Friday, April 21, 2017

Delayed Mourning Catches Up to Me

Marigold loved to supervise projects like packing.

On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Chad and I took Marigold to our faithful veterinarian to have her euthanized. Marigold lived over nineteen years, an uncommon feat for a Persian cat.  I grudgingly witnessed the clues that Marigold's quality of life declined: sleeping in odd places, weight loss, diminishing use of her back legs, and finally, a large lump on her jaw. I gave Chad and the veterinarian a well rehearsed speech about how it was time to let her go. I rehearsed that speech so much, because I had to convince myself of its truth before I gave it to other people.

At the time I steeled myself against feeling Marigold's loss too deeply. We had (and still have) three other resident cats and a big dog upon which to dote. We housed a foster cat who had just been rejected from an adoption program the week before Marigold died. The foster cat, though very loving to people, made it clear she hated other cats by attacking our two male cats anytime she got out of her room. The foster cat situation added exponentially more stress to an already stressful time. Thankfully, the foster cat entered a different cat adoption program on January 20, 2017, fully two months later than we intended to keep her. The day I dropped off the foster cat at the adoption center, she shook with fear in her carrier as we waited to enter. She peered at me pleadingly from the holding kennel, leaning as far as she could to keep an eye on me as I filled out her paperwork. I thanked the adoption center worker for accepting the cat as I handed over a cutely worded, but honest, information sheet I had prepared to aid in the cat's adoption. Back at home, I spent four hours scrubbing, disinfecting, vacuuming and steam-mopping the foster cat's room. When I finished cleaning, I sat on the sofa and sobbed for thirty minutes. I felt miserable about dropping off the foster cat. I felt like a failure for not finding her a home. When I told a dear friend about how awful I felt the next day, she responded, "You saved that cat's life." That's how I try to see it now.  I hope our former foster cat is very happy with her new family.

Four and a half months after making the decision to euthanize Marigold, I started dreaming about her. I dreamed she was fluffy, healthy and happy. In the dream Marigold telepathically told me she was at peace and pain-free. She showed me a ghost of a teenage boy, and warned me about him. Dreams are weird, am I right?

Two nights later I dreamed about Marigold again. In this dream I worked in Austin's historic Scarbrough building again. Behind an old bank vault, I discovered a secret staircase leading up to a modest apartment frozen in time in the early 1920s. There was a china hutch displaying pastel floral adorned fine china dishes. Old furniture supported impressive spider webs and dust layers. Marigold walked through the living room, leading me to the lovely claw-foot bathtub in the apartment's single bathroom. I marveled at the secret apartment discovery so much, I forgot to pet Marigold, or even greet her properly in that dream. When I awoke that day from that vivid dream, it hit me: I forgot to grieve for Marigold.

I have been a weepy mess for the past two days. I miss my dead Marigold so much. I miss the way she would meow at me until I picked her up and put her on my shoulder like a baby. I miss her twice-daily races up and down the long hallway in our house. I miss her sitting next to me on the sofa purring loudly. I even miss her sneezing fits, when I had to massage her throat to calm her enough to stop the sneezes. I miss her general sassy demeanor and her radiant, massive halo of gold fur. I miss that Marigold loved her Janie-dog, napped happily next to Janie and sniffed Janie's frito-scented feet.

This too shall pass, but I have to let the grief do what it will for a while. Proper mourning can't be delayed indefinitely. It will catch up to you.