Hey my friend. I'll try to keep this letter short for a couple of reasons, but mostly for these two reasons: a) you're a cat and, unless you've been holding out on me with regard to your ability to read, and b) i know you weren't much for small talk and were more of a relax and chill kind of cat. Who am I kidding?? It's precisely because you're a cat that I may pontificate more than I normally would, but I want to make sure I say all the things, because you deserve to know all the things, the critical moments you've played in my life.
This is really just my chance to say Thank You. I wasn't initially part of your family, I was just a guy that thought your mother was a pretty cool woman. I had no intention of being part of your family, and yet you, even from the beginning, treated me as an immediate member of your family: you'd roll around on my jacket I left on the floor, you'd walk in front of me and flop down, inviting such cuteness that i'd find myself stopping whatever I was doing, fall to the ground and immediately have some Scratch time- always involving a tummy rum and the under the jowl on both sides was a mandate- so much of one that even at the very end, he wanted that massage, despite it also being where the cancer attacked- meaning the spot you love being rubbed the most makes you bleed when you get rubbed there.
I want to thank you for being my heart. I've never had a dog, and so I really have no idea of the reference, but I've heard this rumor that cats were neither responsive or loyal. All the things I read about cat's weren't true about my first cat, Milo, which is why, despite you having a really solid connection with me when we first met (which I can honestly say took your sister maybe five years before she ever really became comfortable around me). You see, I had a cat a few years earlier, a cat named Milo that I really loved. But as is pretty common for my job and as you're acutely aware, I have to be gone for sometimes two weeks, sometimes four weeks, and, even at the height of my debate sharecropping days, as many as eight weeks in the summer, making money that helped me live for the entire year on the on the indentured servitude wages debate was paying me at the time. But this meant I had to leave my cat with some friends who I trusted to take care of my animal, which they obviously did not- Milo was lost one night, never to be found again. It's the reason I freaked out so much that Monday night a couple of months ago, when you got outside and we couldn't find you. I had all the flashbacks of the only time Milo got out of the house when I had control. I remember the panic and fear in my voice as I searched for Milo, and I remember the tears and the weight of responsibility failed. And then we found him, and I promised him I'd never let that happen to him again- and when I failed him, I was pretty sure I'd never have another cat again, because I didn't think I would be responsible enough to take care of anyone else. Then you (and less so your sister) came along. I'm pretty convinced your sister could open the cat food and serve herself left to her own devices, but I always knew you loved me. And initially, I just assumed it was because I was the person most likely to feed you. But it was more than that- taking care of a cat (or really any living being) involves a lot of hard work. The reason the pound has so many animals has to to with people not really understanding the full implications of having a pet- they just think it's cute to have a bunny on Easter, but not realizing by May 1 that Peter Cottontail is eating them out of house and home. When it became apparent I would be playing an important role in taking care of you, it required a sharpened focus, and it would be hard, but critical if ever there would be emotional growth. Knowing I could take care of you was the backbone, the impetus to a variety of decisions I would make later.
I thank you for being my unflappable and mostly silent buddy. A lot of times, we need a friend to be able to have your real voice with, someone who will allow you to speak truth to power, to speak freely and in opposition to the status quo. And most of us have those kind of friends- I have a few, and I married one of them for what has to be seen as pretty obvious reasons. But a lot of times, we need a friend that can really, for the love of all that's holy on the planet, shut the fuck up. Just shut the fuck and listen. Like Crash Davis would say: "Don't speak- it only hurts the ball club." Scratch, you have, without question, been my best friend in the world with regard to just listening. Yes, I know you probably didn't understand a word I was saying, and its usually pretty mutual. But I know can tell how someone feels with regard to how they might say something, you can hear in my voice and i can hear in yours, when there was an issue. I'm 100% sure sitting down, talking to you about Carol and wanting to marry her was integral to my decision making process. You see, you already know Carol and I had no intention of getting married, and that one of the stipulations about our dating at the beginning was the common theme of not wanting to be married. But as love is prone to do sometimes, they decided to make fall in love with your mom and want to spend the rest of my life with her, but remember we made that deal, where we would never marry. I talked to you about this for weeks, and all you ever did was sit there and re-affirm me (and ask for food- lots of food, like constantly asking for food). I'm sure if I'd talked to one of those vocal motherfuckers I call friends, they would have said something or done something or reminded me of all the times my heart was shredded like quality Kalua Pork, or reminded me that my family life expectancy for men in my family has me currently playing with House Money, or that I'm kind of a fuck-up who has a tendency to self-sabotage myself for things that end up being important (you're still one of the few that gets why I walked away from comedy), or any of the 1127 reasons I'd talked myself out of even considering asking her. You let me talk myself into having the courage to make the best decision of my life. I realize by this time, we'd become pretty good friends and the benefit of me marrying your mother would mean that I got the be around you all the time- something I think we were both pretty down for.
I want to thank you for reminding me that I am at my best when I am in service to others. For most of the time that we were our own Dynamic Duo. I was a high school teacher, which meant that I spent a lot of time a) not at home, because my wife and I both were on debate tournaments, b) around a lot of people who needed help in one way or another. My desire and drive to help means that I, on occasion (read: all the fucking time) find myself over-extending myself- trying to help as many people in as many ways as possible , which at a place that speaks more about mental health and personal wellness that allowing one the actions in which those things became in conflict with the work at hand, can become plainly exhausting.
