Monday, February 20, 2012

Missing the Early Spring

A few weeks ago, in a fit of desire to have something fresh and green on my plate, I planted a bunch of lettuce and radishes in our front planters, which receive plenty of full sun. Not so great for the plants in midsummer, but this time of year, it seems like a personal greenhouse.

And our daffodils are already starting to bloom!

Indoors, I also planted different types of chili peppers from some seeds from last year. I don’t have great expectations about them, but what the hey—nothing ventured, nothing gained. But sure enough, they’re starting to come up.

And my parsley seeds are germinating, too. It’s all so . . . optimistic, and springlike.

But I honestly don’t feel like spring. Since Thursday, my mood has ranged from deeply worried, to preoccupied, to grief-stricken, to numb. Mostly I’m just numb, with shock: Earl, one of our cats, died Friday night (or possibly Saturday morning). He died alone in an oxygen chamber at the vet’s. Damn.

It came on suddenly—Thursday morning I found him on the landing, midway between the front doors and the second floor, breathing hard—I could see the sides of his body struggling to bring in air. And he wouldn’t stand up and walk anywhere.

I took him to the vet’s right away, where throughout the day they treated him and tried to run tests on him. (Earl has always hated to be constrained in any way, so naturally he would start to struggle, and they were afraid to get him too worked up. They never got a blood sample from him, though they did get some X-rays.)

Ohhhhh, I don’t want to tell this story; I don’t want to relive all this painful stuff. By Friday afternoon, when we visited him at the vet’s, he was in the oxygen chamber, mouth-breathing, struggling, with a 50 percent chance of making it through the night, if this undiagnosable fluid-in-the-lungs thing could just . . . run its course, the various drugs they’d given him clear his lungs out, and he could get better . . . But he didn’t, and he was gone by the morning.

In retrospect, we realized that he had developed an occasional dry cough (we just figured we needed to dust more often), and in the past few days had seemed quieter than usual (but it had been exceptionally gray and rainy, so we all were feeling pretty quiet). Those were the signs, and we didn’t see them. It was probably heart disease.

Earl had some pretty annoying habits, but he was lively, good-natured, and extraordinarily friendly (even with kids; even with other cats). He was astonishingly intelligent and headstrong. He was nimble and lithe, muscular and quick. We used to joke that one of his grandparents must have been a squirrel, or a weasel, or some other kind of “chittery animal.” It seemed he did most everything abruptly—so I guess his death was pretty much in character.

We have two other cats, and that the four of us are here together is a comfort, I think, to all of us. But the house is so very still without him: When he slept, he slept hard, but when he was awake, he was busy. He always ran downstairs to greet us when we opened the door. He woke us up in the mornings. He visited our guests (and walked on them). He pestered us for all kinds of things and trotted ahead to show us the way, always alert and inquisitive—a very active soul, our precious gray Early.

The other two cats are more, well, catlike: They eat and nap; they walk quietly. This weekend, Sue and I spent our shocked, numbed hours hiking, driving out in the country, walking around downtown, reading, and watching movies together on the Internet. Trying to let this new reality sink in. The flowers may be blooming, but it’s definitely still winter in our house, in our hearts.

This is gonna take some getting used to.


Look, I usually don’t like to share my truly personal matters on the Internet (you’ll notice I’m not posting a picture of Earl, even though he was a strikingly handsome Russian blue), but then my blogging had been sparse, anyway, due to lots of work. And now it’s seeming difficult to write posts for this new reason, that I’m just not feeling very “enthusiastic.” I’m sure you understand.


Osage Bluff Quilter said...

Oh gosh, my heart goes out to you all. I can't imagine the pain. We have our first real pet, a black lab we've had for almost 6 years. I dread the day we lose him.
Take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Our pets are our "children" so I understand how much it hurts.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you both for your kindness. We're still pretty shocked about losing him, since it was so sudden.

We've discovered that he had us "trained" in many ways. He had a (bad!) habit of shredding papers, whenever he wasn't getting whatever he wanted, or when he was bored or alone--so we learned to never let papers, photos, softcover books, etc. lie around where he could get at them (including on tables and desktops). And we learned to be vigilant every time we opened a door, even for a second, because he would usually be there to try to run outdoors. And because he would try to drink out of our water glasses, and would paw at them and knock them over, we were careful not to leave water glasses sitting untended.

But ironically enough, we're not even glad that we can leave papers and glasses around, and can enter and exit our house without anxiety. We'd trade all that if we could have him back--even if just for a week--so we could have more time to show him how much we love him.

I guess that's the lesson. As Joan Armatrading says, "Obituary columns are filled with love. Don't wait until it's over." It's not that we didn't love him or show him love--but when it's sudden, you wish you could have said goodbye.