Mr. Paws, my cat, is dead.
It happened just about three hours ago. He came in for the night and Mom was bending down to take off his collar when he flopped over on his side, seized up, gasped a little, and went limp. Gone. He stopped moving. He wasn't there anymore.
Right now as I write this they have him curled up on a towel in the computer chair. They wanted to give me a chance to come home and pet him one last time, say goodbye. Wesley too, when he gets home from work. We'll bury him in the morning.
When the other pets died, I cried a lot more. It was abrupt, violent. Hit by a car. Or it was so gradual and slow that I knew it was just their time. Buffy and Tigger, both going of old age. In a case like that it's hard to let go. But with Paws, it's different than both of those. Yes, this was abrupt, but I wasn't here when it happened. I didn't see the life leave him. And the way he's curled up right now, he looks like he's simply sleeping. Cold to the touch, yes, but sometimes he laid so still when he slept that I would check to see if he was breathing. He looks like that now. I can't really get it through my head that he's not alive.
It'll come gradually. Little things. We don't have to close the doors to keep him in the downstairs section of the house anymore. I won't have to worry about leaving him out when I'm gone for long stretches of time. Or at night, around 9:45pm when I'd leave the TV room and walk down to go outside and call him. Listening for the jingle of the bell on his collar, usually close at hand because he's used to coming in at that time too.
"Jingle kitty!" I'd call. "Mr. Paws! Where are you Mister Mister?" And "I know you're out here. I know it's a beautiful night, but come on! It's time to come in!"
I'd yell "Jingle jingle!" so often that I wondered if he thought that was his name.
He liked string toys. The one time we tried to use the weasel ball toy we bought in the Cracker Barrell gift shop, he was at a complete loss. He wanted to chase the weasel, but was too afraid of the clattering plastic ball to ever get close.
The pupils of his eyes got so huge when he was intrigued by something, or feeling mischievous, or wanting to explore. He liked the closet under the stairs, or any door that wasn't open to him. One time we couldn't find him, and it turns out he had crept into the open cupboard door in the kitchen and gotten trapped in the cupboard under the sink.
The way he would meow... very vocal. Sometimes it even sounded like he was yowling "Hello?" Very opinionated, and very bossy. But so cute you forgave him of it pretty quickly.
At this point, I think that's what I'm mostly worried about. That I'll forget these little things about him that I loved so much. Because, as Mom kept saying over and over again, "He was a really good cat."
The way Wesley would play with him. Really almost-violent, kind of shoving him around and twirling him and pushing him over, but he LOVED it. He would purr like nobody's business. You could tell he loved the man's touch, and he would follow Wes around after he got home and even sit on his feet to beg for more attention.
He knew when he looked good somewhere. I think he'd purposefully sit in a chair or curl up on my desk and even in the little section of dirt outside the door to my room because he knew he looked so cute there.
And he loved being in boxes. Dad's newspaper box. This cute little box we got peaches in one time. I think he felt safe in them, and he looked adorable.
He was a "bakery cat." He liked animal crackers, ginger snaps, the breading on Chick-fil-a sandwiches. He also loved Boursin cheese and hamburger meat. Any kind of meat, really. Just this afternoon Mom gave him some hamburger and he scarfed it up like a dog would. She had made the house smoky from cooking the patties, so she opened the deck door and the laundry door to let some of the smoke out. He loved this. He would dart out one door, circle around the house, and mosey in the other door minutes later of his own accord. Freedom, he seemed to be saying. I like it.
And he did. He was miserable at the basement apartment, wanting all the time to go outside. He would do purposefully naughty things to try to provoke me, pawing at hanging pictures to try to make them fall, knocking figurines off of tables and nearly breaking them. He knew he was being a troublemaker. I'm bouncing off the walls, he seemed to be saying. So just let me outside a little.
I would do that a lot. Put words in his mouth. Assume I understood what he was thinking. He would purr a lot, and it was hard to tell sometimes if he was happy or annoyed. His tail would be twitching all the while. When he slept on the foot of my bed, I used to wake up to find he had taken it over. Even this morning he was curled up next to me, stretching the full length of his body, the picture of perfect relaxation.
That's why I think I'm not as sad as I could be. I can remember all of my last things with him. If I knew he was going to die, I'd want to have a good long cuddle beforehand, maybe sleep the night with him by my side, have a good long session of playing with toys and letting him chase the string back and forth, let him out with the knowledge that he loved the outdoors more than any toy and maybe even more than me (but I could totally understand this). And I did all those things. It's like I was saying goodbye to him without knowing I was saying goodbye.
