Dear Murphy (10 years)

Hey smurf. It’s been ten years. We had you for five and you’ve been gone ten. But these are just numbers, and who cares about that? I can be right there at the vet hospital, sitting on the floor as you walk towards me, a purr of recognition, crooked tail in the air, leaving bloody pawprints.

It’s getting cold here. So I imagine you outside, you know the night I mean. The one when you wanted me to leave you in the bushes, that frosty night, and I couldn’t do it. I begged you come in, to let me carry you, and so you did.

It’s been ten years, and I know now that I’ll always cry on this day, my throat will always hurt. Because this year could have shifted my feelings, left me thinking that an old, dead cat shouldn’t make the list.

But you do. You always do. And when I’m even older, when I’m at my own end, I won’t forget to be grateful for the five years I got with you.

In the midst of some challenging times this year, Rebecca and I have been sentimental for the place we left, for our Scottish home. There’s a video Google made by itself, of a day filled with getting the vegetables from the garden, and you sunning yourself in the middle of it. You being everywhere. Because you were. We want to get that sense of home back, a sense I’ve never felt here, even though there is much to love about our house, our cats, our lives. It’s not back home, and maybe it’s my youth I’m missing, maybe it’s something that we can’t get back. Maybe it’s you. And you won’t come back, will you. And yet, I tell our cats that you’re looking down on them, and I still ask you for help.

In case you didn’t know already:

I looked after some rescue cats this year. Twice a week, driving out to feed them, let them play, litter boxes and the rest. All I wanted this year was for them to find homes, and they did. It was a good thing, a worthy case.

And then there are the cats live in this house:

Maisy is the classroom cat. I’ve been doing most work online, and she hangs with me in your basket on a green couch. We spend the day together, and as soon as I say goodbye to students, she’s on the desk, telling me it’s time to go outside. She had one of her funky eyes this year and I was afraid for her. I got her teeth cleaned, which brought its own stress and fear, but I think it was the right thing. It’ll be her sisters turn next year. I must play with Maisy, I must find her games and fun.

Daisy is too fat, and she is a hissing, hateful thing sometimes. But she loves us, and she wakes me up every single morning. I’m trying to get her weight down, but damn, she wants all the food in the world. I must brush her more, and help her play.

Kitten has grown in confidence and presence, despite or because of the company of three foster children who are due to leave us in three days. She spends the night on our bed, she climbs onto Rebecca at night and demands attention. And she is trying so hard to get Milo to play with her the way that Sully did.

A year ago today, we brought Milo home from the Mewsic Kitty Cafe. What a day to get a new cat. I cried on the way home. His gotchaversary is tied up with your death. Milo is our confident boy cat, eager to socialize with children and adults. Daisy hates him, Maisy mostly ignores him, and Kitten chases him around the house.

He’s not you. He’s not Sully, either.

Maisy’s all over me right now. Super purr, super miaow. Maybe she knows that I’m hurting, or maybe she’s just hungry. Probably both. I love her in a way that is partly torture, to imagine her dying, in pain, lost. Sound familiar?

She’s not you. It’s different. She’s my baby, you never were. Imagine putting a harness on you – no chance in hell. You spent most of every day outside, and you always came home eventually. Fierce beast, cleverest of cats, the best hunter I’ve ever known. Thank you for liking me, for trusting me. Thank you. I’m sorry you got so sick, I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough, I’m sorry I didn’t see what was happening. We got there in the end, didn’t we? But what a shit final journey. Is there anything I regret more? Funny, the things we can’t leave behind.

The big MIAOW from Maisy. The big purr. She thinks I’m good, and I promise to do my best for these cats.

I will go for our walk. It’s cold, it’ll be dark and muddy. Just like old times. I will tell you that I love and miss you, and I will tell Sully the same. Because all cats are connected, and all cats are good. I will say good night to you every night, and I will think of good moments. And I will pray that you are free of pain, well fed, enjoying the sunshine, and watching the birds.

Hamish

He Will Be Fed

As told at Tenx9 Nashville / Mewsic Kitty Café

Sunday November 10, 2019

 

I want the cat as soon as I set eyes on him. As soon as he sinks his teeth into my wrist.

Murphy is wide and he is long. He is bigger than your cat. He could kick your cat’s butt. Same for your dog.

Murphy’s life before us? A mystery. Two old ladies look after him for his first seven years. Two old ladies who aren’t here anymore.

But we learn. Murphy is not a lap cat. He is not for petting. He will purr, but as our Scottish vet laughingly advises, “Doesnae mean he’s happy.”

In our first days together, he seems fearless – vacuum cleaners, power tools, the cable guy – nothing disturbs or intimidates him.

When the Scottish Gas man comes to service the boiler and bleed the radiators, Murphy is there, ready to trip him up. When the man says, “Actually, I’m a wee bit allergic,” I hold up my hands, show my palms, because what am I supposed to do about that?

I regret playing the starfish game, spreading my fingers above Murphy’s head and then staring down, unblinking, an absurd yet addictive game of chicken that he usually wins.

I get used to never lying down on the floor because he will take that as a sign of submission. He will reject that sign, and then he will attack.

Eventually, we discover something Murphy is afraid of – black shoes are this cat’s Kryptonite – and we judge the two old ladies for making this poor wee cat fear their footwear. But in time, we understand – at some point, you have to throw something.

When Murphy isn’t drawing blood inside, he’s hunting outside. He gets in and out using a dog-sized cat-flap, a home improvement the cat adoption people insisted on.

“So he can potter about the garden.”

“Pottering about” sounds harmless.

Murphy doesn’t potter. Murphy is a clear and present danger.

He patrols the neighborhood, seeing off the other cats and picking off the wildlife. I come home from work to find feathered or tailed remains in the living room. When the neighbor’s dog mistakenly enters our back yard, Murphy chases it around in circles. The neighbor appears, rescues his dog, and I sit with Murphy. I’m laughing, he’s foaming at the mouth.

Murphy is clever, stubborn and vicious when it suits him. I am certain that he will live forever, he will bury us all.

But he is a hungry cat. Relentlessly, irresistibly hungry.

We joke about the two old ladies who died in quick succession. Hell, maybe Murphy ate them.

At dinner time…no, an hour before dinner, he begins his charm offensive, destroying our wallpaper with determined strokes of his claws until we respond with pleading, then threats, and then thrown office supplies.

But Murphy is my boy. He is my jungle cat, my fantastic beast. He sits on the fence and supervises as I wash the car, as I stain the deck. And at the end of the day, when I light the grill, he stares up at me, daring me to not share a burger with him.

When I come home from work, walking back from the bus stop, Murphy greets me half-way down the street and we saunter home together, side by side, a couple of old gents.

We find a tearful little girl on my doorstep.

“Are you Murphy’s dad?”

I nod.

The girl points accusingly, identifying the suspect. “He scratched mah dug’s nose.”

I make sympathetic noises, but I’ve seen the lassie’s dog. It’s nae a wee dug. And seriously, what does the girl expect me to do? Does she think I call the shots?

