In April of 1989, we welcomed a new member into our home. I was 7 years old. I remember being so excited all day at school because I knew that we’d have a new kitten when I got home. I flew into the house and burst into the living room and saw…….nothing. See, at seven, one doesn’t understand the intricasies of the feline psyche, especially not the toddler-feline psyche, which may include fear of large, loud, running children. Mom made me sit in the living room quietly, and Puss finally crept out from behind the couch. She was 10 weeks old. We decided that Valentines day would be her “birthday.”
I tormented and aggravated the crap out of her on a daily basis. But I loved her. And, in that unique way that only cat-people can understand, she loved me too. Most kids think of their pets as their friends; it’s different for kids that get picked on. The bond is deeper. She was my best friend.
She was also silly. She flew through the kitchen, losing traction on the lineoleum and skidding under the table. She chased a hundred bouncy-balls under the oven (believe it or not, they don’t melt…even after ten years under the oven). She hid, waiting for unsuspecting ankles to pass by and launched full-scale, painful attacks. She played “Killer-Kitty.” She climbed into the microwave…
She was there when my dad had a heart attack when I was in the fifth grade. She was there when I found out “the truth” about Santa. She was there when I went to middle school, and when I got picked on almost every single day of those two years. She was there when I started playing the flute, the piano, the guitar. She was there when I went to high school. She was there when I went on my first date, got my first boyfriend, for my first kiss. She was there when I went to college and slept with me when I was terrified because I didn’t know anyone. She was there for mine and my mom’s late-night summer gab-fests, watching tv and playing cards. She was there for my first breakup. She was there when I got engaged. She was there when my Papa died. She was there when I lost all of my friends in a stupid fight. She was there when I got married, when I graduated from college, when I moved away to TX, when I came back, when I had to quit my teaching job, when I got my first corporate job, when Joey graduated from seminary, when Mom hurt her back and then had surgery, when Dad had surgery and we thought he was going to die. She was there when he came home from the hospital and through cardiac rehab.
And then she wasn’t there. After a three-year battle with kidney disease, Puss went home on 12/7/07. Most people aren’t lucky enough to get almost 19 years with their pet, I know. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I was at work that day and couldn’t go to the vet. I feel guilty for that. The only day in my life that was worse was the day that Dad had to go to the CCU. And I still miss her so much.
For those of you who would say, “it’s just a pet,” I pity you. You’ll never understand the indelible mark that tiny pawprints can make on the heart.
And even though the pain of losing her is still great, I would never trade one day of the nineteen years I got with her. It was worth it.