This is Grue. He was my friend.
Thirteen years and two homes ago, he came into our life; a rescue, a kitten. We were told the tale, how he’d been found in the middle of a farmer’s field with no other cats anywhere nearby. Supposition was that he’d been taken by a coyote, or perhaps even a large hawk, as he was so tiny. He’d been starved in that field, and was misshapen, short little legs, almost no tail, couldn’t meow. But that was nothing we couldn’t handle.
His first vaccination came not long after, but he had a terrible reaction to it. He spent hours just curled up on my leg, or when I lay down, my chest, and he wouldn’t move. He wasn’t much bigger than my hand. The vet told us he must have some sort of feline immunity virus, probably wouldn’t last the year.
He didn’t like people telling him what he’d do, as it turns out.
He was a mouser too. One week he started spending hours in our semi-developed basement watching a place where the gyprock separated from the concrete. We had no idea why, but he seemed happy enough, so we left him. It wasn’t long after that that he presented us with the results of his activity. We quickly convinced him that he should definitely bring those to us in exchange for kitty treats. He seemed proud.
He’s never been particularly healthy, having weird ailments that we always put down to the rough start he had in life. But the last few years he’s been not well at all. They called it some form of irritable bowel disease. We called it diarrhea spewing hell. Different diets, different medications, different tests, all kinds of things were tried, and some worked better than others. We got him to the point where he was generally in control of where he let go. But he’d still have bouts where he wasn’t, and sometimes would leak. Does adversity create bonds?
We had a routine, he and I. Each night, after everybody else had gone to bed, I’d put a washable blanket on the floor in front of the television and sit down to watch the late-night shows or play video games, or whatever, and he’d come and curl up between my legs, and we’d stay there pretty much ’til bedtime.
But lately he’d started to lose control again. And you could tell he wasn’t happy. He more or less gave up washing himself, and the other animals in the house gave him a wide berth generally. But we still had our nights ? it just meant our washing machine got more use.
A couple of days ago, he stopped eating, and was looking definitely worse. The bloodwork from the vet didn’t come back with anything unusual, no more unusual than normal, anyway. So we were sent home and told to see if we could get him to eat or drink anything, and if not by Friday, then we’d have to bring him in again and they’d start looking at intravenous feeding or other options.
Thursday night, he was lying in the pen we’d set up for him by the fireplace. He hadn’t moved out of his bed for a few hours, and while he was weak, he seemed content. We had the fireplace on to keep him warm and there was water, food, and a litter box in the pen with him, not that he’d been using any of them.
But as the evening sun came in, I started to worry that he was getting too warm, so I shut the fireplace off. Our fireplace makes ticking noises as it cools down. Usually for a minute or two.
It hadn’t stopped ticking when he started to twist up and let out a horrible rattle. And that was that. Friday morning wouldn’t happen for him. Like every time before, he’d decided what he was going to do.
I still wonder though, if I had left the fireplace on, would he have stayed with us, with me, a little longer?
So as you can imagine, I’ve been thinking about the nature of loss lately. I’m not a spiritual person. If it can’t be verified somehow, I’m not going to waste too much time believing in it. But sometimes I understand the temptation. As AU students, we’re all in different aspects of our lives. And if we haven’t felt this loss already, we know that we will someday. It’s one of the things that unites humanity. Sooner or later, we all end up suffering from this.
Still, it’s not a loss for him, is it? His last moments were being warm, sheltered, with food and water available, and being cleaned up as best as could be done by two people who cared about him. The loss is all on our side. That’s the thing about loss, it’s almost always one sided. Perhaps that’s the silver lining we can take from it. Even as we lose, we know that those we’ve lost don’t feel the same. Whether you believe it’s because they’ve gone somewhere better, or are just gone, the result is the same. They’re not feeling our hurt. Their feelings toward us are, at that point, fixed?unchanging.
And if those feelings were good, or if we suspect they were, there’s some comfort that can be had there.
This was Grue. He still is my friend.
Also in the issue this week, be sure to check out Deanna Roney’s article understanding fear, knowing whether it’s driving us to something or driving us away something, or sometimes both, can be vital if we intend to take control of our lives. Also, Carla Knipe takes a look at the new AU space being designed on Reddit by fellow student Billy Dee, and Barb Lehtiniemi brings to us the only article we received that gives a nod to the upcoming “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, which I firmly believe all AU students should celebrate.
Plus, of course, we have a selection of news, reviews, interviews and writing advice to keep you busily procrastinating. Enjoy the read!