A Million Dreams

When I have forgotten everything else, I wonder if I’ll be able to forget you.

In June, it will have been 28 years since we met in your classroom.  I don’t even know if you remember me at all, given the extraordinary life you lead, but the role you played in my life has dominated everything else from that first day forward.  You once told me you could marry me tomorrow–that you would put me on a pedestal and worship me–but you feared that I would leave you, and you couldn’t handle it.  I was young, but I knew I’d never leave you nor stop loving you.  What I understood, but didn’t fully realize for years, was the fact that you also couldn’t handle letting go of a life you had built for a quarter century.   I know today it would be impossible to do that myself, no matter how strongly I felt–even if it meant having you.

Hearing you say you could have married me was a validation, but it also turned me into stone.  Having tasted true love, I wanted nothing else, and your presence only reminded me of that every day until I finally tore myself away from you.

You had asked me if we could still be friends.  No…I couldn’t be your friend in the sense that we’d hang out and have a beer now and then.  We had tried to be friends from the beginning, but, as you once put it, you couldn’t keep your hands off of me.  What you don’t know was that yours was the only touch I craved, and you were never as lecherous as your comment implied.  Who else would have thought, as we sat side by side in an empty classroom, to do nothing more than draw one finger slowly, tenderly down my arm and, reaching my hand, clasp it…who else ever treated me as gently as you did?  You could have had me in any way you wanted, but you never took advantage of me.  Other men tried and failed, even in your presence.  You were jealous if I ever looked at another man, apparently unaware that no one could have taken me from you.  Yet it was you who told me to go to the man who became my husband, then ex-husband, and finally lifetime companion.  It never occurred to me until much later that your noble gesture came straight out of Casablanca.

Everyone who knew us also knew how we felt about each other.  Nothing beyond kisses on three separate occasions ever materialized, though people assumed that it did.  I never would have been accepted in your circle of friends, or by your family.  And how could I face them, considering the enormity of what I felt for you?  How could I inflict my presence on them?  The one time you invited me to a party, a few months after we first confessed all to each other, I felt like a pariah and fled early, but not before you drew me close to whisper something very sweet, kissing me in view of everyone.  I had once dreamed of the day you could kiss me in public, but never envisioned that you would do so at a party celebrating your silver wedding anniversary.  It couldn’t have been worse.  You’d been drinking and you probably paid dearly later, but as much as I loved you, I refused to play the other woman.

With the memory of that night still vivid in my mind, to your question, “Can we still be friends?” I replied, “I can’t promise you that,” and turned away, never to speak with you again.

I’ve always felt sorry for that, but I don’t regret doing it.  Walking away from you didn’t change my feelings for you–it underscored them.  It would have been selfish to expect anything more than what you had already given me.

The last time I last laid eyes on you was 15 years ago, the afternoon Lisa and I were having a drink at the university club.  You walked in with half the department, people I knew well, and not one of them acknowledged my presence.  I didn’t care, as I had burned those bridges long ago.  That you failed to give me a nod didn’t surprise me, but it hurt.  Lisa and I sat and drank, making jokes at the other professors’ expense.  She knew you well and went to your table to say hello; when she came back, she cheerfully reported that you hadn’t appeared to remember her at all.

Eventually Lisa excused herself to use the restroom, leaving me by myself.  Your colleagues got up to leave at the same time.  Feeling defeated, I stared out the window at the dreary street below, my fingers wound tightly around the stem of my wine glass, until suddenly, I was taken with the urge to look up.

Lagging behind the group, you stood by the exit staring at me.  From that distance our eyes locked, each of us reading the other’s mind.  As you disappeared into the hallway, I realized that no one else had ever been able to do that to me.  Ever since I was 23, as if by telegraph, you could send an electric signal across a crowded hallway or classroom, shocking me out of oblivion to turn my head and meet your gaze.  You spoke to me subconsciously–from four blocks away–on the rare occasions I slept through class, repeating yourself when we saw each other later.

Then, we had been in love.

That afternoon, in the dimness of the club, it seemed we still were.

The only time I see you now is in dreams.  I’ve awakened to find myself unable to breathe, my heart on the verge of stopping, my body and soul burning because I dreamed you kissed me.  As I grow older, my dreams of you are less about passion and more about longing, wanting some kind of resolution–or perhaps absolution; I don’t know.  Last night I dreamed I saw you in a crowd.  You reached out both arms to me and I fell into them gladly, relishing your proximity.  At the same time I felt I was clutching a ghost, and indeed I was, as you vanished without a word.

