I have put off writing about him, delayed the inevitable. I could not fathom the idea of sharing my pain with anyone. No, that’s not it. I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to condense his personality into words on a page-I couldn’t do him justice. The problem, though, is that not only did I avoid writing about him, I avoided writing, period. I thought about writing, and even read about writing. But I just could not force myself to write anything at all.
It has been a few months since we said goodbye to our cat Babe. Of course, it is always unbearably painful to lose a pet. They become part of the family. A family member without the drama-a being who loves you unconditionally, innocently. Yes, cats tend to be aloof and carry attitudes with them. And so did Babe. But he was different. He loved to cuddle-he would snuggle up against your neck, nudging as close to you as possible without suffocating you. His purr was deafening. He would look into your eyes as if he could see your soul. We liked to call him “psycho” from time to time, especially as a young cat. His favorite thing to play with was a dried apricot. With an eye on some imaginary bird, he would run full speed toward the sliding glass door and smack into it head-on. He talked back if he didn’t like the answers to his questions.
As a Himalayan mix, his fur was long and prone to tangling. He couldn’t decide if he loved or hated being brushed, so he would alternate reactions between bliss and attack mode. He was a very high strung kitty, and when we had him groomed, it was no simple feat. We learned the hard way that he required sedation for this process. It seems that groomers do not appreciate cats who try to claw them to death over a bath.
The decision to have him put to rest was heartbreaking. He was almost 15 and had been steadily declining. The grief was almost too much to bear at times. Even now, I expect to hear his crazy hungry meow when I come home. The silence is terrible. I wait for him to jump on my lap at night after dinner, but it remains empty. I think I hear him in the kitchen. I think I see him out of the corner of my eye. I would give anything for just five more minutes with him, to hold him close and smell his fur and become one with his blissful purr. Shock gives way to grief, which turns into acceptance. No, not acceptance-but getting used to his absence. At first, the pain is like a punch in the chest-it brings you to your knees and steals your breath. You want to live under the covers for the rest of your life. Eventually, the punch turns into a pang. You can continue with your day, your thought, your chore-but of course the sadness is still there. From past experience, I know that the pang will lessen and become a smile as the memoirs play like a movie in your head. I am not there yet. I am slightly past punch into the pang phase. I still miss him desperately, but I feel like life can go on, maybe even go on happily.
The great curse of a writer is that you HAVE to write. And unless you’re in the middle of the great American novel, you inevitably write about your own life. For me, that is what comes most naturally. And if you are going through a difficult period in your life, that difficulty demands to be memorialized in some form, whether it be a memoir or a short story based on life events. Until I was able to write about Babe , I was unable and unwilling to write about anything at all. Today, I am ready. I honor his memory by sharing his story, and I take the first steps toward healing. At least for today, he is my muse. I would love to think that in at least some small way, he always will be.