When I first had the idea for this blog and its overall purpose, it was supposed to explain that I really have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to anything in life. This includes relationships, friendship, social cues, jobs, expectations…anything. It was supposed to kick off with something lighthearted and carry a more sarcastic, humorous tone throughout posts that I would make. Things changed a few days ago. I was met with another situation that I felt I wasn’t remotely prepared for, which really, embodies why I wanted to write here in the first place. I couldn’t think of a better kick off, or motivating event to begin this journey.
Any major event I can look back to, I know that I just wasn’t equipped with what I needed at the time to properly get through it. Along the way you hobble along through these less than ideal situations, attempt to learn a thing or two and approach things differently next time. No matter how often you go through it, you’re never prepared for death.
The idea of cats never really appealed to me. Every cat I had encountered growing up was spiteful, resentful and self-serving. Why get a cat when dogs are lovable, caring, playful and comforting? Much to my chagrin, when I met my future fiance eight years ago, it was a package deal with a cat.
As my fiance and I became friends, got closer, dated and moved in together, my relationship with her cat was strained. I wasn’t a cat person, and he knew it. He wasn’t ready for my fiance to give attention to someone else, and I knew it. We co-existed more than anything, nothing more, nothing less.
The longer we were around each other, things began to shift. Instead of completely shunning me in favor of my fiance, I would see shimmers of affection from time to time. He would play with me and would mutually mess with each other from time to time. I acted passively and would joke that he’s only doing it to get something from me, but I secretly enjoyed it.
My fiance would go on trips on occasion to see her family or hang out with her friends. When I stayed back home, I would watch her cat go through the stages of grief every time. The first day, he would wait in his usual spot by the door waiting for her to come home. The second day he would pace around our condo, sometimes resigning towards making an appearance upstairs where I usually parked myself. By the third day, acceptance. He would now come lay down with me, or on me. We started our, now common, head boops, where I would bend down with my head and he would head butt me back. I of course went back to being non-existent when my fiance returned home from these trips, but I genuinely loved the change in affection from our cat.
Our cat. I began saying things like this subconsciously, without even noticing. I would tell stories to people about him, and label him as ‘my cat’. I continued to make jokes about it just being easier to say ‘my cat’ instead of ‘my girlfriend’s cat’ or ‘my fiance’s cat’ but I knew the truth.
We had been apart of each others lives for seven years, almost a third of my life, and most of his. We’d gone through adding a rescue cat into the family, and losing him a few years later. We went through flooding at the condo, causing us to leave him at a family’s house for a month. We recently bought a house, uprooting his entire world from that condo into a new space he had to get familiar with. The constant throughout these past years is that all three of us were together.
My usual routine would cause me to wake up every morning at 4:30am to him sitting outside of the bedroom door, singing the song of his people to make sure it was known that first feeding had begun. Since switching his food less than a year ago, he was a beast for it. He basically turned into my fiance and I, obsessed when it came to food. We wouldn’t even finish lunch before getting serious about what we would be doing for dinner the same day. After seeing him outside the door, I would feign interest, pretend I didn’t notice him. I would go to the kitchen, get the coffee started while he stood attentively behind me, purring every time I turned around so I wouldn’t forget he was there. When I turned towards the cabinet with his food, he came to life. He would circle me as I walked over, sometimes tripping me, and dive right in when the food hit his tray.
I didn’t know that two mornings ago would be the last day going through our breakfast ritual. Instead of leaving for work at the normal time, I stayed home. We had some contractors in the house to finish a job they had started a few weeks ago that I planned on being there for. He didn’t really enjoy people all that much, but he was in his element this morning. He sat at the back porch door, sitting in the sun and starred at the squirrels; something I imagine he did to fill up his days often when no one else was home. I would occasionally come upstairs for a refill of water or snack from the fridge. Every time I did, I would walk over to him, give him the ritual head boop, pet him a few times and went back downstairs.
Things didn’t seem off until around noon. He started coming downstairs and standing at the side of the couch…sort of contorting, lifting up his back feet slightly while shaking. I walked up to him and put my hand in front of him for him to initiate contact, he didn’t reciprocate. After about ten seconds, he acknowledged me and went back to normal, rubbing his face on my hand, singing his song.
I joked with my fiance about it. He really didn’t like strangers and I thought that because he was so mesmerized with his sun and squirrels, he just finally noticed they were in the house. I went upstairs and found that he had vomited by the back door where he just was laying in the sun, something that really isn’t abnormal. I walked into one of our spare rooms and found that he passed a bowel there. Now that’s something uncommon, but we had strangers in the house that he would have to walk by to get to his litter box, makes sense.
