My cat died.
Please don’t say that it’s just a cat.
She was a cat, but she was also a companion, a friend, and something more special to me that I could ever put into words. She’s my girl.
Was. I’m still trying to get used to that.
I picked her and her sister out of several other possibilities at the Pontiac Humane Society in Michigan, just about 13 years ago. I had gone there with my best friend Rowan to pick out a dog for her and her husband. I couldn’t have a dog, between work and a tiny space to live in downtown Detroit. Funny, up until that moment, I really was a dog person. Until that moment when she said “If you want a cat, I’ll pay for it.” I was out of work at the time, but had a little savings, so I thought, “Why not?”
She tried to get me to adopt a Siamese mix cat. It was a hard sell, especially with the trouble she was having with her own Siamese mutt. I looked at every possible cat and kitten, wondering if I was going to find my “soul mate” among the cluttered group. Then I came upon two, very tiny kittens, huddled together. One had their head cocked sideways and the other had their paw up on the cage. They mewed. I was in love.
2 little kittens for the price of one. What a deal.
I had been living in Detroit for a few months, mooching off of some friends when I finally got a place of my own. I had just left my very high stress job, and therefore had none. I had broken up with a guy I really thought would have been something great. I was living in different city, 400 miles away from my family. And I was lonely. Their all of a sudden appearance in my life was a miracle. I loved them more than I ever thought possible. Eventually, I would find a job at a pet store that let the employees post pictures of their pets. Every time I looked at them, my heart ached. It was the first time I had ever felt that kind of love, and to be honest, I haven’t felt that kind of pain since.
We stopped at a pet store before going home to pick up supplies for the lot. She had her dog, a spindly black dog with loads of energy she immediately called “Ruby.” (There are stories of her too, but this is kitten talk today.) We bought a litter box, feed & water bowls, food, some toys and what-not one usually buys for new kittens.
Then I got them home. They were so tiny, I could hold both in one hand. The people at the Humane Society said that they were about 6 weeks old and the last of a litter of 6; the mother, they think, was killed by a car. It was October 2nd, and it would be a while before I tried to calculate their actual birth date as being very close to my own at the end of August. Did I mention something about a soul mate?
As for being so tiny, they were very malnurished. You could feel their tiny little kitty backbones and ribs. I sometimes let them eat off of my plate-chicken and rice-they ate everything. They even liked orange juice, carrots and cherry yogurt. They were thin and scrawny and I loved them so much. My girls…
Two weeks later, I would find that they were also covered in fleas…
Within two days, I had them named. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell them a part-they both had the same colouring, and, to new eyes to their faces, the same markings. The first morning I had them, I was awakened to one of them standing on my neck, whacking my forehead with a tiny kitty paw. I opened my eyes to the most wonderful sight I’ve ever seen in my life: a smiling kitten. Oh, she was smiling! The next morning, she did the same thing. She was my “Good Morning” kitty. And being that the only word I knew in Greek was “Good Morning,” she was named Kalimera.
Kali, for short. Or Kali-Ma, Kali-Mookie, Kali-Mookie-Mookie-Ma, Poops, Poopy, Stinky, Kali-Poo, Poo-bear, Kookie, Kookie-Ma, Kookie-Mookie, Kooka, Kookabura, among many, many others.
T.S. Eliot, of Cats fame, wrote that you should give a cat many names so that when the devil comes for it, it will have difficulty finding it. I like that.
I was also planning a trip to Scotland at the time, with large maps sprawled out over my legs-the kittens loved playing with the paper, above and below. I read the towns out loud to my girls, and one of them, the one not named Kalimera, was playing vigorously with the map when I came to the small Scottish town, Bala. She stopped playing, looked at me and meowed. I said it again, “Bala?” She meowed again. “Bala!” She meowed and went on to play.
Bala has no short name, but she does have the T.S. Eliot nicknames: Boo, Boo-boo, Bala-Boo, Boo-bie, Boo-gie, Booger, Bubs, Bubsie, Bug, Boo-La, and many, many others.
My girls were named, now I just had to remember which one was which. They were both tortishells. Bala has a half black/half cream colored chin. Kali has a red spot on her forehead. I go on, over the years, to get them mixed up, I even wonder if I named the right ones, but the names stuck, and appropriately.
Bala is the lover, Kali is the mama’s girl.
