i think i have to say it's Denial that i've firmly moved into. i know, from googling, that's supposed to be where i start, but there was something else last week. just the whole, raw grief and depression thing. oh, i'm all out of order.
i spent the entirety of last week crying daily, feeling bereft and soul achey. having that feeling when someone breaks up with you and you've done all the case arguing you can and they aren't coming back and you stay in bed at night trying to send out these wiggly waves of desperation through the air and across the city to convince them to change their mind (which works, by the way) and, in the meantime, you're left with that feeling. that feeling it plows so deeply through your mind that it descends into physicality.
welcome to the early 90s. i believe this was her first xmas. boy, she really did like pounce treats. i had to move them to a more secure location because i would come home from work to find she'd made a day of opening the upper cabinets and chewing the lid of the canister for a pounce feast. i think my mother secretly liked ttyki. or secretly wanted ttyki to like her. ttyki was definitely MY cat. everyone else could generally take off, as far as she was concerned. i blame myself for inadequate socialization.
so that's what much of last week was spent doing. i didn't want to vacuum. her little hairs are everywhere. i collected stray bits of snippings that had escaped on her last day and just keep turning up out of nowhere. i felt pain putting the wrapper from my new shampoo bar in the recycling because of the feeling i had had unwrapping it on that saturday to shower before taking her in to possibly die. i felt guilty eating or smiling or laughing or not being fairly immersed in memory. i held on to the pain. i could still feel the energy of the me and her in that room the two times i found myself driving by the vet's office. like i was about to figure out the nature of ghosts or energy impressions or whatever it is. i could feel her, that me, still in there and still going through it. forever. you can probably go in there in the middle of the night and hear glimpses of me crying.
cloth napkins on the floor in an adjoining room sticking out into a doorway and viewed peripherally are her, for a split second. there she is. she's still here.
i check to see if noises from other cats are her. i look under the little napping table. on the couch behind me. just in case. or to see her there anyway. violet coming out without warning from the back bedroom after her nap sounded exactly like an amplified version of ttyki's arthritic hips dragging the one, too-long nail. in the bathroom, my adrenaline shot out from atop my kidneys and caused me great fear as i looked out the door. i was surprised by my lack of calm and blamed it on too many viewings of flatliners or, maybe, pet semetary.
she finally came to my dreams sunday night. it was nighttime, in the dream. she jumped on to the couch next to me. she was lovely and young. she looked at me. she said meow. i was still a little frightened and tried to reason with myself that this was what i had been asking for and i shouldn't be afraid. she wasn't all ghost sparkly like the dream where a pre-ghost aunt mary showed up to say she was leaving town. (and shortly after, she did leave town. earth-town.)
her first couple of years, i spoke with giddiness about her like a new mother talks about her baby. i couldn't contain her awesomeness within myself.
denial. starting this past saturday, one day after the grief of bringing her home, i think that's when the denial came, propelled by the presence of too many people around here to allow me my quiet times to mourn. i've become far too calm. i believe she hasn't really died. or hasn't really left. or something. she's still solidly here. my mind's trying to do it's best to figure out the solid part. like, she's just gone through some kind of milestone and now we're on to the next milestone. just trundling along like she graduated high school and is prepping for college.
i do my best to help her by visualizing where she would be at any given moment. what sound she would make. how she would be looking at me. smacking her dry mouth. adjusting her legs underneath her by rocking gently side to side. meowing when she thinks i'm going to the refrigerator.
she scared me witless jumping up on to that ledge and flipping around on it. she also enjoyed darting directly in front of me everytime i descended the stairs. neither of us ever fell. except once apiece.
oh, but look at me. i'm way ahead of myself here. i have a day to finish writing about.
after returning home, i had gotten out of the car and felt like i was just going to float right away. i looked straight ahead and the first thing i saw was what initially appeared to be the end circle of a piece of pvc pipe peeking out from under liz's fence. i stared at it. tried to make sense of it. and then i realized what it was. it was the smallest cup of violet's set of stacking cups, which had rolled off the balcony what? a year ago? it had just disappeared. and now, here it was. filled to the brim with nature's detritus. soil. wood chips. dandelion seed. i crouched down and plucked it out and looked at it, all bewildered, and decided it was a hello from ttyki. why not. i poured out the contents, for fear i would keep a cup of dirt forever, and took it upstairs with me.
i went into our closet and tried to set down the empty carrier. i thought i should put it away immediately, before i could become very sentimental about it. and let me tell you, in case you can't already tell for yourself, i'm through the roof with sentiment. that's 90% of the reason i'm such a pack rat. i imbue the inanimate with the sentiment of the past. i make material ghosts for a living. i'm paid in a currency of hoarder angst.
i had difficulty setting the carrier down properly on the lump of laundry in there and just let it slide over on to its end. i couldn't deal with it beyond that. i wandered back to my bed and collapsed on it with the door shut. i cried some more and stared at the walls and ceiling. i sent a short email to tommy, the original co-owner, to let him know. i sent an email to my sister to let her know i would definitely not be joining in the mother's day celebration at her house the next day. i cried some more.
of course, it didn't take long for children to start leaking in. it was oliver. he came over and laid himself down next to me and i rolled over on my side. he decided to read a book to me. the three billy goats gruff. he reads beautifully now, by the way. like a little reading switch flipped on and he was off to the literary races.
he read about all the goats trip-trapping across the bridge and the grumpy troll with his club and overgrown claw-nails, who violet mistakes for santa. it was the sweetest thing ever. by this point, violet had also leaked in and brian started going through tshirts for goodwill, declaring every fifth one too small. he found oliver's much-too-large summer camp shirt from last year hiding in there. oliver grabbed henry and seymour and we took turns reading pages. i choked up halfway through and was relieved the bulk of the rest of the words landed on his side of the pages.
