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 (2 years)

Dear Murphy,

I’m going to write. And then I’m going to stop. And I won’t mess with it.

I’ve been waiting a year to write this. And now I’m speechless. Maisy is sitting on the desk, crying for attention, rubbing against everything she sees. It’s like she knows she’s not the cat I’m focusing on right now.

Okay. It’s 2 years since you died. And now we have 3 cats. 3, as it turns out, is so much more than 2.

Maisy and Daisy, sisters we brought them home as kittens in January.

Daisy is a conventional house-cat  happy to chase flies around the house, affectionate, hungry. She has a variety of purrs, from needy to hungry, and the sweetest, sleepiest look on her face when she’s happy. Her grunty purr, her wind-herself-around-your-ankles as you walk downstairs as you head, surely, to the kitchen – that is my favorite of her purrs. She is our hungry cat.

Maisy is hysterical, with an emergency siren miaow, that’s at its most irritating when she wants outside. And she always wants outside. There are feral cats, around here, in a country of abandoned and neglected animals. There are multiple hazards, and Maisy is asking for it, she charges head-first into trouble. Maybe it’s this quality, the certainty that she will end up causing me grief, that makes her my favourite. She is slight, but she is a wannabe killer, of birds, squirrels, of anything we share the garden with. She is ready to fight, and she adores me, and yeah, sucker that I am, she is surely my favourite.

Maisy is named for our Scottish side, our Morningside, and Daisy for the South, our Daisy Duke. They’re both beautiful, I love my girls. Both these kittens are rarely afraid, and they are never afraid of me. This makes me happy. And they wrestle each other, romping and crashing through the house. And they both can yawn and miaow at the same time, which strikes me like a magic trick every time.

Sully, we found him by the swimming pool of our old home, abandoned and hungry. I fed him daily for two months, and then we took him with us to the new house. (It was during this time, when I was calling shelters and trying to find him a good home that wasn’t ours, that I realised how you broke me, broke the cat part of me.)

Sully is a big boy, with a growling miaow, eager to please but still so very nervous. He’s been let down, he’s been left behind. And it’s because of you that I took him in, because I made a promise, some absurd promise to a dead cat that I’d treat cats right, that I’d do the hard stuff.

We took Sully to a shelter but I couldn’t leave him there; ten minutes after letting them take him we were back to say we’d changed our minds. It was a very Disney ending for Sully, but it was you I was thinking of.

Rebecca tells me that my feelings about you, my guilt and shuddering grief that won’t go away, that this is a problem. She’s right about that. I’m still broken over you. I’m supposed to let it go, the shame of letting you down, and I’m supposed to let you go. But I’m afraid to do that. Neither of us have a Heaven to go to, there’s no reunion, and this wasteful, worthless grief, it must be better than saying goodbye. Writing it down,  it’s ridiculous, but I must have a good reason for holding onto these feelings. If it wasn’t doing something for me, I’d just fucking stop it, right?

Maisy doesn’t like it when I cry. She’s provoked, disturbed. I don’t cry often these days, I’ve managed to cut a lot of that out, which is good, which is an improvement on the first year.

It was a hard decision to get the kittens. Maisy and Daisy were Rebecca’s choice, which she was entitled to. I’d wanted adult cats, but there were too many that looked like you, and that would’ve been impossible. We were in the adoption part of PetSmart, where the rescued cats do their daily audition. It was a struggle for me to  keep my shit together. But we brought them home and it’s been a good thing.

Our 3 cats. They are nothing like you. They are not as clever, or stubborn, not as vicious, not (so far) as lethal.  I have grown to love the kittens, no confusion there, they are here to be adored. And I’m fond of Sully,  I want him to lose the fear and anxiety he exudes.

But I fell for you, the moment I saw you.

I’m just so very sad about you. You’d like this house, the sun, the garden. You’d like the kids. You always like hanging out with the kids. And given the choice, I’d make the swap in a heartbeat. Them for you.

But you broke, you died. And I remember that day.

And I find more, not less things to feel guilty about. The food we bought you, prescription stuff, expensive, turns out it’s crap compared to what we’re buying for the cats now. I should have done better research. And the vet? I agonized over that, checked out plenty, not like with you, finding the one closest to home. But of course, with better food and a better vet, you’d still be dead. We could’ve fed you fresh chicken every night and you’d still have gone out hunting.

Maisy and Daisy love to be held, something you never put up with for very long.

We have some photos of you on the wall in a single frame. I see those every day, that’s fine. And there’s a painting of our impossible-family, with you and the cattens together, and I can look at that. But I can’t look at other photos, I can’t look at video. Because if I do, there’s a moment of surprise, of unfamiliarity, because you don’t look like our every day cats. You’re from before, you’re from long gone.

But I think about you every day. And it’s part of my job of fixing myself, of surviving and succeeding in our American life, to pay respect and remember you clearly. And I know you’re so much more than those last few weeks.

This isn’t good writing, it’s not designed. I’m not going back to over it.  It’s just for me and you. I wanted to write something today, just something to tell you that things are different and yet they’re partly the same, that a lot of wonderful cat things have happened this year, and that I’m still ripped up. And that you’re the best one, nothing will ever come close again.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at your old photos, your snips of video. I’ll be clearer about how you looked, how you moved. I’ll feel closer, and that will hurt. But it’ll be a little bit better, too. And this is okay.

And the truth is, I’m better about all of this than I was 12 months ago. I’m still ruined, but I’m better. And next time, I’ll write something that’s less scattered. And in the meantime, I’ll look after our cats, because I promised you I would. And I agree, that’s a mostly crazy promise, but I feel better for sticking to it.

Murphy, I remember the day we found you, I remember the day we lost you, and I remember plenty of what came in-between. I love you, I miss you, and for now and forever, rest in peace.

Dear Murphy (365 days)

Murphy Rd signI have two of the finest memories of you. I try not to bring them up too often, I don’t want to wear them out.

The first we have video of; Rebecca, you and me in the garden, summer 2008. You had been sick but were on your way back, the shaved spot on your neck evidence of blood tests that made you wail and fight.

We’re just hanging out with our cat, and that sounds flimsy but it was massive, I remember at the time understanding how big this was. Two months before, Rebecca and you were both sick, and there was a piece of time that I thought I was  losing both of you. So I was grateful, in the garden, for peace and family.

My second memory is August 2010. In the front garden enjoying a rare day of warm weather and blue skies, and it was the three of us, hanging out, you doing the rounds at all of the neighbours before coming back to bonk our legs, wrapping your tail around us. We’d already asked friends to look after you when we left the UK, and I took a moment, then, to enjoy the moment outside our house with the For Sale sign, knowing this wasn’t forever.

And you died 2 months later. But you know that, right?

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