When I quit teaching, I needed to do something to make a living, so I started consulting, which had it's ups and it's downs (downs almost always involved taxes) and the ups involved getting myself in a psychological state where I could be passionate about The Work, but not to let to become all encompassing. And so for a year, I worked for myself, but it also meant I got to work from home, which means for most of the last 2.5 years, I got to work here and hang out with you and your sister. This was one of the biggest perks I had in consulting. This did end up with the two of you being more spoiled than you should have been, and there's a side of me that wishes I had the hard-wiring to not have spoiled you when I got the chance, but alas, I didn't- probably good that I don't have any kids, but that's the agreement Carol and I have had no desire to break. I can honestly say that I never wanted kids, but that, for all practical purposes, I have treated you as much like a child in this family as I can imagine, as someone who doesn't have kids...
Last January, when I was off on a consulting trip, Carol called me to tell me you were really lethargic and was worried- but you usually got that way when I left town, so we chalked it up, since I'd be home the next day. When we saw no improvement, we took you to the vet, at Carol's insistence. Turns out your kidneys were failing, and had we waited to take you in, we could have lost you then. The doctor was not optimistic about your recovery, and at that point, we just wanted you however we could get you- and we got you back. But we never got back fully healthy you back- you needed to get sub q fluids every day for awhile, and then thankfully, every other day, but you needed to take multiple medications orally twice a day. You also needed your food prepared a certain way to get more fluids in your body. And it was clear that this was going to be the beginning of the end. But fear not, Buddy. I'm here to serve- here to make everything a little better. I know I was doing it before hand, but the level of appreciation, and work to uphold my end of our terminal bargain was taken to another level, like MJ in the playoffs.
I had moments when I was sure I was failing you. You'll remember I cried a lot with you those first few days after we figured out about the renal failure- you weren't eating your new food, you hated me for giving you meds all the time and you seemed so unhappy: I was worried we were doing you a dis-service by keeping alive. I remember every time I'd ask you if it was time, you'd always give me a flop or a head butt, your way of telling me "No, I got you. We're good- I have no drowning mark upon me"- you helped me get through your sickness, and even as you did so, you always kept up with the random quotes from the books I taught at....wait...motherfucker can you read??? Have you been holding out?? Nah, I'm fucking with you- I've always known that you play the role my ego/superego to check back the Id I sometimes happen to project onto the world in a game you know I love called I Don't Give A Fuck About You, as is the default for humans- honestly dude, it's mostly why we suck- because the idea of putting something above yourself, much less someone, is hard to contemplate for most. Knowing that I had to make sure you had your meds everyday when you needed them, making sure you has your food when you needed it, and figure out what you liked eating when you didn't really feel like eating what was offered to you. I can say it's when you pissed me off most- because sometimes I was, and still am, sure you were just being a finicky pain the ass- but I had to remember that a) this was all House Money time- I was sure I was gonna lose you last January, and b) that it wasn't as much a big deal as it was me just being kind of a dick- and that when it's all said and done, that I'd go to the ends of the earth for you, and that giving you a quarter can of some other flavor of cat food would not be a big deal in the finer scheme of things- and that if I did make it a big deal, that it would make me feel like shit about time i was frustrated for no reason when I could have spent more time snuggling with my 2nd best friend.
But most of all, the thing I want to thank you most for was your unconditional love. From almost our first meeting, it seemed you knew something I didn't. I just thought you were a cute kitty, but one I could not, at the time, distinguish from your sister, who at the time I described as two kitties of a girl I liked but doesn't really want to date me. But if there's one thing I do not doubt or never question, and it's that you love me with everything you have, and with everything you are. I hope you know that the love I have for you is as pure a love as I've had for any living being, other than your mother. I know that when I come up the stairs, in really any apartment we lived in where you could hear stairs, you were always at attention- able to determine my walk among the hundreds that walked up and down stairs. Knowing that when I wake up, at some time in the first five minutes, even when you got old and the drugs effected everything but the wonderful heart and soul that you are. Knowing when I'm sad or angry or depressed and anxious or just sometimes when the world is playing Big Sausage Little Hole and I'm just tired- you're always there, with a flop or a snuggle or a headbutt- or sometimes you just want a belly and jowl rub- all of which make me stop focusing on me and the Hot Mess my life can be at any given time, to something that makes me focus on something external to my neurosis. It's only funny because when I first saw you, I felt like you felt a spark in me that I didn't feel. The irony is that your understanding of the inevitability of our friendship before I did seems to mirror my understanding of the inevitability of the relationship your mother and I would have.
I'm just glad we were both right.
Your mother seems to think that I'm your favorite, and that you pout when I'm gone. What she doesn't realize is that you pouted and sat in her seat and laid on her side of the bed when she was gone for work or running and you got stuck with me for a long block of time. I hope she realized what I noticed and I'm sure you did- you were better when we were both there and together- you'd prefer to get petted and cared for by both of us than by either of us alone. You are a critical part of our family, and we'll never be the same without you- although I can speak for myself, I'll never be without you: my memories of you are etched in my memory along with the rest of my family that has passed.
My belief in God makes the concept of death a little easier to deal with, and having gone through a lot of death of people who are really really close to me means that this should be easier. I mean they're humans and you're a cat. But here's the thing- I've never had anything more than a 1-2 minute anger issue with you. and you had an ability to tell when I was mad and then you'd do something to make me less angry, and once again realize that, whatever was going on, that knowing I had you made it all better, that your snuggles could always make me smile, that you were the personification of unconditional love. You definitely made me a better human being, and any person that has considered me a friend in the last 13 years has you to thank- as the growth of me from a pretty shitty, pretty selfish person to the person I am today has a ton to do with you. I became the kind of person your mother could spend the rest of her life with due in large part to the love I got to share with you and for you.
I hope I made your life half as amazing as your presence in my life has made mine.
I love you, Buddy. Until we meet again.