Murphy is gentle with my wife, solicitous. When she screams at the sight of a Scottish spider, he rushes into the room. When she slips in the garden, he is there again at her side, yowling empathetically.

My wife leaves, twice a month, for work trips to London. Murphy seizes his chance at being Alpha male. When he really wants to press the point home, I’m forced to push him outside with a broom.

“He’s too big,” the vet tells us. “He needs to go on a diet.”

Slimming this cat down will only increase his capacity as a lethal weapon, but we decide to do it anyway. Because we’re responsible cat owners, because we’re in charge.

Murphy designs his own eating plan.

At night, I lie awake and listen for Murphy to come inside. Flip-flap. Murphy comes inside, thumps up the stairs and then into our bedroom. His miaow is muffled, because there’s something in his mouth. At night, the birds are safe, so it’s either a mouse or a vole. Sometimes they’re still alive, squeaking between his jaws.

We put his prescription-diet cat-food on a high shelf inside a plastic bag and then inside a Tupperware box – he climbs the shelf, knocks down the box and tears into the plastic bag.

When he uses the refrigerator as his personal larder, I add a child-lock, and boast to co-workers of my problem-solving skills. It takes Murphy one day to defeat the lock. He’s smarter than a child, and he’s definitely smarter than me.

I place a heavy chair against the refrigerator door. In the night he shoulders it away, and I come downstairs in the morning to find the remaining wrapper of a block of Irish cheddar, plus the carcass of a roast chicken he has dragged from the kitchen into the living room.

We are worthless disciplinarians. If he begs at the table, a meaty paw resting on my knee, I squirt him with a water pistol, which results in a drenched but unmoved cat, who will stay there as long as it takes, until my firing hand cramps.

One evening, we binge-watch episodes of Lost. We’re busy trying to make sense of the season 3 finale when Murphy enters the cat-flap, carrying a fish stick in his mouth. I brave his wrath by confiscating it. He promptly leaves, returning half an episode later with a slice of margherita pizza.

Has he broken into someone’s trash? No; the food is still warm. He’s charmed his way into another family’s affections and late-night suppers. I picture him picking between his teeth with one claw and selecting from Today’s Specials with the other.

The next day I ask my next-door neighbor, the one with kids, who might be feeding my cat? They confess immediately, blaming their girls, who have a soft spot for Murphy.

“He comes into the house,” she says. “Sits on the landing. Looks hungry.” They’ve fallen for a ruthless killer, just like me.

Mystery solved. I secure a promise of no more pizza, although they claim ignorance about the fish stick. Buoyed and reassured, I cross the street and start to share my delicious story with the mother of three boys.

She doesn’t laugh. She goes red in the face, goes inside her house and brings Murphy back out – she’s been letting him stay inside while I’m work.

Do her boys like fish sticks? “Aye, they do.”

That cat, just as large and fantastic as ever, manages to look docile in my neighbor’s arms. I take him from her, which results in growling and a flurry of claws.

I let go, and Murphy drops to the ground. He looks up at me, curls his tail tightly around my legs, and delivers a slow blink. Then we go home.

Dear Murphy (9 years)

I’ve got an hour. I’m writing this on Friday, but your day is Sunday this year. I will write today and take my walk on Sunday. Just so you know.

I dreamed about Sully this week. It’s been 8 months since he died. That was an awful day on top of an awful week. But I tried really hard this time, to make his last few days as comfortable as possible. I screwed that up with you, I know. I didn’t know any better. We did better with Sully, but it’s still so hard. You know I can’t say goodbye to cats.

So I sit here and cry, and I haven’t cried much for you this year. I think of you every day, your basket is here in my classroom, and when Maisy sleeps there during the day, it makes me happy. Your picture is above the basket, your pictures are in my bedroom. And it’s you and Sully that I think about now, it’s both of you that have me in tears.

Let me tell you about Daisy. She lost two pounds in weight this year, and I know she’s hungry (always, always hungry) but I know she’s healthier too, I know she’s faster, and I think more comfortable. We can maintain her weight, she probably doesn’t need to lose any more. I just want her to be healthy and happy. And maybe just live forever.

Two weeks ago, she got into a fight with the neighbors dog (you’d have been proud – hell, maybe you were egging her on) and she ended up a tree, and at the end of it all, the vet had to remove three of Daisy’s teeth, 2 cracked and 1 caught in her lip. The dog didn’t land a single bite, but Daisy took a bite of her own. Again, you would’ve been proud.

She is our sweet, social cat. Our lap cat. Our hungry, nuzzly, bonky girl.

And Maisy? She is our wannabe barn cat, she wants to run away, just for the day, just every day. Last Tuesday I ended up walking along the creek behind the yard, climbing over trees, to rescue her – she had run away from Rebecca, got her harness caught on the barbs of an iron fence. She was truly stuck, and when I rescue her (and she promptly runs off) I imagine what I would have done if I hadn’t found her, if it had gotten dark, and there’s no happy outcome there. So I will have to get clever, I will have to find a GPS tracker collar, something for her to wear outside so that when she bolts, I can find her.

Maisy loves me. We are surely bonded forever. I love that she loves me. I must play with her more, she needs the hunt, she needs her mojo raised to the max. But I love that she comes to bed at night, pawing at the duvet until I let her in. That is her winter trick, to be my furry heater. I’m okay with her not liking other people, but I do want her to like Rebecca.

We learned from the vet this year that Maisy has a heart murmur. A mild one, but it’s there. I don’t know what will kill her in the end, but something will, and then what will I do? I’m truly not sure what I will do when that happens. I think I might just stop.

Kitten misses Sully. She misses her best friend, her wrestling buddy. In the months since Sully’s death, Kitten has taken on some of his patterns. She is more vocal, and she often sleeps through the night on our bed. And slowly (so slowly!) but surely, she has taken to climb on top of Rebecca, lying on her stomach or chest. Although her favorite spot is between Rebecca’s legs (in her crook, her nook, which is one you know about). But Kitten misses Sully, and we all do.

Without Sully, we are a broken cat family, and I don’t know how to fix us. We fostered two girls this summer, and that didn’t make any of this easier. Neither of them were good with cats. You can’t be in my family if you don’t love cats.

So what do we do, find a new cat, make a rescue. I want an old boy of course, I want one that has a hint of you or Sully. Some big old gent, and maybe Kitten could make friends with him. It’s a lot to ask of an older male cat, to put up with Maisy and Daisy without attacking them, and to be friends with an orange Kitten.

But I think it’s my turn to choose. And in the last couple of weeks, despite both catten’s dicing with disaster, the 3 cats seem to be getting on better.

We’re going to plant a tree for Sully. One that produces acorns for Kitten, one that all the cats can climb on. We will plant it and spread his ashes. I’m scared of killing the tree, I’m scared it won’t grow. Mum is coming for Thanksgiving, and I know she wants to help plant it. Of course I will cry my fucking eyes out, and she’ll find that awkward.

Murphy, I thought of something in recent days. That you probably thought we’d abandoned you when we left you with Christopher and Caroline in Edinburgh. And that’s why you went downhill so fast. I’m sorry for that. We were always coming back for you.

