when i finally was able to pick him up saturday night at 8pm from the vet, i cried out in the car while rubbing my hands across the gate on his carrier. i had been nearly convinced while sitting on the bench inside, waiting, that i was having a heart attack. i tried to think of how i could work in a stop at an urgent care center on the way home, with a cat.
it subsided some with the crying. it had subsided earlier in the day with earlier crying.
after each call from dr. debender, i would experience a torrential downpour of tears and fear and hopeless helplessness. sometimes, i felt myself make a kind of grunting scream. i imagine there's a better word for it in the language somewhere. a gutteral sound.
i told brian, and the air when brian wasn't there, i cried to brian that i didn't want to do this again, that i wasn't ready, that he is my baby. that it wasn't fair because just the day before, i thought i had figured out the magic solution to this problem that would make him the cat he was just a handful of weeks ago. it was just tooth pain and lack of eating. and then i would tell brian in a cry too soft for him to hear that i wasn't going to do this again. that i didn't have to and i wouldn't. and then i would catch a glimpse of oskar's little lamby cat bed in front of me, empty, and the wailing would take me over again. like he was already gone and not just down the street fighting.
dr. debender kept apologizing for giving me rough news. she wanted to be honest. she kept mentioning that in the morning, after the numbers from another blood draw, we would make "some decisions". and i would hang up the phone and cry, cry, cry, cry. and then i would go back to denial to get some relief. i watched the television. things i really had no interest in watching, but that would provide some level of anxiety-ridden distraction. a fist had formed in my stomach.
one thousand dollars later, late in the day saturday, dr. debender ran the numbers again. they had been hovering around sky high. his potassium through the roof, threatening to calcify his organs, his arteries, his muscles. sounding cruel. inhumane.
i sat for the short time in between one call and the next and made a little daydream that oskar might, like ttyki, have nine lives. i spent the last six years with ttyki, thinking over and over that i was on the cusp of deciding her fate for her, only to have her bounce back. i think i also had an alarmist vet at the time. the one who told me ttyki had diabetes the first time followed immediately with a story about how her family agreed to kill any pet of theirs who developed diabetes. ttyki had me so used to her nine lives, that i still had a certain amount of denial the morning i took her in for the last time. nothing but skin and bones and matted hair. ears turning yellow. unable to walk. lying in the kitchen next to her own urine.
dr. debender called back. she used the word "shocked" when she told me about oskar's phosphorous levels. they had dropped to just above the high end of the normal range. his other readings were still high, but had come down moderately. i would take what i could get. i laughed. i giggled. after she suggested he could eat whatever he wanted to eat at this point in the game short of a pill pocket diet, i cracked a joke that he should take up smoking cigarettes and drinking shots of whiskey. she asked for a photo.
i was nervous picking him up. i wasn't sure what i was getting back. i kept thinking of "pet semetary" and how they're just not the same. he howled a few times on the way home. i carried him straight to my bed and opened the carrier. he sort of tumbled himself out and straight on to his little cat bed. if i hadn't read earlier in the day about what the toxins formed through acute kidney disease can do to a cat's limbs, i would have thought it was the most adorable thing ever. he smashed his little face all the way up to the top of his head into his bed while his little foreclaws curled around the edges and pulled it up close to him. like he had fallen to his knees and was kissing the ground. i was terrified it was a result of the disease.
he began panting. hard. i panicked. i ran for my phone and called and asked if dr. debender had left. she had. but brian was petting oskar and talking sweetly to him and while i stuttered and paused and left the girl on the other end of the line hanging, oskar seemed to calm down. i backed slowly out of the phone call.
as drifted to sleep on my lap later, i worried about whether the twitches were the signs of disease or just extreme exhaustion and stress. we would pet him and the twitches would subside for a bit.
the more i think about it, the more terrible i feel. for oskar, he was taken to a place he is utterly not used to and away from the only place he usually knows. he was abandoned by his mother with complete strangers who locked him in a cage near howling dogs and was delivered a barrage of needles in IV and syringe form. he was given an enema. feces were manually, digitally extracted. he was there for 30 hours. no explanation. no understanding. no knowledge of what might come next. it's pretty fucked up and it's no wonder he hugged his kitten bed and nearly passed out.
he spends the nights feeling restless. he switches between my legs and my torso. he walks in and out of the bathroom. it's another possible sign of a disease with lots of possible signs. lots of things to go wrong. lots of reasons for discomfort. a puzzle with pieces that don't fit easily together. pieces falling off the table and under the couch while you were working on the other edge.
i took him out on a lead in the backyard yesterday evening. he was a hair trepidatious, but he proceeded along with caution, sniffing grass and leaves, peering through the fence. trying to escape under the house... a real worry when you've got a cat who doesn't feel one hundred percent. maybe that's why he spent an afternoon and evening under the house several months ago.
to look at him today, he seems just about like the cat from a month ago. maybe a little slower. he appears slightly arthritic (the toxins screw with their hind legs and muscle coordination). he comes out in the morning expecting treats. his little bits of kitty candy. he dutifully eats up his homeopathic kidney support treats with a little urging. i offer him food 5, 6, 7 times a day. usually, with some praise and pets, he'll turn his nose up a couple of times and then commit to eating a spoonful or two. he drinks water readily. we give him subcutaneous fluids at home at night. he was feeling well enough last night to make a break for it, leaving the needle behind to stream IV fluids into my hair and across the bedspread. after a few days of forgetting pill pockets hide pills, he's figured out again to peel the layers off, leaving his quarter of a pepcid AC naked on the floor.
i struggle between the consequence of him not getting meds versus the stress of the cat burrito pilling method.
i give him lots of pets and my brain chamber echoes phrases like therapeutic massage, lymphatic massage. and i hope it's right.
i refuse to leave town anytime soon. i canceled with darren for the weekend. i canceled tonight with my sister. i removed myself from the annual family trip to austin in april. i worry that the stress of my absence during our trip to phoenix, combined with three visits from strangers pilling him, sent him on a downward sprial. i don't trust his fragile state. i don't know if tomorrow will be a different day.
i'm in a hurried struggle to learn some kind of acceptance of death. to learn an appreciation for the remainder of a life. to find some balance and a lot of courage for the heartbreak to come. i honestly don't know if it's a matter of days or months or years.
i don't know how to end this thing for now. so, i'm thinking THE END, which is what violet does every night after she makes up a story. this weekend, she told me a story about a ghost. it was very white, with invisible eyes. it went to the donut store and got a number of donuts that kept increasing. 100, 150, 380. lots of donuts. i think it shared its donuts with a friend. THE END.