Goodbye Blackie…

She was my little snuggler, cuddling up against me and pushing her head into my armpit. She would burrow alongside me in the morning; a warm, purring ball of contentment under the sheets. She was boundless curiosity, always looking around her, wanting to see everything. She was gentleness, taking Lara under her wing when Lara was a kitten, even letting Lara pretend to breastfeed on her (despite her baffled confusion over where a kitten had come from). And then she was gone. She quietly passed away at her euthanasia appointment on August 29th while Colin pet her, and I entered my payment information in the little machine, and the vet collected the euthanasia solution. I’m so glad Colin was petting her.

Blackie just a smidge over a month before she died

We’d been looking for an adult cat when we adopted her. In fact I’d been following the shelter volunteer to the rear of the cat room to view the older cats when Kait called out to me.

“Mom! Mom! She licked my nose! Can we get her?”

I walked back just in time to see this little fluffball of a black kitten lean against the bars to lick Kait’s nose again and to hear Kait giggle.

“Wait!” the volunteer said as she hurried behind, “those aren’t are senior cats oh-” her voice pitched slightly higher, “you want one of our black cats. Let me get the key.”

And within fifteen minutes we were out the door with Blackie and on our way for her to meet her slightly older sister Angel.

And speaking of which, apparently the blog post that I wrote and deleted (and wrote and deleted) never got finished and posted. Angel, her slightly older sister passed away, in Colin’s arms, on the way to her euthanasia appointment on the last day of May. This post can be for both of them.

Blackie was an absolute sweetheart of a cat. If you wanted a kitty to snuggle, she was your girl. And she’d lick your nose too while she was at it. She loved my days off because she could burrow under the covers and snuggle against my tummy. Meanwhile I lay there thinking –

must . not . squash . the . cat

Of course everyone gets older. Blackie’s eyes fogged, she needed most of her teeth yanked, she started yowling at the shower wall, she lost a bunch of weight. I have laminate flooring so sometimes she’d end up slipping like she was “Bambi on ice”. Through it all she remained alert and cuddly. Then we got to the last weekend in August and everything fell apart. She wasn’t eating or drinking, not even her absolutely favourite food, and when she fell, she wasn’t slipping, she was literally toppling over sideways.

When Blackie yelled in the shower stall I’d cheerfully ask, “Are you yowling into the void again?” because she was fine, there was no fear or pain in her voice. This time I’d just sat down at my computer and she started crying. I bolted to the washroom because she was scared and in pain. I found her lying in a puddle of her own urine at the base of the toilet. I gave her a quick sink bath and put her down as soon as she wanted, then she commenced staggering in a drunken lope without a break, just pacing around and around. By Sunday night she could no longer walk, Monday morning her appointment was made, then Colin packed and headed over. Soon after he arrived he carried her across to the vet and, well, I’ve already written about that.

Angel was only 7 months older than Blackie and a completely spontaneous adoption. We’d gone into the pet supply store across the street for our then cat Pumpkin when the kids saw the play structure full of kittens. They immediately wanted one and, if they pooled their money together, they could afford one. I knew I’d be paying the bulk of money for this cat as they wouldn’t be buying food or kitty litter or paying for vet bills but they were twisting my rubber arm.

Once again it was Kait who found the kitten… or the kitten found her. She was trying to nuzzle and rub against Kait through the mesh of the play structure. At first the cashier was claiming that Angel was a year and a half old queen who’d just weaned a litter of kittens. I looked at the cashier like she’d lost her freaking mind and showed her Angel’s nipples which were hardly bigger than grains of sand. There was no way she’d nursed anyone out of those! A quick phone call confirmed who was who. Soon I was filling out all the paperwork and then Angel was safely home.

I don’t think Angel realized she was a cat, I’m pretty sure she thought she was a person. She didn’t particularly like cats although she managed to tolerate Blackie and Lara. Angel loved her people though. I remember checking in on Kait one night before I went to bed and her pillow was furry and purred. Both Angel and Kait seemed content so I let them be. The next morning Kait sleepily informed me that Angel had wriggled her way under Kait’s head. Angel took snuggling to new levels.

Angel was the softest and floppiest cat I’ve ever seen. I’d pick her up and she’d simply go limp. Colin used to drape her around his shoulders and use her as a scarf. I think she was part ragdoll.

As for me, I called her my little snuggle buddy. She’d cuddle up against me every day and often go to sleep using my hand as a pillow. Losing that was hard, a “something’s missing” moment then a realization of who exactly I’m missing.

When we brought our cats home it was with the idea this was going to be their “forever home”. But that’s impossible, there is no forever home for anyone. In the end we all have to say goodbye. When I’m faced with such innocence, kindness, and unconditional love, I can’t help but wish I could have kept them, healthy and happy, for many years to come.

Goodbye Blackie and Angel. You are always loved and you’ll be forever missed.

This is Angel in May 2022 hoping for treats (which she indeed received)

Requiem for the dead

memorial pictureWhat do you do with your Facebook dead? Do you make them their own list? A gruesome one almost nobody wants to join. Do you yeet them off your page entirely? Out of sight, out of mind. Or do they stay there in your list of dozens… hundreds… thousands… casually ignored unless they pop up in an autosuggest box? I’ve been doing the latter but I’m up to five lost friends now. They’re weighing heavy on my heart and I don’t know where to put them.

