Once I had a husband, two kids and a big house in the country. I didn't want to live in the country but my husband did and he always got what he wanted.
It was isolated. We had an acre and so did all the neighbours. The whole "Welcome to the neighbourhood" thing did not happen. We were city slickers and we weren't welcome.
My husband could be very nice and he could be very cruel. When I had my first child I knew one sure thing. I loved being a Mom. We gave her a sister. I played with my kids all day every day.
The deal was, when the littlest started school I would be free to write. But when the littlest started school, my husband told me to get a job. He said, "Things change."
That was one of the rules he lived by. The other was "All's fair in love and war." My crazy love for my crazy husband began to wane. I was quite sure he'd stopped loving me a long time before I started to lose interest in him. My children hugged and kissed me but children grow up. I knew that. I wondered who would touch me when they stopped.
We decided to separate in January 2001. In March, 2001 my Mother was diagnosed with cancer. My parents lived in Manitoba and I lived in this ridiculous country town in nowheresville, Ontario.
I was my Mother's primary caregiver in an "anticipated death at home." While in Winnipeg, I sold my house by fax. The day after her funeral I returned to Ontario, I had a month to pack the house up and move. I didn't know where I was going to live. My youngest was going to live with her Father. Like I said, he always got what he wanted.
My eldest daughter and I moved into an apartment in the nearby town. I bought furniture from IKEA. I drove an ancient Oldsmobile. I was in shock.
In February of 2002 I decided my daughter and I needed a cat. I wanted an affectionate cat and I had heard that male Siamese are loving cats. One day I decided, "Today is the day. I'll go get a Siamese kitten. My daughter will come home from school and take a nap. I'll come home and open the cat box on her bed and she'll be very, very happy."
|not Leo but just what he looked like as a babe|
And that is exactly how it went. When he crawled out of the carrier, onto the bed, she exclaimed, "Oh it's Siamese!"
We named him Leo. The Van is for Van Morrison, because Leo yowled the entire two hour drive home and I played Van Morrison to keep me from losing my mind. We decided he liked to sing. Meow Meow is Thai for cat and since he was Siamese, it made sense.
He hid in the crook of my arm for 3 days. He wouldn't eat or go to the bathroom. Then he ate. He went to the bathroom. He became a member of my household. He would greet us when we came home. Siamese cats hug. Did you know that? He hugged us. The first time he saw me cry he came closer . . . closer . . . until his nose touched a tear and he jumped. I laughed.
My eldest went to live with her Father in August, 2002. He lived in a much better school zone.
Leo, the cat, and I lived together. He didn't mind if I slept all day. He liked to sleep all day, too. He wasn't scared of tears any more. If I had a nightmare, he came to see if I was okay. His purr was deep and strong. He was soft and beautiful. He gazed at me with adoring blue eyes.
In June 2003 Felix moved in with us. Leo bowed to the male authority. But he loved Felix, too.
Full grown, Leo was almost 20 pounds. His purr was loud. He was loud. He was smart in a lot of ways, but he was addicted to plastic. We had to set up and maintain a plastic free household and we did.
2012. Leo was 11. Leo had asthma. He hated taking pills so recently we switched to an inhaler. He continued to eat plastic whenever possible. Crazy cat!
Two nights ago he had a major asthma attack. We took him to the vet. He didn't settle down until I went into the back, where his cage was, opened the cage door and held him in my arms. It reminded me of all those times I held my children in my arms, when they were sick, until they settled. He settled. He was released. I was given the address etcetera of an emergency all night clinic, just in case.
When we got home I stayed up all night, observing my cat. He was calm as long as I was there with him. I discovered one of his teeth on the floor. It seemed to me he'd choked on a tooth and that had brought on the attack. So maybe he'd be okay now?
I didn't leave him until Felix got up.
Today, Leo drank a little water.. He used his litter box. He didn't eat. I was getting ready to go to bed, around 2:00 a.m., when he had another attack. I woke Felix. We gave him two puffs of his inhaler. It didn't help. We called the emergency clinic, put Leo in his carrying case and began the drive to the emergency clinic.
He tried to escape from the box. He was panicking. I wouldn't let him out. I stuffed him back in. I yelled, "I am trying to save your life!" I zipped the case closed. He died.
People think I'm so much fun. People think I'm patient and good and polite, like all Canadians. But I come from a family of yellers. I yelled at my kids, sometimes. I yelled at my husband a lot. I have even yelled at Felix, from time to time, but he doesn't yell back so . . . I don't yell at him any more.
But right there, right then, when Leo was trying to escape that box, panicking and unable to breathe, about to die, I yelled at him. He didn't die with me stroking him and whispering to him, like my other pets have, because they were put down at the vet.
My Mother died with me stroking her and whispering to her.
