Friday, June 1, 2012

Loneliness is a Dead Cat

Two days ago I was meeting with a good friend who was telling me the results of her scary doctor visit when I got a call from We Can Do It Mama who lives a few houses down from me. Her voice was shaking as she said something like (it's really a blur), "I have some bad news. There's a cat that got hit by a car in my yard and I think it's Nick." I took a deep breath and told her I'd be there soon to identify the body (that sounds very CSI doesn't it?) I told my kids we would not be picking mulberries as we had planned, we were headed home instead and just let mommy think and don't whine about it damn-it. (The Queen of Compassion sometimes visits me, but not often.)

So I came home to see if this was my cat, and, of course, it was my little black furry boy. Shit. We Can Do It Mama had dragged him to the back yard so her three children wouldn't see him before I told my kids. I walked up to my house and broke the news, tears wet on my cheeks. The beasts cried and sobbed for about 1 minute. Then they realized that they could milk it and the requests started:

Big Beast: sniffle, sob, "Can I have a friend over...." sniffle, wipe eyes, lip quiver, "because my cat died." Sob, sob, sob, look up at mama with his most pitiful eyes. 

Little Beast: Whine, sob, wicked twinkle in her eyes "Can we get a puppy?"

Sheesh, I am raising two heartless little trolls. 

Let me tell you about this cat. He was a loud, stinky, neighborhood menace.  A rebound cat bought by the my mother after I put my sweet Duke of a dog down last year. I didn't even want a stinking cat. He was the only kitten left at the SPCA. A little ball of black fluff I brought home thinking I couldn't love him so soon after my dog had died. But then he was the sweetest damn cat, with this hilarious personality. He slept in my bed, curled up on me while I studied, and bit my nose and ears while I was sleeping. He was a great damn cat. The best rebound relationship I've ever had.
Neighborhood menace rebound cat. 
After breaking the news to the beasts, I told them they could see him if they wanted to. Of course all the kids wanted to get a peek at a dead cat. We Can Do It Mama's 10 year old son who had been my cat sitter came to me and said, "I don't think that's Nick. That cat is too fat to be him. That cat also has smaller paws than Nick. I just don't think it's him." That sweet kid, denial is stage one of the stages of grief, right? All the kids had a look at my sweet dead kitty and they decided, nope, that was definitely not the menace that stalked their chickens and rabbits, but also helped keep their yard rat free. That was not the kitty that sat on Savior Single Mama's porch and had morning coffee with her boyfriend, Southern Culture in the Crib. It was not the kitty who let them carry him around by his belly, or who let me carry like him around like a baby while I stroked his belly. "I'm sorry kiddos", I told them, "I wish it wasn't, but it is. It's our Nick."

I let the kids pick the spot to bury him. They chose a spot between two rose bushes. Spot chosen I called my Rent-a-Husband to come dig the grave. It was when we put Sweet Nick into a pillow case and then into a box (well not really into, he was hanging out of the sides) that We Can Do It Mama and I realized that my little dead kitty had been dead long enough to stink to high heaven. I could not wait for Rent-a-Husband to get to my house. I had to dig that damn grave myself . Sigh. This is when the lonelees started. This is when I started wishing I was not the grown up in charge. 

I remember also feeling this way when I decided to put my Sweet Duke down. I had had that dog for 16 years. He had moved with me 9 times, once to New Mexico and back. He survived 5 boyfriends, 2 marriages, and 2 kids. He survived cancer 5 times. He loved me no matter what. That damn dog was my prince. Deciding to have him put to sleep was the hardest and loneliest decision I ever had to make. It was such a huge choice, one that I wasn't sure I was qualified to make. Ending a life. That is big. And I had to make the decision alone. I asked my vet, and she gave her opinion, but in the end I had to decide it all by myself. It was a responsibility I did not want, but I had to take on, because I was single and he was my dog.
My 3 legged pooch. My constant companion for 16 years.

The next big decision after deciding to end my dog's life was deciding how involved to have the beasts in this whole dog death process. That also seemed big. Should I let them be a part of it or not. Their great-Grandmother was also dying during this time. Would being involved with the dog's death screw them up for life? I decided to let them be a part. Death is a part of life, and maybe if they learn that fact while they are young it won't be such a surprise when they reach their late 20's, like it was for me. 

