Posts Tagged ‘Kitten’

I just finished burying my belovéd cat Kanji beneath one of the great eucalyptus trees in the garden at Edgemont Place. I had to do this once before with the Murdoch family cat, Frodo, in 1997, after I moved him in with my first wife and our four cats Kalvin, Anastasia, Hobbes, and Atari on Sutter Street. Frodo was over 16 years old, a canny outdoors cat with a penchant for rubbing so vigorously on the edge of roofs that he’d almost fall off. He had never been away from the fiefdom on Amiford, but the people who were leasing the house while my parents were in Canada were “allergic to cats” and didn’t want him around. It was only a couple of months later that he quit eating — even hand-shredded warm chicken — and I knew it was time for him to go.

 


Frodo

 

When I took Frodo to a highly impersonal 24 hour clinic to figure out what was wrong with him, the diagnosis was swift and sure: kidney failure. He wouldn’t miraculously heal and start eating and beating the shit out of the younger cats when they wouldn’t leave him alone like he was doing last week. It was clear that it was time, and when I looked into his eyes when I put him down, he was so much wiser and greater than I could ever be; he thanked me with a wink as he slipped over the edge and was no longer there in feline form.

I had no cat carrier at that time, so I took Frodo to the clinic in a paper ream box with a lid. As I took his body home in the same box, driving west on the I8, the clouds poured sunshine through a halo-like hole in the sky over the ocean, and I had to pull over to let the tears course down my face and to scream how unfair it is that I am left behind with all of this grief and a hole in my heart. I went home, got a shovel out of the shed, and drove to Monaco Street near the Amiford residence. I hiked up the drainage ditch I used to play in and around as a child, struck off into the depths of the old acacia bushes, and found a spot under a tree that I thought Frodo would like. And I buried his body there, in the wilderness behind the house where he would disappear for hours and sometimes days, hunting, napping, sunning, and doing whatever it is cats do when they go adventuring. Performing this ceremony made me whole over time: I knew I had done the right thing and done it with power and grace. It is not an easy thing to do.

 

Kan*Ji

the Japanese Kanji for Kanji

 

It doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

The week before this one, on Thursday, I woke up with Kanji curled up between my legs where I had fallen asleep on the couch. What puts this into perspective is that Kanji does not like to come inside the house. She’s always been like this; I am certain her previous owners didn’t allow her inside, and it was hilarious to watch her at Saratoga — where I inherited her — with an open door and a bowl of wet fud just inside enticing her to cross that threshold. When I moved and took her to Panorama, she stayed in my room for two weeks straight, terrified and freaking out that I had moved her from where she had always been. After she ventured outside, she found the spacious basement and spent her time sleeping in the rafters, only emerging to demand fresh kibble and occasionally sprint halfway up a tree when chased by the native cats Brother, Jedi, and Vader. She would continue to sleep at the foot of the bed every so often; a pleasant morning surprise keeping my feet warm and blinking her big blue eyes at me as I would be sleepily slapping the nightstand for the snooze button. At Edgemont, Kanji quickly took up residence under the house a

 

somebody is dreaming...

Kanji abed

 

gain when I let her outside and removed an anti-rodent mesh from the sub-basement. Over time, she found many hidey-holes, but spent most of her time curled up snoozing in the beat-up garage, sometimes on top of my carpeted DJ coffins or speakers. She did get used to coming in the house in order to feed and water, though, so I got used to her occasionally showing up inside, although she much preferred to enter via the window rather than crossing a doorjamb. So it was unusual to have Kanji curled up next to me, rubbing blood and pus all over my comforter from her ruined nose and ear because she just couldn’t quit being a kitten and, well, she wanted to communicate with me that she needed me.

I spent the last week with Kanji as an indoor cat. She had gotten skinny — skin and bones, really, so I plied her with wet fud and booted Brother out of the house so she could eat in peace. Lots of time was devoted to scratching her in all the right places, and gently, so when she would encourage me to rip the scabs off of her nose and ear to drain the grisly shit that was going on underneath, my fingers could dance around it. She peed on everything and I didn’t give a fuck; that Thursday she came in the house, I promised her that I would take care of this once and for all, and so we hung out hard-core: nerding it up while I solved Halo: Reach on Legendary mode with her next to me for good luck; watching Netflix Kung Fu movies until 4 in the morning on school nights; hand-feeding her American cheese slices and black forest ham on her Mexican blanket on the couch and hearing her little “om nom nom” noises; waking up in the middle of the night as she decided that she wanted to sleep closer to me, so she would carefully crawl on to my chest or between my calves and pretend like she had always been there. Kanji was fiercely independent, but she knew better than I what time it was.

