I’m grieving … I’m grieving a 17 lb black cat named Massacre.
A 17 lb black cat who 16 Valentine Days ago was born to a feral park dwelling mama.
Massacre and I had something in common…
My mother dwelled in the same park and was a bit feral herself.
Shortly after this (then) scrawny black kitty was born, his cat mom fell victim to a speeding car and it was my tent living mama that scooped him and his three siblings up to save them from the fate of being a raccoon’s snack.
It was an on again time in our long history of on again off again rotations. It was also just weeks after January 27th 2005, a significant turning point in which I was learning to find my feet in a new way of living and my life was changing in so many ways.
Most changes were of the both necessary and positive variety, but one heartbreaking beyond my control change was that I had to say goodbye to my own little feline partner.
~Gypsy~ Beautiful 13 year old calico Gypsy…Gypsy who was older than two of my children. Gypsy who outlasted a marriage and subsequent relationships. Gypsy who moved half way across country with me twice. Gypsy who I loved more than I’d ever loved a pet. And I had loved many a pet.
Much like my mother had saved Massacre, I too had snatched Gypsy straight from a cruel fate. She was a 2 lb, flea & mite ridden, eyes swollen shut, ball of snot whose barely audible 3 am mew alerted me to her location next to the dumpster behind the sports bar where I was a cocktail waitress.
That was how our story began. It ended 13 years later with me handing her, weak and sick, over to an animal hospital worker, who was also a friend and had promised to stay with her during the end because I was too selfish and scared to be there myself.
How I’ve always wished I could go back and do it differently…but I guess all the wishing in the world can’t turn back time…
Meanwhile back at the park the orphaned kitties continue to thrive in my unconventional mama’s care and my loss of Gypsy immediately inspires mom to insist I offer a home to one of her motherless kittens.
My loyalty and grief at first cause me to refuse but she wears me down and I agree to one. Then comes the call suggesting I take two as she was only able to find homes for two. I agree.
Kitty delivery day arrives as mom steps off a Jitney bus with a cat carrier containing not two, but three 6 week old kittens. “A home fell through, but it’s ok, just pick the two you want and I’ll figure something out for the one you don’t” < this is the suggestion she makes as my three daughters stand before me already each with a squirmy meowing kitten in hand.
So yeah. I kept three.
The older girls immediately devised an ownership plan. It is decided that really our dog belongs to Andrew so he’s covered in the pet department. Shauna selects the black and white male as Colette is content with the black and white female. Oreo and Pookie have been named and claimed.
A very sweet two year old Tia is not only happy with her left over solid black cat, but true to her nature offers to share him with me. Her older sisters support this decision and Massacre is deemed “ours”….mine and Tia’s.
This is not necessary, I do not want a new cat. I look at this fleabag menagerie and my heart aches for Gypsy. I’ve been conned and now I have a brood of four legged mouths to feed that just serve as a reminder of the cat relationship I lost.
Time passes and the cats grow. They are fine cats. They are loved cats. We are a seemingly happy home and all living things appear to be well cared for. Still I keep my distance.
Im convinced that to love them too much would be a betrayal to the cat who I already feel like I abandoned in the end. I need to at least mourn her properly.
And so I do. And then one day it happens, and like so many defining moments in my life I look back with an awareness of the exact time and place which within a shift occurs.
I am sad or mad or something that I can’t quite process. I sit there on my couch and this now very large black cat hops up on me. His weight is a significant presence and I feel it ground me, bringing me fully back into the present moment. As I pet him he purrs loudly. I look into those beautiful green-gold eyes and feel overwhelmed with love for this comforting creature. And so our love affair begins.
I don’t know why in that moment, probably a good two years after this cat had already been “mine” did it become ok to love him so completely, but it did. He wasn’t just mine anymore, I became his.
I became his in such a connected way that at 5 years old when I almost lost him to organ failure I refused to give up and willed him to survive. With the help of medicine that was only meant to comfort not cure and a friend who came over two times a day to give him fluids by injection I watched the yellow in his eyes clear and the weight come back on. His Veterinarian was shocked and could offer no explanation for his complete recovery. I never took a moment that came after that for granted.
He saw me through recoveries just the same. Both illness and heartbreak. With one fat black paw on one shoulder and the other on my other, he would lean his forehead against mine and literally hold me. Again I say his weight had such a substantial grounding quality and his ability to love me was perfect.
So perfect that he remained a good sport through household additions of both the four and two legged kind. Oh wait, and even a three legged one at that!
He was a gentle giant if ever there was one. I would frequently cup his face in my hands, look him in the eyes and say “you can never die Massy, don’t you ever leave me”.
I thought we had a deal, but on February 15, 2021 the day after he turned sweet 16, something happened inside him that couldn’t be willed better.
We are in a quiet room. Massacre is calm and wrapped in the cozy blanket I held him in on the drive to this location. It is fitting that Tia and I should be together in comforting “our” cat during his final moments.
I kneel beside the table he is laying on and gently press my forehead against his. He responds with a purr. Tia strokes his fur and he continues to purr softly until he drifts off to one last sleep.
Now I grieve. My grief encompasses so many elements from the very easy to understand feelings of missing my cat that I loved to the more complex feelings toward the woman who gave him to me.
And just as it was 16 years ago it is again only weeks after January 27th, and the same as how Massacre just had a birthday, I too in a very significant sense just turned 16.
So I’m left thinking that maybe we actually do sometimes get a chance to go back and do things differently and I’d like to believe it wasn’t just Massacre I was kneeling beside at the table there in the same room my sweet Gypsy girl drifted away in 16 years earlier.
Perhaps eventually all things come full circle.