This is the final part of the a three-post series. Three different events, one after the other, that have changed life as we knew it. Read part one and part two.
Sunday started as any other morning except everyone slept in late. We’d had family over for dinner the night before and the kids were 2 hours late getting in bed.
We all meandered together downstairs with the plan to go out for breakfast. I sat down on the couch to nurse Pipsqueak first and the other kids sat around me doing various things.
Suddenly I heard someone say something but I didn’t understand. I looked up to see hubby peeking around the corner of the hallway, crying.
I jumped up and there she was: our old lady cat peacefully laying at the end of the hallway near the door to the kids’ playroom. I whispered “are you sure?” and he nodded.
As quickly as I could, before the realization really set in, I peeked around the corner and said to the kids, “Monk died during the night.” Honeybun let out a little scream and burst into tears. Sugarplum sat motionless on the couch and I scooped her up (on top of the still nursing Pipsqueak) while hubby snuggled Honeybun.
It’s hard to even describe the devastation our family has felt over this. While I can say we knew it was coming, she was well aged and had not been eating well for some time, it is no less devastating than when my elderly grandmother passed unexpectedly a few years ago.
Monk was in every way our first baby. We took her from some of hubby’s fraternity brothers who couldn’t keep her our senior year of college when she was a tiny little pocket sized kitty. She was with us years before we were married and long before we had our children. She moved across the country and ocean with us numerous times and was a huge part of our lives.
She earned the nickname “Monk” because as a kitten she would tear through our apartment at top speed, stop on a dime, turn and run back the other way. She would charge the bed and jump, not big enough to reach the top, and then cling onto the sheets and claw her way up. She would attack anytime that moved and I would say “you’re being a wild monkey!” so the name stuck.
The only time she hasn’t been with us in the past 12 1/2 years was when we initially moved to Dublin and the kitties waited out a 6 month quarantine with my parents. But every time we would Skype, she would come crying at the computer. She wasn’t a cuddly cat and wasn’t ever really a people kitty but she would let me pick her up and cradle her in my arms like a baby. She would rub my legs to say hello in the morning. And she had a stuffed duck she would walk around with in her mouth, crying whenever we left the house (or she thought we had.)
She never much cared for the kids, she would have lived out her years happily without them, but she was also fiercely protective of them. More than once she stranded a babysitter on the couch or the stairs while the kids were sleeping. And while she wasn’t affection, she always liked to be nearby. She would nuzzle at our feet in the early morning and spent her last few weeks on the back of the couch by my head each night after the kids went to bed.
And just like the kids, her relationship with our other cat, who we adopted two years after her, was hot and cold. Sometimes they played and got along, but most of the time she just really didn’t care for him. I like to believe they liked having each other whenever we were away but it’s hard to know.
What makes all of this so difficult for me, though, is how deeply I loved her. From the first second I met her until the last good-bye, my heart was overwhelmed with love for her and the happiness she brought our family can’t be described. But I also feel a deep sense of regret. In a way, I feel responsible for what happened. I know I didn’t give her the love and attention she deserved the past few years as I’ve grappled with managing all the things in life. Her wild independence made her easy to push to the bottom of the to-do list.
And now all I’m left with are the memories of our dear little kitty and all the “what ifs.”
What if I had been a better kitty mommy and paid more attention to her?
What if we had actually separated her from our other cat when we talked about it months ago?
What if we had taken her to the vet when she stopped eating instead of trying to problem solve on our own?
What if we had paid more attention to her and less to our other kitty and his “stresses” and constant mess making?
What if I had just stopped worrying about having to clean up her puke all the time and was just thankful she was eating anything?
What if we hadn’t had family over the night before and payed attention to the fact she was not doing okay?
What if Pipsqueak had been up early that morning and I could have found her before she was actually gone?
What if I could just go back one day, one month, one year and do everything differently?