Saturn returned to bite me in the ass.
Yesterday morning in the animal hospital, after a month of deteriorating health on a few fronts, my orange cat, Lily, died somewhat suddenly. Yes, she was sick, and yes, she was in the hospital, but I saw her at about 6pm the night before when I went to visit, and she was awake, lively, loving, playful, and much more like herself than she’d been for at least two weeks.
I picked Lily up on a semi-whim at the Chicago Care & Control in April of 2005, just before I graduated from college. My friend and roommate Megan and I drove from Evanston to the south side of Chicago because I wanted to “just look” at cats, but if looking liking moved, so to speak, I knew I wanted a cat from a kill shelter. She weighed in at about 5.5lbs but was fully grown, as tall and lanky as she’d be for the next 8.5 years, just skinny. They told me to feed her kitten food to fatten her up, and I did. Before I knew it, she was up over 13 lbs. Whoops.
After graduation, Lily and I moved to Chicago proper, and without her kitty friend Little Man in the apartment or my three roommates, I started to worry that she was lonely all day—or rather, I knew that she was lonely all day, because when I’d come home from work and plop down on the couch, she would immediately walk straight over to me, walk up my chest, and spend 20 minutes smashing her face into my face.
I adopted Bear in January 2006 to keep her company, and the three of us managed to move to New York a year and a half later, again with the invaluable assistance of Megan, and we’ve made our way in this city together since then, through four apartments and a handful of roommates. Erica took amazing care of both girls in the three years we lived together, including the time Lily got vertigo (which the vet initially told us was meningitis, so that was fun) while I was out of town and countless other absurd cat mishaps. Charlie has taken great care of them, too, especially in the past month. It did not take long to turn him into a cat person, needless to say.
Lily fell off windowsills, ottomans, sink ledges, bathtub ledges, and basically anything other than the floor that she tried to walk on. In Chicago, when I thought I had so beautifully arranged my final four hardcover Harry Potter novels in my bedroom windowsill, I woke up night after night to her teetering along the sill, stopping to front-paw them, one-by-one, to the floor. Guests to my apartments over the years have been told not to leave things—phones, water glasses, eye glasses, dentures, what have you, on coffee or bedside tables overnight, because Lily would just jump up and knock it all off for them. She religiously waited for the bathroom sink to be turned on for her, prompting guests in Evanston, Chicago, and all four NYC apartments to pop back out of my bathroom and say, “Uh, your cat wants to watch me pee, is that okay?”
When I moved to New York, she started pooping on the floor. It was a weird thing, and it was a gross thing, but we also lived in the grossest building of all time for the first few years. The floor-shitting waxed and waned over the years, and she never really stopped. She got better about it out here in Brooklyn, where she couldn’t feel the subway rumbling and where she had plenty of room to relax. She also sat in front of every open window she could, followed the warm sunspots from our skylights, and bee-lined for the roof every chance she got out here in Park Slope.
She unspooled toilet paper and chased every possible string-like item. Trying to tie your thick wool coat sash? Sorry, there’s an orange cat clawing up your leg for it. Trying to plug in that blender? Yeah, just don’t electrocute the cat.
She liked sparkly toys, rolling toys, and string, but not catnip or the laser pointer. Those she left for Bear. She ruined every last bit of my furniture with her claws, and I did not really care.
Charlie pointed out yesterday that Lily demonstrated affection in a way Bear does not—Bear seeks affection FROM humans, but Lily showed it TO me, and Charlie, and Winston, and Erica, and everyone she loved. If she loved you, you knew it. She put her face on your face for a while, and then she’d sit nearby but leave you basically alone until you went to the bathroom.
The past 24 hours have been sad. Just, plainly, sad. On one hand, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something weirdly selfish about mourning a pet when we lose human loved ones year after year, and I feel silly explaining my puffy face and slow email responses, or even getting all up on the internet to say “my cat died.” It sounds insubstantial, it sounds like a little thing. Which it isn’t, because on the other hand, she was my companion. And in the spirit of that NYT article from earlier in the summer about grief, I’m just going with it. I haven’t stopped crying because it’s not time to yet. I don’t worry that I won’t snap out of it in a few days, I just miss my girl. It’s a beautiful day today, and I’m off work, and the skylight sunspots are empty without her, and I’m fine being sad about that.
