My first husband and I were divorcing. Between us we had 4 cats, all of whom we adopted together, all of whom would stay with me. After a few months of caring for them, returning to college full-time, and working part-time, it became quickly apparent that I couldn’t take care of them because I had very little money with which to feed them and take them to the vet.
So one day, my ex-husband and I met in the yard of the building in which I lived. We were standing outside, and it was time for me to make a very difficult decision: which 2 cats I was going to keep, and which 2 would go with him. I loved them all equally. Having to decide which 2 to “give away,” was utterly gut-wrenching. I finally decided on Valentine, who was deaf with all white fur, and Phoebe, who was a little, gray tabby. That left Hopper and Basil, a tuxedo cat and a Siamese, both of whom lived to be 17, with me.
I have no doubt that Valentine and Phoebe have crossed the Rainbow Bridge by now. This all happened over 20 years ago. I thought about them from time to time; I still do. Maybe all 4 of them have been reunited and are playing together once again. I’d like to think so.
On her blog, Beckie of Beckie’s Mental Mess has introduced a set of prompts that touches on mental illness. Each week she offers up 2 prompts for bloggers to use in a nonfiction, fiction, or poetry piece. You can respond to either prompt, or both. For more information and the guidelines, click here. This week, I am going to respond to Prompt 2, a photo prompt.
The rainbow evokes feelings of grief, sadness, and in me. I am reminded of the metaphorical Rainbow Bridge that pets cross once they’ve passed away, to the place where we will all eventually be reunited. Three of our 4 cats have crossed, and when I see pictures of them on Facebook Memories, my heart breaks each time.
I have 2 cats: Hee Seop (HEE-sop) and Angelo, and both are old. Or I should say that I had 2 cats, since one of them, Hee Seop (pictured here), died last Wednesday evening.
Granted, both cats are almost 18 years old, so part of me expected this, just not so soon. Hee Seop had a low appetite about a month ago, but a trip to the vet and some medication helped.
Since then, he hung out in all of the rooms, not just the bedroom where he and Angelo usually sleep all day. Hee Seop sat in my lap on the sofa, or lay next to my husband on the love seat. He didn’t care if the dog was there or not. He wasn’t afraid of Rudy, anyway.
For months he lay next to my head on my pillow overnight. I used to bury my face in his soft fur. I didn’t give voice to it at the time, but all his affection and spending more time in the living room with my husband and me — I was afraid that Hee Seop was saying goodbye.
Then last Wednesday I was sitting at my desk. I could feel him beneath my chair, walking over its legs that spread out like a spider’s and has wheels on the ends. I thought he was going to sleep in the dog’s bed under my desk, but I heard some weird noises that turned out to be Hee Seop struggling to get out from underneath the chair. His body looked a little odd, and when I saw him move a little, I noticed that his back legs were paralyzed. We took him to the emergency vet immediately.
On the way there, we both mentioned how scared we were that we wouldn’t come home with him. Meanwhile, he was panting and crying very loudly in the back seat. I didn’t know if he was in pain, protesting being in the carrier, or what.
We weren’t at the vet long. The doctor told us that he had a blood clot in his heart. A piece of it broke off and got lodged in his abdomen and blocked the blood supply to his legs, which is why they gave out. I think it’s called a saddle thrombus, and is extremely painful. Fortunately, the vet gave him a pain reliever.
We discussed the prognosis, which the veterinarian said was poor, especially because Hee Seop also had congestive heart failure. They could treat him, but the end result would have been the same as having him humanely euthanized. We chose the latter because we didn’t want to prolong his pain and discomfort.
I’m extremely sad, because Hee Seop was with us since he was a year old. He was a feral cat that showed up on our back porch looking for food, and that I socialized into a tame (but skittish) cat. He isn’t the first cat we needed to have put to sleep. Two others were before him. But it doesn’t get easier. I’m not depressed, which is a good thing. But I think about him a lot.
So my grandmother passed peacefully in her sleep two days ago. Had my husband and I gone, I wouldn’t have been able to shower her with hugs and kisses.
She’s the woman standing in the picture, her arm around my waist. My grandfather was holding my hand. And finally, my aunt and uncles. This picture was taken circa 1971 – 1972.
Anyway, I don’t know how I feel about this: I felt so much relief at my family’s support of my mental health, and now, I don’t know, she’s gone. Just gone.
She’s the woman who raised me for at least 6 months when I was 2 years old, after my mom left for the US. And for another 6 months (at least) when I was 4. Six months after my mom left, my dad followed suit. I remember going through photo albums and becoming jealous of any picture that contained my parents without me.
But Mama was there. Mama fed, washed, and clothed me as if I were her own. This, in addition to having one son either in school or working, another in the U.S., a daughter in medical school, and a third son either finishing up high school, or starting college. Who knows? In some part of my 2-yo brain, maybe I considered her my own mother. Maybe I still do.
As I began writing this post I was overcome with emotion, which bubbledup from nowhere. I never cried like this for my real mother — I haven’t cried at all for her. But I’m discovering that my grandmother maybe, just maybe, is my mother, too.
Rest in Peace, Mama
NOTE: “Chic” is my Filipino nickname among my family.