She handed me a familiar, sealed, white cardboard box across the counter. The absolute first thing that went through my mind was, "How can a cat's ashes possibly weigh more than a baby's?" And the second thing was, there is no better way to handle this transaction, is there.
We put Kirby down a few weeks ago.
He had been in decline over the past few years: He's 15, with a chronic heart problem, and a thyroid problem. And none of those unto themselves are anything to fret over really, but together they seemed to finally start taking a toll. Along with what I suspect was senility. Can cats go senile? I honestly have no idea. I'll spare you a lengthy cat behavior post because this could easily turn into that, but the one example that had us both wincing was when Mr. ABF walked down to the basement where we kept the cat food (so the dogs wouldn't get it) and found a mouse eating out of a cat bowl a mere foot or so away from Kirby who was also having a snack. There was the shaking, the holing up in Bella's closet for weeks while snuggled in his own damp pee stain, the vomiting accompanied by screaming and a loss of bladder control, and in the final weeks, a pattern that took him from the tree in our room to the second floor landing outside our door which he decided was a suitable litterbox, and then back again.
It was time.
We both miss him terribly; it's funny how I walked into the basement less than a week later, inhaled realizing how my house no longer stank of pee, and promptly burst into tears. We got him when he was a mere 8-10 weeks old, and in our cold Chicago apartment he used to curl up on the back of our old gas stove which was always a bit warm. Most of you would sense the danger in this and bring it to a stop, but he looked so damn cute curled up next to the tea kettle that I began calling him my little loaf.
I tore open the little white box when I walked in the door. The reason for the extra weight was not that he was big, although at 7-8 lbs he still beat Maddy. It was that they placed his ashes in a trim little wood box with his name etched in a plate on the top. His box is also currently residing on the family room bookshelf, a few shelves down from Maddy's, waiting for us to decide what to do with them.
I suppose one day we'll just know.
We put Kirby down the Thursday before the Candlelight Ceremony that we go to every year at Children's, and hence, there was no post from me, no collection of names. And I felt low about it, and guilty as shit, because I always do that, and I like doing that, and I know there are people who look forward to it and new people for whom it would be meaningful and ugh. But off we went, bundled up, thrilled to arrive and see that finally! it was to be held outside in the winter chill with real candles, and not in a cramped and warm conference suite that smelled of sterilization where glow sticks hardly take the edge off the ambiance. I was so excited for the beauty of the evening, and Ale, apparently, was not. I'm sure he was warm enough save for his hands, which were little finger-cicles before long, but he decided the evening was ripe for yelling. (There are a lot of times ripe for yelling in his day.) Not wanting to disturb anyone else's evening, we whisked him to the back of the crowd where he could run around and jabber, but it meant no standing together as a family, and no paying firm attention to other people's dead children. I did manage to keep my candle lit the entire time, and keep my eye on the screen, plus Mr. ABF spelled me for a bit in the middle and took Ale off for a diaper change, but it was . . . . difficult.
At first I was frustrated. Deeply. Eye-roll-y frustrated. But as more names and pictures that filtered past, the frustration melted and I looked at my hot mess of a child, yelling while looking like he was making snow angels but in a grassy lawn, and realized I was lucky. I was so, so fucking lucky. We rode on the elevator in the parking garage after the event with a couple with no children with them. I felt embarrassed, standing there amid my jewels and riches.
This was my fifth service -- five services ago, I thought myself one of the most unlucky shmucks on the planet. This year, I scooped up my cold, yelly overtired treasures and basked. Fucking luck.
But perhaps very good that I didn't have your names with me, because I would've felt as guilty as all get out, wandering around as I was, distracted and not paying very close attention.
Maybe I can find another moment.
There is a post, sitting here in edit, much like my holiday card -- which is sitting in edit on a card site, I suppose now waiting for a sale to hit because they're going to be late anyway -- catching up, explaining a bit of my crazy blogless fall. Hopefully I can throw that up here in the not too distant future, before it all becomes a moot point. If it's not already.
I hope you're all well. Happy holidays, whatever day or days or reasons you celebrate. I hope you can find some peace in there.