(Our sleepy kitten the night he came to us: Christmas Eve.)
There was a day last week when something felt off. It was looming over me. I checked the news to make sure nothing had happened in Iraq, thinking of Gabe--the first thing I always do when that feeling starts creeping in. No news of note. My phone, which rests carefully in the front pocket of my purse, had been quiet all day save a few texts from my best friend asking me to pick up some chocolate cake. Trying to put the feeling behind me, I reminded myself that I was in California and should enjoy it. I checked out the beach. Drove around Santa Cruz. But the feeling stayed.
And then, late in the afternoon my phone rang. It was my dad.
"We're not doing so well," his voice quivering a bit. I could hear my mom and sister in the background. "We're at the vet with Rudy."
"Aww...oh no! What does he have?" I asked sympathetically. For a moment, I was relieved. That's what was wrong. Rudy, our little 10 month old kitten, probably had a respiratory infection or a kitty virus.
"He's pretty sick, B," my dad paused for a moment. "They found a cancerous tumor in his lungs...and he can't breathe on his own. It came on so fast. There really aren't any options...even with expensive treatment he's not going to...we have to let him go."
He trailed off. We stayed on the phone for several minutes, neither of us able to get more than a few words out at a time. My phone grew soggy, tears catching between my face and the screen...I tried to dam the tears as they ran rivers down my cheeks, but there was no catching to be done. There were simply too many.
"Okay," I squeaked, sobbing so hard I could barely speak. "Give him a little kiss and tell him I love him."
Our little Christmas kitten. Gone. Just like that.
I've said before that I'm not good at goodbyes, I'm even worse at forever goodbyes. Although I've felt silly grieving over a kitten while others in the world bury loved ones, I cannot help it. Not a day has passed in which I didn't curl up and cry a little over missing our kitty, my heart aching to think of how long he'd been in pain without being able to tell us. For now I've framed his photo and look at it often...remembering all the giggles and sweetness he brought to our family in only seven months. As family that hadn't welcomed a pet in 15 years, we couldn't have been more in love.
He may have lived a short life, but he certainly left behind the best memories that I'll never forget.