Sheet music, I observed. Get it?
Today’s post is about grief because our yellow cat died yesterday. Twelve years is respectable for a cat, especially a cat plagued with issues: obesity, skin condition, ear crud, fleas, and kidney problems. In addition to the physical, our cat was also surly and antagonistic. Imagine, I said to a friend, an enormous bully who commandeers the food bowl and drags his dirty bum on the bath mat. The friend returned in kind. “I had no idea you were living with my brother-in-law.”
This cat acted so bad, my husband and I began singing songs about him. Power ballads, Broadway, and one Electronica version that still makes me laugh. Inspired, my husband hung onto a blues riff, and that blues riff eventually became the title track of his first solo recording project “Yellow Cat Blues.”
(If you want to hear the song, this is the Spotify link.)
The anecdotes in the song are all true, and Travis has been a staunch advocate of this cat—often the only advocate in our house.
He earned his orange “use leather gloves” sticker on the front of his veterinary record file, and I was not amused. We brought this cat to the vet more than any of our other cats, combined. And just when I would reach my breaking point of “This cat must go,” my husband would note that nobody else would take such a rotten cat. He was right.
And that’s just about when the cat would heft all 16 pounds of himself onto my lap and purr. He would purr loudly, like a chainsaw, and he would root into my fleece pajama bottoms while I stroked the sweet spot between his eyes. I’d watch his ears with the tiny little tufts of fur at the tips, and my heart would soften. Then he’d roll over, and I would rub his massive, obese track of belly for another hour.
It was a tenuous relationship, but I loved him because this cat was ours.
I took that responsibility seriously, so when the yellow cat, in the span of two days, began to have difficulty breathing and moving—when he refused all food and water, I made the appointment. I made the appointment, but my husband drove him. For the first time in his life, the cat did not resist the carrier. My husband held him during the exam (probably cancer, said the vet, definitely dying), and then he held him during the process.
My husband was glad I did not go. He wanted responsibility for just his own grief in that moment, and he didn’t want me to see him upset. I understood.
A day later, the house feels empty. I claim my crazy cat lady status with this observation, but the three remaining cats don't feel like enough. Three cats, when there once were four, feels inadequate.
Our cat was a big presence in our life, but he impacted others, too. The soldier who turned up after one of Trav’s shows to tell him how often he listened to that first cd when he was stationed in Iraq. Our wedding guests, treated many years ago to a spontaneous, yellow cat-inspired song tribute of “There’s nothing like drinking from the toilet.” Condolences from friends as far away as Israel, Australia, and Greece—all who understand the impact of a pet’s death. The bar owner who was so kind when Travis cancelled his show. He'd lost a dog this week, too.
That, I think, is the highest sort of life for a cat.
So rest in peace yellow cat, you were one of the good ones. We will see you on the other side.