This is how a Sunday School teacher says Happy Easter to her Agnostic Jew sister in law.
And this is why I adore her.
That’s a line from an old kids radio show that Jesse and I used to listen to as kids, an episode about a Thanksgiving gone horribly wrong. It was also said a lot this past week and a half, as Buckman and I went through a series of insanely awful events. As in, the hospitalization was not even the low point.
I’m not kidding.
(Quick background info. Buckman hasn’t been able to find work here, and my company is floundering. Between the long overdue paychecks and the expensive vet bills, my saving account won’t can’t cover me anymore, and so I gave notice to my apartment and told Jesse to clear the spare bedroom. Buckman arranged to go back to DC. Moving day was scheduled for last Sunday, and Buckman flies out tomorrow.)
I’ll start this tale of woe with the Weds before Thanksgiving. I popped into my gyno’s office for what was supposed to be a painless procedure. I left an hour later, in tears, minus a bit of my ladybits that I’d been rather attached to, which was taken from me without so much as a warning much less any sort of painkiller, by a device that resembled the lovechild of a fruit picker and a hole punch. As a parting gift, I was also given a piece of paper which warned me to treat my vagina like a gift, as in Do Not Open Until Christmas.
Lovely. Thanks. You’re not my gyno anymore.
The next day, Thanksgiving, dawned bright and clear and Buckman puking his guts out. By two in the afternoon he was delirious and the question was no longer “should I take him to the hospital?” it was, “how on earth am I going to carry him down three flights of stairs to the car?”
At one point the doctors where prepping him for surgery to remove his appendix, but eventually it was determined that he was suffering from gastroenteritis, which is essentially the experience of food poisoning, just with more pain.
I ate Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria, and I’ll admit it. I felt sorry for myself. If only I’d known what I know now, I’d have been laughing like Buckman on painkillers.
After a failed attempt at Thanksgiving dinner for Buckman, in the form of cranberry juice from the nurses, I took him home. He’d lost eight pounds that day.
Friday was a lovely bright spot in that week. I left my dying cat and recovering Buckman to look after each other and watched my sweet Samantha marry Mickey, on a boat, in a full day extravaganza of food and dancing and food and did I mention food? And more dancing.
Sometime in the night that night, Dulce yakked all over the bathroom rug. Which was a delightful little surprise to find at three AM, when I joined her. All of Sam’s carefully prepared goodies were seeking escape from my body, through any route possible.
Yes, it turns out gastroenteritis is contagious.
I crawled back to bed, only to find that Dulce was not going to be outdone in the sick department, and had thrown up there to. I piled all the laundry by the door and slid in under another blanket.
I spent the next three days not packing and moving as planned, but meditating through the pain of stomach cramps, trying to hold down popsicles, and maintaining a quarantine of the apartment against wonderful helpful friends.
Come Monday, I could stand for short stretches of time, and I used this newfound power to drive Mau to the vet’s office to say goodbye. I was too weak to dig his grave. Buckman, Jesse and Bethany had to do it for me.
Did I mention my therapist just went on three weeks vacation?
Tuesday, now days past my moving date, I managed to box my things, and my wonderful friends all pitched in to help me pack. In the middle of carrying down boxes, the fella I’ve been seeing, well …. he gave me reason to decide not to see him anymore.
We loaded up the car, and Angelica’s SUV. And then her battery died.
I finally cracked. I sobbed until Triple A showed up. Somehow I managed to get through the rest of that night, get everything moved, and clean the apartment. In hindsight I’m not even sure how.
Fast forward to today. I’m alive. The past few days have been a lot better because, well, they’d pretty much have to be. Plus I can eat full meals now. And I’m unpacked. Rudolf enjoys playtime in the backyard, and Dulce’s starting to recover from the stress of the move.
I guess what I’m saying is, I think I’ll live.
Mau was an odd cat. I’ve always found him a bit difficult to describe to those that haven’t met him, but I loved the way everyone who had met him would try to pitch in to the description. “He’s a total punk, but … a gentleman.” “Think, a very small greek man.” “Or Humphrey Bogart.” “A lawless rogue in a tux.” “I’m pretty sure he’s a spy.”
Everyone had their own nickname, their own variation on his name. “Max,” “El Mau,” “The Chairman,” “Maximus,” “El Presidente,” “Mau-mau chicka mau-mau.”
I’m sure every pet is special to their owner, but it’s warmed my heart to know that he wasn’t just special to me. And he was everything everyone said he was. He was a punk. He demanded to be heard and treated as an equal. He was protective, like a dog. It might sound funny to say I felt safe with my cat, but I did. He’d lick tears off my cheeks, he’d wake me if he smelled smoke, or if anything felt wrong. He’d come by every night when I went to bed, to sit on my chest for a little while and say goodnight. He looked out for me, he clearly felt I was his responsibility, and I tried every day to make sure he knew I’d do the same for him. I didn’t own him. We were friends. We were family.
The day came on Monday when doing the right thing for him was to let him pass peacefully. The tumor had grown so that eating was now a messy struggle, and as his weight began to drop with his energy level, I know I’d be letting him starve, or suffocate, if I didn’t intervene. It was a choice between the unthinkable and the even more unthinkable.
We took a last nap together, and I told him everything. I told him what his friendship had always meant to me. I told him I was so, so sorry medicine couldn’t do anything more for him. I told him I’d always thought he’d die at age 98, of spontaneous combustion. I asked him to trust me in what I was about to do.
I held him in the vet’s office, wrapped up in a blanket, and cuddled him close. Mau hates that office, hates being wrapped in blankets, and has never been much of a purrer anyway, so when he started purring, I knew he was trying to comfort me. I sobbed into the fur on the top of his head, and as he slipped away I whispered, “Thanks for being my friend.” His head dropped onto my arm.
We buried him under a tree in Jesse’s yard. I’d dreaded the moment of putting him in the cold and dark, but having watched him die actually made it easier. He wasn’t in that fuzzy little body anymore, I’d watched him go.
I’m not sure whether there is an afterlife or not, but then I think about the day I found Mau, by chance, in a strange city. And the thought that two little souls could find each other, exactly what the other needed, it’s almost enough to make me believe there’s some cosmic power working for our good. And certainly enough to make me believe I possess a strange and wonderful luck. That hope, with his little purr, is the part of him I’ll carry forever.
They’ve bought Mau maybe two more weeks of relative comfort, after which we would expect to see a very quick decline.
Two weeks is also the amount of I have left in my current apartment. I’ve avoided talking about my job on the internet for obvious reasons, but at this point they can’t afford to fire me. Literally. To fire someone you have to PAY them, and that hasn’t been happening in a timely manner for months, or at all for weeks. We’ve been teetering at the brink of folding for awhile, and I suspect our time is almost out. So far I’ve kept afloat but between vet bills and the lack of consistent paychecks I can’t continue.
I don’t want to wreck my credit over this, and as much as it KILLS me to give up my warm little apartment, I’m lucky to have the option of staying with my brother for awhile.
Since Mau’s health will most likely begin to plummet right around moving day …. it’s not worth the stress on him, just to gain a day or two.
Mau will not be making the move with me. For almost nine years, virtually my entire adult life, my sense of home has been rooted around my cat. Please tell me how I’m going to get through this, and don’t say steroids.
For now we wait. I’m taking all my cues from Mau. When he can no longer eat, or breath comfortably, I’ll know it’s time. A few days? A week? I’m hoping for two. I’m cooking his food in salt and butter, and hey maybe lunch will have a splash of wine in it, it’s not like I have to worry about his liver anymore….
I know what I’m going to have to do, I just don’t know how I’m actually going to do it.