Saturday, January 14, 2012
Sometimes I'd pick up Vickie, our cat, and tell her, "I don't know what I'm going to do when you die." It was kind of a joke to show that I wasn't sentimental. That I wasn't one of those "cat people" who think their pets are their babies.
Beyond being unsentimental, though, I needed to make a joke of the situation because it was the truth more-than-likely. And it turned out to be yesterday. We took Vick to the vet. She was blind and her back legs were paralyzed. Something neurological, the vet said. She was 17. Always a skinny wild baby freak, she got precious as she grew old -- so precious that she went from furious snapper if you touched her the wrong way to lap cat purring instantaneously if you picked her up. That transformation happened quickly, and she was like that for the last year or so. It was as if she had found a way to understand what dying is by becoming the sweetest thing on earth so she could leave it on good terms.
Before we took her to the vet I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I just started bawling. I mean it was like a force of nature. I felt like that little kid in Terms of Endearment when he goes in to say goodbye to Debra Winger.
Then the vet injected Vick, and she was gone, on a white towel in the examining room. It was cold as hell yesterday, and we took the basket and towels we brought her in back out to the van. Went to Cracker Barrel, because (keep those jokes coming) that's where Vick would have wanted to go. We always characterized her as pure white-trash, but lovingly so, as we are too. She was born in a factory in Hamilton, Ohio.
She used to run out the back door and over the back yard fence, up to a neighbor's pool. Whenever we wanted to find her when she ran off, we knew she'd be up there suntanning by the pool. Bumming cigarettes from people. Wanting a margarita.
I know I'm being sentimental and I should tell myself a lot of stupid jokes about cat-people and their eccentricities, but you know what? I'm a cat person. I loved that little stupid thing. 17 years knowing her. It was like time dying somehow right in front of you.
One more thing: she got really hungry as she got old and precious and sweet. She ate like a pig but lost weight. She would eat her food every day like it was her last meal. God help anybody who got in her way.