And then I think of your last day, when I came to the hospital, and you jogged across the floor to greet me, tail up and crooked, and you were leaving bloody pawprints, and my boy, you were so sick. We got to say goodbye, but it’s always so fucking hard, and I wish we could’ve done it at home.

The Scottish vet, the Broxburn ones, I know how they weren’t up to caring for you. Our Nashville one, they are caring, they are sweet and gentle. It makes a huge difference. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better advocate for you with the Broxburn one.

So many sorries. And yet you had a good time in Broxburn, those five years, I reckon. I’m going to tell the story of when we tried to put you on a diet, I’m going to tell a ‘cat café’ audience that story in Nashville in November. It’s a worthy cause, and it’s test for me. I want to pay tribute to you, and the story maybe funny, it may get laughs, but know this – they’re not going to be laughing at you, they’ll be laughing at me. At all my mistakes.

I’m telling a funny story, I’m not telling a sad one. Can I do it without crying, without cracking? I’ll do my best.

Murphy, I remember the day we found you. I remember so much. And today I feel raw, and on Sunday, I’ll weep harder for you. You should have had so much longer. But you cats know the score, I think. You live and you die. You knew when it was your time to go, you told me.

I’m getting older, and I’m this old guy with kidney stones, messed up gallbladder, weird nodules that the US doctors don’t like. As long as I’m breathing, I will remember and love you and miss you. And yeah, when I die, indulge me, let me fantasize, of seeing you again. I want to pick you up and remember how big you were, I want to feel that lion’s purr. And since you didn’t like being picked up so much, you can give me a bite if you want. But I will tell you stories and we will lie on the bed and you can look look out the window and watch the birds. And then we’ll go outside and I’ll paint and fence and you can look on, doing your thing, on patrol.

You and Sully. My grief gets heavier. I thought I would get better looking after kids, I haven’t. I thought I would get better grieving for cats. Today, I’m not. But maybe telling your story in November will help. I haven’t talked about you to anyone for a long time. You were our best boy, and then we lost you. Sully was our gentleman, our kitten-saver, and we lost him as well.

On Sunday, it is your day. Forever in my calendar, October 27. But I will remember you both, and I will tell you your story. I will walk along the railway tracks and remind you how much I love you.

 

Hamish

Dear Sully (4 months)

Dear Sully,

 

I give myself one hour to write this. That’s what I do. You’ll get the hang of it.

Here’s the story of you and us:

In the summer of 2012, friends were staying with us in the Rivergate townhouse. We already had Maisy and Daisy. One afternoon, we were at the pool and there you were, doing your growling miaow, making biscuits in the woodchips outside the pool area. We all agreed you were hungry, and so I went back to the apartment and brought back a can of catfood. I was busy trying to cut it into chunks and Christopher says he doesn’t think you’ll care either way, and you and me both know he’s a fucking idiot.

I feed you, and you’re charming, and yet still it’s not love, but responsibility at first sight. It’s guilt, over leaving you back at the pool. And so for the next eleven weeks, I go up to the pool with food and water, and I’m panicked if I can’t find you, but most time you show up, rustling out of the bushes. We ask the complex management about you, and you’re famous. You’re Sylvester, and you’ve been abandoned. Everyone loves Sylvester, and no one takes you in. We put up signs around the complex, and I know other people are feeding you, but this can’t last, because they’re also feeding a funky feral cat colony, and if you get mixed up with them, you’re done for. And there is an asshole cat from that pack, giving you a hard time. And people see me feeding you and ask, “Is that your cat?” and I tell them, No, because I’m a fucking idiot. And I tell Rebecca that we can’t take you in either, because we have the cattens and they come first.

And then we’re moving to Madison, moving house, and you spend a couple nights in our room and then we take you to Nashville Humane Society, and who are we kidding? But We pay our contribution, fill in the papers, actually let the woman take you back, and we even leave, standing outside, and Rebecca and I both cry and realize there’s no way we’re leaving an old cat like you in a place like that.

So we take you to the new house, and Daisy is pissed at you for a long time. But you stay, and after a while, we’re a family. You take to the harness best, it’s easy for you, even though you’re so nervous sometimes, even though you piss over everything, anything left on the ground. You make our home stink of piss, and you won’t stop, and we try drugs and diffusers and sprays and none of it works.

But everyone loves you. You’re the cat everyone remembers, because you’re Sully, you’re a gentleman, and you want to meet everyone.

And at the start, for at least four years, how could we miss it, how healthy you were? How perfectly alive and strong?

How you would want to sleep on Rebecca’s chest, how you would bonk and nuzzle and bonk and nuzzle, and how you would talk to us. You taught the others to talk, Sully boy.

And you were a hunter. A killer, no mercy, so strong and fast. And your proud tail, sticking up so straight and hard, quivering either with excitement or anxiety.

You didn’t like arguments. Raised voices made you afraid, made you pee, made you hide. Storms made you hide, and for good reason after you time living rough by the pool.

But you got braver, because we were a house of love and kindness and sure, routine, and you knew we wouldn’t hurt you. And those were your best times with us, at Nancy Beth. You had a fucking lake, man, and you even still had a pool to walk to.

And then we got Kitten. Daisy hated that ginger little thing, and they still fight, but Kitten didn’t fear you, she loved you at first sight. She kept walking up to you, right in your face, and then falling at your feet, begging you for a scrap, until one day you gave in and played.

And then we knew what kind of cat you were. A big brother, a protector, and sure, sometimes an asshole to the cattens, but they could handle it.

And everyone loved you. I took so many photos, Sully, because you were everywhere. On our bed, on the ledge upstairs where I worked, in the yard in the evenings. And still you kept peeing on everything, and we never managed to fix that.

 

I’m at Centennial Park. I bought a metal cat from the art show that’s on. I have the Sully figure that Kera made. I’m sitting under a tree. But there are distractions, music, voices, dogs, the whir of food trucks. Wind in the trees.

And I think, fuck me, it’s a Sully day of weather. You loved days like this, lying on the ground, and then at our Idlewild home, in the catio. You got one year of catio, Sully. That wasn’t enough, that wasn’t fair. I wanted you to have so much more.

Ah Sully, you got sick and so thin and we didn’t know what was wrong. We tried our best to work it out, but we couldn’t fix it. I’m sorry. Did you think we were torturing you with that hairball medicine, then the steroids that turned your fur orange. I know you hated that stuff, but it kept you alive. And you still played with Kitten, still hung out with us, still wanted to love Rebecca. Still came around for bedtime treats, still chased the cattens, and still wanted popcorn. And still talked to us, you talked so much. Ruh-ruh-r’ow.

And then Rebecca noticed the swelling in your face, and then the vet ran the tests, the ones that left you bleeding and hurting so badly. And you stayed in our cloet for a few more days, and I talked to you and fed you whatever the hell you wanted, and we cleaned you up with wipes, but you were dying and you knew it. And I told you what would happen, and on Saturday, February 16 2019, 6 and a half years after you came into our lives, we took you out, we took all the cats out for one last walk, you patrolled your territory, shook your tail, and when it was time for you to come back in, we gave all of you tuna water. And then you lay on the living room perch until it was time to go.

