Our little companion Cleo, came into our lives a little battered. We found out about her because she was advertised on cable and was temporarily housed at a cat shelter. The shelter, while nice for some, was not a happy place for her. She was standing well away, as well away as was possible in such a crowded place, from the other cats. She had a bald spot over one eye and she possessed a neediness that drove me crazy at the time. I was unemployed and new to a big city. Cleo was a present- a present I wasn't sure I wanted initially. As I moved about the apartment, she was always under foot. Eventually, we started to let her dabble a little on the outside which she did with great gusto but always with a tentativeness that never made us fear that she would roam too far or cause any harm to other creatures. Slowly but surely she assumed her own, distinct place in our lives.
She moved across the country with us and that summer, as we hung out by the seashore, this cat would actually go for walks with us. She would amble along beside us on her own volition as we walked along the grassy lane. It was as if she had an intuitive connection with us by then and it only continued to grow. When my husband was very ill several years ago, Cleo stood watch. She looked up in alarm when our newborn would cry. Cleo and our first born never saw eye to eye. My son, however, had a special touch with Cleo right from his early days. Cleo's wariness was accepted but he persisted in connecting with her by approaching her with a calm aplomb.
After all those late night porch romps, and cuddles in the sun warmed duvet, and 13 years in our lives, Cleo never appeared to age. Her perch only in later years became an effort. She was like a person who you can never really guess how old they are. We did not know her precise age because of her origins, but it did not really matter.
Cleo stopped eating in early November. We took her to the vet and the vet said she had some jaundice from dehydration. We took her home to force feed her and wait to see if the root cause condition (whatever is was) would improve with antibiotics and water and some painkillers. After several days, she took a turn for the better. It was miraculous. She suddenly wanted to eat proper food and the first day she started feeling better she sat on the back deck in a sunny patch, squinting up to the sun. She looked so much at peace. She even pulled one of her moves that she had not attempted in years--jumping directly from the floor onto the crook of my husband's neck for a cuddle. This reprieve was temporary of course, but when she finally did die in her sleep, we took comfort in the fact that she had had that time. She relished the warmth of the sun, and she seemed to want to say good bye. She had been comfortable enough to be cuddled a few last times which, heartbreakingly for us, had been difficult for a spell during her acute illness.
After she died, I felt relief because I knew she had been suffering. We had become so tuned into to each others' movements and habits-- the padding of her feet, the opening of a door-- that her death left a palpable absence. And I wondered, why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let ourselves get so attached to a little creature only to have to go through this sad time? Within weeks, we brought home brother and sister, Mulder and Izzy. With a gulp, we turned to enjoy their youthful antics and get to know their curious souls. Cleo's presence is still missed by us, but, alas, we begin again.
“We, who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan………”