I suppose it was a good example of cosmic ordering, wish-fulfillment or just simple serendipity.
Just before Christmas I was ordering at the bar of my local pub. It was around ten years ago. I was with my old boyfriend. My son, who is allergic to cats, had moved out. The landlord said to me, so, what are you hoping to get for Christmas? All I want for Christmas is two baby cats, I said, surprising myself, I didn’t actually think anyone was going to give me kittens for Christmas. Quick as a flash, the landlord said, Peter over there’s looking for a home for two cats. Peter’s son and daughter in law had moved back home, the daughter in law had two cats, Peter had dogs who chased cats, so the cats were currently living outside.
The next day I went to their house. Halfway down the road a beautiful grey cat appeared. As we came closer to each other, he gave a big meow and literally leapt into my arms.
But you can’t take a cat around India in a backpack, so this weekend I took them to their new home, my grandfather’s second wife, my step-grandma, I suppose she would be called. She lives alone in a dear little house surrounded by gardens. Her own cat died a few months ago.
I dealt with things in my usual way: I filled a whole side of A4 with my ‘cat plan’, got super stressed out about finding exactly the right boxes (to make them nests that they could hide away in, with my blanket and pillow inside) and thinking about solving all the possible eventualities that could occur in the year we are away. But all I really needed to do on Saturday was take them and their food over. I stayed all the afternoon, stayed the night and stayed the whole of the following (yesterday) morning, long enough to see that they had both ventured out of their respective hiding places. They didn’t use my boxes, the house was full of corners and hiding places.
Arriving home, no calling ‘puss puss’, no cat waiting for me by the car, seeing shapes and shadows everywhere that looked like cats.
When my dog was at the vets and I thought he was about to die- he did- I washed all the walls down where his waggy tail had splashed mud everywhere. Not to forget, but thinking, if this is going to be my life, dog free, then I might as well bring it into existence now. (Actually I cracked and got another dog two weeks’ later). Now I have this strange urge to wash blankets and vacuum and have everything fluff free.
The last night we left the bedroom door open so the cats could sleep on the bed. We don’t often do that because even though it always seems like it will be cute, they always end up disturbing us by washing loudly, sleeping on my pillow and on my hair and scratching my face until I lift up the blanket so that they can get into bed. They did all of those things, and those behaviours were still annoying, even though it was our last night with them. When people or animals die, people often beat themselves up, saying, if only I’d known it was going to be our last day, maybe I’d have appreciated them more, maybe I wouldn’t have got irritated… But knowing didn’t seem to make that much difference.
Lying on the floor of the sitting room post yoga with my blanket over me, one of the cats kneading me and then settling down upon me, I concentrated hard on this being the last time, but I couldn’t enjoy it any more than I normally do. I’ve had a rich experience with the cats, I’ve loved them and cuddled them and enjoyed being with them, so much so that I couldn’t amplify that experience any more just because it was the last evening. Which I suppose is a good thing, it means there’s no regrets. But it does bring me face to face with the bare facts: Much more than decluttering old photographs, selling the house or giving away the furniture, more even than leaving friends and family for a year. Dismantling the cats’ home and breaking up our little family: This is what I am prepared to do to live the life I want.
I cooked dinner quietly, declining offers of help, and with no music or videos or blogs for distraction. Sorting out the laundry, realising I didn’t need to worry about the cats sitting in it. Same with leaving jumpers on the sofa or carrier bags lying about. So sad. Feeling kind of anxious, bent out of shape. I had already been for a walk, already had a burst of creative energy and written loads of notes. It was evening and cold and dark outside. So I did what usually works in such circumstances and did some yoga whilst listening to music on YouTube. It didn’t work that well, maybe the music was too sad.
I broke the five second rule last night (don’t get emotional about anything for longer than..) but it’s got to be okay to feel sad sometimes hasn’t it?