Feed on


Thank God it’s September. What a long, strange, miserable month August was. The very first week I attended a cousin’s wedding and watched my friend Gabriel’s family reunite. Then it all crashed around me. Sudden pet death. Anticipated pet death. Family illnesses not blogged about. Two deaths related to friends of the family. Except for Simon getting off to such a great start at KIP, all the news was bad and there was a lot of it. They say bad things happen in threes, but this August they came by the half dozen.

At the risk of protracting the misery, I wanted to jot down some thoughts on grief. Matt’s, mine, and Simon’s. I keep thinking of the saying about the river–how you never step into the same river twice. Grief seems to be something like that, too. All of us are going through it, but we all seem to be stepping into different parts at different times.

Matt’s path seems to be shock, followed by existential angst and sadness. He was too ambushed to register much pain with Tristan, but the flood gates really opened when Percy declined. It was as though both of their deaths registered at the same exact moment.

I am the reverse. As much as Percy was bonded to me and very much my feline counterpart, I feel manageable sadness where he is concerned. I knew he was ill, I had time to come to grips with that, and I nursed him as best I could. When he first quit eating, I spent a large part of my day finding ways to coax him on until the fluid therapy could restore his appetite. When you have spent hours searching out different formulations of wet food, adding tuna water to it, heating it up, putting it through a food mill to make it easier to eat, and then serving it elevated to alleviate nausea—and doing that four times a day—you know you took care of your pet.

But Tristan? He lost a pound in one month, and I didn’t even notice until he quit eating altogether and staggered from weakness. I feel tremendous guilt that I let him down when he really needed me. People keep telling me not to, that it’s hard to tell who’s eating what with two cats, that cats hide their illnesses well, and all that. And I know it’s true. But I also fear I neglected him while tending to his brother, never imagining they could both be sick at the same time. I hope my friends and family are right and that this guilt is a manifestation of the grieving process that will fade over time.

Simon, bless him, is sticking to denial and bargaining. At first he didn’t seem upset at all. He’s not yet four, so we understand that he couldn’t fully understand what was happening. Still, it (irrationally) hurt us to see that he didn’t seem that upset. Then we felt bad for wanting him to feel bad. True to type, Matt rationally analyzed his feelings in this regard and moved on, while I felt guilty for mine and then also moved on.

We both looked for gentle ways to broach the subject with Simon, as it seemed fundamentally unhealthy to just pretend that nothing had happened at all. The first day or so, we’d mention Tristan or Percival, and Simon would immediately and inartfully change the subject. A typical exchange:

“Do you miss Percival, Simon?”

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a bulldozer.”

Right then! He absolutely, steadfastly refused to discuss what was going on. So we backed off a bit. I did get out some old pictures to show Simon, figuring we could both get a laugh out of seeing Daddy with long hair, me with super-short hair, and Tristan as a tiny, fluffy kitten.

A day or so later, the questions came. Questions like “When will Percy jump up on my bed?” and “Couldn’t the doctor make him new and better again?” and the truly terrifying, “When I’m an old cat, will my kidneys quit working and my body break, too?” He also noted that when Caillou was sick, he didn’t go to the doctor; his mommy took care of him. He was clearly looking for a familiar context for illness and death.

Now, we’ve all arrived at bargaining. All of us are wanting to drown our sorrows in new feline companionship, and we are bargaining with ourselves and each other about the timing.

Matt wants to wait until we take a family holiday in October. He wants time to grieve Percival and Tristan properly before we adopt again. (Or to quote him, “Listen, if a widower remarries in a year or so, some people think it’s too soon, but others understand he just liked being married and it’s no disrespect to his wife. But if he marries in a month, that’s just messed up. No one thinks that’s a compliment to the wife.”) When the process is over, however, he wants kittens. Adorable, exuberant kittens with their whole lives ahead of them.

Simon wants cats now. Literally now. “Mommy,” he asked me Saturday night, “Can we go to the animal shelter and find new cats that need a home? … What will our new cats names be? I know, Brownie, and Uncle Steve, and Aunt Tia, and Nathan, and Liv, and Maddie, and Ben!” He helpfully explained using his hands that he’d like to have 2, no 3, no 4, no 5, no 10, no 20 cats.

As for me, I’m torn. I feel a need to wait. But I hate my house right now: I hate lying in bed and hearing nothing; I hate sitting at the kitchen island and staring at the place where the food bowls used to be; I hate having unfettered use of my mouse; I hate that no one is in the kittie sauna, AKA the attic. I also hate that my mind has played tricks on me and made me think I was hearing or seeing the cats more than once.

So while Matt watches the calendar, I’m going to watch my knitting needles. I just bought yarn for a project for Simon. It’s a multi-color affair, requiring me to hold more than one strand at a single time. It’s the exact kind of project that Percy and Tristan would wreak havoc with and that I never attempted after they arrived on the scene in ’95 and ‘96. I will enjoy getting to work on my stranded knitting without interference, I am going to add to my skill set, and when I am finished, by George, I’m going to start looking for new feline companionship to ensure a 10-15 year gap between such projects.

For the sake of marital harmony, I hope it takes six to eight weeks. I really don’t think I can spring another box with another unvetted kitten on my husband.

3 Responses to “Grief”

  1. Amanda says:

    Jess–if you’d like, my mom has been crocheting little “kitty balls”–toys with a soft center filled with catnip around which she crochets covers. The kitties love them, especially when they are made of eyelash yarn. She uses up her old yarn bits, they are very colorful, and then she donated them to the no-kill shelter I volunteer at (and some friends kitties, and mine, got some too). If you want a small project I can have her send you the instructions. They are fast and keep her hands and mind busy, and she uses up all those extra yarn bits!

  2. Amanda says:

    I used to “see” Charlie for months after he died. Strangely, it made me feel both sad and a little better. I liked to think he was hanging around for awhile.

  3. blg says:

    My heart goes out to you.

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