Fourteen months into lockdowns from Covid-19 and those dang “variants of concern”, and it’s not only my hair that is sprawling uncontrollably.
I’ve been doing relatively well, not quite mad yet, participating in things via zoom and sneaking out now and again for distant walks with friends. I’ve been finding the endless warnings about “people who live alone” and mental health kind of annoying until now, as I spend hours stabbing embroidery again and again. I can keep myself busy. I like being alone. There are books.
But I’m slipping.
I blame my cat, Bendicks. He has been a warming presence, a demanding one, too, forcing me to get up to serve his needs, while giving me something tactile to hug. And look at those lovely huge feets!
But then he got sick. He’s an old guy, fifteen or so, and had been sick on and off despite multiple interventions, but this time he didn’t respond.
I’m all for medically assisted dying for people, having seen my parents writhe their way through end stage cancer, but it is such a hard decision to make for another, even if that other is a cat. Or maybe particularly because he’s a cat. It’s not like we could discuss things.
But I girded my loins, and with a dear friend beside me, was able to take the step. I thanked him as he slid away. The vet thought I was thanking her. I was not. But that anger is for another time.
I came home to my empty apartment, heart broken, and went on a mad purge, hiding anything cat like, giving away anything that reminded me of my little guy. It was cathartic, and besides, his fur was getting caught up in my tears and making gooey hair balls everywhere.
Fine, I thought. A cat-less existence can be done. It’s possible. people do it all the time.
But it wasn’t. Without another creature in my apartment, things became uneasy. The dark was unfriendly. Going to sleep at night wasn’t possible without that weight at the end of the bed, the head that would raise when I’d wake up, the purring. There was no frame to my day, no reason to get up.
I fight depression from my MS every day. I usually win. But I could feel the wheels getting wobbly on the bus, the tangles forming in my hair, the other vaguely appropriate metaphor for losing my mind…
It seems I can live without human contact for months and months and months (though it is wearing thin, I admit), but I’ve got to have feline company. I thought of other, less involving pets—a bird, a fish, a hamster—ones that wouldn’t require me to feel like I was trying to replace the irreplaceable. But they just couldn’t fit.
So I’m interviewing another cat today, via zoom, a ridiculous concept really but the only available one. It won’t be my lovely old boy, no one could, but perhaps a new friendship could be a solace as well. We’ll see. I’m a bit wary, still aware I’m not quite okay, but hoping maybe this cat will help heal my heart.
And perhaps I can do her some good, too. Cats is cats, and I am not expecting an immediate relationship, but then some things are worth working towards.
Wish us luck.
One cat never replaces another, but cats are always good company. Hope the interview goes well and the healing commences.
Oh, DA, I love this piece so much. My black-Stewart-with-white-whiskers turned seventeen in February, and I must contemplate life without him if I keep pushing on toward 89 myself (which I intend to do, and beyond to 100). Every detail you describe of your life with Bendicks is my life still with Stewart. I do not want to leave behind a housemate who must be adopted by a family member, if I should step off the people mover first, so I ponder the wisdom of finding a new cat person to serve, once Stew is gone. I don’t know if I can be myself without one. Dogs I can see come and go and stay gone. Cats, not so much, and so far I’ve always been the survivor who found a new friend, so never tested in going it alone.
I wish you well in your journey and want to read all about it. With much love. The Other DA
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Thanks, DA. I ended up interviewing the cat and she is charming so she’ll come to live with me Sunday!