First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guest Post: Family Cat

From my Wife:

For those of you who don’t know, this has been a very difficult year for our family.

My daughter has entered all day kindergarten, and her school is woefully under-prepared for her level of ability – like most public schools in this country, the focus is on remediation, rather than education – and navigating those waters (even for a teacher) has been very difficult. Medically we are in a holding pattern, as all of her oddities (the kidney reflux, the extra teeth, the small stature…) seem to be leading nowhere despite endless specialist visits and hefty copays – at least we have insurance. And of course, it isn’t easy being 5.

My son has had some potty training issues. He is rebelling hard against his father. He gets “growing pains” and is sick with random colds and stomach ailments way too often. He worries too much for a 4 year old, and is too tuned-in to the feelings of adults. He struggles with his bossy sister, clumsiness and his speech impediment. He cries a lot, still sucks his thumb until he has blisters and calluses, he still wears pull ups to bed… And of course, it isn’t easy being 4.

My husband had some “winter blues” for the first time in his life, which is in part why you haven’t heard from him much. He spends too much time being the heavy with our kids. He is responsible for all the cleaning, cooking, shopping and laundry in our house – oh and all the shoveling (significant since we live in New England). He handles the bills and our dwindling finances – basically, he decides who gets paid this month and who doesn’t. This year things got tight (way too tight) and too much of our stuff broke – plumbing, car, roof, kids, wife… And of course it isn’t easy being 39.

As for myself, well all I can say is “it’s hard out here for a pimp”… And of course being 40 sucks.

That brings me around to the point of my guest post. Today we killed our cat -- the family cat. For those of you following our family, this is the 3rd cat we’ve had to euthanize in 3 years. The 1st was mine, the 2nd my husbands, but this one was everyone's while also being distinctly her own.  We got all 3 within months of each other in our early 20’s, so it isn’t surprising that they’ve gone down like this – but still it’s like Kevorkian dominoes around here. What can I say about Cordelia? She wasn’t my favorite – that was Xiu Xiu, the first we “put down.” She wasn’t the longest, that was Ty by about 2 months. So why is Cordy so hard to let go? I think it is a combination of things – she was an amazing battle-axe of a cat with a long and complicated life.

17 years ago, my now husband/then roomate decided to get a cat. I already had the two Siamese, but he wanted to “save” a shelter animal. We lived in JP at the time, and walked to our local MSPCA to check out the kitties. I petted and cooed over a beautiful grey tabby, a cute little tiger kitten, a reverse calico. But no, no, no… Then, he said, “I found her!”

There she was, a scrawny bedraggled nasty beast with missing patches of fur and six huge pink boobies. I said, “Really? But how about…” “Nope, she’s it.” I asked about her kittens – she was living on the streets, no one found them. I asked about her fur and her breath, gingivitis and malnutrition. I asked about her age – about 8 months… 8 MONTHS? So, I was about to adopt a homeless teen mother with bad hygiene. Great.

Then we got her home. She was insane – a crazy, violent creature who would purr while attacking you – claws like a wildcat and so much power. She tried to hamstring our other roommate when he teased her with a string toy and rip off my brother’s arm when he played the “hand under the blanket” game. In play, she would wrap herself around your body part, sink in her teeth and rabbit foot your flesh with her back paws as hard as she could – and yes, purr. Charming, right?

This lasted about a year. Then she mellowed. She became a love machine, and you could hear her purrs from several feet away. She gentled and tried hard to fit in. Our snobby Siamese wouldn’t play with her, so she made friends with our stinky old shih tzu -- Maggie. The old dog tolerated her, but really Cord was an island. She would chase after the others trying to play, but attempts to replicate their acrobatic feats more often than not landed her in a puddle on the floor after slamming into a wall or sliding off a banister. She was not the picture of grace or dignity.

She was highly social and would come out to partake in our early 20’s drinking games or “circles,” she would cuddle up to anyone and was highly vocal for a regular cat (Siamese influence, I suspect). Her hygiene improved and her coat filled back in She became a healthy, glossy looker – even a little on the chunky side. People often commented on her beauty, which my husband swears he saw under that dull, dandruff ridden, spotty coat and boney frame.

When we left the city and moved to the suburbs, Cordy rediscovered the great outdoors. She refused to be an inside cat to the point that she tried to eat through a door. She was the terror of all mice, voles and small rodents in our neighborhood, and it was not uncommon to find a little headless corpse on the doorstep. Oddly, she never hunted birds…

When Cordy was about 8, she met her first soul mate. Maggie had developed doggy dementia, and her replacement is a huge dumb boxer puppy – Ruby. The two became fast friends, and Cordy began to revisit her kittenhood.  She’d dash around the house, Ruby at her heels, fly through the air and land on Ruby’s back, and snuggle up at naptime and all night. They developed a deep and amazing friendship, unlike any I’ve ever seen between a dog and cat – especially two dummies like these. Cordy followed HM and the dog on walks, they shared a water bowl and a bed, and they loved each other deeply.

When Cordy was about 12, she met her second soul mate. My son was born and Cordy took to him right way. As he grew into a rough and tumble boy, the other animals shied away, even the boxer would get overwhelmed by his energy and action. But not Cordy. She’d sit quietly while he dug his baby fists into her fur. She’d cuddle beside him as he watched TV, knowing he’d likely roll on top of her. She’d purr and head butt him as he mischievously plucked at her tail or carried her in a strange half-nelson hybrid. Of course we corrected him, but she never did. Not once. Nor did she ever leave his side. Even in the last frail moments of her life, when my son shouted goodbye to her as she was loaded into the car for that last ride, she called back to him -- a weak peep compared to her old cries, but still...

About a week ago she got sick. Then she got skinny. She started to resemble the cat she was in the shelter so long ago. We’ve done this twice; we knew the signs, so we buckled in and waited for her to tell us it was time. But Cordy was different. Unlike the others, she stayed very public in her last days. She needed to be with her people and her dog. Yesterday, she started with the stomach trouble and weak legs. But still, she didn’t “go off.” Instead, she settled down next to her dog to die. Whenever Ruby went out or got up, Cordy would cry and desperately try to find her friend, and Ruby would hurry back to comfort her lifelong companion. Those desperate cries were our signal that it was time, and every one of them broke my heart a little. So today we made the call.

She was with me through my first year of teaching, the break-up of my previous engagement, the death of my first dog, the birth of both my children, 3 moves, the buying of our house, the death of her 2 Siamese sisters, and the adoption of 2 new kittens and a puppy. She took it all in stride. She was the last symbol of my youth. She was a dragon – a powerhouse of strength, bravery and unconditional love. She was a fighter, a survivor and a forgiver. She was Cordy, and now she’s gone. I will always miss her.

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