I’ve stayed away from you physically, but in my mind I’ve held on.  I see your face in photographs people post of you at school, or with your family, or on vacation in some exotic locale.  I’ve read things about your health and want to tell you how sorry I am, but I haven’t the right.  The Internet has made us all stalkers in a way no one should ever be, though I have only looked at things that are in public view.  You were always so private, and seeing you unguarded seems very wrong, but it’s all I have left.

Did you ever wonder what might have been?  I’ve thought about it, and the conclusion is always the same: You made the right choice.  Everything has its reason, and the reason for this is no simpler that, in fact, you would have lost everything.  You would have even lost me.  Perhaps you sensed I was dying even when I was young.

These days, you wander around the world, you’re surrounded by your children and grandchildren, and you still teach, despite everything you’ve suffered.  (I see you scoffing: “What did you expect me to do?”)  You have the career to which I once aspired, that now I will never know.  Despite all your success, when I see you facing outward in a photograph, I see something in your eyes that breaks my heart.

It’s longing.  It’s always been part of you, and you’ve told me so, but this longing is for something intangible.

Like resolution–or absolution.

If only it were mine to give.


A Time To Die

Last year was horrible. Horrible, awful, dreadful, sickening, frightening…I can’t think of many positive things to describe it except that we had a cool summer and a real winter for the first time in ages, and then–AT LAST– the year was OVER.

In May my cat died of cancer. I had been sober since September 2012, but his death sent me over the edge. He was my constant companion for ten years, and losing him was like losing my child. I spent the next several months swimming in grief and vodka. During that time I suffered a concussion from a serious fall, broken bones, and then, the crowning blow: I was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, which will slowly, painfully kill me within a few years.

Since then, in a futile attempt to fight this affliction, I have changed my diet. I’m a vegan–with one exception: I am allowed two alcoholic drinks a night. I cut out the vodka and all medication, even OTC, except for my prescription Xanax (for panic; the diagnosis makes me afraid to sleep). My drink of choice is red Bordeaux. I know it isn’t vegan, or even vegetarian, but it is my only vice now.

No excuses, only apologies. To consume the product of or the flesh of ANY creature that died before its time to feed the greedy human masses is WRONG. Humans are exactly like cockroaches. Both reproduce squirming larvae, devour each other and shit all over creation. Cockroaches, however, are innocent. I do not kill them because they can’t help being who they are. But I’m starting to believe that Earth was colonized by aliens and that humans were not part of the planet’s original design, which is why it tries to kill us off with plagues and extreme weather. We have killed most of Earth’s original animal, insect, and plant inhabitants, and by so doing, we are killing our own nasty species, which is FINE with me.

Pick’s Disease is going to kill me, and I deserve it. We all deserve to die. I hope we do, before every beautiful thing left here is destroyed by the insatiable greed of land developers, oil/gas tycoons, pesticide/herbicide companies, and so forth. We are all monsters. Even those of us who care about what happens to what’s left of the wilderness still leave our carbon footprints behind, killing whatever lies beneath them. The best thing we can do for this planet is to eliminate the human race by whatever means are necessary.

George Carlin predicted that Earth will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. I hope he was right.

Screw the DEA

Last Friday I broke my ankle and another bone in my foot.  If you have never broken a bone, you have no clue how much it hurts.  I asked the nurse for Dilaudid, the strongest painkiller I know.  She gave me one measly shot in my ass and told me that Percodan was the only continuing medication I would get.  If Percocet, which is stronger and which contains acetaminophen, did not make make throw up, I would have accepted it.  OxyContin has neither aspirin nor acetaminophen in it, but even though OxyContin is the SAME MEDICATION AS PERCODAN, they wouldn’t prescribe it, either.

The watered-down version of Dilaudid with which the nurse injected me had no effect.  My foot was throbbing and swollen as as a grapefruit.  It hurt like hell.  The tech wrapped it with an Ace bandage because my foot was too swollen to be cast yet.  I was given a prescription for 16 4.8355-325MG Percodan and sent home.  The pharmacy was closed by then.  I lay awake in agony all night.