 

And when Rebeccca picked you up, you miawed in protest, and I’m so sorry it had to end. But you were in so much pain, and we had to make the call, and I wanted to give you peace on a relatively good day, not wait until you were in agony.

So we took you to the vet, and they were kind, and they put you to sleep one last time and they left us alone, and Rebecca and I touched your paw and petted you and we wept.

And then we took a walk, and talked about cats and life, and we collected some stones.

And now I talk to you sometimes, and I pray for you sometimes. And I talk to the cats about you. And Kitten misses you the most of the cats of course, but we aren’t a complete family anymore, we can’t replace you. And one day we have a boy cat again, because we will have to rescue another boy, just like we did with Murphy, and we did with you. But will Kitten want to play with that cat. It’s unlikely. We’ll never see you’re like again. And of course, sometimes I cry about you. I think we did our best for you, but I’m sorry you had to be in pain. I hope you know how much we loved you, and how we will also remember you and keep you in our hearts.

In the autumn, we’ll plant an oak tree in the back yard. We will put your ashes with the tree roots. It will be our sully tree, and I hope one day the cats will climb in its branches, and that it will produce acorns for Kitten.

And I’m going to close this letter now. Sully, we love you. You were our butler, our best gentleman, and you told us so many stories. We all loved you, and we miss you so very much. I will try to fill the hole you’ve left by being…no, I will show my love by being good to Kitten, by caring for and loving cats.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. I have a sliver of hope that I will get to see you again one day. I also hope you got to meet Murphy. You could be buddies, I reckon. And all cats are connected. I will pray that you are safe and happy and pain-free. I hope you get to hunt and play and eat the best food and get the best pettings and nuzzles. I’m still listening to your stories, and I’m still singing your song. Maisy-Daisy-Sully-Kitten. Thank you for helping me be better with cats, thank you for teaching me and loving me. Thank you for being our American boy.

I love you and miss you,

Hamish

Dear Murphy (8 years)

I’ve got an hour. I’m taking an hour. You know the drill.

Every year could be the last time I do this, even though I’m making a promise. How could I stop? Because all cats are connected.

Let’s do the update. I wipe my tears, recognize the pain in my jaw, and I tell you things you already know:

Maisy is in your basket right now – I could say it’s because I’m crying, because I need support. But it’s really because the girls are stamping around upstairs, because I’ve been teaching down here. I’m always happy to see her in your basket. She knows it’s  safe place. You knew it too.

And I cry now, and she looks over at me.  That cat, she’s run away a handful of times this year, just for an hour or two each time, but it scares me. She’s the one who wants to get away, to be free, and when she comes back, she’s so pleased, so satisfied. This is not the best home for her, despite the catio, despite everything, and I’m sorry for that. But I love her the most, that’s a fact, and hey, she likes me too. I work full-time these days, she’s not a fan of me being out of the house so much, so I’m having to make it up to her. She doesn’t want flowers or chocolates. I must play with her, I must give her focus and exhaustion. But physically she’s well, she’s astounding, so fast and athletic. What the hell would I do without her?

Sully comes down the stairs, magically on cue. Announces his presence with that growling miaow. He’s sick, he got so thin this year and we struggled in ignorance for 7 or 8 months before a CT scan told us what was wrong, and what might be wrong as well. A twisted spleen, an auto-immune disease, a maybe-cancer. Rebecca gives him daily steroids which has made him like his old self. Feisty, affectionate, so playful and sociable. He’s had such a hard year, and I just wish a happy and healthy time for this skinny old cat. I love him, and we’re doing our best for him.

Daisy is fat but fast. Forever hungry, forever wanting a lap. My alarm goes off at 5.50AM and she’s right there in my face, with her machine-gun purr. She is beautiful and intelligent. I try to brush her regularly, brush her on her throne, and I don’t stop until she gives me her second yawn and then starts to flick her tail. I know when she’s had enough of me.

Kitten has been with us for 3 years, but it seems she will always be our kitten. She hasn’t had her hairball problem in a while now, and while she’s still so skittish sometimes, she has taken to sleeping on our bed at night, and she play so well with Sully that I can’t imagine them apart.

And she caught a pizza slice this year. Not like you did – the stuff you brought through that cat flap, pizza, fish fingers, courtesy of the girls next door. You were a brilliant beggar, a fantastic thief. But for Kitten, it was a slice of pizza dropped from the sky, I’m guessing a squirrel in the tree branches, and she pounced on it. Yeah, hardly the same skillset, but it reminded me of you, it made me smile.

Their relationships to change, develop. The house helps, the best house we’ve had with them. Vertical space, the catio, it helps them all get on. But a fenced garden, more roaming outside time? I know how much they would love that.

Maisy’s still in your basket, grooming. I will take my walk later today, to the railway tracks, I will take the gift I was sent after you died, I will hold it in my hands and I will speak to you, I will tell  you your story, our story. And I will tell you that I’m sorry, because I fucked up so badly in your last year, I should have done more, notice more. We know that – you deserved better. And on this day, I get to beat myself with that knowledge, and now thanks to my kidney stones, I get to know what pain is like, and yeah, I had that coming to me didn’t I?

All cats are connected. I pray for help with them, and there’s not  day goes by, you know that, because I tell you that I love you every night .And what does it mean, for me to let go of that? Why would I? I promised you I would be better, better with cats. And I am, but there’s always more to do.

Maisy’s back to watching me from  your basket. She knows when I’m upset.

Let me tell you something. The life we had in Scotland – it’s gone, I can’t get it back, can’t wish for it or negotiate for it. Here is my home, and I love the house, love the cats. In some respects, walking with them when I get home from work, I couldn’t be happier. It’s what I wanted. And of course, there’s plenty to worry about. Work and money and health and family and…

Rebecca’s having a hard time. She always gets through it, she’s the best person I know. But she’s having a hard time right now, and thing is, you helped fix her before. Can you believe how long ago that was? I can’ even remember the year right now. 2006. I didn’t know a thing back then. But my wife got so sick and I was so afraid, and you fixed her. A cat and a garden, you brought her back.

And now we don’t have either. So I need the garden back, I need the cats to step up their game. And I need to be better. We are getting old and we’re running out of time.

I want to say thank you for being the best cat. I will go to the train tracks and I will tell your story and I will remember to talk about all the good stuff. And I will repeat my promise.

Hey, Murph. I remember the day we found you. And I sure as hell remember the day we lost you. And it’s been eight years, so this is it, right? The pain never goes away. And that’s how it should be.

Hey, remember how you would be half-way down the street waiting for me when I came home from work? Waiting for me in the dark, in the freezing fucking cold? Thank you for all of it.

Sully’s here, standing on the cold concrete floor. Just as hungry as you always were. We’ll look after him, we’ll pay attention and we’ll do our best.

All cats are connected. I love you and I miss you. I’ll speak to you at the train tracks.

 

Dear Murphy (7 years)

I think to myself, I don’t feel this grief anymore. I don’t dwell on it, I’m not distracted.