I joined Facebook back in 2007 (along with about 60% of North America). That was 15 years ago and the year I turned 37 years old. I got busy connecting with my friends and reconnecting with people I’d lost contact with. And some of those people I ended up disconnecting with, finding out we had less in contact than I’d thought. And some of those people really hurt. People I’d talked to for hours on messenger. People I truly thought were friends. And yet…

Lisa Staley was sarcastic enough for four but would do anything for her friends. If she saw that a friend was being treated badly she was right there, keyboard aflame. She stood up for me several times. She’d be right there in person too except she was sick and mostly at home. She told her doctor that something was wrong, but he’d tell her she just needed to lose some weight. Then she suddenly died, in her 30’s. I’m sure she would have felt vindicated. I’m also sure she’d have much rather been alive.

I first met Shelley McPherson through my ex-husband. She was outgoing, funny, and always wearing a thick coat of pancake foundation. She had psoriasis, my ex informed me. Psoriatic arthritis, she informed me, the worst kind you could get. On top of that her psoriasis was forming on her internal organs as well. But she still loved going to the doughnut store then sitting in the parking lot listening to her CB radio with friends. I reconnected with her years later and, well, we meant to get together but she didn’t like to go out anymore now that her face was disfigured from psoriasis. I offered to pick up food and take it to her place, which we’d do once her foot healed. Then a temporary PSW put the wrong bandage on her foot and it burned away her skin right down to the bone. Meanwhile, as it healed, she posted pictures of the sunset (which she took from her bedroom window) and of her cat, who she adored. Then she was at her parents’ house and then she was gone, far too soon. Like still in her 30’s too soon. I wish she had the chance to actually go on vacation and watch the sunset over the ocean. To go hand gliding. My god she would have loved hand gliding. She deserved so much more.

And Mark. Mark Stacy was a retired nurse who loved dachshunds and puttering around. He was who’s referred to as a “people person” and was generally wise. If you had a question to ask, especially about people, Mark was the one to ask. Of course he also had an offbeat sense of humour, anyone I met off the Regretsy* site did. He kept quiet about being sick, with only a few brief mentions of “treatments”, and he was dead shortly afterward. His calm, caring, and compassionate nature led him to have quite a few people who looked up to him and counted on him for support. His loss was deeply felt.

The past 3/4’s of a year has been a double blow to me. First came Topher. He too was in the medical field, but as a psw. He deeply loved helping people, physically or online. He’d had a rough life in many ways. He contracted both HIV and hepatitis as a young adult. Then he managed to track down his father, who was extremely wealthy. Then when his father discovered his son was not only gay but had HIV it went along the lines of “could you please take the servant’s exit so no one sees you”. And he met his boyfriend K and they moved in together and were together for years until Topher escaped and admitted he was being abused. But he had travelled when he was younger (he loved to travel) and he was in the process of converting to Judaism. He loved his new faith and it brought him great comfort. He was in a lot of pain and went in and out of the hospital (and back in again). A hip replacement was scheduled, which would relieve much of his pain and it was a success, at least until the infection set in. Topher always posted before sunset on Friday to say goodnight to his friends then again when he returned. Except this time there was no return message. Then I saw a message in a group he’d set up that started with “Topher” and my first thought was, “No, no… not him! There was so much more living he wanted to do.” One of his very last posts was asking what Oregon was like because he was thinking of living there and thought moving might be like travelling. I don’t believe in heaven but if it exists I hope Topher’s searching rock pools, watching the night sky for shooting stars, and exploring abandoned castles, all with an old fashioned pub nearby for friendly conversation and live music.

I just found out about the last one yesterday. Like Topher, Mark, and Lisa, Robert was from Regretsy. He was sarcastic as hell, cynical, and a total freaking marshmallow. He opened his home to his sister and niece and they’d lived there for pretty much the niece’s whole life. She had him wrapped around her little finger and he loved it. As a gay man**, I don’t think he figured he’d have children of his own and realized helping to raise his niece was the next best option. Whatever the case may be, it worked well for them and his little niece loved him as much as he loved her. He helped me too. Years ago my daughter had an online boyfriend then got concerned that he might not be who he was. I looked at the tiny amount of information she had and knew I was over my head, so I messaged Robert, who dealt with all things computer at his work. He told me he’d love to help and, within an hour, had tracked the man down to a specific address and knew he was 35 years old, married, and had a toddler. Kait was heartbroken that she’d put time into that relationship, furious that she’d been duped, and relieved that she finally had proof and could move on. I was simply grateful to Robert for finding information I had no idea how to search for. His help made a huge difference. Last night I realized I hadn’t seen one of his posts in a while and I missed him. I grumbled to myself about Facebook hiding over half my newsfeed from me then clicked on his page and a drunk driver had got him. There’s a little girl out there who must be devastated.

You know, after looking at all the options, I think I’ll leave things as they are. My friends can continue to rest in my heart. I don’t think I’m ready to let go.

* Regretsy started out as a site to make fun of and/or showcase some of the weirder things on Etsy. So many people were chatting in the comments, April started up forums which were also called Regretsy (I’m referring to these). The “making fun” was mild enough that quite a few of the recipients actually joined the site.

** I just want to reassure people that I’m not outing anyone, even if it’s from beyond the grave. Both Topher and Robert were openly and proudly gay and neither would give a rat’s arse about being referred to as such.