The Writing

15 November, 2015


There were two black kittens at the animal shelter. I had my eye on the older of the two, who appeared, in his photos, to be rather fluffy. But of course, they were both in the same cage when we got there, and so we took them both into the play area, just to be sure. I wasn't looking for Not Idris so much as I was looking for a more stable personality. Idris was amazing, and smart, and entirely high strung. I thought it might be nice to aim for amazing, smart, and a little more level-headed, if one can find such things in kittens. Also: no evidence of chewing. We figured a 12 week old would be teething already, and we'd be able to see if he was mouthy right off.

We chose the larger, more confident kitten, who, when confronted by a spinning feather toy making odd noises, sat down on my foot to consider it, rather than running for cover. The smaller kitten looked to the bigger one for leadership. He was also sleek and physically similar to Idris--smallish, slender, blacker than black. The larger one was stripey, fluffy, ginormous feet--totally different build. And he seemed super level-headed, so he was the one. We figured we'd picked the one from the photo, all right. Go, us. We even talked to his foster-mom (is there a better word for people who foster cats? There needs to be.) in the lobby. She was so happy someone was taking him. She'd bottle-fed him and his brother. He's high energy, she said, and a little needy for other cats, but he's great. Some older woman had returned him for being too rambunctious already (because kittens are not rambunctious in some universe.)  He just needed someone who got cats. She left all happy her foster had a new home.

Needy made my stomach sink a little. Oh god. Not this again. But he'd seemed so steady in the play room--oh, we were committed. We'd figure it out.

And then they ran his chip. Turned out the bigger, more confident kitten was the younger one. He'd gotten more fluffy since his first straggly baby photo, while the older kitten had defluffed and sleeked out. I felt awful for the left-behind kitten. We could name them Phobos and Deimos! I said to Nous. He pointed to our lease agreement, and yeah, okay, the shelter has a record of the cats we adopt, and they know we've got Louhi and had Idris. So FINE. One kitten.

And so we came home with Skugga.

He has the most piercing meow, which he fortunately deploys only rarely, when he has a particularly important opinion to share (I am hungry! This is a car! You should pick me up!). Mostly he chirps to himself as he scampers around the world. He's a full pound heavier than average for his age (a whopping four). The vet guesses we're looking at a big cat, someday. Fine with me. I fantasize he's part Maine Coon, though he's not nearly fluffy enough.

 Louhi is annoyed, but not angry. She came right out to see him. She disapproves of his shenanigans when he seeks participation, but she likes to watch.

The grief isn't over. One does not replace someone like Idris. One just moves over and makes room.

11 November, 2015

(not) too soon

Grief is a strange thing.

It feels like an empty socket where a tooth used to be. Poke and poke, taste the blood, poke and poke, feel the pain. Eventually it may, or may not, hurt less, even if the bleeding stops. Sometimes it may surprise you. Sometimes the weirdest shit surprises you. Like--I can talk about what happened with Idris today. Monday I could not. Today I almost made it without any tearing up, and would have, except there was a cat in the Petsmart adoption area who was yes, long and lean and black--but what got me were his eyes. Beautiful, green eyes, like Idris had. I had to walk away. I came back, because I will not be ruled by my feelings, but it hurt, surprisingly much, to look into that cat's face and see eyes like Idris's. Tonight we talked about our decisions, and his death, and Nous choked up. I didn't. But I cried my way through Monday and Tuesday morning like a small child, where no one could see.

And the grief isn't about Idris, not really. I mean, yes, it is--a beautiful cat, smart, so damned alive until he very suddenly wasn't. But he was a happy little guy, almost right up to the end. I grieve for me, because there's a happy little guy hole in my life and my routines. So it's...kinda selfish, in a non-perjorative sense. No. The word I want is personal. Grief is very personal.

