Days have come and gone. And yet they still come and go. I get up late, I take my thyroid pill. The cats scream to be fed. I get dressed. I go downstairs and feed the cats. Lately, they haven’t been eating as much. I get my son off to school. After that, I go to the community center and warm up on the rowing machine, do some light calisthenics and walk on either the treadmill or elliptical. Now that the weather is nice I walk around the path outside of the center. I come home and have breakfast out on the deck. Usually, I sip a chai while one cat lazes on a chair next to me and the other watches us from inside. Then I shower and change. I ignore the cat beckoning me from the bed to take a nap. I would really love to as I feel so tired. I throw a load of laundry in the machine and fold the clothes that were hung up to dry the day before. Frida, the sister cat, usually comes down to the basement with me. Then I unload the dishwasher and clean up the breakfast things.
By now I am tired and I sit down and read Facebook and catch up on the news, pushing away Frida who likes to lick my Macbook. When she gets too insistent, I throw her off the table, again and again.
Sometimes, I’ll sit on the couch and read a book or magazine. Frida will come and sit by me. These past few months I’ve been falling asleep unawares and jumping up when the alarm goes off on my watch at 2:15. It’s time to pick my son up from school. Frida looks at me quizzically as I drink some water, wash my face, and hurry out the door. At this point, I may or may not have eaten lunch.
I mill around after school talking with mothers, fathers and other caregivers as my son plays with friends. Then we drive home. It’s only a half mile and I feel guilty because we really should walk. Everyone in this house has put weight on their bellies and could use some extra exercise. But I’ve been so tired and sluggish, my knees ache, and I’m usually running late. We usually come home from school and have a snack. Either something at home or something we pick up at the 7/11. If I didn’t make it out to the supermarket earlier in the day, we’ll go into town and eat and then pick up the groceries.
My son never seems to have homework these days so he plays XBox. First, he puts a scoop of dried food into a special feeder he had me buy for the cats. Trotsky, the brother cat, is usually waiting next to it when we arrive home. He and Frida take turns swatting out morsels with their paws.
I finish up the laundry and maybe sweep a little around the house. I attempt to attack “the basket.” The basket is full of files of things I need to do, things I need to reply to, bills I have to pay, articles of interests, recipes of interest and I don’t really remember what else. I carry this basket around from my desk in my study to the console in the front of the house to the dining room table. It gets moved around more than anything really gets done.
Before I know it, the husband is home and dinner is not done. Where has the time gone? The cats remind me it’s time to eat. I feed them and then they go off to lick themselves and relax. Dinner is finished up. We eat. We drink. We clean up. After all that we sit on the couch and watch TV shows on the iPad. Frida comes at a certain point and sits with us. Her brother prefers to rest in the cat tree up in my bedroom.
And the next morning this repeats as usual. All this time I wait for my doctor to call with the results of my recent lab tests to find out what adjustments need to be made to my thyroid medication (so I won’t feel so tired all the time).
This week, it wasn’t as usual. On Monday, one of the cats vomited under my bed. I never know which one it is unless I see them. It was odd because they haven’t vomited since I changed their food in January. It also smelled really bad, like rotten fish. Later that day, still on Monday, when we came back from school, Frida didn’t come to eat. She was in the basement, laying on the carpet. She didn’t eat that evening. That night she slept with my son in his bed.
On Monday, one of the cats vomited under my bed. I never know which one it is unless I see them do it. It was odd because they haven’t vomited since I changed their food in January. It also smelled really bad, like rotten fish. Later that day, still on Monday, after school, Frida didn’t come to eat. She was in the basement, laying on the carpet. She didn’t eat that evening. That night she slept with my son in his bed.
Tuesday morning when she didn’t come to eat I knew it was bad. My cats usually beg and fight over food. I found Frida and tried to coax her with her favorite cat treats. She ate one and ignored the rest. After I dropped the boy off at school and worked out at the community center, I came home to find Frida laying in my shower. I scooped her up and rushed her to the vet. She cried all the way there and peed in her carrier. This was not normal behavior for my brave and stoic kitty. Her urine was a weird yellow-orange color with a strong, pungent scent. The vet ran tests on her while I went to Peet’s and sipped on a chai. When I came back he said it didn’t look good – Nope, it seemed to point to Lymphoma. Cancer. I left Frida there for more tests. I went back at 4 pm with my son to pick her up. The vet spoke to us: She had tumors on her stomach, liver, and bowel, her white blood count was dangerously high. We needed to get her to eat before anything else. He mentioned something about ICU and a feeding tube and deciding on humane solutions or something.
I brought her home. She was limp and light as a rag doll. At this point, I was in denial. I would love her, dote on her and feed her with a syringe. In the morning, she would have her strength back and we could proceed from there. I gave her steroids, I fed her bit by bit with the syringe. She kept getting up and taking a few steps and collapsing. I think she was trying to get away from me and the syringe of food. She didn’t want to eat. Her brother sniffed her, hissed at her, and then ran upstairs. I carried her over to the water fountain and encouraged her to drink. She didn’t. She peed on me. That yellow-orange pungent urine.
At one point she jumped up on the couch and I was hopeful. But then she went to lay down and sleep in her crate. I turned the AC down more than I usually do because the steroids made her hot. My son and I slept downstairs to be with her. At 2 am my son began coughing and then got up to go to the bathroom. I asked if he was ok, but he just settled back in the recliner and began snoring. A little after this, Frida started gasping. I checked on her. She looked drawn and weak and she was drooling some kind of pus. I paced the room and went into the kitchen. I knew it wasn’t good but just hold on girl it will be morning soon.
Around 5:30 am she began gasping again. I knew. I went upstairs and woke up my husband. It’s time. I showered and dressed. I went back downstairs and woke up my son. He was tired and groggy and didn’t want to wake up. I told him – “Get up. We need to take Frida to the ER and she is probably not coming back. You’ll want to be there.”
We all piled into the car. Frida in her crate in the back with my son. We plugged the ER address into my smartphone’s GPS and we were on our way. Shortly before arriving at the hospital, I looked back and saw my son frantically trying to open the crate. He called me. But then we pulled into the parking lot and he didn’t say anything more.
At the front desk, they asked if it was ok to resuscitate her. My husband and I looked at one another, my son quickly replied, “Yes”. My husband and I discussed it earlier and had decided against it. We did not want to prolong her suffering and I did not think I should do more for the cat than I did for my mother. Then I looked into the crate. Oh. I didn’t think it was going to be an issue.
Frida, my brave and stoic kitty, my faithful, but aloof companion of twelve years had made the decision already. We cried our good-byes. I let my son stay home from school. Later he told me he watched her roll over in the crate and then she shook violently and then laid still on her side. My 10-year-old son watched his beloved cat die.
The brother cat kept hissing at me in his confusion and looking for his sister. I posted to Facebook and texted dear friends who are far away that she had passed. And then I caught myself. Why was I using that word: passed? When my mother left this world, I clearly declared that she had died. I did not sugarcoat it or use any euphemisms but said it directly and honestly. My mother had died. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, so I’m not sure where one passes to? I guess, in death, one just passes on from this world. The mother of an old friend recently died and they used the term transitioned. She had stopped eating and drinking and transitioned. Frida did the same. Her death came very suddenly and very quickly within 30 hours.
I now sit here at the computer without any disturbances. No big green eyes staring at me. No fur flying around my face. No cat licking my computer or trying to snuggle up next to me. I miss her. I think it’s time for me to make a transition. No, I don’t mean death. I am not sure of what, but I can no longer avoid my loneliness, my fatigue or my depression. I must now face life as directly and honestly as I have death.