My brother said that Lily and I grew up together, and there’s a lot of truth in that. I was 22 when I picked her up, and had just gotten my first job and my first grown-up apartment was on the horizon. She was someone to come home to and talk to every night after work when I was on my own for the first time. She weathered a lot of boyfriends, roommates, and breakups, not to mention her fair share of short-term weirdos. I kept coming home to Lil, and she kept putting her face on my face and telling me she loved me, even when I was depressed or unemployed or torn apart by anxiety or other losses, basically every day. That includes Wednesday night at the animal hospital, when she nuzzled all up on me and smudged my glasses with her snot and eye gunk. I sat on the icky floor in the isolation room with her and let her get as close as she wanted, and as close as she could, given her IV, not knowing that it would be the last time.
In my world this week, a video’s been going around of Kristin Chenoweth singing “For Good” at the Hollywood Bowl with a talented fan plucked from the audience. This may surprise you, but WICKED isn’t really in my daily vernacular, so “For Good” was just one of those back-of-the-mind, half-known things for me until this week. I saw the video and got choked up on Monday or Tuesday, and then at 3:30 this morning, I just woke up with the song in my head, and I had a good cry with Bear.
I don’t know all the words, and I find this song pretty dang maudlin, but I do know that I feel all of the feelings in that song about my cat. The apologies, the gratitude, the knowledge that she helped make me who I am today by showing me she loved me, and for letting me learn to love her, for eight and a half years.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
Because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.
There is a crucial corollary to “dance like nobody’s watching”:
Poop like nobody else is in the bathroom.
This is so sad to me. I was too young to know of Gilda when she was alive, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving her. I only discovered her this year, when on a whim I read Bunny Bunny. I loved it so much that I immediately read It’s Always Something, bought it for my mom, and watched every Gilda clip I could find on youtube and in the library system, including The Judy Miller Show at least 200 times, as well as the bit where she lifts weights as Jackie Kennedy. She is THE BEST. I love her so much that i want to name my someday child Gilda, I’m not even kidding. She’s inspiring, from her work ethic to the way she loved her husband to the way her friends loved her to her battle with cancer. and duh, she’s HILARIOUS. that kind of talent doesn’t stop being funny just bc it’s 30 years old.
People with cancer cannot possibly be turned off by a place called Gilda’s Place. One, because Gilda is a beautiful name and makes it sound super friendly. Two, who the heck knows who Susan G. Komen is, but that hasn’t stopped people from donating to them! and 3, most importantly, if you are worried people don’t know who your namesake is, THEN TEACH THEM. Don’t take away your namesake, make her relevant again! That’s so easy, because she remains HILARIOUS.
When things like this happen, it makes me feel like old people have little respect for young people. And frankly, if they are worried that calling their organization Gilda’s Club will confuse people and make them not come in, do they really think calling it something nonconfusing like Cancer Hangout WILL make them come in? Get over yourselves, old people, and do a better job marketing yourself and understanding young people, and loving gilda.
Courtesy of a good ol’ boy I went to high school with, this GEM of a facebook status:
THE COW AND THE ICE CREAM - ONE OF THE BEST THEORIES OF THE LAST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
From a teacher in the Nashville area
"We are worried about ‘the cow’ when it is all about the ‘Ice Cream. ‘The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching 3rd grade. The last Presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest. I decided we would have an election for a class president. We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote. To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members. We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have. We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.
The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids. I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support. I had never seen Olivia’s mother. The day arrived when they were to make their speeches. Jamie went first. He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best. Everyone applauded and he sat down. Now it was Olivia’s turn to speak. Her speech was concise. She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream.” She sat down. The class went wild. “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream.”
She surely would say more. She did not have to. A discussion followed. How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She wasn’t sure. But no one pursued that question. They took her at her word. Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it… She didn’t know. The class really didn’t care. All they were thinking about was ice cream…Jamie was forgotten. Olivia won by a landslide.
Every time Barack Obama opened his mouth he offered ice cream and 51.4 % of the people reacted like nine year olds. They want ice cream. The other 48.6% percent know they’re going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.”
Remember, the government cannot give anything to anyone that they have not first taken away from someone else. Did you vote for the ice cream? THAT, MY FRIEND, IS HOW OBAMA GOT ELECTED!!
Uh, that is a cute story about elementary school politics. Like how on Parenthood, Max promised to get vending machines back in his school last week, and basically won on that platform. How does this relate to the complexity of governing our nation and to what Barack Obama has pledged to do as the leader of our country? Not sure. Also, were we promised ice cream? I hope not, because I am lactose intolerant, and I would never have voted for that.
Also also, wasn’t Mitt Romney the one running on a platform without a clear plan? Just checking.
Also also also, NICE jab in the story above re: Olivia’s mom. She probably has a job or something, and lord knows women who leave the home are unfit parents.