Now, if there is anybody out there who can answer this question, please do: Why do pharmaceuticals make painkillers such as morphine, Didluadid, Percodan, opium, OxyContin, codeine, methadone,  Tussionex, Tramadol, Demerol, Sublimaze, and Duragesic (among others) if these drugs are then prohibited from use by people who are in terrible pain?  I have been attacked violently by street dogs, was seriously injured in an automobile accident, and my future ex-husband beat the crap out of me, kicking me up and down my body and on my head so hard that, one inch higher, and he would have killed me.

Well.  For the dog attack, I received one week’s worth of Tylenol 3, which made me sick the whole time.  For the automobile accident, I got 10 tablets of 10 mgs Valium and two weeks of Phernergan with a small dose of codeine.  And, for the beating, I got two aspirin and a glass of water.  I should I have gone to the hospital, but my FEH was so afraid of the county sheriff throwing him in jail and my parents destroying his life that I let him off the hook.


He had a plane to catch home.  He didn’t know how to drive there, and I had to turn in the rental car anyway, so, despite my pain, I drove him there.  Even though he had beaten me almost to death, and I had to clean up the house, I found myself weeping at his departure.  We had been together four years, and I couldn’t face the thought of letting him go.  I also couldn’t bear the vision of anyone seeing the bruises on my face and body.

So I flew home two days later, as scheduled.  As the plane took off, I finally cried.

At home, I couldn’t sleep.  My body ached everywhere.  The heavy clothing I wore hid my bruises, so no one noticed them.  I had no remedy for the pain.  He had broken my ear and cracked my ribs.  If I hadn’t felt so ashamed, I would have gone to the hospital, I hurt so much.

But then, what would the hospital have done?

They’d have given me two Tylenol and sent me home.

Who gets the legally produced, pharmaceutical grade drugs the DEA takes away from those of us who legitimately need them?  What happens to these drugs?  Who gets to use them? Why are these pills no longer name-brand, but cheap, generic, less-potent quality?  If the DEA is so concerned about drug abuse, why are there so many meth labs operating, so much crack, so much Ecstasy?

Why the hell is alcohol LEGAL, but marijuana is NOT?  Alcohol kills people every day.  Marijuana does NOT.

Wake up, you disgusting prohibitionists.  If people want to buy narcotics, let them.  Let doctors have the right to prescribe painkillers to people who truly need them.  The DEA has NO RIGHT to prevent physicians from keeping their patients in agony because they think decide no one should rest in peace from a broken bone, or an invasive operation, or from a devastating accident.  That isn’t the government’s decision to make, but a doctor’s.

DEA, get out of a business about which you know nothing, about which you never studied in college or medical school–if you ever attended either–and let the doctors prescribe and treat their patients without your unwanted, uninvited, unwelcome interference.


You don’t know me,
And you don’t even care.
Oh, yeah…
You don’t know me,
And you don’t wear my chains….


Yesterday I removed the chain bolt my ex had put on his office door so the cat wouldn’t come in and bother him.  This always hurt the kitty’s feelings; he loved my ex and just wanted to be in the same room.  Even when he was dying, he was still locked out of the room by that stupid bolt.  He would bump the door with his head and cry, and even when I tried to comfort him, it wasn’t what he wanted.  It wasn’t enough.

After May 16, sometimes when I went into the study, I brushed against the chain and remembered how it sounded to hear my poor kitty try to defeat that thing, to no avail.  So I finally took it off.  Wrapping it around my wrist, I saw it made a good fit, so I took some pliers and wrenched off the latch, found an old key ring that I used in college, and to that I attached two charms: a pewter heart pendant and something my father bought for my cat, a heart-shaped tag with his name and our phone number on it in case he ever got lost.  Though he’s lost forever to me, I hope he and my dad are having a grand time beyond this lonely plane.

Since I put the chain on my wrist yesterday, I haven’t taken it off.  It’s a reminder of several things.  Don’t lock out people who love you unconditionally.  Be grateful for gifts given with love.  And, most of all, don’t put chains on anyone.  I’ve been in chains for almost 30 years.  My homemade bracelet will remind me for the rest of my life of my mistakes–God knows I’ve made plenty–and every time I look at those two hearts, I’ll think about what matters, rather than the petty complaints I’ve made that I regret, and always will.