The day the Duke was going to be put to sleep the vet came to our house and I kept the beasts home from school. I whispered Buddhist mantras to my pup as he lay on the couch. The vet, my son, and I sobbed while she gave him the shot. Little Beast pulled the lids of his eyes open every few seconds asking, "Is he dead yet?" and then looked from one sobbing face to the next for confirmation, "Is he dead, yet?" Yep, insensitive little troll. I'm sure the vet was mortified. I was too, but I couldn't figure out how to jerk a knot in little beast's ass gracefully without looking like a total sobbing nutcase so I let her be. 

I was actually dating my Ex-Sweet Escape at the time and I remember laying my head on his chest that night and him just letting me be. I was so grateful I had someone I could do that with. Someone I could rest my head on after a fucking brutal day. Someone who didn't expect me to be the grown up.

That is the thing about being a single parent. You always have to be the grown up. When you are married you get to share the meltdown. One of you usually holds it together while the other falls apart, but even if you both fall apart, you have each other to lean on, to prop up on so you don't go all the way down. When you are married, one of you digs the grave while the other one makes dinner. When you're a single parent you dig the grave, you deal with dinner, you do the bedtime ritual, and then you still have to do the damn dishes.

I have also found that, as a single parent, when you do have a meltdown people become afraid that you won't come back. When you meltdown and you're the only adult that will be in the house that night people start to look at you all worried and twitchy like they might need to commit you and take your children. When you have a partner people are happy to hand you over for him to deal with. They are assured that the children are safe with two adults even if one of them is a basket case. 

With dead cat I did not have the luxury of a partner. I needed to dig that damn hole myself, and in the end I would be the one comforting myself at night once the kids were in bed, possibly with wine, definitely not with cigarrettes, and damn it, we were all out of chocolate. We Can Do It Mama (thank you so much for giving up your whole afternoon to help!) started the hole in the 87 degree humid as hell weather, and then I got to digging. And then a great thing happened. My insensitive little troll of a girl begged to dig, and then I asked her to get her brother, and then the cat sitting boy came too and all four of us dug that hole together. The OSQ and her life partner, Better Than Einstein came and brought flowers. He filled in the hole and We Can Do It Mama and her kids came down while we had a funeral for our sweet Nick. While we were burying him we put my Sweet Duke's ashes in the grave and a lottery ticket from Savior Single Mama. We wanted them to live it up in the after life.

I was lonely, and I was sad as hell, but I was not alone. That night I called my Ex-Sweet Escape to sob because with him I still feel safe. I told him that when things like this happen I get so lonely. I am the most lonely when I need to break down and want to be comforted by someone else, someone that I trust to let me fall apart for a bit. When I break down I want someone who doesn't become afraid when the Queenpin loses her shit. My Ex-Sweet Escape was always good at that, and he always knew I would get it back together soon. He said all the right comforting things after my sobbing dead cat fit. Then I hung up and went back to parent my beasts.

I put those sweet beasts to bed with prayers to The Committee and a Buddhist lullaby I wrote for them. We sang together imagining our cat being held by Mother Tara. I sobbed, Big Beast sobbed, Little Beast went and got her stuffed black cat to sleep with. 
When I put myself to bed I cried and cried. I missed my damn cat. I missed my damn boyfriend. I felt lonely and I felt sorry for myself. I felt tired of doing this by my damn self. And the thing is, I know that I'm not doing this alone. I've had so much support and love the past few days. I've had it for the past few years, and most of the time it is enough. It is just what I want, but some days I get tired of going to bed alone. I get tired of burying the pets on my own, teaching my kids about death, I get tired of holding the bag. Sometimes loneliness is snow on my sidewalk that I have to shovel. Sometimes it is a nice dinner I've cooked for two to be eaten by one.   Loneliness is temporary, and I know that too. It's just that that day, the day I buried my fury little rebound, I was in a lonely place, because the truth is there is nothing lonelier than death, and nothing better to remind you of that than losing someone or something that you love. Baby, loneliness is a dead cat, and this week I buried one. 

Our little kitty cat grave.
RIP sweet Nick. The beasts are convinced you and Wyatt are running around The Committee's table while their Great Grandma challenges the deities to cards.

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