When I woke up yesterday morning, I figured I had just another day of toddler potty training to look forward to (That story coming soon to a blog post near you!). You know, poop and pee on every surface of the house except the inside of a toilet. The usual. But it ended up so much worse than that.
I've always been a cat lover, but I've never been lucky with cats. My first cat, Pounce, had a heart murmur and at the tender age of 8 we had him put to sleep due to complications from said heart murmur. Sulu, our second cat, died very young at 3 because of a lymphatic system that leaked fluid into his chest cavity. Pirtuk, as you all know, had himself a mental breakdown earlier this year, and decided the best way to deal with toddlers was to poop and pee in our basement. He's now happily living with two retirees in Decatur, Georgia. Andy is the only cat I've ever had that seems to be indestructible. He's never sick, never mean, never hurt anyone, and he's lived to be the ripe old age of 11 1/2 years. So, one out of four. Horrible odds, if you ask me. I should be banned from every adoption facility and cat breeder in the Southeast. Now the odds are even worse.
I gave my mother a cat nearly seven years ago as a Christmas present. Bandit was to keep her company and be her best friend. My mother wasn't dealing very well with the loneliness of widowhood and short of finding her a lonely senior citizen, I got her a four-legged fuzz ball. Mom and Bandit bonded instantly and were two peas in a pod. When Mom moved from West Virginia to Georgia four years ago, Bandit came back to his native state and decided he'd had enough of the solitary, sedentary life. So, he started destroying furniture whenever Mom left him alone to go work or go out with friends. See, Mom found something here in Georgia she never had in West Virginia: a social life. And that made Bandit a bitter cat. A month or so after we found Pirtuk a new home, Bandit came to live with us. He was a social cat who loved the chaos of our house and the never-ending attention from our kids. And we've been happy.
I always took pride in how much I paid attention to my pets. I knew when they didn't feel well. I could tell by the tail-angle alone how happy/sad/sick/pissed they were. If I didn't see the cat during the day, I went in search, sussing out every hiding spot to make sure said cat was just sleeping and not sick. Now? I barely have time to take care of myself much less my pets. They get fed and watered every day and I go "treasure hunting" in the litter box. But that's about it. My day is full of kids and the mundane tasks of a SAHM and housewife. I didn't see the warning signs that Bandit was sick until it was too late. Mom rushed him to the vet yesterday and what I thought may be a simple urinary tract infection became renal failure and a last good-bye.
I once posted about how I was dreading the talk with the kids. Not the sex talk, the death talk. Having to explain to my children that yes, people they love are going to die, that I am going to die, that they will die, and there's nothing we can do about it, is not a topic of conversation I've been looking forward to. At all. And I wasn't expecting to have that talk yesterday. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, you should always be honest when explaining what happened to your pet, don't use euphemisms, don't lie, and don't be vague. They may not get it, but you as the adult need to be honest.
So I sat there, with my 2-year-old's arms around my neck and my twin 4-year-olds watching the tears streaming down my cheeks, and I told them that Bandit is gone, that he's never coming home, that he can no longer see, or hear, or move, that this is permanent, forever, and that we love him and will miss him and that they can talk about him whenever they want. My heart broke as I remembered just one hour before holding my Mom while she held and cried over her cat, her best friend, the companion who gave her joy after Dad's death. I remembered that I signed the paper that ended Bandit's life, and I felt so very guilty for not paying more attention to him, making sure he wasn't sick, looking at his tail, his eyes, his fur.
I hate that I'm a person who can't keep track of everything, all the time. And I sit here and woulda-coulda-shoulda myself some more.
So, they'll ask. Miss-Miss will probably run downstairs in the morning, expecting to feed Bandit some treats and realize he's not there. J-man will ask where Bandit is. And Bubba will point out his toys or his bed. And I will have to explain again where he is and where he isn't. And I will cry some more. And I'll hate every second of not lying to my children. Of feeling guilty for not being more observant.
Because all I want to tell them is that we'll all live happily ever after. I just want to lie like a rug.