I know, when we get another cat, people will decide it's too soon, too long, too something. People always have opinions about that. A friend of mine waits a year after one dog dies to acquire another. That would be too long for me. It works for her. Okay. My parents waited a month to get puppy Baron after my dog died. I think they waited a couple more to get Maxie after he died. We waited almost a month after Pooka to get Idris.

Tomorrow, we will go to the humane society and come home with one of the black male kittens.

It's not about replacing Idris. I can't. I don't want to. I loved him, and I still love him and I will miss him for a long time. I am glad to have shared his life with him. I am glad I was there to the end, no matter how much it sucked for me. I don't regret him at all. I wish like hell he was still here.

But I like having cats, more than one. And we can have more than one. And there are so many cats at that shelter who need a place. Well, we have one. It won't be Idris's place. No one can take that. Or Pooka's. Or Pixie's. But tomorrow, there will be someone new here. I look forward to meeting him. And I will probably (definitely) still tear up sometimes, when something reminds me of just how big the Idris-shaped hole is, will always be.

And that's okay.

08 November, 2015

my biscuit

We brought Idris home on a sunny November almost two years ago. He was all fluff and eyes, visibly stripey under the black. We didn't know much about his history, except that he and his sister were found alone, too young to be weaned, with no sign of  a mama. His sister went right away, because she was not black. When we adopted him, he was newly alone in his cage.

You would expect that to engender a little trauma. It did not. He was a gutsy little guy, as kittens tend to be. But he was also very, very small, and to him, the apartment was very, very big (and smelled of Other Cats(tm), the only living one of whom kept hissing at him). So naturally, he decided to sleep under the couch when everyone else went to bed.

The next morning, I came out, got on my elbows and knees, and peered under. "Where's my biscuit?" I asked. "You're MY biscuit."

He chirped and ran to me. And he was, ever after, my biscuit. He loved everyone, but he was mine in that way cats have.

He figured out opening doors before he was actually strong enough to do it. He figured out how to use the mirrors (our closets are mirrored sliding doors) to see who was around the corner. He played fetch with milk-bottle rings for hours. He would jam his head under my chin at night and lick, bite, lick, while I pulled his ears and told him that yes, he was my biscuit, and please stop biting. He never really meowed. Mostly chirps. Occasional squeaks. I could summon him across the house by exhaling hard through my nose, like an irritated mama cat.

Sometimes, he was Idris Dexter Oliver Mephistopheles Beauregard. But he was always, always Biscuit.

He also had a bad, bad chewing habit. He survived one round of obstructed bowels last spring; yesterday, he was not so lucky. This time, the vet guesses it was a longer piece of debris, and that it perforated his bowel and turned him septic. We took him in last night, and elected to bring him home again. It was something soft. It might pass. But we did not want to leave him there overnight, or put him into surgery overnight. We had a feeling that something was just...that we needed to have him home with us.

He spent most of last night under our bed, near the foot. He usually slept at our feet on the bed; last night, the on part was too uncomfortable, so he stayed just under. I woke up (oh, let's be real. I didn't sleep)--I became aware of Something Not Right around 6 am. He crawled out, I went to him, assuring him he was my biscuit, yes he was.

He shoved his head into my hand and stretched out. Then, sometime while I was pulling his ears and petting his head, he slipped into shock. I took him in to the clinic, have to, you know. You can't just fucking quit. But the vet (same as last night) told me they barely had a heartbeat, they couldn't get BP. She was marshaling herself to advise against surgery. I saved her the trouble. She was kind enough to tell me even if we'd done it last night, the speed with which he declined suggests the perforation had already happened. Whatever he ate, it killed him.

They took two tries to get the catheter in him to put him down. I held his head. I pulled his ears. I rubbed my head on his head, which he loved. I couldn't manage to tell him he was my biscuit again. I don't know if he heard me. One eye opened, at the last. I suspect reflex. I choose to believe that, for a moment, he knew I was there.

Hear me, Idris? You're my biscuit. MY biscuit.

Idris, 2013-2015