Shortly after, he went back to that same spot by the couch and repeated what I had just seen. He reacted the same way at first, distant and uninterested, before rubbing his face on my hands and became himself again. I carried him to the litter box, thinking that he just didn’t want to walk by the guys in the house. When I went back there, I had noticed what I thought was clear vomit on the floor. I put him down by his litter box to clean up the mess and he bolted out of the room.
I tried bringing him upstairs and sitting in the spare room with him, thinking that maybe he was trying to spray and show dominance. He lasted a few minutes by my side before running downstairs to the same spot by the couch. After going through the process a third time, I stayed downstairs with him and sat on the couch. He jumped up next to me and I tried to comfort him for awhile, thinking that he would be okay when the guys finished up and left the house. He was extra affectionate towards me and followed me wherever I went, a process normally exclusively kept for my fiance…or when he wants to be fed again.
When the guys left the house, he continued to go through the same ritual by the couch. My fiance, instead of going to her dads house, opted to come home and try to comfort him a bit to make him feel better. He went through the same weird process and rituals with her home, causing us to call the vet. While on the phone, a second pile of clear liquid was on the floor. I realized what I had seen earlier was urine, not clear vomit. We leaned towards him having constipation, or maybe being stopped up by a plastic bag he had eaten.
The drive down to the vet hospital was normal all things considered. He sang his song, we joked about the situation as we do to try and find some sort of light side. We arrived and sat in the waiting area. They took him off to be examined by the doctor while we stayed in the waiting area watching The Sandlot.
We were brought back into a room where I started to get an off feeling about everything. The doctor came in and let us know that his bowels weren’t backed up, but had a full bladder instead. He would need to get a catheter that night to drain his bladder and hopefully stop and remove whatever blockages were obstructing his urethra. My fiance paid the few thousand dollars for the procedure and we said our goodbyes for a for minutes in that room. He had a cone of shame around his neck and his front legs had shaved areas for the fluids they needed to get into him. We left the vet that night, they were getting ready to start the procedure and I joked that I would call him Patches when he got home because of his legs. There was always the rare possibility that something could go wrong, but at the time it didn’t seem real.
I woke up at my normal time, absent the usual greeting I received at the bedroom door, and called the vet. I was expecting them to say that everything went well and that we could come visit whenever we wanted to that day. I work a few miles from where he was staying and wanted to pop in to give him a familiar face. Instead, it was my turn to go through the five stages of grief. Unfortunately, instead of at least having three days to process like he had in the past, I had thirty seconds. When I was told they couldn’t get a catheter in due to there being a large blockage, I denied that they had any idea what they were doing. When she told me they had, instead, tore his urethra, I became angry. When they told me he likely had kidney disease, would require surgery and a week of monitoring, which might not even fix the problem, I became depressed. When they told me the cost, I entered bargaining, and when there that was hopeless, acceptance.
I don’t want to share too much of what happened from this point on. I woke up my fiance and we had a tough conversation together. We got dressed, went down to the vet and hung our with our cat as much as we could. And ye…I got my head boop. We stayed with him until it was over, then went home to process what had just happened.
We spent the rest of the day reliving memories, good and bad, flipping through photos and trying to hold it together. Within twelve hours, our lives went from completely normal to turned on their heads.
Sometime during the day I opened Facebook and a memory from exactly six years ago was at the top of my screen. It read “Endings are heartless, a closed door. The journey to that end is what truly matters.” Maybe that day I had just finished reading the Dark Tower? Maybe it spawned from a conversation I had with someone? Whatever the reason my past self had for posting it, today it meant something different. We will never lose the journey we had these past years together and we will never live a day without remembering something about him. The journey together is what truly mattered, regardless of this ending.
I don’t give much credence to the afterlife, but I do believe in the idea of cycles; Ouroborus. Whenever there is an end, there is an new beginning. Constant renewal. There will be a new beginning spawned from this end, however difficult it may be to see right now.
We had lost our pet, our friend. He was someone we thought would meet us at the door when we came home after getting married and someone we thought would be here to meet and help raise our children. I wasn’t ready to lose a friend, I wasn’t ready to lose someone that I rely so much on everyday.
I wasn’t ready to lose you Marley, I wasn’t prepared for this.