Yesterday, after a day in Mary Fons’ apartment (talking, of all things, about cats and how wonderful they are, and how she should get one), I came home to make sushi, clean the house, and check the never-ending items off the infinite to-do-list. Luke came home, too; I told him to blanch the asparagus (although I didn’t use the word “blanch” because I didn’t know what that word meant; Luke used it later to describe what he was thinking about doing). I gave the cats a scoop of food, and we started talking about our days, and the familiar warmth of routine crept into the evening.
Then John (technically spelled Jean, as in Jean Baptiste, but pronounced JOHN) started to meow and vomit, which was weird, but not that weird. Then he lay by the refrigerator meowing and meowing and meowing. Let me tell you: John is not a meower. In our lives as cat owners, he has probably meowed (barring last night) fewer than nine meows. So it was starting to seem strange that sweet John was uncomfortable enough to be making all this noise. Puppy (the other cat) came in from the bedroom to sit near him and lick his head.
Then John decided he wanted to move from the refrigerator. He straightened his front legs to walk, but his hind legs wouldn’t move. He could sort of pull himself along with his front legs, but those back ones were like jellyfish on sand. He looked back at his legs and he looked at us, and he was terrified.
I called the emergency vet, who confirmed that this was an emergency, and that we needed to bring John Right Now.
The short version* is that he has a serious heart disease that causes his blood to clot. One of those clots moved into his legs last night (better than his lungs, or his heart, or his brain), and this won’t be the last time; his chances of relapse are 100 percent. He is in a too-small glass cage at the vet hospital in Lakeview. Just to keep him there overnight and give him the oxygen he needs to survive cost more money than Luke and I have in our combined bank accounts. We had to pay for it on credit that neither of us has.
And still — that’s what money is for. You can’t take any of it with you.
I know John is a cat and not a human. (I know this factually, although not really in my heart; because if you live with pets you might know that there are times you look at them and think about how you love them more than you love most people, and you wonder if this makes you a monster.) He is an incredibly special cat, and he is an incredibly young cat, and he seemed so healthy. But this is life: Things come out of the blue. And this is life: Everything, in its time, goes.
There have been many moments over the past month and a half where, when I look at the details, I can see that there’s no silver lining; nothing to “chin up” about. It can be so hard to sit inside the suffering and the pain and recognize that there is nothing to fix right now; right now you just have to be inside the darkness.
This is coming out in a blog post about a cat; our cat is not as important as the ramifications of this election, the genocide in Aleppo, or friends and family members who die too young and suddenly. Last night — because I was scared and sad, and because when we left the hospital, we went to say goodbye to John, and he was in a tiny cage and he was miserable and crying and Luke put his hand to the cage and John dragged his head over to Luke’s hand, like he thought maybe we’d be able to pet him, but we couldn’t pet him — I prayed. But it’s not that I can’t believe in Something Greater Than Myself; it’s that I can’t pray for my cat without thinking about all there is that needs praying for.
There are constant reminders, however, about how fragile everything is. Really — everything. There are reminders to recognize moments of calm so you can actively appreciate and find the words to put to your love. For me, this is one.
*The whole ordeal, of course, took hours. Our friends Rachel and Christopher were supposed to come over and make sushi with us, and they arrived right as it became apparent John would have to go to the hospital. They stayed and made the sushi and took care of Puppy. They are heroes. Friends can be heroes.