I put on “Silver Serenade” by Dr. Lonnie Smith on our way to the vet.
It was my way of calming everyone in the car down. But deep inside, I was secretly trying to calm myself down as my heart tried its damnedest to break out of my chest as tears streamed down my face.
This was the final nail in 2014 for me. The whole damn last half has just been a wash. I’ve seen my fair share of people leave.
Yeah, I know a lot of people who wouldn’t put a pet (much less a cat) on the high rung of priorities i
n terms of what they cared about, but this one is the most special I’ve had in a long time.
Verbal was my wife’s originally. He’d been with her 12 years before she met me. Ever since he was just a couple of oversized ears & paws. He was a farm cat that had the habit of zipping & flipping around like a tornado on fire.
But once I entered her life, I entered his. Let’s just say he put up with me.
The funny thing about pets, they’ll never tell you when they’re in pain. They’re pretty good at faking it. Cats especially.
This was one of those times.
This event has changed me. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more bitter or full of cynicicm. But it’s really done a number on me.
Now I regret that wherever I look, there are just remnants of this cat’s life staring back at us around the house.
This floppy, waddling fatass.
Pieces of him just left behind.
A towel in the dining room, where he used to hunker down.
We’d put it down there originally because my wife hated seeing him staggering like a drunk, while he was on pain meds. And like many of his little rituals ar
ound the house, the towel stayed.
A brown, scratchy wool scarf my wife knit.
One that she didn’t wear anymore. It was one of those things Verbal would rub his face on, well beyond the acceptable time before it got embarrassing for all involved.
The bright orange bowl of water in our bedroom.
A symbol of the time he wouldn’t drink enough. So, in order to entice him, we added a second bowl to the house. One that we took to ceremoniously filling with at least 5-6 ice cubes just so he’d take to it.
That damn cat brush.
My wife brushed him like clockwork at about the same time every week. He’d grab it with his paws & brush himself with it, almost like it was some freakish special skill he’d put down as a joke on his acting resume.
A box of toys underneath my wife’s great grandmother’s buffet.
So many unplayed with. But it was filled to spilling over just so he could dig through it occasionally. A convenience, really. I like to think it gave him the illusion of choice, yet he always pulled the same ones out.
The little green turtle with the velcro stomach.
It was always stuffed with fresh catnip. He’d lick the tummy or the shell on its back, dependin
g on how lazy he was.
Verbal also had a second sense that enabled him to show up whenever we filled it.
That little hedgehog, which he owned before I came along.
One he’d grab with his mouth & place in one of my shoes whenever we were gone. Almost like he was constantly reminding me, “Hey, I was here first. This is my property. And it may look like a dirty hedgehog, but it’s better than your shoe.”
The space on our sofa, where he’d jump up on.
It didn’t even matter if there wasn’t enough room for
him. He’d let one side of his fat flop off that little sliver of real estate just so he could be closer to my wife.
He’d even do it when she wasn’t around or in another room. He had all the time in the world to wait.
My side of the bed, which he’d jump on every single night as I turned off my bedside lamp to go to sleep.
Something he’d do on cue every night, even though I always figured he really, really, REALLY didn’t like me. I’d turn my pillow sideways to keep him from biting my elbow. A ritual that’d come about when I would spend hours tossing & turning because of gall bladder pain several years ago. A ritual he&
rsquo;d started, almost as if to say, “It’s cool. I’m here. You’ll get through this.”
The random places in the house that he’d plop down on.
Doorways, in front of vents when the heat comes on, our two sheepskin throw rugs, the bathmat. Places we always wondered about. These little rituals, these patterns, which he’d begin & then end with no warning.
Things I’m sure his little peabrain would remind him of & tell him, “No, you need to go here now.”
And any other myriad of memories I have of this orange furball.
From his tiny howl to his uncanny ability of snagging glasses off your face, telegraphing his move with a tilt of his head before he reached.
Well, all this is gone now.
All these are cruel reminders that he added something to our lives that we loved almost more than each other.
He’d survived EVERYTHING. Seemingly indestructible, this little fucker. Diabetes. Kidney disease. He’d beat both like a
champ, only to be saddled with a tumor that slowly grew from ear to ear across his little throat. Across his little purr box, where an Adam’s Apple would sit on a human being.
We kept vacillating between making this decision too soon & making it too late. This back & forth was tough on us. Put a serious strain on what we considered normal. It’s not like somebody is telling you that they’re ready to go.
What hurt me most was that I felt like he was REALLY hanging in there at times. Almost like he didn’t actually want to go. That he was trying to tell us in his own little way:
“I can beat this. Somehow. Although I&r
squo;m not sure how. What is this thing? Why do I feel this way? And why can’t you fix it this time?”
But we went through with it today.
Putting him to sleep will be one of those defining moments in 2014. One that I’ll look back at & know that this was the one.
This was the one where I lost.
And I lost big.
On the way back from the vet, Dr. Lonnie Smith is still playing that Hammond organ the way he does. Almost serenading me with every note, reassuring me that everything is really gonna be alright.
And I regret that I don’t believe one single note.
I miss you so much right now, Verbal.
We both do. And our little lives won’t be nearly as big without you.