Can’t Cry Hard Enough

I’m gonna live my life
Like every day’s the last.
Without a simple goodbye,
It all goes by so fast.

And now that you’re gone,
I can’t cry hard enough,
No, I can’t cry hard enough
For you to hear me now.

–Williams Brothers

My ex-husband thinks I’m sick, and I agree.  It’s been nearly a month since my sweet cat died in my arms.  Somehow I can’t wrestle free of the grief, the tears, and the enormous void that he left behind.  Every time I wake up, I forget for a second he’s gone, and then I remember and I realize that death is going to hit me harder and harder with every year, with every loss–and I can’t take it much longer.  All I do is cry.  How can I be useful to anybody if I can’t let this go?

So, since my ex says I won’t be able to handle being here by myself, he is taking me with him on vacation.  He bought me everything: a suitcase, new shoes, a beautiful dress, swim gear–he can’t seem to do enough to keep me on this earth.  He knows me all too well.  I would probably die if he left me here alone.  Maybe I’ll be all right, going away from here, but it feels like it’s all about me, and it isn’t.  The pain of losing my little cat isn’t as much the loss of him but the way he died.  He didn’t understand, could never understand the reason for his pain, nor why everything we did–I did–hurt him so much, especially when my ex walked away from him.

Is it possible for souls to forgive earthly sins once the soul is free of the body?  Is there anything I could say that will get through to the heaven where I believe he went–any message I could send so that he will know why I chose to medicate him and try to save his life? Or should I have just let him alone, let him die without any treatment at all?  How could he have understood that, either?

In the silence since he died, I don’t want to live.  It hurts so much.  There’s a knife-like pain deep in my chest.  Every time I remember his death, I see vividly that crystal clear moment when he went from being my warm, living cat to being an empty, lifeless shell.  I cannot stop seeing it and I can’t forgive myself for being unable to help him.

Late at night I scour the internet to find some kind of peace.  I have found none, but there are many, many people who write about the deaths of their cats in terms almost identical to mine.  So I know I’m not alone, and maybe someday I’ll finally be able to let go of this heartache, but that won’t be happening for a long, long time.

I did find a little phrase within the words of the bereaved that broke my heart: “I love you kitty.”  Maybe that’s all that needs to be said.  Of all the words and lengthy passages I’ve read by learned scholars of veterinary medicine who tell us all what we should do, nothing has moved me as much as these words.

I love you kitty.


My stages of grief are a little bit different from those of other people.   Let’s take a look.

Stage 1: Fear.  If you have not knelt on the ground staring at the morning sun with both eyes open praying to God for it to just STOP, you have never experienced fear.

Stage 2: Numbness.  Less dramatic.  While my dead cat was lying in state on the living room couch, I was cleaning the house, stopping clocks and covering photographs, washing and putting away in a special place all of the things connected to him that I would not be able to deal with later.

Stage 3: Irrationality.  In the middle of my purification ritual, my ex called me from the road on the way to his lecture and I just let him have it because he called my mother and told her about it.  I said, “If you wanted to be so involved, you could have stayed for 15 more minutes with us!  How DARE you call my MOTHER???  She lives half a country away and all she will do now is WORRY.  Now, you call her back and tell her everything’s all right, and don’t you even THINK of calling the police.  I will KILL anyone who knocks on the door.”  And I hung up on him.

A couple a minutes later, there was a knock on the front door.  I never answer the door while I’m alone but it was not an aggressive knock, and the people outside looked harmless–a couple of young men wearing overalls.  Besides, I was feeling homicidal.  If these guys were dangerous, I had a giant shovel by the door for self-defense.

Guy #1 introduced himself as a roofer.  We had a couple of hailstorms recently (along with the tornado that skipped our town and destroyed completely another one), so every roofer in our state and even some surrounding states had descended on our area rubbing their hands.  Nearly everyone in town has one of those advertisement signs in the front yard that say something like “SKY WIDE ROOFING” with their phone number.  We have already been solicited by at least fifty roofing contractors by phone, mail, e-mail, and personal appearances.  We don’t understand why people are doing this now.  By the end of the week, there may not be any roofs left to repair.

Anyway, after introducing himself, the guy asked me if I was doing all right today.  I’m pretty sure he already had a clue as I stared at him through unblinking, bloodshot eyes, and he was sorry he asked the minute the words left his mouth.