There were a few signs something may have been wrong. He got this weird spot on his nose that wouldn't leave. This was the day before yesterday. And yesterday he slept nearly all day. To be fair, so did I. I slept in until 1pm then stayed in bed even longer watching NBC comedies on hulu. He lay there a good five hours next to me, when usually he probably would have been moving about long before then.
But I think it was sudden, and that there was pain but only for the shortest of times.
Part of me immediately knew there were good things about this. I had been so worried about how to handle Paws in the move to the apartment. He would hate it, I knew, not being able to go out, and yet to leave him here at the house... I wondered if he'd understand why I wasn't there anymore. If he'd be lonely at night with nobody downstairs to keep him company. It would seem like those long trips I took. Oh, and that brings back even more memories.
Of the way he peed on my suitcase once after I returned from Wrockstock, almost as if to claim it, to tell me I had no right to go away again. Or how angry he was at me after I returned from the Bolivia/Montana trip (nearly a month away!). He seriously wouldn't even come near me until I grabbed him and clutched him to my chest and forced him to lay there on my stomach. I held him in my arms like that for a half hour at least, forcing him to stay, until eventually he relented and apparently forgave me and we were cuddle buddies again.
He was brave and protective. He killed rabbits and squirrels and mice. He fought off other neighborhood cats (to the point that it sometimes almost seemed like bullying). He would travel far away. I remember once getting a call from a woman who had found a collar he had lost with our number on it. She lived a few driveways down on Rocky River Road, the other side of the street. He really loved exploring.
I will feel the absence of him, things that should be there but won't be ever again.
There's one other horrible part to this whole thing. Today as I write this, it is 1:56am on April 17th... Mandy's birthday. Mandy is the one who found Paws for me. She thinks of animals the way most other people feel about human beings. When she hears about Mr. Paws, it will be like most people react when they hear a child has died. She will be heartbroken.
I think she'll be angry at me for not telling her sooner, but I'm sorry. I want her to have a happy birthday. I don't want her day spoiled by this, and I know it would be.
I feel guilty. I'm still doing everything I said I'd do tomorrow. I'm going to the Hunger Games casting call, then on to Mandy's birthday that night. I'm not putting anything on hold, not pausing to mourn. I guess that's what this is, though. Me mourning.
I also felt relief, I think, on first hearing the news, because when you get a phone call from your mother and she's sobbing on the other end of the line, you just can't help but think it's something really bad. I pictured Dad, Wes, Zach, Laura... that something had happened to one of my family members. When I found out it was the cat, I was relieved. I wasn't sad. I'm still not sad. I feel... numb? Or just... I just don't understand it yet? I've cried. I cried some as I wrote this. I feel hollow. I feel a loss. But I just don't know what else to do but keep on living.
Maybe that's it. When people (or animals) we love die, we feel this big responsibility. It has to be a momentous occasion, because anything less feels like it's not acknowledging how important they were. But all of that, really, is for the living. Wherever they're at, I doubt they care who's in attendance at the funeral. They know the world goes on. And life.
Back when I was doing BEDA, one of my blog post ideas was to write about Ozymandias (the poem by Percy Bysse Shelley), and the conflicting ideas of whether death renders life meaningless, or whether death actually gives life more meaning... If we die, then what's the point in us ever having been alive? But I would argue that death gives life meaning. I was talking to Greg earlier (I was actually with Melissa at his apartment when I got the call from Mom), and he was talking about work, how it was the same thing day after day from open to close. From the moment they opened their doors, it was this endless line of customers, orders to be filled, pizzas to be delivered. And if it wasn't for closing time, he could almost believe that such a thing could go on forever. Obviously, that's not true. People sleep. There would be slow times with no one in the store. But the thought was that the closing at the end of the night was what gave the work day its meaning, its definition. It only lasted a short amount of time before it was done.
I think the fact that we will one day not have our lives anymore makes what we do with the time we have all the more vital. The fact that we have an expiration date gives us worth, more worth than we would have if we were to live forever. I think death gives life meaning. And I think the way we live gives meaning to our death, but that's a whole other blog post.
For now, I'm going to do other things. I'll say goodbye to Mr. Paws in the morning.
Here he is, the adorable and lovable Mr. Paws. My handsome man:
Rest in Peace, Paws. I love you. You were a good cat.