Saturday, March 9, 2013

In Memoriam

My beloved best kitty friend, Checkers, passed away on February 20. I found out that my parents were going to put him down due to his worsening health on February 9, and I didn't write for a week. I couldn't. I didn't even think it would help me. But it is time now for me to write something for him here on the blog. I wrote a journal entry a few days before his death, and I think it is worth putting up after a few edits.

Before I launch into the journal entry, you should know a few things about my family. We are big cat lovers, and had five cats. Checkers came into the family when I was six, and Jack came into the family eleven years later. I'll tell Checkers's story in a minute. Jack we found by my great Uncle Jack's house, abandoned by his mother, and we couldn't take him to the shelter, because we had already fallen in love. He is one of the most mellow, loving cats I have ever known. Well, Checkers has always been a grumpy old man, but I was one of the people he loved. We had a special bond. When we got wild little Jack, we knew he needed a friend so he would stop chasing Checkers around the house. Checkers, after all, was 11 at that point and getting to be a little old for running around the house, not to mention that he was a tad appalled that we allowed another cat to enter his house. He got over it eventually, kind of. Maybe I should say that he tolerated it.

Anyway, we got Truffle Amaroo (which is the Aborigine word for beautiful) about three months after Jack, and they love each other. Amaroo is a mom cat and loves to lick all the other cats. Every day of her life, she tried to make friends with grumpy Checkers. She really loved him, and he was pretty annoyed by her, but he used to let her lay close to him sometimes. I like to think that she succeeded, and that deep in his heart Checkers knew he had a true friend in her. But he acted like a great brat sometimes, so I'll never know in this life. Anyway, Amaroo is very persistent and patient, and we could tell that she was very upset when Checkers died. Amaroo is one of those cats that doesn't sleep nearly as much as a normal cat. Jack can sleep all day long, but Amaroo is never asleep in the mornings. She may take a quick cat nap in the afternoon. However, the day after Checkers died, Amaroo slept all day. That was not normal behavior for her and my mom could tell she was very upset by his death. Later she went to Jack and nuzzled him, looking for comfort, and he licked her. That story from my mom made me love cats all the more.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. When you get me on the topic of my cats, I can talk on and on. Back to the story, however...Mom figured we were done getting cats at that point, but a few months later, upon entering a pet store to get cat food, my sister fell in love with one of the cats up for adoption in the store, and Tiramisu (known to all as Misu) entered the family.

Amaroo, Misu, and Jack.
That is only four cats. Woody adopted us. He lived in our wood pile in the back yard, and we began to make friends with him and feed him. When we took him to the vet, we knew he had officially adopted us. He doesn't ever want to come into the house, preferring the little cat house my dad made in the backyard out of an old bin with a hole cut into it and some blankets, but he, like Jack, is one of the friendliest cats I have ever met.

Now we are down to four.

February 17, 2013

I barely wrote last week. I think I did a blog post and that was it. Checkers is dying, and Wednesday, February 20 is a day that I never want to dawn.

Last night I had a dream. Checkers came to me, and it was really him – fur, skin, bones, the real Checkers, not a phantom. I held him in my arms and he didn't struggle, but just stayed there. I was going to hold him until he died. However, no one else could see him. He was supposed to be in my home town, but I was in some cabin far away. I kept telling my parents that I was holding Checkers, but they couldn't see him. My mom kept telling me that I was delirious. I knew I hadn't eaten that day, but I also knew that I really was holding Checkers. He had come to me. The dream ended.

Yesterday I called my dad on the phone (in real life). Often when I call my dad, whenever he is with Checkers, he will hold the phone up to Checkers's ear so I can tell him sweet nothings. Checkers usually sniffs the phone or rubs against the phone, and listens until Dad puts the phone back to his own ear. Dad was with Checkers yesterday, so he put my little furry love on the phone. I told Checkers I loved him and that he was the best cat ever. I couldn't bring myself to say anything about his death, so I just told him that I loved him over and over. When Dad came back on, he told me that Checkers had licked the phone, which he has never done, and then walked away, another uncharacteristic action.

Checkers never licks the phone.

It was as if he was telling me, I love you, but it's time for me to go now. I love you, and goodbye.

I almost went up this weekend. My sister was driving to the Bay Area, and they would have come and gotten me, if I had asked. But I didn't want to. Although I would have loved to have seen Checkers again, it would have broken my heart, and I would have cried all weekend. I don't think it really would have helped at all. Checkers, I'm sorry. I can hardly handle it here. I cry whenever I start talking about you. I keep thinking of the last time I did see you. My sister and I were leaving in her truck, and you and Jack were outside, and we said goodbye and got in the truck and left. You both looked so sad and confused as we drove away. It was pitiful. It was a knife in my heart.

But you licked the phone, and walked away. You know.

Last night I was listening to “The Breaking of the Fellowship” on the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, and playing Sudoku on Aaron's tablet, and suddenly tears were streaming down my face. I knew that through the emotions I was experiencing through the song, I was also sending you off. It was a way to say goodbye and grieve for the fact that I will likely be on this Earth for so many years until I see you again.

Checkers will be about two months shy of 17 when he goes to Heaven on Wednesday. We got him when I was 6 years old, from the SPCA at home. We had picked the name Checkers as a family, and had all four gone to find our cat. A lot of people probably do not understand what I am feeling here. They may scoff at my attachment to a cat. And as I write this, I realize I don't care. He was a member of my family, and he will always be in my heart.

That summer day at the SPCA, we at first picked out a white cat, and took her into a little room to get to know her away from the noise of the main room. Dad set her down and she immediately began to sniff around the room. She paid no attention to us. My parents soon began to suspect that she was deaf. Dad clapped his hands loudly and she did not so much as move a whisker. We were not meant to be with her. So we took her back and picked out a black and white kitten. We took the kitten to the room. He was scared, sick, and filled with fleas, but would not leave my mother's arms and purred for all he was worth. Dad looked over at Mom and said, “This is Checkers.” That day, the scared little kitten gained a name and a family, and became Checkers Motorman Paulsen.

I will miss Checkers for as long as I am alive. He and I loved each other. I told God that I wasn't interested in coming to Heaven if Checkers wasn't there, and though that is pretty heretical of me, I think God understood.

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