Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Public. Private.

I always assumed I was a varsity-level external processor.

Hand-wringing about which food processor to buy, how to re-arrange my furniture, how to deal with a leaking water heater, why my colleague might be angry with me, what to cook for dinner--these have always been hashed out in public, with my friends and family.

I've been single all my life, and I always thought that needing all that feedback was a kind of handicap for a bachelorette. But there it was, and so I just took it as a further paradox in the long list of things that have struck me as quirky about myself.

But I had never tested this theory with grief. None of my most immediate family had died, no close friends. Somehow I'd been spared that. Until this past week when my cat died. I knew it was coming; I knew I would grieve.

What I didn't expect is how completely I switched into an internal mode. I didn't want support at the vet's clinic for the euthanasia; I was awkward in phone calls from my friends, as appreciative as I was of their care; I didn't leave the house; I let no one in; I was downright rude to my best friend, who came by to bring me a loaf of bread and sit with me.

The solitude was right. It was what I needed, as stunned as I am to acknowledge it. I needed to mope, wail, clutch toys to my chest, let dishes pile up, clean them, vacuum up cat hair, refuse to change my sheets where he had slept, forget he was gone, remember with a start, scrub and disinfect his litter box, clean his brushes, look at pictures, look under all the furniture for sparkly balls, choke up, smile at what my friends had remembered in their e-mails about him.

And I didn't need spectators.

Who knew? Grieving isn't made more difficult by being alone, at least for me. Quite the contrary.

I would never have imagined it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

full circle

I was 60 miles away, with a visiting friend, mourning in advance the day that my cat would die, while my cat was preparing to die that very night.

The day he died was the birthday of my great-grandmother.

Before she died, we were chatting about reincarnation, and she said if she believed in it, which she didn't, she would want to come back as my cat. She knew a good gig.

Today I went to a fabric store to help an elderly friend pick out fabric for a valance. She wants one in her room, and will hem the fabric by hand. She may not live to the end of the project, but she will work beauty in her hands on the way.

My great-grandmother made all my clothes when I was a child. She made matching outfits for my Barbies. I wish I had not traded them for a Monkees album.

The fabric store smelled like her sewing room. I brought a swatch of material home to consider for re-upholstering a chair in my living room. I laid it on the chair, which is still covered with my cat's fur.

It's perfect.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Eliot, Rest in Peace

It was time.

I returned home this evening to find my sturdy companion of 19 years staggering, disoriented, and distraught. He was diagnosed with the early stages of kidney failure two years ago, and in the last year had lost 3 pounds. He had been my constancy, my best example of unconditional love, my model for what a pet should be. I spoiled him rotten. He returned in kind. Lately he had taken to sleeping under the covers, curled in the crook of my arm.

Tonight he couldn't get in the litter box. Half in and half out, collapsed over the side, he turned and looked at me. I helped him in, I helped him out, then we laid together on the floor and I stroked him while he cried. I called the vet and she got out of bed and met us at the clinic.

I held him while she gave him the injection. She barely had it started when he gave into gravity and sank against me. A sign, she said, that he was ready.

He sat on my lap when I wrote my dissertation. He grieved when I traveled. He had a throaty, unique meow. He had violet eyes when he was a kitten. One time he got tangled up in a shopping bag and it chased him around the house. The faster he ran, the more the bag flapped and terrified him. My mom and I thought he would have a heart attack before we could rescue him from the Attack of the Dillard's Bag.

I loved him more than I've ever loved another living creature.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I feel pretty, oh, so pretty.

I didn't MEAN to.

I just got back from a massage and my massage therapist has a very sweet black labrador that also serves as a service animal. This dog visits nursing homes and the like, and she has been trained not to lick, not to approach unless beckoned, not to bump up against someone (given that her "clients" are usually frail and could be knocked off-balance very easily, etc.). When she's in my therapist's office, she knows not to come around the curtain, but to stay on the "office" side.

I was out very late last night and because of the hell that is being 48 years old, was up at the regular time. Let's just say I didn't get enough sleep.

Combine no sleep with intense massage pleasure and the result for me is PUNCHY. So after the massage I was getting dressed on my side of the curtain and started giggling. I saw my whacked massage hair and giggled more uncontrollably, and burst into a rendition of "I FEEL PRETTY." Now, I've had some vocal training, and so when I burst into something it's with some lung power.

This dog leapt to her feet and raced around the curtain to see what unbelievable calamity had transpired. My CMT is shouting for her to come back, and so she starts running back and forth between her owner, whom she knows to obey, and me, who is now on the floor laughing. The CMT finally got the dog back on the right side, and calmed down.

I composed and dressed myself, and solemnly walked around to the couch to write my check. When I appeared, the dog stood straight up at attention, and then fell to the ground and rolled over on her back--unprecedented behavior, evidently.

I don't know if I'm a witch, or a dog whisperer, or what.

I'm still punchy, by the way, and I have another late night ahead of me.

Happily, I have no planned encounters with animals tomorrow.

Monday, January 8, 2007

my mind's eye

Approaching from the west, at fifty paces, I spy a twisted culvert half-buried in the snow.

Only I think it's an errant Canada goose, struck by a car perhaps, or shot from the sky. Its beak is pointing up and is open in mute mid-honk, cut off from its migratory impulse or lost to its goslings or too late for its calling as a holiday feast.

Closer, now, ten paces, I see it's only metal.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Epiphany 2007

O nata lux de lumine by Morten Lauridsen is on my iPod as I head out today. It's a two-pair-of-leggings Saturday, hovering around 32 degrees, but the sun is brazen, blazing over the fields on the edge of town.

The snow is deep and gashed over and across with snowmobile tracks. White snow, gold sun, blue sky, and the choir is perched on my shoulders, caressing my ears.

Tears form, my nose runs in the wind, and I can barely hear the crunchcrunchcrunch of my feet on the pavement. I could walk 100 miles like this.

There's no real epiphany, no concrete thing, no word made flesh, no light bulb. And yet, the elements have broken me open just a little. There are cracks and fissures, more like a map of smiles and grins, really, as I blink and sniff and think that I could have an awakening on this day…