But Leo died with me freaking out at him because he was freaking out and I was afraid. We were afraid.
Nothing can undo that. It's all done, now. I have a cold cat in a carrying case in my spare room. I can stroke him and whisper to him if I want to and I do and I have and I will again before morning comes. But he can't hear me now.
I find it hard to be kind all the time. I don't know if I can ever entirely stop yelling. The only thing I take comfort in is that Leo and I did yell at each other from time to time. (Remember, he was Siamese.) I believe he knew I loved him and I know he loved me.
People who don't have pets won't understand this and people who do have pets will.
I loved that crazy, plastic eating, beautiful, vain, smart and slightly cross eyed beast.
I just loved him. And I guess that's all I have to say.
Addendum: Diary of a Sad Cat Lady or Thoughts on the Loss of Leo
1) I have learned that cats have a false larynx. This is why they can purr continuously while they breathe in and out. Also, the brain shuts down in stages. So . . . as I stroked Leo's body and called his name after he stopped breathing, he really did send me a little purr. He said good-bye gently and I said good-bye gently. I don't have to talk myself into believing this. It's the truth. Sometimes the truth can be harsh, but sometimes it is a wonderful thing.
2)One week later: I've had lots of cats and a few dogs, but I never said, "That animal thinks it's human," until Leo. He did think he was human and it pissed him off to be such a little human. He loved to get up on top of the fridge and be taller than me. He'd stand at the edge and we'd rub heads and pet each other. He also understood a lot of things I said. I didn't realize this until fairly recently.
Here's the thing: He lived with Felix and me. So it's not just about losing my pal. There's also this absence to deal with; this cat-sized shape (and he was a big cat.) that's empty now. I'm still glancing at his chair when I get up in the morning or the middle of the night. I'm still looking for Leo. Fresh pain and new tears.
Even if one of my best friends died, I wouldn't be looking for that person every morning and every night. I have lost friends and I've cried my guts out over it. But I don't look for them, because I didn't live with them.
A member of my household has died. One day, I won't look for him any more. I don't know if I'm comforted by that or not. One day, I won't be compelled to get up and add to this eulogy, which has become a diary of sorts. Diary of a Sorrowful Cat Lady. Thoughts on the loss of Leo.
One day I won't be compelled to get up at 2:00 a.m. and add to this post. I do know that I'm comforted by that thought. I'll mourn him for a long time but I can't stand the intensity of this grief. Leo's death is a personal tragedy. Good night.
3) Two weeks & 2 days later: I watched Dexter tonight. I used to make a couch of sorts with my legs up on an ottoman with a blanket over them. "Leo! Hurry! Dexter's starting!" I always included him in everything, like he actually watched and enjoyed Dexter, or needed to know my news, good or bad. I anthropomorphised the hell out of him. I think that makes the loss deeper. It's my own fault. But a friend said, "What are you going to do? Get a pet and not love it too much so you won't suffer too badly when it dies?" That doesn't make much sense, either. So I guess I'll live with loss, having enjoyed the love. People suggest I get another cat right away, or wait awhile, or never get another one. It's not time, yet. I know that for a fact. But one woman told me she cried every night for two years until she finally broke down and got a new cat. I'll probably cry every night until I get my next kitten. I just have to wait until I can live with the fact that the new kitten won't be "Leo the 2nd." It sure won't be no stinkin' barn cat, either. Good night.
4) Dec.13. Today I forgot to look for Leo all day. When I realized, I sobbed my face off. I can't let him go without crying and I can't keep him with me without crying.
Maybe it's just a new way to know when it's time to go to bed.
5) Jan.9, 2013. After much wrestling with middle of the night lunacy and sudden decisions almost acted upon that have apprently resulted in my being branded by the local Humane Society as possibly unstable and not a likely candidate for adopting a pet (!) I will be fostering an 8 month old kitten. I met him tonight. He'll come to stay with Felix and I for 'socialization'. If a relationship develops, we'll adopt him. If not, for whatever reason, he'll go back to his primary foster home. He's mostly grey except for white spots under his arms and on his belly. His eyes are amber. He's very shy. I feel some guilt and some trepidation and some excitement.
Today was my visit with Leo's vet. I cried my face off while discussing what happened. Then I wrote a bunch of cheques to cover the cost of his veterinary care. Something needed to be done to rescue me from the pit of despond and this step, 'fostering' with an eye on adoption, is hopefully a step in the right direction.
I don't expect this little guy to replace my big beautiful blue eyed boy. But, as the vet said, perhaps it's time to start making new memories.
Oh please, wish me luck. (They've been calling him 'Armpit' if you can believe it, because he has white patches under his arms. I'm thinking 'Ashton' because he is grey and my guilty pleasure is a cougar crush on Kutchner. It's a start.