“No,” I replied, and started to sob.  “My cat just died–I’m all alone here–and my husband’s out of town.”  Tears poured down my face while the two guys stared at me, probably evaluating the veracity of my behavior.  I think they believed me.  The first guy handed me a business card and said something sympathetic, and both of them backed away and were gone as soon as they leaped into their pickup truck to escape.

[NOTE: Ladies, I’ve only done this a few times before, and out of genuine sporadic emotion, but I highly recommend it if you want some sales-bodies to leave you alone.  You only need to be unkempt, red-eyed and slovenly.  Minor hysteria seals the deal.  Just don’t overdo it, or they might feel compelled to come in or call an ambulance.  This is such a friendly state.]

Stage 4: Self-Medication.  Once your purification ritual is over, drink, smoke if you’ve got ‘em, take a few pills and a shower.  This leads to…

Stage 5: Unconsciousness.

Most of these stages repeat themselves with every new day AND night.  This is Day 12.  I have experienced some very extreme emotions, but this feels like every tragedy in my life rolled into one.  I spent nearly every day of the last ten years with this cat.  He was there for me for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness and health, till death parted us.  Even my ex couldn’t hack that drill, which is why we aren’t married anymore.  At times it seemed that my cat was more than an animal.  He was the child my ex and I couldn’t have.  He loved us unconditionally, just as we loved him.   The pain of missing him is more than I can bear.

People go through grief in their own ways.  I don’t eat very much, I drink, take pills, and cry my eyes out.  My trouble is that I can’t seem to make the grief go away.  It leads me to other dark places.  How will I face death in the future?  How will I even finish dealing with this spring and summer?  “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” but this house is empty now, my ex wants us to go out of town and isn’t sure I’m strong enough for the trip, and the weather is so unstable that our state made the national news.  By the time he gets back, there may be nothing but rubble and reporters wandering around with bleary eyes asking the same stupid question, “So, what are your plans for rebuilding?”

I’d love to see one of these miserable people who have just lost everything they own give the following answer: “Well, hon, we ain’t plannin’ on rebuildin’.  Think we’re just gonna take the insurance money and head on up to Wyoming.  Can’t be worse than this.”

Maybe I’ll say it myself…if I’m still here.  Screw the phony-baloney pablum of “Rainbow Bridge.”  That’s a story for simpletons.  I’m going to wait for an F-5 tornado to suck me up like a cheap vacuum and let it take me over the rainbow…through the mysterious snow-covered mountains of Tibet…and drop me smack dab in the middle of Shangri-La.

Lost Horizon, James Hilton.  Read it.

The Void

It’s been ten days now since I said goodbye to my little cat and buried his poor, frail body wrapped in my silk blouse.  Since then, I’ve had nightmares, hallucinations, long bouts of sheer guilt, and tears.  There’s a saying: “I cried enough tears to wash the dishes.”  I have been drunk since the day he died and I can’t eat.  Everywhere I look, I see him.  In the corner of my eyes, for just a moment, he is there.  At night, I see his black silhouette coming to rub against my legs, but I don’t feel him.  In the morning, I forget he’s gone, just for a few minutes, awakening to the motion of his paws scratching the end of the bed, as he always used to do before he hopped up to see me, his face all happiness and good cheer…then reality sets in, and I cry for him again.

My ex and I always used to say to each other it was good to see him.  I saw him almost every day for ten years.  I can’t accept the world without him.  Living with the void makes me want to dig him out of the ground, take him and drown myself in the lake, holding him in my arms.

When I’m feeling rational, I know that I can plant flowers on his grave.  He will be part of every leaf, every flower–he will be part of the earth from which we sprang.  But most of the time, I only know he’s gone, and he’s lying at the bottom of a hole that we dug–a hole that surely filled with water during the storm and tornado of May 19.  Seeing the trajectory of the storm reminded me of how angry he was about dying.  The vortex seemed to settle right over where he lay.  I could literally feel his anger as I watched the storm, and when I stood outside our house, unmindful of the danger, I whispered, “Take me, too–please.”

I can drink, I can swallow all the pills there are to knock me out, but Death just waits until I’ve sobered up, and stands at the foot of my bed to remind me, “He’s dead.  He’s gone.”  And it all comes back to me: the agony before my kitty died, the last breaths he took before he went limp–the emptiness in his once-expressive, clear eyes.

