Thank you all for your condolences. As always for this sort of thing, that's what I'd be saying each time: Thank you, thank you. I am grateful. I'm just also tired.
So here's the thing. It wasn't until the last year or two that the fact of my grandmother's death really hit me. She'd died some five years before. I've written about thisin some depth
when Dink died, and in passing mentions when Alfie died, and I keep meaning to sit down and really explore the issue but, no surprise I suppose, it's one I don't want to explore while I'm coping with itbut: I don't miss people, and as such I find it difficult to comprehend death. I tend to see the past as a bad memory and the future as a terror, but the bulk of my brain lives chronically in the here and now. I don't have a good grasp of trends over time or general histories, and there are some things I find it hard to project forward. And I don't miss anyone. I have a healthy sense of nostalgia and can get lonely, and I can miss the stimulation associated with certain social interactions, but with the exception of Devon I don't specifically miss anyone when they're not there. I can go months without remembering to contact my immediate family, and it's not them, it's me: it just doesn't occur to me that I should. I suppose it's a little hard to explain.
Death is the knowledge that you'll be missing for the rest of your life. Without missing, and with a poor concept of the past and future, I don't really understand death. People go away, but I never really need or expect their return, and there's no sense of loss.
But December last year or so I was talking with my mother about the upcoming (second) cruise
and realized that my grandmother was dead. She died when I was a freshman in college, and I went to her service with almost no trace of emotion; there's some uneasiness between my family and my grandfather's second wife, because of how soon he remarried and because she's so insistent on the ease with which we (grown) grandchildren should adopt her as replacement grandmother. I saw those grandparents about twice a year as a child and biyearly as an adult, and (socially) I take after that side of the family, which means we were relatively close.
And it bothers
me that my grandmother is dead. It bothers me because of the fallout it's had on my family and my (lack of) relationship with my grandfather, but it bothers me also because while we didn't have the emotional resonance that some people have in these relationships, I was always so much my grandmother's kin; and while she wasn't remarkable in any expected sense of the word, my grandmother was a memorable and irreplaceable woman who I will never see again. It's not a keen sense of loss, it's not like I'm finally cognizant of that loss and just now beginning the grieving process. It's that the grieving process was, for me, all number of years spent not knowing it was going on, and then I came out somewhere near the other end going: Oh. This death upset me.
I'm afraid this will happen with Madison.
It's not unfair to compare a cat to a grandmother. Animals are people, to me; I spent more time with Madison than with my grandmother; I know from my experiences with losing Dink and Alfie that while the circumstances are different, the basics of my grieving process is the same. I also knowespecially with the loss of Alfiethat I am better, now, at conceptualizing loss and death, and I know what helps me do that. I know that seeing his body freed me, not because it released me from my pain but because it triggered it, allowing me to experience a more immediate, intense, and timely grieving process. I'm not at peace with his loss now, but I'm so much closer to that than I would have expected to be. Where my sister can still mourn pets we lost ten years ago, I can finally comprehend those losses ten years later; that I have come so far in understanding Alfie's death is remarkable.
Madison is dead and buried. I have no control here, no immediacy. I can't trigger and embrace my grieving process. I barely feel like I'm entitled to one because of my lack of involvementDevon didn't even tell me that she had died until they had already buried her. I understand that that seemed like a reasonable response of their end, and they're entitled to it. Not everyone finds solace in freezing a corpse for later inspection which, and let's be frank here, is pretty reasonable. And I know it's not as feasible with a cat, no matter how small. I know that she wasn't my pet in the way that the pigs were, and so I can't make demands about the disposal of her body.
But I love this cat. I suggested her namean M name for a tabby with a classic M forehead marking, and also one of my favorite names, a name I'd always wanted to use for a pet. When she was young she used to be a wild beast (they nicknamed her Kerrigan
), but I used to pick her up, hold the scruff of her neck so she couldn't bite, and enforce socializationand bit by bit it began to work. When they finally spayed her (after years of reminders and promises that it would change her behavior), she became an entirely different catcalmer, tamer, and fonder too of soft bedding and warm corners. It got to the point where she would purr when I picked her upshe, this half-feral five-pound wildbeast. I was the one that groomed the mats out of her cheeks, and she didn't even mind that.
Madison is the cat that taught me to be a cat. Dude is the lovable confident man of the house, and he and I get on famouslybut in Madison I saw myself: not specific character traits, but the existence of character, the knowledge that each cat is a life, entity, person onto themselves, that they don't always (or often) conform to feline clichés but are nonetheless wholly themselves and wholly cat. Madison was my sister-cat, who taught me about sleeping in a circle and finding hidden corners and having tufts of fur in the ears and a poofy tail.
Intellectually I know that she's gone, and clearly some of that hit home because she I first heard the news my fingertips went numbthere was something there, some realization. And now when I run idle for a few minutes my thoughts come back to Madison is dead
or and we found Madison dead earlier
and they buried her
with this sort of drynessit's literally just the words, like a line of black type in the middle of a white sheet of paper. I don't know what happens after that, because I just get the white, the blank, the rest of the naked page, or I find something to do (which, today, apparently isn't sleep) so that I'm not thinking about it any more.
But that's it: a few words on a blank page. I cried on and off when Devon first told me, but I've been numb since then and I'm not sure when that will change. I'm worried that it won't. I'm on the fringes of this and not allowed in. I wasn't there, because I'm not her family. I can't turn to Devon for help because he was there and he's hurting from this too, and it's not right to compound or to trample over his grief. I can't engage with the rest of the family because I blame them and I don't want to recieve their comfort or share their griefthey were the ones that decided to make Madison indoor/outdoor and while I know that wasn't malicious, and that you can carry the the guilt of a death and still be a decent human being (as I feel about what happened with Dink), this is still something that could have been prevented and so yes, there is anger there. I will never see her corpse, and never say goodbye.
When I think of her I remember her sleeping curled
, but when they found her she was on her side, dead, with blood in her mouth.
I'm angry about what happened, and I feel isolated and denied by my lack of involvement, and I don't want to be brokenhearted and grieving too but I would rather have thatviolent and miserable and catharticthan feel this hanging over my head: the loss I should feel, and can't understand; the experience that I don't know I'm engaging with, and may not resolve for weeks or years. And then I'll finally go: Oh. This is what it means that she's dead.
Maybe it'll make sense the next time I'm in Corvallis and she's not there. I don't know. I feel guilty, as always, about making this about me and my grieving process and my issues instead of about herbecause it is all about her. She was a remarkable little beastie and I wish you could have known her. She used to stare at her reflection for hours. She used to suckle on microfleece blankets. She used to curl up so tinyshe was a remarkably small cat, and half of that was still fluff. She was bizarre and beautiful and she's dead, so there's that. But I don't know what to make of it, yet, and it scares me.