And then at the beginning of August, when I’m swept up with anxiety over work and money and all that crap, I have a thundering nightmare. A magic trick, a powder, that brings you back. Rebecca and I are at the vet – Scottish or American? I’m not sure – and I see you from behind, lying down, showing off your haunches.

I don’t get to touch you, to say hello. The next moment, I’m outside with Rebecca, talking about options, and I don’t know what those options are. You can’t stay, we can’t keep you, and you’re ashes again and I’m weeping.

And that next day, awake for what it’s worth, a beautiful summer’s day, I’m a wreck all over again.

I didn’t get to see your face. I know that dream was made up of fragments of then, of Rebecca commenting on Daisy’s weight, how she looks from behind, on TV shows and life that was giving me nightly heartburn. But it always comes back to you as well.

A week before Bob went home, after staying with us in the basement for 11 weeks. I had been feeling guilty about not spending enough time with him, and then there was Sully, at his yowliest, pissiest best, making me furious, cursing him, and then feeling bad about that too.

Ah, you boy cats. You leave me in pieces, and yet what would I do without you?

7 years. It’s nothing, but that’s just poetry. We carry on and there are things I’ve forgotten – maybe I’ll get them back when I’m old, if I make it that far.

I would say 7 years since you died, and that’s true, but you made the call days before we did. The more I know about cats, the more I learn, the more I wish I’d done things differently with you. Different food, different cat spaces. And this for the cat who had his own back garden, a cat-flap, plenty of warm beds. But I got plenty wrong, didn’t I.

My grief is tied up with so many things. I will take my walk in  a few minutes and tell you what I need to tell you. It’s a drive to get there because we moved house, and I’ll take the recycling to the place on the way. Is that okay? Am I allowed to multi-task? I decided that I am.

Rebecca is in Gatlinburg, 4 hours away. I’m back here because of work, but it’s right that I’m back for you as well.

I love our house, by the way, and I think you’d like it as well. But Broxburn was our home, I think it was just right for you.

Let me tell you about the family.

Maisy and I are so close but I don’t always know what she needs. And it’s Rebecca who sees that she wants to play instead of eat. I don’t play with her enough, does that sound familiar? But I think she’s healthy, far less over-grooming, and there’s lots of space in this new house. I love that she loves me, but I wish she and Rebecca would be better friends.

Daisy is so affectionate and so territorial. She is the bravest with the neighbor’s dogs (who don’t jump the fence but bark from time to time). And she is too heavy. That sweet girl, I’m going to buy her special food and I hope it works. Rebecca told me last night she bought new toys for Daisy, determined that our greyest catten run off the fat. But yes, Daisy weighs too much and it will become serious if we don’t help her.

Sully keeps on going, he is our boy who is alive in this house. He’s not like you, and yet he’s in your spot. You were both more wild and more of a gentleman. He is more often affectionate, and he is so anxious at times. I think health-wise he has had a good year, and Kitten is a part of that.

Kitten has grown without us realising, but she’s still the smallest. It took us several bad medical times for us to work out a hairball regimen – food, grooming. If we neglect this, she doesn’t eat for 2/3 days and is in bad shape. But when she’s healthy, she eats so well! And months after moving in, we got a rug for the living room and she and Sully started playing again. Oldest and youngest, such good friends.

And Bob returned to be our summer basement cat. He needs so much love, and so much play, that funny, smart cat. He’s back with his family now, and I don’t think of him the way I think of you but I call out to him when I pass his apartment building in my car. Bob-bob-bob-bob-bob. A little bit crazy, but I hope you’ll understand.

Ah, all this chat. I think it’s important but it’s not about you. All cats are connected. What can I say about you that I haven’t already said. Murphy, I miss you. You got cheated, and it’s easy for me think that when we decided to leave Scotland, you decided, fuck it, you’d had enough.

You were the best thing, the best soul, the best connection I had. I don’t see it happening again for me, and maybe that’s what stops it happening. I’m afraid of the cats alive in this house dying, I imagine it and I really don’t know how I’ll get through it. And then I imagine dying before them, fuck, Rebecca and I both dying, and then what, for them? My mother promised this year that she’d take care of them if that happened, can you believe that? My 73 year old mother, in another continent. But she knows how we can feel about each other, cats and us.

Sully is right here with me, the sentinel. Kitten is here now as well, and she never comes into my classroom. They are both here at my feet, guarding me.

Our big news – the catio, a fenced in cat-space, is almost finished. If I buy the roofing today, my brother in law can finish it. Aside from a hole in the wall, they can use it. I think they will love it. It’s a big deal, giving them the chance to enjoy the outside any time of day they want. And there’s our longer-term plan, to fence in the garden properly and give them space to roam.

But to finish the catio on this anniversary, it seems fitting. Not that a catio would have worked for you. I mean, you would have used it sometimes, but you were a different kind of cat. Sully would spend most of the day lounging outside if we let him, and Maisy would be gone, who knows where, and you can decide if it’s wrong for me to keep them inside, save for a few minutes each day before dinner. But it means they’re safe, and I try to make them happy. So much of this house is for the cats.

So that’s my time. I will take my walk, I’ll talk to you, tell you your story. And I’ll tell you the good things because there were so many. We’ll have our moment, outside of course, it has to be outside, in the wild, and I believe in your spirit, and tell the cats you’re looking down on them.

And I felt you in that dream, I saw you, and I grieved for you all over again. And if that was your way of saying hello, I’ll take it. And I think there’s a chance that all this writing is bullshit and that I just miss you, my sweet boy, but I’ll keep writing.

I love you and I miss you, and I keep you in my prayers.

Eat and drink what you want, sleep where you want, play and chase and hunt and be with your family and everyone who loves you. All cats are connected, Murphy, and us too.

 

Hamish

Dear Murphy (6 years)

Dear Murphy (6 years)

 

Hello, my friend. It’s that time again. I give myself an hour to  talk to you and then I take my walk.

I look forward to it. But it’s just once a year, to write things down. To say hello again, properly, and to really feel it.

Daisy is on the perch, sleeping. The window’s open, it’s been a perfect day, temperature-wise. And Sully is on the carpet, looking up at me. The others are downstairs. All will be peaceful, for an hour or two. And then they will begin to let me know that it’s time to go outside. They all send their best regards.

My remembered grief took me by surprise today. I thought it wasn’t coming, that this would feel routine, redundant. Because what can I say, right? But there’s still poison inside of me, this toxic mud that I have to release, and I would gladly cut myself open, if that kind of thing actually worked.

I thought I would be bored, writing this. But instead it feels like a little act of bravery, of discomfort, I’m not picking at a scab, I’m tearing the scar wide open. If I want to. And I think I should.

It’s a fucking perfect day of weather. The windows have been open all day. You would have had a great day today.  The summer is too hot for cats but the fall is wonderful. My Scottish boy, you would’ve had a good time, and I hope, just like for Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, that you always have the best weather, that you’re spending your days lying on as many flower beds as you like.

I thought I would tell you about the cats, the ones alive in this house. I thought that was all I had to do. But instead I have to do my crying and tell you again, I’m sorry I wasn’t better at looking after you. I’m sorry. And you know I loved  you, and I think you were content for much of the time, in that wild, monsterish way of yours. My cleverest boy, my sweetest tiger.