You’re alive–you’re dead.

I know, I know I did everything wrong when I tried to keep him alive the last two months.  I should have left it alone.  No pills, no vets, no treatment.  He was all right when we brought him home from the first examination. He was always so elegant, clean and dignified.  After he second diagnostic trip to the vet, he came home with his sleek, beautiful fur shaven off his tummy for an $800 ultrasound that told us what we already knew. He was happy, thinking that the ordeal was finished, but when I tried to give him the medicine he was prescribed to reduce his tumors, he resisted, and squirmed, and, finally bit me.  Being bitten didn’t bother me as much as his resentment, and, finally, his hatred of me.  The medicine made him sick and shaky. He ran away from me to my ex-husband for affection, asking him to make me stop doing all these awful things.

Still I kept trying, kept medicating him, to no avail.  He wasn’t getting better.  He couldn’t eat.  He was never the same again.  The joy left his eyes forever.   He never jumped on the furniture again, never slept anywhere but on the floor.  When I lifted him up to carry him to bed, he looked at me politely before slowly getting down and walking away.  When he couldn’t get to his litter-box in time, he just sat there, his head bowed in shame.  I petted him to comfort him, but he had never wet the floor as long as he had been with us, and it made him so unhappy I picked him up to whisper it was okay.  He tolerated my holding him for a few minutes, then he pushed against me with his paws, asking to be let down.

He deteriorated so rapidly that I don’t know if anything I did could have saved him.  God, how I tried!  The last thing I asked the vet to give me was morphine so that when he reached the moment of no return, he would at least feel some relief.  The vet said no.  My ex refused to get a syringe before his stupid lecture.  I stayed because, no matter what, my cat was dying, and I couldn’t leave him alone.

Ever since the day he died, a stench has been with me, along with the hallucinations and nightmares.  The day he died he had been eating nothing but Gerber.  The odor is part Gerber, part death.  I sprayed every room with Lysol, apologizing all the while because he always hated Lysol so much, but the stench has remained.  It went with us to the burial site, home again, and even now I can still smell it.  I may always smell it.  I can’t eat without smelling it, so I don’t eat.  All I can do is knock myself out, even knowing that in the morning, it will all be back again, smothering me, taunting me to dare live another day.


A very kind couple who are dear friends of ours live near a lake outside of town.  They offered to let us bury our cat on their property (my ex was fearful of burial inside the city limits).  We drove out to this beautiful place, situated next to a large pond that was an oasis for all kinds of wildlife.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen wildlife.  I didn’t care.  The only important thing was that it had rained recently and the earth was relatively easy to dig.  We worked silently beneath a gray, threatening sky until we had constructed a deep enough hole, almost perfectly round.

I lifted our kitty, still wrapped in my silk blouse, and stroked his soft black fur for the last time before I laid him gently in his grave.  We added a few of his favorite toys that we had chosen for him.  In the pond, the frogs started to call to each other as we shoveled the pile of dirt into the grave, covering our kitty forever.  Our friends had left three heavy stones to lay over the grave, and once that was done, I walked away as rapidly as I could to the car, wanting only to escape the grim task we had completed.

My ex tried to get me to talk, touched my shoulder, my knee, but I didn’t want anyone to touch me.  I couldn’t speak.  We drove the twelve miles back to town, picked up a prescription for me and some liquor, and went home.


There’s Nothing Harder

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in the film Terms of Endearment is when Aurora Greenway is sitting by her daughter Emma’s hospital bed.  Emma’s husband, Flap, has fallen asleep.  She turns to look at her mother, and as Aurora gazes back, Emma raises her hand to her face, biting her fingers, and gradually, gracefully, her hand drops as her eyes glaze over.

Aurora, immobilized with shock, turns her head away as a nurse enters the room and awakens Flap to tell him, “She’s gone.”  The news jolts him awake and he stands up as Aurora goes to her daughter’s side.  She clings to him, staring in disbelief at the bed.

“Oh, God–I’m so stupid–so stupid! Somehow I thought–somehow I thought when she finally went–that it would be a relief!” Leaning over her daughter, she kisses her for the last time.  “Oh–my sweet little darling! There’s nothing harder!”