i forget the rhythm in which the hammers of oliver's kindness and lack of couth fell, but he was also an unstoppable force of every wrong thing to say. he began talking about how we should march straight out and get a new cat named ttyki. when no one seemed to be jumping on board with that one, he said, "or, we could name it ttyki with a different first sound liiiike... icky. or squicky. or..."
at some point, he mentioned we wouldn't have to buy as much food. he asked why i was sad and how long i was going to be sad. he spoke many times of when they take off her skin or burn her skin. he decided we should have her taxidermied after all (months ago, he lay witness to a few minutes of that taxidermy reality show and said he wanted a taxidermied pet that wasn't ttyki, because he loved her).
it was kind of relentless and i tried to be understanding, but after awhile. you can only take so much. it began petering out after a couple of days. in the meantime, after reading stories, he noticed some empty frames, got one out, and framed this ad postcard with a baby on it and set it next to the bed so i could see it. later, after i moved out to the couch for some distraction, he brought it out and set it on the ottoman, by my head. later still, i was sitting at the computer, still exhibiting great sadness, and he came over to me and draped a white scarf around both my shoulders and said it was for helping me while i felt sad about losing my friend.
the sunflower dropped to half mast that day.
i didn't set the scarf down even once for 24 hours. i slept with it, i put it in my purse the following day, and now i keep it in my pillowcase to bring out at night. i hold on to it. i clasp it under my chin. i place it on my chest, where ttyki spent many nights sleeping the past year. it's part of my denial. it's her during the night. it feels like her. i have gone crazy. quietly, satisfyingly crazy.
i spent pretty much all of the day on the couch, distracting myself with tv, crying during the commercials. i felt physically ill. after siesta time, brian took the kids out to run errands and eat at cosmic cafe. later that night, on the couch, he even asked if i wanted to talk. so i cried and then, instead of just letting him learn about my craziness by reading my journal, i told him my fears as outlined in the following paragraph...
as evening approached, i began to grow anxious about midnight. the sun was quickly setting and it occurred to me the last day ttyki was alive was about to end. i couldn't say, "ttyki was alive today," anymore. it was going to be buried under the thousands of layers of other days she wasn't in. she was going to begin descending into the past. she was going to grow faint and far away. i could see time and existence like physical strata. i made sure to stay awake for every last moment. i was starting to feel exhausted from a night of disrupted sleep and and the inability to fall asleep the entire time i was horizontal that day, but i did not want to fall asleep before midnight and miss even a second. i also do this the night before birthdays. check the clock more and more as the end approaches. try to see the clock changing to midnight. i fell into a deep sleep shortly after.
when i woke up, it was mother's day. we also had friends (ricky and fernando) in town and wanting to meet. i didn't know what to do about this. there was guilt about getting up and going on. there was guilt about not celebrating with my children. I CHOSE LIFE, YOU GUYS. and put that scarf in my purse's pocket, in order to take death with me.
i allowed myself to smile again. carefully. not overdoing it.
a trip to my parents' chives and her last xmas (at my parents', also). she loved a good xmas tree hideout.
my family began showing up. i heard brian whisper to one of the children to wish me a happy mother's day. they had gotten gifts the day before: a card, chocolate with almonds, a lavender candle (i had recently decided maybe lavender was the drug i needed to make me a calmer mother), a printed out email showing he had discussed an appointment for a mother's day gift from last year to get the kids' fingerprints in pewter for a necklace.
i found myself putting on the same clothes i had worn the day before, the ones i had been wearing when i held her and when she died. i feared this would be a bad sign, so i dismissed entertaining the idea of how long it would take other people to notice i was wearing the exact same clothes every day. i mean, i practically wear the same thing every day already. like a uniform. after skipping any kind of eye make up the previous day (boy, deep down, i really did know what was going to happen, didn't i), i took a chance and dragged an eyeliner pencil across grotesquely puffy lids.
we took a detour and drove back and forth over the fancy new bridge crossing the trinity and we arrived at spiral diner shortly after they opened. i allowed myself to eat for the first time in 36 hours, though i wasn't initially sure i'd have the appetite yet. red coconut curry noodles. no dessert.
we stayed with tradition and went to fair park. we wandered through the lagoon, looked at snapping turtles looking at us, and went to the swan boats. oliver had his heart set on one of the mallard boats, but it was out on the water already. last year, violet lost her shit as we left the dock and i returned to shore with her. this year, she was game. she went with daddy while i went with oliver. the sky had clouded up and a sprinking of fat drops gently threatened us, yet kept us cool.
sprinking is a typo, but i rather like it. a new word.
oliver's turning out to be a bit of a party pooper complainer, so it only took a couple of trips around the fountain for him to start asking incessantly when we would be finished. i ignored him and made another trip around. i tell you what, there were some lousy paddleboat drivers out that day. backing up without looking, paddling against traffic, bumping each other.
we disembarked and made our way around to the mammoth statue. the kids took turns sitting on the trunk and the tusks, pretending they were driving a train.
i believe violet quickly passed out back in the car and we ran a couple of errands before returning home. brian made plans to meet ricky and fernando at half price with the kids and i declined, feeling exhausted again and unwilling to pretend i was okay in the name of being polite company. i napped on the couch until they returned. brian was nice and offered to pick up whatever i wanted for dinner. very extravagant around here. roti grill. vegetables balti.
i probably shouldn't have combined depressing things with a commemorative mother's day post, but they're kind of inextricable this year. what can you do.
luckily, for anyone reading this, i am saving the mother's day photos for another time and i have left out the photos of the middle chunk of her life. like, the day oskar arrived on the scene. and the time i had the vet give her a shearing. oh, kitten.