For a while now I’ve wanted to write more personal writing pieces, but never quite gotten there. Every blog I’ve tried to make has either felt forced, or neglected. Monthly is my best answer to that problem. In an effort to weed out over-posting for the sake of content creation, and posting one thing every 5 months and looking like a person who’s neglected a website, I’ve created a blog that this year will get exactly 12 entries. One for each month. I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be about, except that I’ll probably be in it.
This is a really sad way to start this out, but there’s really no way getting around it. At the beginning of this month one of my childhood pets died. It was an incredibly sad, serendipitous moment that I’m still not sure how to process.
Some context: The house I grew up in always had a bunch of pets. Definitely not any kind of farm pet situation with a dozen half delinquent cats wandering around, but pets all the same. For a while, it was just Max, Begga, and Jesse and Jojo. Two cats, and two dogs. They came before I was born.
One thing I’ve learned is that pets that surround you as your childhood brain forms always seem to take on this sort of untouchable status. It’s a weird state of being, because even if they do die tragically it’s a different sort of death. You weren't there for their origin, so in many ways it’s harder to build an emotional foundation. They’re like grandparents who die when you were 5, or 6. You’re sad, but it’s a fleeting sadness that at least for me was different. I don’t really remember Begga dying. All I know is that is she was a bit skittish, she stayed out front a lot, and then one day she just stopped coming home. I think my parents were sad, but again, I was 5. It’s lore at this point. Max spoiled me. My parents got him at the ripe age of 1, just after I had turned 1 as well. He lived to be 20. Max dying was like hearing that a great aunt who lived next door died. Of course you’re upset, but she was 101 years old. By the time Max died all he really did was sleep on my parents bed, and get up to eat sometimes. There was ongoing joke that it was dangerous to put white down comforter on my parents bed, lest he get lost in there and accidentally get sat on. I’m not going to get angry at the world because a pet that lived a long life died.
Blueberri The Cat was not one of those pets. We got her from my piano teacher when I was around 8 years old; a time rife for building pet memories. I can vaguely remember getting home from school one day, and seeing my mom greet me with a makeshift sling around her torso holding Blue. We didn’t realize it until later, but Blue ended up being a lot younger than my piano teacher had guessed. The result was a cat that was, if nothing, emotionally and physically dedicated to my mother. She followed her constantly. The best part was Blue was never really a “nice” cat. She tolerated physical contact, but was never super affectionate. To everyone else that is. With my Mom, she basically followed her around the house with a look that said, “You’re the first thing I ever saw besides a cat, so fuck these other people”. Several years ago my Mom came to the conclusion that it was Blue’s fur that was causing her to feel stuffy in the morning. Shortly after this realization, Blue started sitting on her head while she slept. So take all this, all this knowledge, and backstory, and then imagine being woken up to the phrase, “Danny. I think Blue is dying.”
Several months ago at a routine vet appointment we were told that an infection in her paw may be the result of some deeper problem, but the only way to know would be to give her a $1,000 MRI. Blue was almost 15, and even if the MRI did reveal something it would only lead to an even costlier treatment. We took a gamble and lost, and not only did I lose my cat, but I lost my cat during a timeframe where I would actually be present during her death. I visit my parents maybe three times during the year. 3/52 odds and I won.
Watching Blue die was excruciating slow, yet comparatively fast. All in all it took about 5 hours. First she awake and somewhat normal looking, but breathing really fast. Then she was gasping for breath. Then seizures, floating in an out of consciousness, and finally, possibly the biggest curveball death throws at us: Apnea.
Apnea is a weird thing. For the uninitiated it’s basically this state between life and death, where you’re alive one second, then you die, and then you’re alive, and so on. For one thing, I didn’t know it existed, because movies have completely messed up the way we think people die. It’s always one moment they’re their, then they’re gone. Most of the time, that’s just not the case. Sure, if you get shot in gut, that might happen, but most deaths are slow, tempered, marches. We thought Blue had died nearly 5 times, but it was just her breathing stopping and then starting again. The biggest irony is that earlier in the year my Mom had witnessed my grandmother die and said the exact same thing had happened to her. I thought I knew what surreal was until I watch my mom calmly, yet emotionally describe the similarities of my how her Mom and the cats death were similar.
Sometime around 1PM it was over, and for the first time in a long time I just sat there and wept. Comedy has been one of the best things to ever happen to me, but one of the side effects is a constant and drilling need to analyze everything. I didn’t do that when Blue died. I just wept because there’s nothing else you can do. You can’t sit there and figure out how it’s a joke for later, you can’t sit there and wonder what other people are thinking about, and if what you’re doing is embarrassing. You just cry. My friend Cary put it really well in the most matter of fact yet understanding way possible. “Pets just don’t live as long as us so you really have to cherish the times you do share.”
Blue The Cat, I value the times that we shared. I value the fact that you didn’t scratch me nearly as much as I deserved, that you were the only cat courageous enough to hang out in the main area of the house, and that you kept my Mom company. My only regret is that my brother and I didn’t think to take more goofy ass Christmas pictures with you. You can thank me later for having to dig that hole.