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 inĀ  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.