Maisy jumps up, meowing, walks over my wrists, insistent. Such a purr. She’s not psychic but she can read the room, like all cats. Because you’re all connected, like I tell her, like I tell all of them.

Okay, I’ll tell you that Maisy and Daisy will turn five next month. Five years, as long as we had you. And it’s not the same. I still think of them as babies, which isn’t accurate, although they do treat Rebecca and I differently.

Daisy’s weight has gone up and down. She caught her share of grasshoppers and cicadas this year. She has grossed us out and she has loved us. She is the greedy one, the jealous one, the pretty one.

Maisy has decided that she doesn’t know Rebecca, courtesy of  Rebecc’a trip to California. Suddenly I’m the only one who can feed her. Maisy is our neurotic, the one who will go furthest when we walk them, leading the pack, and she is my biggest fan.

Sully is our old man, sleeping through the night on our bed, a hot rock. He pees everywhere, he is frequently anxious.

Kitten will always be Kitten, it seems, she has if anything become more playful, the cat that won’t slow down. She and I have become better friends but she reserves her trust and love for Rebecca.

And then we had 5, for three months, thanks to Bob, another of our swimming pool rescues. Bob is smart, gorgeous, and spent most of that time in Rebecca’s office because if we let him out, he would go straight for the other cats. Never destined to be part of our family   (although what a boy, what a sweet, playful powerhouse of a cat) he was adopted by someone who seems like a good match.

There, that’s better. Talk about the living. Can I remind us of the good times? Seeing the neighbors across the street let you out of their house. Coming home to see you playing with kids in the street. You weren’t afraid of anyone. Am I grateful that at least you weren’t hit by a car, or hurt by the local teenage scumbags. You made it, only let down in the end by your kidneys and your taste for local wildlife.

I am still heartbroken by that final night outside, me begging you to come back inside, zero degrees, and you were choosing  to die out there. And I wouldn’t have it, so eventually you came out, let me carry you back inside. And then I let them run tests and take blood for 2 days, for too long but we didn’t know any better, and I made the call and the next day, a bright sunny morning you didn’t get to see, we put you to sleep.

And none of that was good, was it, except you lifted up your tail when they brought you into the room, walked me on your bloody paws and purred.  And…

Hey, we’re still not eating meat. We won’t go back to that, as long as it’s about taste, about making a choice.

Well at least I know, this isn’t routine. I miss you. And I so wish I’d been better.  But I’m thankful. You were the one I wanted. And I got you. I got you for five years which on one hand was never going to be enough, but still more than I ever deserved.

My sneaky boy. My thief, my attacker, my fighter. My best friend, you stayed, you didn’t run away. We did our best, Rebecca and I, to return that loyalty. I know we were riddled with faults, but we loved you, and we miss you.

And Rebecca’s doing pretty well. And we are ambitious, for ourselves and others. And we are very strong, this year, I think, together. Which takes work, which takes special attention. There is love in our house, and we love our cats, and we’re better at a lot of cat stuff now. And still, they try to teach us.

And that’s my hour. I’ll take my walk, and I’ll say a little prayer at the train tracks, and I’ll hold that little wooden keepsake, and I’ll say hi and goodbye to you.

And I’ll look for you, inside of me, I’ll reach out and tell you I love you. And since this is my…my letter of update and apology and grief, I will find something good to tell you, a good memory.

Rest in peace, climb those trees, eat whatever you want, and I will imagine seeing you again one day.

 

Hamish

 

 

 

Dear Murphy (5 years)

You are distracting me today, the day before Murphy Day. I have a lot of work to do, but you keep knocking on the door.

I will write this now, then, and take my Murphy walk tomorrow.

I will update, even though I believe you know all of this already.

Sully is our big boy, he is our beast in your absence. Truly, he is nothing like you, but we walk together and sometimes he makes biscuits in the grass, he’s so content. He’s had trouble this year, with too many visitors and a 4th cat, and he’s sprayed most walls of our house. But I love him. He is old, likely he’ll be the first to die, and that will be hard for Rebecca and for me. It took me 3 years to think of him as really part of our family. With you, it was instant. Because you were magic.

Daisy is doing so well. We’re feeding the cats a raw diet (yes, you would’ve loved that stuff) and her gums, her skin, her weight, it’s all better. She is still the miaowiest, most stubborn of cats. Of course, you were smarter, you were sneakier. She doesn’t know how to steal like you. She doesn’t have your magic either, but she loves us and we love her back, so very much.

And Maisy. Her fur is better. She still over-grooms but it’s not as bad. She has a fluffy belly. Recently, when the 4th cat and guests arrived, she reacted by stopping eating, 3 weeks of getting progressively skinnier. Rebecca tried her on some kitten food and that did the trick, she has her appetite back, she is playing again. And I love her, I love this one the most. She believed me, the things I told her as a kitten, and we have a strong bond. I will play with her more, I promise.

And there is Kitten. Another of Rebecca’s rescue’s, she has been with us for 2 months. Too long, but she has made great progress, for a kitten hiding under the bed, a kitten who wouldn’t groom, a stinky scared kitten, to one that plays all day and is getting, as Rebecca observed this morning, a little tummy. We need to re-home her,  and if we’re successful, this will be hard for Rebecca. I’m reminded of Jellybean. We have tried to help a lot of cats, I hope this one has a happy ending.

We’ve had a hard day. I know, I said that last year. 2015, it started so badly, and I will say only that we are in better shape now, we are cautiously optimistic, after some bad and frightening times. And I have prayed and I have cried and I have tried to lead, and not always succeeded.

Murph, it’s been 10 years since we brought you home and 5 years since you died.

I take some time to think about that. I’m at the library today, so I can’t just cry at my desk. It’s funny, the pain of holding back tears, it’s not like anything else.

I will take my walk tomorrow, to the train tracks, and I will hold your memory in my heart and I will tell you that I love you and that I miss you.

There, I shed a tear anyway.

The weather forecast is for rain and grey. I’ll get a little Broxburn weather, and I’m glad about that.

Murphy, I’ve had some bad nights this year thinking about you, feeling my useless guilt about the mistakes I made, when I let you down. And I know, I shouldn’t feel just grief and guilt for you, and it’s not like that, but sadness is allowed. I’m not going to try and rationalise the way I feel.

I look forward to this day, because I want to speak to you. I want you back, just like I sometimes I want our old life back, and our American life (I’m American now, which was an expensive ordeal, and let me tell you, compared to love, so fucking what about being American?) is a risk, and risks don’t always work out.

I’ll tell you that we’re not eating meat anymore, we’re not eating cows or chickens or pigs or sheep. Because we’re both sick of hurting animals. Because we’re all in this together.

But I digress, ha. I just spent 10 minutes looking at photos and thinking about posting something to Facebook. But no thanks.  I’m sick of the stupid things people say, I put up with it in business but I…will follow my own path on this one.

What does it say that I can’t think about you like this without crying? That I’m broken, that you broke me, that I have still to go through some recovery process.

