By Lawrence Pinsky
Posted August 19th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
(A Brief Foreword Note from NAL publisher Doug Draper – “What greater gift than the love of a cat,” wrote Charles Dickens a hundred and fifty some-odd years ago, and almost everyone who has ever had or continues to have a close relationship with a cat knows that to be true.
I know that stories like the one I am posting here from Lawrence Pinsky, who has been a friend going back to our days going on 40 years ago in journalism school, are sad to read or think about. I know that because I have lived through stories like this with feline friends of my own.
But I think they are important stories to tell and talk about because as sad as they are, they can also bring out good and humane things in us as we and other living beings strive to make the best of the short time we all have together on this green and blue ball circling around the sun.
From time to time, I’ve had people say ask me how a person can grieve so much over the death of a cat or a dog. After all they are not a person. To which I say that as much as I feel sorry for the person grieving over the loss of their furry friend, I feel sorry for the person who doesn’t understand or who has never experienced that grief, because they are missing out on something in life that is very nice and special.
Now here is Lawrence’s story about his journey with a close and loving friend of the feline kind.)
By Lawrence Pinsky
In the early summer of 1998 my parents were feeling at a loss. Their last of two kitties, Bootsie, had died a little while before and, as my mom used to say, “Who wants to come into an empty house?!”
My dad was reluctant to have a new “pet,” perhaps because he didn’t want to suffer yet another loss.
Still, my mom was strongly inclined, and one sunny morning she made a visit to the local SPCA with a former girlfriend of mine.
Partly because she looked similar to her beloved Bootsie, mom fell in love with one tuxedo kitten, in the back of a cage with others from her litter. When my mom got home she found her excitement was not shared by my dad was very reluctant…My mom was distraught, even angry. But she soon “managed” to convince my dad to acquiesce to the point where he was almost begging her to “go get the cat, Ruth!” Of course, dad soon fell in love with the adorable and feisty kitten.
As Pixie grew, my mom decided that she needed another companion and Latke (who is still with me and still sleeping about 95 per cent of the time!) joined the scene within a year.
Pixie loved to play but had little tolerance for being pet or brushed for any length of time; you had best get your hand or arm out of the way if she’d had enough! If the constant slight twitching of the end of her tail increased in rapidity, hmm…you better watch out! Or you would be cleaning that gash with peroxide.
But, suddenly, in year 9 or 10, she mellowed. In my frequent visits, I would slowly acclimate her to being brushed, something that gave her much joy and comfort in her later years and so much so in her final weeks and days.
Most often, Pixie rested on my parents’ bed or took up her post in the basket lined with a towel, the centerpiece of my parents’ coffee table. The basket grew smaller, but that never deterred Pixie until she got much older.
The love for Pixie was returned in spades. Pixie was always a big licker, especially favouring the nose, forehead and hair, but she was happy to take her surprisingly rough tongue to your cheeks, arms or fingers, if need be.
Many evenings, when my dad sat on the corner of the couch reading his paper, Pixie would come up, wrap her arms around dad’s neck and start grooming his face. This only endeared Pixie to my dad all the more and he’d giggle and laugh and insist that you “look at this!”
Pixie (and also my mom’s dog Benjie) were close companions. Most days, mom had a little lie-down on the couch and Pixie lay, guard-like, next to mom’s right side. Wherever my mom went, Pixie generally was close by, often lying on the dining room table (my mom’s favourite hang-out), tail twitching.
Most nights Pixie slept above my dad’s head on his pillow or between the two pillows. Later on, she took to curling up in the crook behind my mom’s bent knees or at the foot of the bed. And–she loved to help make the bed!
When the old bedding came off, Pixie always arrived, eager to participate. Hopping from one side of the sheet or the blanket to the other (initially with a little prompting, mind you), she would stay until all layers were in place. Pixie’s participation met with some disgruntlement from my mother who could be heard saying “It’s enough already, Pixie!” several times during the process. I wonder if my mother eventually grew tickled and excited at Pixie’s assistance as I eventually did after mom passed away and Pixie and Latke came to live with me.
In her last couple of weeks Pixie was not able to help out with changing the bed, which saddened me greatly, as it saddens me now, knowing that she never will again.
When I went to bed, Pixie invariably showed up for a little while, until I went to sleep. In the morning, I’d usually find her lying in her big armchair in the living room, taking some sun. This was her favourite spot.
Twice in her last week, Pixie managed to climb up the little staircase to give me a few licks and lie down near me as I fell asleep. In the last few days, she was simply unable to do it; her mobility was very limited.
Sometimes I would ask Pixie for a kiss and she would lick my nose a couple of times. And then I’d say “Thank You” just like my mom did countless times. In her last couple of days, Pixie could only manage a little “nose-butt” occasionally; I didn’t push her. Even on her last evening, as weak as she was, she managed a couple of sweet nose-butts.
Pixie died late last Sunday morning, laying on her armchair, with her youngest feline companion, Shminky, on the arm of her chair and also beside her “ducky,” the bright pink stuffed duck that she’d had for many years. Myself and my girlfriend, Siobhan, were also with her for hours and at the end.
There’s no way to fill that empty hole that’s left when a dear family member dies. I dearly loved my “little girl” as my mom used to also call her.
It’s not possible to fathom how all those routines, gestures, every precious moment of love and communication are now only memories.
Over time, I think I only begin to acknowledge the inevitability of death, but I can never accept it. It simply makes no sense.
A scab starts to form over the rawness and it hardens with time…but never ultimately heals.
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