise looking happy, mellow, in good spirits. You had become more sleepy and sedentary in the last year, still my baby but my little old man. Little did I realize that there had been a cancer forming within the year. Fuck you 2016. Fuck cancer. Just fuck you both. I knew it was going to happen eventually, but dammit I loved that sweet critter. In retrospect, yes I can see your steady decline, but you were also strong magnificent beast of a creature. Little sneezes here and there were cute, but I should have known it meant something underlying. I sincerely believe that we caught you right before you really started to hurt.
Having him pass at the apartment really made the process more gracious and special. I know that it surpassed even the best of care that we could have received at the vet clinic. The bright lights, strangers, and the smells of all the other animals. It's not like they give you all the time in the world either. He had no idea it was coming, and had gone through the worst of it because we came home from the vet. Not only that, but got to go to the park for a while too. You got to feel the cool autumn breeze on your face and roam around freely with the grass and leaves crunching under the weight of your precious paws. The sun warmed your belly once last time. And even a can of tuna once we got home. Only the best for my baby. I was lucky to have a friend who could do it for me professionally, and I would say to put money aside in the emergency savings for when that sad eventual day comes. It is ABSOLUTELY worth it. I felt more in control and involved, and it was much more comfortable for him. I do not feel haunted by the fact he left here at home, I'm in fact comforted by it. Perhaps that's why often times, it feels he's still here.
"It's hard to forget, I said, when there is such an empty space when you are gone."
But that's what I'm starting to realize, there will always be that empty space. Yeah things can fill it, but what was there is no longer and the fatality of it all woes me. But it's a part of life, although a crappy part. It's just going to keep going, as how I could not stop my grandparents from passing either. I believe in that sense, that realization and experience with other deaths, is the only way I can cope with this loss. This one was hard, though I am comforted in knowing we did what was absolutely best for him. By we, I mean Paul, the only person in the city to have loved Socrates almost as much as I did. We were able to give him a gracious little burial and I got to hold him and have some time with him. We buried him with his favorite toys and found a beautiful full dandelion to place singly atop. A dandelion was fitting, as my heart felt like it just scattered into the night sky.
End of life wasn't as good for my first cat Sassafras, she passed when I was fifteen from a kidney tumor. This was during the time of my parent's divorce, and my mom as a freshly single mother didn't have the money or time to put her down humanely. I have to understand she was basing her experience from the expense of having a vet come to put our dog down a few years earlier. When I look back, I hate how much she had to suffer, taking her in to be euthanized wouldn't have cost that much really. Yes it's a part of life, but it need not be painful and suffering. But she lingered, and a house full of girls, none of us had the heart to smother her or assist her transition. I was still a child and at the mercy of my parents. I have to remind myself that sometimes. The best we could do make her comfortable and love on her. That's when Socrates came into my life, or rather this strange black cat.
I remember it was cold for Florida, I think December or January. I was lying in bed and suddenly heard this strange soft howling outside my window. My bed was right beside the windowsill, so I pushed some of the blinds apart to find a pair of bright greenish warm eyes staring back at me. At first I was startled, and then became amused as he was solid black so I was just seeing eyes and the occasional flash of white from his teeth as he howled. He did this for three nights, and then another night coming to the front door, always with that meowing like he was trying to tell us something. He always had a distinct meow. Seventeen years together, he winds up being a complete gentle giant, but he looked like a majestic creature of the night with those piercing eyes and overall air about him. I gave him that name because Socrates is my favorite philosopher and it just wound up fitting him. Wise beyond his years and his age was even a mystery. I was always prepared from him to reveal his human form and really start talking to me. Everyone who met him said he was magic. Yes, he was Socrates. To a T.
So we make him a little bed in the patio to shield him from the cold, leave him a little food and then let him be. Sassafras at the time was on her deathbed in the living room. The night she began to be unresponsive, I did a routine check on him; where he rushed into the house and goes straight to her strangely. He had never been inside yet but went to her like he just knew. He put his face really close up to hers and she opened her eyes and stared at him till I scooped him up back to the patio. The next morning, she was gone. It was as if he had said to her "It's okay, you can go now. I'll take care of her."
He was more than a cat to me, he was a soul tie. I know my experience with Sassafras fueled me to do right with this one. And through all our obstacles and moves, I truly think he had a full happy healthy life. He lived many different places, with different people and different pet friends. I know in my heart he knew he was very much loved and cared for. He trusted me. That is the only comfort I can allow myself. For his absence is felt in the house. My bed is now so lonely. For the first few days I was riddled with guilt. Did I have to do it that very day, why didn't I wait? He could still be in my arms right now. But I have to remind myself that he had fluid taking up most of his lung capacity, so in a sense he was drowning slowly. I sometimes experience bouts of asthma so I know how that feels; to be doing your very best to breath but you just don't have enough oxygen. I didn't want him to be scared anymore or to struggle. What if he passed while I was out of the house and he was hurting alone? With Sassafras I was just a child, but for Socrates I am an adult now.
As aware I am of the shelter system, I just can't give my heart to another animal now. It's not the right timing for it either, I can't seek out another pet. Socrates came into my life, it was different. I do realize where I am in my life though, is that I need to learn how to share this same sort of affection and vulnerability with another person. In all honesty, the last two years of him being sick with renal disease, I've been in a sad girl bubble with him to mask the loneliness. Maybe I was trying to protect us both. That what I truly need in my life is not another pet, but a relationship. I crave intimacy again, not sex, but intimacy. Being with my friends has been so helpful and though I had a lot of offers "ask if I need anything" asking was something I couldn't bring myself to actually do. I don't want to a burden on anyone, or have people spend time with me out a pity. But I have also been avoiding closeness with others, romantically even more so. Having that sweet little kitty to come home to was enough for me, for a very long time. But that is all over, I can't change it. The chapter has ended now. I must learn how to love a man again.