Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nytro

Finding my cat's old collar in the console of my car last week got me to thinking about her... and I haven't been able to stop thinking about her.  

I got Nytro from a shelter in Huntsville when I was in college.  My roommate and I both decided that if no one would date us, we may as well start being the Crazy Cat Ladies and really sell the crazy.  And yes, we also started The Boys Don't Like Me Club.  I believe I was President because I was the oldest, and I'm told that's how things work.

It was a good plan.  

Shortly thereafter, I met Benny... who wasn't exactly a fan of Nytro (nor she of him) but because they both loved me, they found a way to make it work.

I had her for 13 years.  She died in 2010, when I was about 6 months pregnant with The Bean.  

A lifetime ago. 

The day after she died, I went to the coffee shop with my laptop and big belly, and poured my heart into a blog.  Cheap therapy.

When I found the entry today, it made me think about things from a different perspective than I had before.  I guess that's what growing up does for you.  

I had Nytro for longer than I've been married, and yet... I got too busy for her.  When I became a mother, she became an afterthought.  I began rushing through so much of my life, that I didn't notice parts of my life were being neglected and withering away.  As I read this, I realized there are so many things in my life that I haven't been attentive to.  When you've got two kids under the age of 4, well, you get caught up in just living that life.  Surviving each day.  You're trying to soak up every moment ... and at the same time, trying not to let those moments drive you insane.  And it just seems like we need to slow down.  We need to take care of the things and people around us who matter.  Who sometimes become a low priority because you've got kids who need you to wipe their butt or their nose, who need you to 'watch diss!', who need you to feed them and read them a story and cuddle with them and take care of them when they're sick.  They're the vocal ones. They NEED to be vocal to survive.  You just can't ignore them because they won't LET you. You're not allowed to have adult conversation in front of them because it's all about them.  But there are others - other people, other things - that don't speak up.  They may not be dying, but you're losing touch with them.  You're losing touch with things that fulfill your soul and help make you complete.  Gardening, reading, writing, date night, girl's night out.  All of these things... you need them in your life. 

Nytro... she was never vocal.  And I lost her.  And in doing so, lost a part of myself.  

I need to remember that.  

--------------------------------

November 27, 2010
Dear Nytro,
I wish I had left you there. Under your favorite bush. The one that always seems to be in the direct line of the sun, and you would doze for hours under. The one that also served as camouflage when you didn't want to be found.

If I had left you there, maybe things would have been easier.

For you.

For me.

Even for Benny.

But I didn't. When we got home from our Thanksgiving trip to the farm, we found you laying under that bush, just like you always have.

Only you weren't sunning yourself. It was 30 degrees out. And you weren't moving.

I thought you were dead.

I called out your name, and you didn't even flinch. I touched you, and your tail only lightly twitched. And you still didn't raise your head or open your eyes.

I wish I had left you there. I wish I had gone in, grabbed a blanket and a hot pad... and let you die the way you lived life. Comfortably and on your own terms.

I could have sat there with you in the garden, by your favorite bush.  It would have been a cold, yet peaceful passing.

Instead, I took you from your chosen location, wrapped you in a towel and rushed you to the vet. To the place you hated most in this world. To a world full of stainless steel tables, IV's and vet techs rushing around trying to stave off the inevitable.

Has city living really taken that much of the farm out of me? I grew up understanding clearly the circle of life. I had never seen a pet actually die in front of my eyes, but I have heard the sound of the rifle when a horse had to be put down. I saw  the anguish in my parents eyes when they had to tell us that they accidentally ran over the dog or the cat.

And all of that sucked. But I got over it and moved on.

After all, this is how life works. Rarely did a dog or cat live past five years on the farm. Exposure to the elements, dangers from the highway, coyotes or even neighbors who have too much time and bullets on their hands.... this was all a part of having pets.

But you... you were different. 13 years old. I can't believe you made it that long. I can't believe that the little kitten I brought home from the shelter 13 years ago and who had nothing but attitude from day one was still around after graduation from college, marriage, a new house, a baby and another pregnancy. It was my new instinct to do whatever I could to help you. You were only 13... you still had a few more years left.

On the drive there, in the back of my mind I knew that when older animals are ready to die, they usually find a quiet place to go - like a favorite bush - to make the transition. And I blew it for you. But I wasn't ready yet. One day later and I'm still not ready.

As we sat there with you in the room, and the vet talked about things like kidney failure and total body shutdown, I just looked into your mostly lifeless eyes. You never blinked. You were already gone, weren't you? Your body hadn't quite stopped working at that point, but you were ready to go.

Benny says that you held on as long as you did so that you could say good-bye. I don't know if that's true or not. See, for the rest of my life, I'll believe that I'm responsible for your death. I will never believe that it was your "time to go".

While yesterday was pretty much a blur, I remember the vet asking me when you started to lose weight. He asked how long you had smelled so bad. He asked if you were drinking water. He asked when was the last time I noticed that you were "normal".

I didn't really have an answer for any of those questions. Had I noticed you had lost weight? Yes. On Monday I picked you up and thought you felt lighter. But in my haste of being a Mommy, I attributed it to the fact that my "normal" these days is that of a 28 pound toddler. I noticed that day that you seemed a little sluggish. But I thought it might just be the cold and since you were getting older, it was effecting you more.

When was the last time you were normal? When was the last time I did more than give you a passing pat on the back or rub on the head as I was feeding you? When was the last time I did more than acknowledge your existence when Hazel was petting you before I rushed her into the car to go to the store or school or a play date?

