I do have work to do. I will have to get to it eventually.
However, my Muse tapped me on the shoulder tonight, and when she taps, you listen. I imagine she has other pupils besides me. But tonight, I was an easy target.
Because tonight, I’m caught deep in the currents that I’ve come to know as a season of unpleasant anniversaries. We kick off Act 1, Scene 1 with the anniversary of Mollie’s death, the only indoor dog we ever had, who was really like a third cat. Fast-forward through a lull (with the exception of last year, which I’ll get to later), which–don’t fool yourself–is really the calm before the storm.
The onslaught begins with the dawn of the month of May, in which we lost my partner’s best friend on the 3rd, and then my parents’ accident on the 6th. Thank God(dess) they both survived, with the added bonus of having sidestepping the vegetative bullet, but it did forever change them; the people I knew as my raw, pure parents were gone, replaced by something just as sweet but less innocent, more fearful.
Somewhere in there we lost Puant, another wonderful kitty, and then at some point in mid-June we lost the first cat that actually bonded with me–a pure-white, deaf male, who was a doll. Maddie left us the day after Independence Day and Katie departed August 7th.
Thankfully, these weren’t all in the same year. A couple were, though…
This time last year, Curt and Maddie were neck and neck in a race to the grave. One week our focus was on Curt and his mysterious trips the hospital, his up-again, down-again and the next, our laser sights swung over to Maddie, whose improvement proved merely to be an illusion, a parlor trick.
Tonight, we talked about Maddie. Even today, I’m filled with self-doubt. I am sure that there is something I did, or failed to do, that contributed to Maddie’s unexpected and rapid decline. Did we expose her to a household chemical somewhere? A poorly-placed wi-fi signal path? The roach infestation and all of the aerial proteins that come with it? After all, she’d been so healthy, so athletic–a feline Jack LaLane, if you will. A real poster child, cat model. And within 3 1/2 months of the first sign of anything wrong, she was gone.
Just like that.
I’m sure it will haunt me. We should’ve biopsied her sooner, maybe started chemo. But I also know how the Universe works: what ultimately ends up happening is exactly what was supposed to happen. Maybe chemo wouldn’t have been all that we’d hoped for. Maybe she would’ve declined just as fast but with the added bonus of being sick and losing her beautiful coat in the process. Maybe we–and more importantly, she–dodged a magazine clip full of bullets by waiting as long as we did.
It was an aggressive form of cancer and when we found it, it’d already overtaken her entire system. I was shocked, and yet after some deeper thought, not surprised. After all, she had that Cancer Personality I’ve seen in a dozen humans–the feisty stubbornness, the refusal to let go of something of unknown origin, from the distant past, and the resulting resentment that accompanies it.
It caught up with her. She wanted out, and she saw to it that she got her way. I don’t resent her for it; I’d probably do the same thing in her paws.
My partner and I had sensed this hostile resentment for a long time, and we’d known for just as long that she had been a police dog, killed in the line of duty, in her former life. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in reincarnation or not–it’s real. Maddie was vivid living proof. I lamented the fact that not all police departments appropriated the proper funding for canine bulletproof vests. He replied that it wouldn’t have mattered in her case; she took a shot in the neck. And he pointed to his lower posterior-lateral cervical spine.
I stopped cold. Everything felt heavy. The little gray patch of fur that she had, right where he’d gestured on himself. It had seemed out-of-place on such a perfectly designed and carefully marked cat.
For the first time in a long time where Maddie was concerned, tears sprang to my eyes. I don’t know why. There was no more crying out of the acute pain of grief; it seemed to simply be the sheer significance.
As the Muse’s intensity begins to wane, withdrawing back into the shadows in the periphery, I celebrate what I do have in front of me; Murphy, with the nightly wild hair up his ass, putzing around on the keyboard keys; Vanessa, curled up on the couch, with the appearance of deceiving innocence; my parents, whom I see on a regular basis and have recovered to the point where they are more than just mere shadows of themselves, my partner, with whom I can talk about these kinds of things with unrestrained freedom or self-consciousness, and so on.
With any luck, Maddie’s stint as a cat had only been a sabbatical, a temporary break from doing what she truly loved and with more luck, she’ll get to go back and resume her dream–that unfinished business she’d been so prematurely yanked out of, and she’ll live a full life until she reaches satiety and begins a proper retirement, having taken down many a bad guy. With her, the world was–and will be again–a better place.
My thoughts begin to drift; the Muse seems to be satisfied now.