Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why I'm a Crazy Cat Lady

Meet Oliver. He is really cute. He is also living in my garage right now. How do these things happen? Cats don't just blindly wander into stranger's garages. OR DO THEY?

The truth is that they don't. We first saw Oliver when A and C were on a walk this weekend. Of course, as soon as A got back he said "There's a KITTEN out there!" So of course he and I went on a quest to find this kitten. Of course, this is the first mistake. Any other sane person would say, "Ah, a kitten. Lovely." and carry on with their day. Not us. So we find Oliver literally PLAYING IN TRAFFIC. Bad kitty. Bad. We remove him from the road. Of course, now he follows us home. Once home, of course we feed him. WHAT? He looked hungry. He eats. Now what? I put a blanket and some water out on the porch. Luckily, a few hours later he was gone. Back to his house. We hoped.

Two days later A saw him again on his walk. This time he spoke to a guy who lives in a house on the corner a few blocks down. Guy asks A if it's his cat. Nope. Not the guy's either, but he's been feeding him. And trying to protect him from some neighboorhood punk ass bully pre-teens who have been harrassng him. As A is talking to this guy, aforementioned punk ass bully pre-teens throw a bottle bomb. Yeah - NOT COOL kids. When I get home, Art tells me all about it, getting a little teary in the right parts about this POOR BABY CAT LEFT ALL ALONE BEING TERRORIZED BY THESE PUNK ASS BULL PRE-TEENS. Well, I guess we should go get him then. We walk down the street and find him hiding under a bush. Scoop him up and carry him home.

And that's how cats end up living in your garage.

Of course, though, there's a little more to the story than that.

We lost a cat almost two years ago. To say we lost him, well, we didn't actually LOSE him like we accidently opened the door and he ran out. It just sounds better than "He died." which is what happened but doesn't quite capture the sense of loss - the missing, the hole that remained after he had gone. I always preface this discussion by saying that I know that the fact that my cat dying is the worst thing that has ever happened to me speaks to how amazing and blessed my life has been, I know this. But still. Sucks.

Grief is a funny thing. Even, or maybe especially, when you're grieving an animal companion. What surprised me at the time, being unfamiliar to loss - is that all that love you feel for someone or something - that love is still there, even if the thing you love is gone. When you love someone or something, you release that love in a million ways. Hugs and touches and even thoughts - loving is interactive. But when that something is gone - there's all this extra love that has no place to go and it just wells up under your chest with nowhere to go. And it HURTS. Like gas. I know, I'm writing this eloquent blog entry about loss and CATS, and now I talk about gas. But that's how it felt to me. I didn't know what to do with that love, I didn't know how to love something that was gone. I thought I would go crazy carrying it around with me, having no way to show it or express it or let it out. I needed a Beano for my grief.

I found it in a cat named Chewie. He was in trouble. A and I drove three hours in the pouring rain to get this cat out of a bad situation. The whole time I was so angry. I kept saying "We would NEVER have done this to Stitch! Why did we lose our cat and this cat is just TOSSED ASIDE LIKE GARBAGE." I was angry. I'll never forget when I finally made the hand off the sense of relief that I felt. At first I thought I was just happy the cat was out of trouble, but then I realized that had happened. It was like a big old grief FART. That love - that pent up love for my cat - I used it to help another cat. A few weeks later there was another "situation". The first garage cat. Again, I was angry. Thinking about what I would have done for my cat, how much I wished I could have saved him. But I used all that love and I saved this little cat instead.

Last night I sat in the garage with Oliver in my lap. He purred on and on like a little engine, rubbing himself against my legs and back and nuzzling into my chin and eventually settled himself into the crook of my arm and fell asleep. The garage steps were not comfortable. I could feel the nails digging into my leg as my arm started to fall asleep. I asked myself, what the hell am I doing? Sitting in a garage in the middle of the night with a cat you barely know. I knew it was something my mother would not approve of. But there I was, so I started sifting through memories, and of course thought of Stitch, his baby days when he would never EVER have taken a nap on my lap. I thought of the funny things he'd do to make us smile. I thought of how moody he could be. Of course, I thought about his last day with us, the horrible moments when we lost him. I thought of how hard the first few weeks and months were without him - how I missed him and loved him still. How I despreately wanted a way to honor him, to show that his life had made a difference, that he had changed me. And sitting in my garage last night as little Oliver's purr changed to a soft snore, I knew that I had done that.

And that is why I'm a crazy cat lady.

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