I’ve just lost my kitty friend, my little boy, my Misha.
He was born in May 1996.
He lived with me in 9 different homes. This ninth, where I’m living for my ninth year, was his last.
He greeted me when I came home every single time.
He was there every time I needed a furry shoulder to cry on.
He met a lot of people over the years, he licked their head, he made himself comfortable on their laps, he somehow managed to manipulate people into scratching him with BOTH OF YOUR HANDS PLEASE, peed in their shoes, stuck his paws in their drink or in their chipotle. He had way of winning people over despite his bad habits (mostly).
And now he’s not here, and I have absolutely no idea what to do with myself. I sit here in my apartment empty, hurting, seeing the joyful sunlight streaming in through the windows to hit the couch where Misha should be sitting & enjoying his time in the sun. I think I see him, I even say “Hi little boy,” but he’s not there. The only thing I can think to do right now (other than the mindless practicality of the laundry from his past two days of decline) is to pour out my heart to this page in writing while scrolling through pictures. And remembering. Hoping he enjoyed his life and didn’t take TOO much offense when I worked too late into the night or the weekend on this very same machine, working instead of paying attention to him. And I’m even regretting the time I spent scrolling through social media on my phone while he stared balefully at me. While sitting right next to me or on me. Or maybe it was accusingly… he was really good at laying on the guilt. But that smart phone also captured some important and beautiful moments.
So please forgive the ramblings of a grieving heart while I remember:
That summer before my senior year of college when mom came home and said “Hey, the neighbors down the street have two kittens- want one?”
That time all of senior year when his kittenhood antics were, oh, overexuberant. I know people who will corroborate.
That time when I woke up from having an odd dream about something grabbing my head from under the bed and found Misha curled around the top of my head.
That time when he howled for three hours during the drive north when I was moving to Minneapolis. When as a tiny kitten he used to sit up on my shoulder in the car.
Those times I couldn’t bear to let him on our second floor balcony because his short stopping & balance just weren’t that great.
That time we came home and found that Misha along with his cohort Foznick had completely taken over roommate Marie’s bed and laundry basket and arranged it all to their liking.
That time he weighed 14 pounds for years. Not fat, just a big little boy.
All of those times he could sense I wasn’t feeling to grand so curled right up next to me, purring. That morning I was to go in for ankle surgery and woke up to find him actually draped, laying, sleeping on that specific ankle (and subsequently the first thing he did when my boot was off was step directly on the bandaged healing incision.)
The long greetings of alternating neediness and aloofness when returning from a long trip.
All those times he got crabby with me because I wouldn’t let him eat plastic bags. And the zeal with which he chewed on plastic bags accidentally overlooked, then hastily hidden.
That time he had bilateral ear infections on a New Year’s Day that led to his diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.
The furniture he ruined. Goodbye gold chair. (He didn’t just sleep in this chair!)
That time he turned a stove burner on to high when I wasn’t home.
The time I noticed all of his pacing and meowing was because he could no longer jump up on the cabinets.
That time he decided the fleece cardinals blanket was his favorite.
That time I realized he was starting to show and feel his age.
That time I found a white whisker on in his otherwise always gray face.
That time he appreciated some of my book cover designs.
The time he really wanted my miel.
The time he really wanted my hummus.
Those times he just really wanted all the attention.
All of those mornings I woke to find him curled next to me, purring.
That time he longed to be outside, seemingly.
That time he stole a friend’s iphone. And wallet.
That time he really wanted the flowers on the counter.
That time he decided the Crate & Barrel box in the corner was his favorite. Where just now I thought I heard him, so went to see his cute head and feet poking out of the box.
That time (er, times) he really insisted there was something in the corner and wouldn’t stop with the meowing already.
That time he turned 20 years old.
That routine he had built up around my morning shower. How long will I absentmindedly rinse the tub with exactly two cups of water and wait for him to jump in the tub after, stuck in a routine that no longer exists?
That time he turned 20.25 years old.
That first emergency trip to the vet in late August.
The relief that I would get more time with him. More Saturday mornings lounging with cat, coffee, and cooking shows.
That second emergency trip to the vet two weeks later. And again relief as he bounced back.
Learning how to inject subcutaneous fluids, to keep him comfortably mobile and hydrated while the inevitable happens.
That time he turned 20.5 years old, weighed 6.3 pounds, and returned to acting like he was a mere 18. Wanting ALL THE FOOD and ALL OF THE CUDDLES.
That time he gained a pound in one week, all from fluids in a swollen abdomen, that brought his remaining time into clearer focus. But he wasn’t in pain.
That time he lost interest in his food and water.
That last Saturday morning with coffee and cat and cooking shows.
Celebrating that last Saturday evening by lounging in all the soft places and trying to take selfies with a cat who has always been distrustful of a phone in his face.
That Sunday, November 20th, when I knew he was giving up.
That last night when I brought him up on the bed to sleep for the night and he hadn’t the strength to get down, if he had wanted.
When he tried to get comfortable, and only seemed as such when I was rubbing his belly or touching his paws. Or scratching his ears.
That mostly sleepless night of wondering if I’d have to take him in to the vet in the morning so he wouldn’t suffer.
Waking up after a fitful couple hours of sleep to find him laying sleeping peacefully with his head cradled in my left hand.
His soft gray fur, his soft gray nose, his slightly wild green eyes, his prowling walk, his tail straight up in the air.
That November 21st, him waking up, trying to be alert, me wondering against all hope in the dim light if he was actually perking up. Turning on the light to find no, no he was not. He was trying, but I believe out of cat fear of what was happening to him. It was quick from that point. I sat with him as he drew his last breath. He went out in his own way, not wanting to wait for the vet appointment. He has his pride, after all.
That time I sobbed “is that IT???,” to a quiet early morning apartment.
That time he broke my heart.
I don’t really know how to live without a pet. There were only brief times in college when I did not have some type of animal to take care of and love. And after 20 years and 6 months of Misha, this cat is more ingrained in my life than I’m sure I even realize. What rituals did we have that I didn’t even know were rituals, made so because cats are creatures of habit. And how long will I be finding his hairballs everywhere. I don’t know any of this, but I’ll have to find out. I grieve today, and will tomorrow, and I hope it’ll get easier after that. I’ll be thankful at Thanksgiving of all of the time we had together playing, sleeping, eating, both wanting to be on the keyboard at the same time… I am thankful he was my cat, that he spent his 20.5 years with me, put up with my crazy human habits. Thankful he was such a personality. Thankful I had him as a friend. Thankful I had him at all, long enough, healthy enough, that it took him so very long to break my heart.
Goodbye my little Misha boy, I’ll miss you.