Today, I’m not interested in that. I think about the gardening I’ve done this year, the wood staining, the car-washing (not so much car washing, I have to get use it or lose it) and for all of that, you would’ve hung out with me, watching, careful not to get splashed, but watching. And that’s what Maisy and Daisy are desperate to do, and they cry if I don’t let them.  So then we let them and then I get to spend all that time getting them back inside again. Hey, they are harness-walking cats, most of the time. Rebecca yearns for the day when we live in some fantasy house and yard where we can let the cattens run free. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that. But I do take them outside, and we walk, and they hunt birds and squirrels and I’m a terrible friend of cats when I clap my hands to warn birds away and keep my hand on the leash to protect wildlife and…yes, I know, there’s no way we ever would have done that with  you.

I miss you a lot.  And I promise to take care of the cattens, and sully, and I wish we could have had more time with you but we weren’t that lucky.

I saw a cat on my walk yesterday, by the rental homes opposite the cinema. Beautiful, skinny thing. Her tail went up and she thought about coming to see me, and then she watched me from the bushes instead, and I told her good luck.

I speak to cats. I speak to all cats. And really I’m speaking to you, I’m loving you, every time I clean the water bowls or scoop the litter (those boxes you never used) or, fuck, I just speak to cats and I continue to speak to you.

I’m sorry for the things I did wrong, especially near the end. I won’t list them yet again. And I wish for a time when I can see you again.

What a mess these messages are. Good thing you know all of this already.

Last thing. Maybe the most important. I had a perfect dream about you this year, after a couple of bad ones.  In this dream, I held you, you were happy and healthy, and it was a love dream. Just love. And it gave me faith, that you’re in the next place, in peace.

It’s been five years. You were the cleverest, most stubborn, most wild of cats, and you slept on our bed like a rock, and you killed a lot of birds and mice and those fucking voles, and you fought cats and dogs and then you were a gentleman with our foster cats, and you were a friend of the children in our street,  you were famous, and you came running to me when I came home from work, all the way down the street, and you sometimes, just sometimes, were content to sleep on my lap, and I could talk to  you and sing to you and you would purr like a tiger, and outside you would wrap your tail around my legs and you would claim me and show that we were friends.

I miss the sound of the flap, I miss the dirt you brought with you from outside. I miss seeing you squashing the plants outside as you slept. And I miss your power bonks, your scratches, your miaows,  your blinks.

Thank you for being my friend, thank you for helping me and especially, more than anything, thank you for helping Rebecca. She saw an old Facebook post from this time, 3 years ago, where I said Heaven’s wallpaper must be in tatters by now. Yeah, keep on scratching.

I love and miss you. I’ll speak to you tomorrow, out loud, in the rain, and the day will belong to you.

Hamish

Dear Murphy (4 years)

So the deal is that I write this and then go for a walk, do my reflective thing. And I find myself thinking, maybe I won’t have time for the walk, as if the rest of my day is so important, too important to walk and think about you.

Maisy is on the perch, looking out the window. I love her the most, it’s true. We are too attached, and she is anxious, neurotic, she still over-grooms, but her stomach is fuzzy, she has moved on to her legs instead. I take her out on the harness, and either it goes OK or it goes badly. We’re still trying to work this out. And 2 nights ago, for the first time since she was a kitten, she slept on my lap. That was the prize. As the nights get cooler, she’s remembered the warmth of our bed, so several nights a week there are 3 of us under the duvet. She is a good cat. She’s off the medication, she’s eating the wet food (as well as her dry food crack). I don’t have to worry about her at night, because she’s inside. I’m scared of losing her. I’m scared of finding her cut to pieces.

I’m not ready to write about you yet. My eyes blur when that happens. The garage door is opening, Rebecca on her way out. It has been a bad year for loss. I only use ‘bad’, even though I think really it was terrible, because I know it can, and it will, be worse one day.

Rebecca’s grandmother died at the beginning of the year, and that was sudden for us, because we weren’t there. Rebecca was in her father’s hospital room when she got the news. Can you imagine? No, probably not something cats think about.

Rebecca’s father died in May. It was not sudden. His death, his dying, took over our lives. That’s too much to talk about here, but you know how she was when she got sick back home. You would’ve helped here, too. You would’ve made things better. That’s what I think.

Daisy is chunky. She is beautiful. She loves us in a cat way. She has also slept on my lap once or twice recently. They have discovered this as a possibility. Funny how long it takes. It was 2 years before you started that. Why did you waste so much time? She likes to play, and she still fights magnificently with her sister. They are so good together, and so I can torment myself with thoughts of when one of them dies. Anyway, we move the cat tree downstairs into the bedroom, your photo is still beside it, and she climbs on there when we go to bed, hanging out with us. She is the one cat that doesn’t like sleeping on the bed at night, never does it.

Sully has taken to the harness really well. He loves being outside, and we’re pals outside. Inside he’s still Rebecca’s boy. Now he climbs onto her chest and purrs into her face. He adores her, demands love from her. And he still sprays around the house. The cattens sometimes play with him, they are getting to be friends, perhaps, the 3 of them. But he’s so much bigger. He is a good cat, and he’s off the medication. Drug-free. This morning, Rebecca discovered what might be an abscess in his mouth. Whatever it is, it’ll be expensive, right?

And there is a fourth cat. He/she/it is temporary, a kitten Rebecca found on Saturday. She couldn’t abandon him. You would’ve agreed. You were always so accepting of other cats inside (not outside). You put up with them, I don’t know why, but I’m glad. Maybe because you were always the one who got to stay. You were forever.

This ginger kitten, Rebecca will find a permanent home for him. It’s not like Sully, this is a fostering situation. He’s in Rebecca’s office and he is affectionate and playful. I’d forgotten how small kittens are. Daisy seems the most upset by this new arrival. Well, we want him to have a good home, but it’s not here. We’ll help him get taken care of, you know that.

10 days ago, close enough that I considered it a sign for today,  a cat climbed up a wire screen  and looked in my classroom window. A tiny kitten. I thought it was a bird at first. I went outside and thought it was trapped in a grate in the sidewalk. I called Rebecca, who was home with a friend – I asked her to come help, I couldn’t just leave it there, and guess what? She said yes, of course, she’d come right away.  And I’m grateful for that, because I was feeling ready to break down right there and then.

And then I blow it, leaning close to take a photo through the grate, and I scare the kitten, who squeezes through a gap and runs down the street. So fast, and I go after her, and she freezes for a moment, seeing a man on the other end of the street, looking back at me and I actually think I’m going to get this kitten back, that she’ll know instinctively I’m a good guy. But she doesn’t know any of that. She squeezes under a construction fence and is gone.

Does she know where’s she’s going? I don’t know. I check the grate and street two more times in the afternoon, calling for her. No sign. So either she miraculously had a family of people or cats to go to or she’s dead, right? And I cried about that, and I prayed about it too. And I felt like an idiot for praying, even though my faith was solid with you.

So good luck to that kitten. And good luck to the kitten (older but still just 4/5 months old, we think) in the office. Good luck to cats. God bless cats, right?

Maisy is still here with me. Looking out the window. Ears pricking at the squeak of my chair.

