Three years ago, we got some terrible news from our vet about my cat, Sesame. He was dying. Kidney disease. No way to stop it, and no cure.
It’s very sad; the news was difficult to take. Except three years later . . . he lives! And here’s the part that makes me a bad person: Sometimes that pisses me off.
I love him. I do. Except . . .
Kidney disease makes him the biggest twenty-year-old, four-pound asshole I’ve ever met.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend who had just lost her mother to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. It had been six months, but the tears and sorrow were still right at the surface. Caring for her mother had been a daily struggle for at least two years, but she had done it with grace and dignity, and still misses her mom terribly.
By way of comparison, sometimes I look straight into Sesame’s eyes and beseech him, will all earnestness, to “go into the light.”
There are several annoyances at work here. Though I’m doing everything the vet has prescribed, Sesame still drinks about 75 gallons of water each day, pees about 70 gallons into his box, then freelances the last five into various corners of my utility room.
When he’s not meowing for water (he requires it fresh from the bathroom faucet), he’s meowing for his holistic, organic, blah-pricey-blah soft cat gruel. Sometimes, it’s a sweet and timid “mee-ew.” Other times, it’s a full-fledged holler that screeches straight across the blackboard of my will to live.
Often, he’s meowing for no apparent reason at all. The vet says he may be forgetting where he is, so my husband Jim has been known to yell, “You’re in the living room!” Sometimes this works. Other times, Sesame just wanders into a different room and starts yowling anew, as if to say, “Okay, what about this one, jack-ass?”
Friends wonder why we don’t take him in for the big sleep. He looks like hell. The weight-loss is obvious, he walks like a puppet being manipulated by a four-year-old, and the cataracts make his general expression look quite vacant. A lion cut at the groomer from two years ago never really grew back, so we took to dressing him in turtle-neck sweaters to keep him from freezing his brittle, arthritic bones. He slightly resembles Bill the Cat modeling Abercrombie and Fitch.
“Did you Pet Cemetery Sesame?” Jim asked me one day. “It’s okay. You can tell me.”
But how do you put an animal down when he still has the gumption to dump your milk over, take one small sip, then walk away because it’s 1-percent and he prefers whole? How do you end a cat that can still jump up on the bed in the dead of night, then step on your neck until you begin to lose consciousness?
Recently, he’s taken to napping with his eyes open, which always scares the Holy Hell out of me until I check for signs of life, find some, then feel that familiar mix of relief, then disappointment, then guilt over the disappointment.
Where I’m from, we have what’s called the “Minnesota Goodbye.” It’s a long, lingering parting of the ways that often involves too much chatting, too many hugs, and leaves the recipient wondering, “How can I miss you if you never leave?”
Sesame is Minnesota-Goodbying the hell out of us.
Except . . .
Sometimes in the middle of the night, when he’s woken me from a deep sleep to obstruct my airway, he smashes his forehead into mine, purrs, drools on my cheek, and reminds me that more than anything, I just need to enjoy him while I have him. His time will come soon enough. And when it does, I’ll be blubbering all over the various social networks about him, and people will be sending me emails about their old cats and about the “rainbow bridge” and I’ll be checking the want-ads for kittens that look just like Sesame did twenty years ago when I was eighteen, and he was the size of a rolled up tube sock.
Some days, like today, the yowling forces me out of my house and into a coffee shop with my laptop.
Other days, I drop everything, grab a warm blanket, gather Sesame into a ball on the couch with me, and give him all the attention he claims to require until he gets sick of me and walks off in a hairless huff. Maybe I won’t miss him as much as my friend misses her mom. Maybe I’ll miss him more.
I wonder if he’ll ever give me the chance to find out?