Weeks?

Months?

I failed you, Nytro. In the worst way.

While we sat in that room hoping your body would warm up, I rubbed your ears. I scratched your chin. I told you that it was okay if you had to go. That you had lived a good life. Your eyes sparked a little when I scratched your chin. That always was your favorite. You had lost your voice, but it seemed like you were trying to talk to me. But they said that it was just spasms.

When the vet was finally able to get an IV in after 30 minutes of trying due to your collapsed veins, I started to think that maybe you were going to pull through this. You always were a fighter. You rarely backed down from a fight with the neighborhood strays that sometimes ventured onto our property. Of course, you also knew that in any fight, Benny or I would soon be bursting through the door in our bathrobes ready to take out whichever cat was messing with you that night.

So, when you started to perk up after they got some fluids in you, I felt myself relax with relief. You were going to be okay. Just had to get some fluids in you... maybe some meds... and pamper you for a little while.

I thought that we had dodged a bullet.

As the vet talked about what was possibly going on with you, you started to struggle... like you were trying to get up and move.  At first I thought: There's my girl. Hates the vet!!

But then, I knew... something wasn't right.

"What's wrong?"

The vet listened to your heart. There was a rapid heartbeat, but you weren't breathing. Suddenly, you gave one last huge exhale. Your eyes dilated. Your heart stopped.

And that was it.

You were gone.

Just like that. Right in front of me.

Words continue to fail me when I think about witnessing that event. When I think about what you went through in those final moments... when I think about the relief I felt mere seconds before you died... my heart breaks into pieces.

I remember looking at the vet and asking him if he was sure you were gone. I couldn't believe it. Just like that. So fast. Gone.

It's so unfair.

I want a chance to make it up to you. I want the chance to sit with you on the porch and rub your belly again. I want the chance to take you to the vet the second I noticed your weight loss. I want to hear the little bell on your collar jingle outside the door to remind me that it was 5 minutes until dinner time and you wanted to let me know that you knew this.

I want you to meet our new baby in February.

I could have prevented this. And I didn't. Because I was busy. Because I felt like you could take care of yourself. Because life got in the way.

And for that, I'll never forgive myself.

After you passed, we were left with the decision of what to do next. It's too cold here to bury anything in the ground, and I decided I didn't need your ashes. I wouldn't know what to do with them. I said good-bye to your spirit... I was in the room when you made the transition, and didn't need anything else. I even refused the paw-print ornament that they offered to make. I don't know why... other than the fact that I already have a lifetime of memories of you, and more pictures than I know what to do with. An ornament doesn't really seem your style, you know? A framed hairball seems to be more you. But, I'll settle for your collar and bell.

It breaks my heart to know that when we go out in the mornings to get into the car, Hazel will look for you, and you won't be there. She will never again point at you, say "Kee-Kee!" and then excitedly walk over to you while you are eating and softly pet you. She won't remember you. She'll never get to laugh at you when you get another haircut in the summer. She'll never get to snuggle with you and hear you purring.

But, I'll remember all of that. I'll remember those 13 years with fondness. Both the good and the bad.

I'll remember how you never wanted to drink out of your water dish... preferring instead my glass of water. I'll remember how you never ever got aggressive with us... but let us know of your displeasure by peeing in our shoes or the closet. I'll remember how when you were little, you would wait for me to get home from practice and hop in the shower, and would then jump on the counter, grab my elastic band I had just taken from my hair and take it to my closet and hide it in an old pair of shoes I never wore. I found those hair bands 9 months later when I was throwing those shoes out. I'll remember the exact day when I realized that I didn't own a cat, but that my cat owned me. It was the day I ended up apologizing to you for yelling at you for knocking over my drink. I'll remember the first night I brought you home and you snuggled up in the crook of my neck and slept there all night. I'll remember how you were a one-person cat who didn't really need anyone else in her life. I'll remember all the days we made fun of your cow bag... especially after a haircut. I'll remember how much you hated getting a haircut, but how much you enjoyed it after the fact. I'll remember how you used to look out the window at the birds and smack your lips. I'll never have a Christmas where I don't remember you sleeping under the tree for a month. I'll remember when you caught a baby quail and brought it into the house to play with... and then got bored. Watching me chase that baby bird around the house was definitely entertaining for you. I think I even saw you smile, before regaining your composure and feigning indifference. I'll remember the day I found a rat in the house... a rat that was bigger than you.  You took one look at it, then me standing on the bed with a broom over my head screaming... and then slowly turned around and left me to fend for myself.  I found you later on the couch dozing.  I'll remember how you never got too excited or upset about anything. EVER. You had the most calm demeanor of any cat I've known... except if dinner was late.

But I'll never forget the fact that you were there for me during some rough times in my life. When all you had to do was curl up in my lap and start purring and I knew that things would be okay. The weekend when both Benny and my roommate moved away.  When I was broke as a joke and couldn't afford to fill up the car with gas, much less give you as much food as you wanted. As long as I had you, everything was fine. The therapy you provided me in those days was amazing and those who don't have pets... will never understand.

I'm sorry that I failed you in your time of need, Nytro. I will never not feel guilty about the role I played in your passing. And the fact that your passing wasn't what you had hoped for.

But thank you for hanging on long enough to say good-bye.

I will always love you.

1 comment:

Carrie - Worth Pinning said...

I hope you have forgiven yourself a bit and know that self-care is the best care you can give your family. Take the time to continue doing the things you love. See...the styrofoam was a blessing!