So we come to you. It’s been an easier year. A better one, in terms of feeling sad about what happened, about how you suffered. Just a couple of lost nights, I think, unable to sleep. And I’m allowed to cry today.

I’ll tell you what I think about the most, it’s when you were outside and it was freezing,  you were huddled in the bush and I was trying to get you back inside. tempting you with all kinds of food that you couldn’t eat. And you finally came to me and I still think you were doing me a final favour. And I know if I hadn’t brought you back inside that night, you would’ve stayed outside to die, because you wanted it to be over, and instead we tortured you for 3 days at the hospital.

Maisy’s watching. She doesn’t like it when I’m. I can feel it in my hands.

When is it enough? Have I not let go of you? I think maybe that’s all bullshit, that I will always grieve for you. And I can love these cats alive in our house at the same time.

I looked on the cat rescue website recently where we found you, where I saw that terrible, fantastic photo of you 9 years ago. Your memorial message is still there but all the photos are gone, broken files. I was glad to read the message. They’re still active, of course, rescue places rarely shut down due to lack of demand.

I still miss you. I will always miss you. And I’ve thought about how content you were, often how safe you felt outside, snoozing in the garden. There’s a lot I’m sorry about, that I wished I’d known better, smurf, that I’d do differently. But I loved you so much and I…I think I was a good friend to you. And so was Rebecca.

It’s been a hard year. Maybe this will always be a hard month, because this is when we found you and lost you.

And this blog is just for you. I have nothing to say except how I feel about today. I will miss you at Halloween, and Thanksgiving. I will miss you in the snow and in the spring. I miss you when I wash the car or work outside.

I’m out of time, you know the rule. I’ll go for our walk, now. I love you and miss you. I’ll walk and remember you well in my heart, supreme bonker, killer, thief, monster, sweet boy.

 

Dear Murphy (3 years)

I have an hour. That is, I have all day but I’m going to limit myself to one hour.

Maisy and Daisy are fighting. Play-fighting that sounds and looks a lot like real fighting. They are a louder, a lot more, than they were a year ago.

Daisy is chunky, she is wide, stout, hefty. She wants to eat all the food, all the food in the world sometimes. She is possessive and jealous of whatever any other cat is eating. She also gives the best eye-blinking cat kisses. She learned by watching Sully how to be brushed, and she loves it. It’s a new thing, to have a cat that searches us out to be brushed. Daisy is unpredictable outside; most of the time she will stay on the deck, happy to hang out near the back door; but then once in a while we’ll see her up a tree, and she is also the the biggest killer. And no one likes that. I try to keep the cats in as much as possible, to reduce the kill-count, to reduce neighbour-trauma.

Maisy is the one…she is just the one. From the beginning she decided, sometimes hysterically, that she needed me around all the time. Earlier in the year that changed; she spent more time outside, more and more, until we were letting her out at sunrise and she would slope back inside at sunset. These 12, 14 hour adventures…where did she go? Further than we’d like. She would be MIA during thunderstorms, we would be waiting up for her to come home.

Now that she is inside all day, and escapes outside for just a few minutes in the evening, she has groomed all the fur off her belly and hind legs. Cue the vet visits, cue the Cat Prozac. This has been six months of trying different things. I’m day 2 into a ‘holistic’ treatment – does this sound desperate? I start each new idea with the belief that it will actually work. I guess we’ll see.

Sully is doing better.  He is Rebecca’s cat, he adores her. He’s less scared, although he still sprays. He’s very sensitive to arguments, to raised voices, he is our sensitive child. He is also a killer outside; his record is catching a bird 7 seconds after we opened the back door. We rescued that bird, only for Maisy to get it, only for me to rescue it again. We have rescued birds and rabbits, and we have also failed to do so.

Together, it is a lot of cat. We went away for 4 nights, and a cat-sitter was hired. She turned out to be fantastic (like Shelagh).

They all have their good points. Daisy with her blinking kisses, Maisy with her proud upstanding tail, full of confidence and happiness, and her acrobatic jumping. Sully with his muh-muh-muhhhh conversations. They are all hungry, playful, no one is hiding under the bed, except for thunder-storms and then I can’t blame them. They all have different hunting and playing styles. They mostly get on well together, it’s better than we probably deserve.

Rebecca ans I take turns considering which is the biggest cat problem we have. Maisy tends to win; her baldness is so visible, it looks so miserable. Because Maisy and I have the strongest connection, I can torture myself by believing she is soaking up my anxiety; that I’m making her sick, and in turn that I made you sick as well. I can think that way and it does nobody any good.

I went for walk this morning with the little wooden heart in my pocket. I walked and thought of you. I though of the very worse things that happened and that doesn’t help either, I suppose. These cats in our house, they’re not you. It’s different. On one hand I think, now I have three cats that are going to die, why would I open myself up for that? But then I remember I made a promise, and so that’s what we’re doing.

I’m struggling to know what to write here. Will I do this next year? It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s that I don’t know what to say today. How many times should I write how badly I feel done? And yes, this year it’s been better (except for today, because today’s it’s awful). When it’s been 5 years, when it’s been longer than I knew you, what do I do then?

It’s been a hard week because I knew today was coming and I’ve been remembering all the bad things that happened in our last Scottish year. What a shitty fucking y ear.

But that’s not all true, is it. There were times when I sat it various office buildings and thought, we’re not going to the United States because I screwed up, because I was weak and worthless (and because Scotland was conspiring to keep us there, with every trick in the book). But we made it after all. And I had to be strong, and I had to fight, and we got what we wanted.

And we didn’t get to take you with us.

You were cleverer than the cats we have now. You were more popular. And you were content just to hang out with me, outside or inside. We used to think you were difficult, but perhaps really you were easy.

I was talking to someone about happiness the other day. I have conversations like that these days, it’s what language teachers do. And I could pick lots of things to feel happy about, things that other people would connect with or recognize or appreciate. But the happiest feeling for me is when the cats are eating or drinking. The things you wouldn’t do at the end.

I’m sorry I pick this day to be unhappy. Is it insulting? Rebecca said I should pick a different day, I should celebrate instead of concentrating on loss. She’s probably right. I have no idea.

For the record, and because part of me believes you get my messages and prayers, and because I just need to say it, I love our cats, and I think we’re all connected, and a kindness I do for Maisy or Daisy or Sully is like a favour to you, a lesson learned.

You were the best one. I miss you beginning to purr just because I entered the room. I miss the sound of the cat-flap, or you crashing onto the bed at night. I miss your thieving from the fridge, I miss you watching as I washed the car. I miss you sleeping in the garden, flattening our plants, King of the jungle. I miss the way your tail wound round my legs when you bonked me; that was in the last view months before you died; something new.

Maisy is a the top of the cat tree. She licks her bald belly. Rasp-rasp-rasp. Sully is on the couch, asleep. I don’t know where Daisy is, probably crying at Rebecca. All our cats are vocal, they talk and talk and talk.

I promise to take care of these cats. I promise to be strong and do the difficult vet stuff, and I promise to play with them and treat them with love.

And I promise to be better next year.

I miss you and love you,

Hamish