This morning my cat crawled to the back door to look at the trees and birds.  He had never wanted to go outdoors; we have a porch where he liked to sit in the sun and commune with a feral cat friend of his.  But today, when I found him, he was lying next to a puddle of his urine, almost unable to move.  I washed him and dried him, and carried him to my room.  The vet had given me a bottle of Tramadol to ease his pain, but I knew by now there was nothing left to help him.  All the expensive, useless drugs I had stuffed down his throat, rubbed in his ears and injected him with had done nothing but make him hate me.  I wrapped him in a soft towel and laid him on my bed in the same spot where I had put him ten years ago, the day we adopted him.  For awhile he lay breathing quietly, and then he struggled to stand up, wanting to jump from my bed to the window, something he had done a thousand times.  He was too weak to make the leap.  I picked him up from the floor and set him in the window.  I was sure then that he was preparing himself for the inevitable.  He watched the birds and looked at the damp green spring world.  He lay there breathing the sweet rain-cooled air before he got up to try unsuccessfully to jump back to my bed; again, I picked him up from the floor.  The sad, confused look in his eyes broke my heart.

I settled him down, gave him some more Tramadol, and he seemed almost asleep.  My ex-husband, who had a lecture scheduled in a town near the border, came in to check on him. For the first time in weeks, our kitty yowled.  “Bowr…Bowr…” he cried, his name for my ex.  He laid his palm on the kitty’s little head, said goodbye to him, and escaped, leaving us alone.  The moment he heard the door slam and the key turn in the lock, all the hope went out of his eyes.  The person he loved most had walked away and left him with me, whom he no longer loved at all.

I had read about the signs of death in cats.  They have seizures, drool, arch their backs in a hideous way–all which he did for the next fifteen minutes.  I held him in my arms while he alternately stiffened and relaxed, groaning.  I wet his mouth with drops of water, and that seemed to calm him.  Then he began to pant and I knew the end was near.  His eyes were wide open and his ears were still alert, still listening, still perhaps hoping to the end that my ex would come back to see him.  Even though I kept whispering, “It’s okay…it’s okay,” he knew I was lying.  It wasn’t okay.  It would never be okay again.

I took him in my arms, holding him over my shoulder to help him breathe.  I clung to his warm, trembling little body, ravaged to skin and bones by the cancer that had taken his strength and his life away.  With one final gasp, gradually, gracefully he went limp, his head dropping to my shoulder, and I knew he was gone.  Just like Terms of Endearment, I had thought his death would be a relief because his suffering would be over.  But the expression on his face showed the intense fight he had battled with death.  All his life he had kept in shape.  For an indoor cat, he was in Olympic condition.  He used to do calisthenics every morning before breakfast.  No doubt it was the strength of his heart, the only muscle in his body that hadn’t weakened, that kept him going so long.  He fought as hard as he could, but it was no use.

I leaned over him as I laid him down again, feeling for his breath, his heartbeat, but he had already begun to stiffen.  His eyes remained open.  I stroked his velvet ears, their peaks alert to the end.  Burying my face in his soft fur, I wept and fell to my knees, pounding the floor, unable to believe yet that he was gone.

Through my tears, I had noted the time.  He died at 2:14 PM.

The towel on which he had died was damp and smelled of death.  He deserved a better shroud, something he loved.  I had a silk blouse he used to sleep on in warm weather.  I wrapped him in it, covering all of him but one ear.  I wanted to be able before we buried him to touch that soft little part of him, remembering how much he loved how it felt when we scratched him behind his ears.  Gently I caressed it again, feeling the uselessness of the gesture, and again I wept for the loss of his sweet soul.  “I’m sorry,” I whispered.  “I’m sorry.”

Carrying him to the living room, I sat on our favorite chair, the one he used to fly over every day during his workout.  For hours, it seemed, I rocked him, kissing his little head, and feeling numb.   All I could do now was put him somewhere soft, and the answer to that was the pink satin couch that had been covered with a coarse red cover for the last ten years so he wouldn’t scratch the upholstery.  At last he could lie there once more on a place he had been refused nearly all of his short life.  I yanked the covering away, revealing the pink satin once again, and laid him on it, wrapped in my silk blouse to lie in state until tomorrow.  His burial will be at a friend’s country house.  My ex said it’s the most beautiful, natural place he’s ever seen anywhere near this town.

Looking at my kitty lying so still, so quiet, I started to cry.  All I could hear were those words playing over and over in my mind.

There’s nothing harder….