My cat died. Jaeger (say Yay-ger). I knew it was coming, hell you all knew it was coming. I mean a 20lb, 16 year old cat drops to 4lbs, stops using the litter box and starts getting into the shower with you, when you are showering, in a vain effort to get hydrated, the writing is pretty much on the wall.
Before Caleb died I think, no I know, I would have handled it differently.
I probably would have put her to sleep months ago, or at least when she started using the whole house as her personal litter box. I have always supported pet euthanasia and for that matter, I think it's pathetic we don't have a better system of people euthanasia, especially given the fact that a person can actually ask for it, where an animal depends on you to be brave and merciful when the time comes, if nature isn't working fast enough.
I couldn't do it this time. When my other cat, Hennessy, was sick and I knew he would never again be the cat he once was, I didn't even hesitate. It broke my heart and I cried so hard when they did it the vet had to ask "Are you really sure you want to be here for this?" The truth was, NO, I didn't want to be there, but I had to, because I loved him.
This time, I just didn't have the heart for it and I would never have let someone else do it for me. If someone was going to pull the plug on her, I at least owed her my presence and tears when she went out.
After my New Year's eve conversation with my son, I lost all hope of ever being able to put her down. I couldn't stand the idea of bringing anymore heartache into his world. It's not that I suddenly thought she would live for years if I didn't do it, but she had been living like that for a few months without any noticeable further decline and I decided my kids mental health was more important to me than my new carpet and wood floors. So I decided to let nature take its course.
Over the weekend she stopped eating. Tick tock. She still hung out with us so the kids didn't really notice but my husband and I knew she'd probably be gone before Monday.
Sunday, we went to visit new baby Harper. I thought my cat would be gone when we got home. I made her a nice bed and locked her in "her" room and we left.
Seeing the baby was nice. I know I buried a lot of emotions down deep, but I did hold her and smell her and love her for who she is, my beautiful baby niece. To me the hardest part was watching my kids hold her. That ripped at my heart more than I can ever describe. No, they weren't sad, I don't even think they made the same connection as I did. Their faces were filled with the wonder and awe that holding a brand new baby inspires. I stood back and watched and thought to myself, you both should have been able to have those feelings holding Caleb too. You were robbed. So was he. I hate this.
We got home late in the day and our kitty was still hanging in there but she was having difficulty walking. We told the kids that we thought this was it, that she wouldn't last much longer. They both did okay with that, I think. I mean they did the regular Sunday night stuff, but they would give her an extra pat or check on her more frequently. But no meltdowns.
I brought her up to bed with me but she only stayed a little while and then wobbly hopped off the bed looking for a more private place to be. I tucked her away in the bottom of a kitty tower and she seemed content there for a bit but eventually made her way back to her "room". I put her in her bed and pet her for a while, I told her I loved her and that her buddy Hennessy, was waiting for her when she was ready to go. And sometime during the night, she left.
Monday morning I found her. I wrapped her up in a blanket and let the other cats come see her. I am a firm believer in animals needing to know when another housemate dies. The three came in and smelled her, and our female, who we adopted last year, (she came to us knocked up and then proceeded to have kittens on my daughters bed, did I write about that???? can't remember and too lazy to go back and check)...but this "mommy kitty" as we call her, smelled Jaeger, licked her on the head and then lay down right next to her and stayed with her even after the other cats left. It was really touching.
The thing is, and why I decided to share or bore you with my kitty story, how my kids reacted. My son, was devastated but completely shut down. All day. He cried softly in the morning, barely let me hug him and wanted nothing to do with going in to see her or say good-bye to her before quietly leaving for school. My husband said that he cried all the way to school but stopped when they got there, to "tough it out" in front of the guys. My daughter woke up(after the boys had left) and the first thing she asked was "Where's Jaeger?" I told her. She ran downstairs opened the door to Jaeger's room, saw her, fell to her knees and just wailed. She cried hard and I cried with her. I am also a firm believer in the, "No one cries alone in my presence" philosophy. She sat with Jaeger, pet her, kissed her, and stayed with her until I had to drag her out to go to school. While she was looking at her, she asked me when Jaeger was going to go to Heaven. I realized she thought the whole cat would just disappear into the heavens, and here was our kitty, just laying there with nothing happening.
