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.