Bala loved everyone! Strangers who would come to visit suddenly became her best friend. With me, sure, I would say she loves me. But not as much as she loves Craig. She loves her Craigie! Kali, on the other hand, was always by my side. In the kitchen, she would sit and watch me. She is the only one, was the only one who would let me come up to her and kiss her head without thinking “AH! She’s coming to kill me!” and run away. She knew me. I knew her. She was, is my soul mate.
Every morning I would say, “Kalimera, Kalimera!” “Good morning, Good morning!”
Kalimera is the one who passed away. Her body went through some noticeable changes over the last few months, noticeable in the way that I never noticed it until after the fact. The biggest noticeable change what that she lost most of her hair. It happened the day Craig and I went with my sister to see the last last Harry Potter movie. I remember sitting there, watching the movie, crying over the story and thinking of my cat whose hair was falling out by the handful at home. I cried hard.
After a few days, I took her to the vet. I didn’t want to think she was sick, let alone had anything serious because of the hair thing. Not my cat. Not my Kalimera. But they couldn’t tell what she had exactly. Her billirubin count was very high. Her skin was raw and itchy. Her hair was still falling out. She still ate and she still used the litter box. She stilled meowed at me. She fought me when I gave her her pills, and watched me break down when it all got too much. My tears fell on that little red spot on her head. She never moved, like she was trying to comfort me. I’m not surprised. She was the one who came running when I called for her, if I was sad or sick; she was always there. Sometimes, if I sang without music, she would purr and meow at me, get up to my face and sniff my forehead. I would tell her that I’m ok. She has seen me cry so often, wail so often, I wonder if she thought the two were the same.
It came to the point when I had to put her down. She wasn’t getting better, and she wouldn’t be getting better. The vets think she had cancer. She had stopped eating and peed only when I moved her. (Thank goodness for Urine Off.) She didn’t look good, either. She would sit hunched, uncomfortable like. She even got up to walk away from me when I was trying to pet her naked chin. I wondered what she meant. She knew I would never let her go alone, though I told her it was ok if she went, that I understood, even though, secretly, I would rather she didn’t. But I would have preferred that she went on her terms, not mine.
I had this feeling like I needed to do it now, to not drag it out, to give her my blessing and my love and send her on her way. I could have dragged it out, but she would have stayed miserable. I held her one last time, but she gave a pathetic meow and I let her go. I was sitting on the couch at the vet’s office, waiting out our final time together. She jumped down with her thin and wobbly legs. Her back was to me as she sat on the rug. But then she turned around, as if to say, “Oh Hi! I didn’t see you there…”
She couldn’t jump up, so I helped her back onto the couch and she sat next to me. The dent I made in the cushion kind of let her fall into me. She laid next me, something she had never done before. She slept with me often, but she never just sat next to me if I was watching t.v. or the like. I rubbed her neck and talked to her. And then the vet came in. “I could sit like this forever,” I told him. No lie.
As she left this world, I held her, I said, “Kalinihta, Kalimera.” “Good night, Good morning.”
I brought her ashes home yesterday. I thought I would feel better doing so, you know, I would finally be able to bring her home. But I feel worse, like she died again, and again every time I see the box with little paw prints on it. It doesn’t help that my other two cats, Bala and Herman,who joined the family six months after I got the girls, are fighting to the death. Bala came close to death 6 years ago, sending her into a “I vant to be alone” phase. Well, phases end. I was hoping it would be a phase, but this isn’t ending.
So, the sisters separated and Herman,who had been Kali’s main companion for the last 6 years, was left in the middle of it all. He’s a sweet boy, and I know he misses his Kali, but Bala has become territorial of the part of the house Herman now wishes to visit, usually the part where we sit. It’s obvious he doesn’t “vant to be alone.” I wish they could get along. I want him near me as much as he wants to be near me. It rips my heart to hear them fight.
It’s the simple things that rip my heart, lately. So far, the cuts I have suffered have been constantly ripped open, like a finger stuck in the wound. I wonder if it will ever heal.
I miss her so much.
Much of the hair that she lost is still in her room, the room she kept with Herman, my office. I went in there, thinking I could clean it up, throw out the remnants of a little life, gone. I held her hair, and shook. My body felt like it went into shock and I had to leave it there. It’s still there. If I can gather the courage, I will save some of her hair, perhaps put it somewhere safe so that she’ll always be with me. But the fact that she is not, that she died in my arms, and somehow, it just doesn’t seem to be real, even though I know very well how real it is. She’s never coming back. I’ve lost my little girl, my little kitten, my little soul.
There never will be another good morning in my life.
(My post Working From Home has a picture of me and the Kooksters.)