As many of you know, I am not a "God" person, but I have left the option open to my kids, as I want them to be able to make the choice to come over to the "dark side" on their own, after their own research and their own decisions. And I do believe in something bigger than me or us. It just doesn't have ANYTHING to do with RELIGION. So we sat and talked about souls and spirits and I tried my best to explain to her broken heart and her 6 year old brain, where I thought our kitty was and how she got there.
She told me, "I think I will cry at school today, too." I told her to go right ahead. Just to tell her teacher if she felt sad and that she would understand. Which she did.
My mom and my sister came over, made the vet calls for me (side note, pet cremation, WOW, what a racket, worse than funeral homes, and being a dead baby mom, I would know) and then sis drove me and my cat, to the "place". Thanks sis, big hugs for you:)
Between my two kids, I have always seen my son as the emotional one. He is so easily wounded by mere words or by the bigger things, like dead babies. My daughter, albeit, she is only 6, is much "harder". She tends to recover quicker, take things as they are and move on. She feels things and will cry on a dime, but a feeling is felt and then it is gone. My son ruminates, festers, and carries emotional weights on his back, much the same way I do. I don't know if it is birth order, or age, or the individual child, but that is who I thought they were. Opposites of the male/female stereotypes.
Okay so, back to "the thing is". Watching them grieve yesterday really opened my eyes. Especially given my somewhat "removed" state of mind. My son took the news in but would not really let himself feel any of it. He cried, but he didn't talk, he was sad but he hid it. He asked the big unanswerable question, "Why?" to which I gave him my all knowing answer, "It's life and sometimes, it just so sucks." He went to bed as sad as he was when he heard the news that morning.
My daughter attacked her grief head on. She ran into the kitty room, loved her kitty one more time and let all of her feelings fall where ever they needed to. And she asked all of the little and big questions, what would happen, where, when, how. Some I had answers for, some I didn't. And she talked about Jaeger, just like she talks about Caleb, openly, freely, matter of factly. She went to bed the happy child she always is.
And I realized, she isn't harder, she's more open. She feels it all up front, then works her way through it once she has the information she needs to grieve.
My son, he really isn't more emotional, he's just less equipped to deal with the emotions he has. In that way, he is pretty much a stereotypical, I am ashamed to say it, guy. He spent all day yesterday, trying to hide from his feelings. Trying to run from them. He doesn't want to feel them. Which I get, I mean, who wants to feel lousy anyway. But what I also get, is that if I let him grieve like this, if I let him "feel" like this, i.e. not "feel", he will, eventually, emotionally shut down. And become a man. The kind of man us wives spend years trying to get to open up.
I feel like such an idiot. Here I had thought he, my son, was more "affected" by the loss of Caleb because he has the random enormous break downs versus my daughter who drops Caleb's name as easily as she asks for more juice with her snack. When the reality of it is, he has the big breakdowns because he has no idea how to deal with it on a day to day basis. So he buries it and then when the feelings do come up, they are so big, and there are so many of them that he is completely overwhelmed by them and frightened by the feelings and loss of control of them. This only reinforces his belief that he is better off not having them in the first place.
Not so atypical after all. I was just blind to it.
Blogging has helped me be more like my daughter. It gives me a safe place to drop Caleb's name, without the collective gasp, "Ohhhh, she' s talking about her dead baby....run away, run away.". It has helped me feel the things I would have buried otherwise and because of that, helped me start to talk about them with my husband, and my family. I am not where I want to be with it yet, but I am working on it and for me, that's huge. The hard part is trying to do it for someone else too. I have no idea how to teach my son to feel things, a little at a time, to make them, ugh, "manageable".
I feel as though I got halfway up this huge mountain and was just starting to get into a rhythm and someone has called to me from below and said, "Hey, dumb ass, you forgot your backpack."