I lost my cat last night. He’s an outdoor/indoor guy and had been missing since the night before. He’s old, too. He’s going on 16 years old – a rough estimate given that we found him slinking around in our backyard in 2001. Once all lithe and sinewy muscle, he’s gotten slower and a lot crankier over the intervening years. His fur, bright orange swirled with crisp white like orange sherbet, has dulled. He’s lost a lot of weight and has become increasingly more lethargic. I’ve steeled myself over the past year over his eventual passing. But last night, after I called out, for the third time, into the darkness of our backyard and didn’t hear his familiar meow and see him swishing his tail as he sauntered down the driveway (always stopping a few feet away because he can’t be bothered to walk up the steps, he MUST be carried), dread knotted up in my stomach. He always comes when he’s called. Always taking his time. But he always comes. I checked every closet in the house, scoured the basement and the attic, double checked under my bed, but no green eyes slowly blinked back at me.
Hours later, panicked and paralyzed, I said aloud the thought that I kept pushing back while I searched: He went outside, found a place to hide, curled up, and died. (Well, I didn’t say it out loud but I texted it to a friend which is pretty much the same thing in this day and age.) Cue the flood gates. I tried to console myself: He was old. This was probably the best case scenario. He lived a good long life. And then the doubt set in: But did he? Did I hold him enough? Was I kind enough? He was really annoying sometimes but maybe I was too harsh with him? I should have given him more treats, more hugs, more attention, more love, more everything because the list is endless when you’re spiraling and realize life is fleeting and so so so temporary.
And then I remembered how I felt during my trip to Norway and Greece earlier this year. I traveled by train through the miles and miles of eerily untouched snow atop mountains, and then descended to take a boat through the cold choppy waters of the fjords carved out by giant glaciers. Pictures didn’t do its beauty justice. I climbed up to the top of the Acropolis, stood outside the Parthenon, visited Knosses, a 4,000 year old palace, and walked around a city among ruins. Between the natural beauty of Norway and the magnificent relics of Greece, I felt so small and insignificant while in complete awe of what the world had to offer. I remember wanting to capture that feeling and hold it inside me so that when I got back home, I wouldn’t take things for granted. Of course, by the time I landed and had gone through customs that feeling was a shadow of a memory. But losing my cat, losing something that symbolizes unconditional love, and realizing how much I took it for granted reminded me of that feeling. Life can be tragically short but the world is filled with infinite possibilities. I came to some kind of peace after that and fell asleep.
But he’s still my baby so I jolted up in my bed at 5:30 in the morning, intent on checking outside one last time. Before I could throw the covers off, something caught my eye. On the ottoman at the foot of my bed, a tangled mess of orange and white fur stretched, yawned, and circled onto itself without even taking notice of me. I’m going to kill him.