Saturday, November 21, 2009

Loss and Gain

Dear Plus One,

I know you're out there and sometime in the hopefully not too distant future, you'll be coming home with us to our little family. We have a house filled with color and art and books and music and cats. Especially cats. We've always had cats and I expect we always will. We'll definitely be adding a dog or two in the future but might wait on that until you're old enough to help pick him or her out.

On our placement agency application, we made sure to indicate that we hoped you wouldn't be allergic to cats and dogs because we want you to experience the joy of having pets to cuddle with, play with, curl up and take a nap with. Our cats are a little on the older side now but they love us and we love them. I think you'll like them. I'm just so sorry you won't have a chance to meet one of them.

Annabel was the best cat -- warm, loving, gentle, occasionally crazed. She talked a lot, often with a chirr-upp! sound that I've never heard another cat make. And as she got older, she started sounding a bit like my crotchety great-aunt who barked out "I can't hear you!" in the silent hall during my grandfather's memorial service. But for Annabel, it was more like "Get up! I'm hungry and awake and you're not but you should be and by the way you need to be paying attention to me because I love you!" She did, of course, say these things at 4:37 AM in the kitty version of French because that's what your Mom always said she spoke.

Other times, it might have been a mournful howl when, as she got older, she'd forget where we were until we called her. Then she'd come trotting down the stairs with a happy look on her face and promptly curl up into someone's lap. OK, maybe the mournful howl might have freaked you out a bit but believe me, Plus One, there was nothing better than to have Annabel curled up next to you at night purring through her nose and helping you doze off.

I can only imagine the giggles that would have erupted from you as you watched her shift into psycho kitty mode, dashing around the house, using the back of the couch like a NASCAR driver uses the banked curve to make sharper turns, or pursuing, without successful, the dreaded laser pointer (activities that earned her the sobriquet "The Grey Bullet"). Then of course, she would have taught you to tumble and dance, her gymnastic gyrations on your mom's drafting chair serving as an excellent example of the values of flexibility and a regular stretching regimen.

Personally, I was hoping she'd help with the whole "OK baby, it's time to eat your dinner" process as she would calmly sit next to your chair, like she used to sit next to mine, in the hopes of snagging a piece of chicken, a bit of spare rib, or a few licks of sour cream (her absolute favorite). I figured she'd keep you distracted enough, using her Jedi mind tricks, to let us get some food into you without much of it decorating the walls or my shirt.

But best of all would have been the quiet times, when she'd curl up in her bowl on the kitchen table and doze off. We could have sat at the table with crayons or finger paints or bits of colored paper and worked while she watched us through slitted eyes to make sure we were occasionally paying attention to her (because it was all about Annabel) or that we hadn't wandered off, allowing her to snooze secure in the comfort that her people were nearby.

Sadly, Annabel was 19 and a half, which you will learn, dear Plus One, was very old for a cat. And sometimes when kitties are very old (and sometimes when they aren't), the time comes when they need to leave us to go chase mice and little red laser dots and lap up sour cream and curl up in someone's lap to keep them happy and warm and loved until the end of days. And when they're gone, we miss them because they are family, as much as me and your mom and you, Plus One, and all of your grandparents and cousins and dear friends.

It's OK to miss them. It's OK to look at the extra food dish and start to put dinner in it only to realize that there's no one to eat it, to sit at the kitchen table and realize with a start that the pair of grey ears and eyes that always peeked over the table top aren't there anymore, or to lie in bed and feel like it's empty because there's no grey cat curled up next to your head purring away in her sleep. It's OK to feel like there's a hole in your family and your life because there is.

But the wonderful thing is that we'll always remember her and love her and be able to laugh about her antics. We'll bring new pets into our family and we'll love them and they'll love us. You'll be able to crawl around after them or fall asleep next to them or shriek in glee as one of them licks red raspberry preserves off your face.

I'm just sorry it won't be the Grey Bullet. Because you would have liked her and she would have loved you.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

My heart is breaking for you both. Pets truly do become part of the family, and it's so sad when they go. What a wonderful 19 years you got to spend though! And those memories will be with you forever.

You are both in my thoughts! I hope you are able to have some peace as you and your other cats mourn. :,(