 

Handsome Girl Modelling School pose #113

Kanji on the back of my couch

 

I took Kanji to Heather at Cabrillo Vet four or five months ago to find out what was wrong with the persistent scabs on her ear and nose. Heather and her whole staff, by the way, are the greatest lovers of animals on the planet. Referring to me as “Dad”, Heather told me several months ago that this was fast-moving, untreatable skin cancer, and as tears welled up in my eyes, she informed me that Kanji had 1-6 months to live. Today I took Kanji back to Cabrillo and Heather to put her down. Over the last week, I would come home from work at GreenHouse, drop my heavy backpack of tech, and go looking for her. I was worried that Kanji would try some disappearing bullshit on me. At first, I would find her laid out on the couch somewhere, but as this last week went by, I would have minor panic attacks and search the yard fruitlessly, thinking that Kanji either couldn’t get back in the window or that she was trying some dumb “I’m just going to disappear” ploy. She was always inside the house, but these last three days, she was so embarrassed with her incontinence and appearance, she found a secret spot in my back closet where she would hide until I coaxed her out of it and encouraged her back to the couch. Usually, this involved playing Lady Gaga tunes and putting fresh food in her bowl; she loves teh Gaga while she delicately ate while trying not to bang her scabby nose into the kibble.

So the second vet visit ever was to put her out of this misery. I am comforted that I spent good time with Kanji and have lots of pictures and even a little bit of video (where she got excited and tore the crap out of the back of my hand). Heather and Cabrillo are very efficient; I signed some paperwork and there was no wait. We went right back to the exam room, and they gave me a scant two minutes to let Kanji out of the carrier and let her freak out and run around a little. As I put her back on the table for the procedure, I got one good look in her big baby blue eyes, and saw them change from fear to resignation to trust. I trust you. I. Trust. You. And that is how Kanji went forth into the great beyond.

 

This is where I buried Kanji

This is where I buried Kanji

 

I’m an Eagle Scout; I pride myself on being prepared and being good in the “clutch” situation. As I drove home with Kanji’s still form in the cat carrier, I couldn’t help but look at her as if she was just sleeping. When I got home, I didn’t like her body in the carrier, so I carefully pulled her out and laid her on her circular cat-tower-throne that she liked when she was sunning and sleeping. She looked like she always did, sans an infrequent mini-bath and look around while squinting and licking her chops before resuming her nap. I found my shovel under the stairs and dug a deep hole next to two of the massive eucalyptus trees here at Edgemont place. Curling her up in that hole, and arranging her limbs to cover her eyes and give her the semblance of a nap reminded me of doing the same thing with Frodo. And that’s when I knew that it doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

As I updated Kanji’s Catbook profile to provide how long she had been loved, I realized that I have known her since 2008. It is 2010; that is two years. But when you love unconditionally — something I have a problem doing with humans, but rarely with animals — that is a lifetime. I have received many beautiful expressions of sorrow and understanding from my friends and family, and I appreciate them all; however, none of them goes as far as a simple meow from Brother: “Are you OK? I love you. BTW where’s Kanji? Can I have her fud?”

Kanji is physically gone, like so many other cherished pets and loved ones, but that does not relinquish the responsibility of playing it forward: lives are spent setting examples, and I remind myself constantly that this is why they were here in the first place: to move and inspire me now. Even after I have laid one of mine to rest in the cool earth. Kanji is not even a girl; Heather took one look at her and laughed, stating “that’s a boy-kitten, Dad.” Having known this for over four months, I still could not quit referring to her as a girl; Kanji didn’t care about the context — only the tone of voice and the love contained within and that there was Fancy Feest involved if he/she acted cute enough. This is unconditional love, and I can haz it with cats; human beings, though, I am not so sure about. Kanji was like that: suspicious of “hoomins” — this is, perhaps, one lesson that is worth remembering; and, that once alleviated, love is all I have to give to you.

I.
There was a woman
Who I loved with all my heart.
It’s the only way
I know how
to love.
The problem I have
With falling in love
Is that I just keep falling
And falling on through.
It’s a perpetual autumn;
Storming leaves of memories,
Possibilities,
Skeletal trees.
And turning my collar up
Against the cold of this world.
Holding my hands out
To the warmth of the fire
That we had kindled
To keep the darkness at bay.
Every time these things end
I look up from the glow
Of the smolder, the embers,
For the ignition of a smile,
That familiar, beloved synching
Eyes to eyes:
It’s just understood
We’ll revel in the work
To pile on more fuel
From our common woodpile.
But nobody is there
Across the coals from me;
I’ve fallen through
The bottleneck of the hourglass
Along with all these ashes.

II.
Songs get tied
Like complicated knots
Around my feelings;
They remind me of how
I used to think about forever.
Some are bright blossoms
Stolen from yards
On the way to your window
In the middle of the night
To kneel and present you
With a moonlit bouquet,
My Juliet.
Another is the crosshatching
Of spray painted poetry
Hanging in midair
Amongst the tree branches
Between the shadows
Of the stars that were ours;
Witchcraft and wizardry
For an unrelenting passion.
Tapestries of smoke
And of tie-dyed freedom;
Soft paws of haloed kittens,
The chocolate and the champagne
Of the once in a lifetime.
Threads on a magick loom
Synchronicity unparalleled,
Spiderwebs like a hammock,
An embrace as if I was coming home;
Touch burning like the fire of a faerie,
Or the resurrection of the phoenix,
Tracing sigils in the sky,
Re-ignition of belief
Like a firestarter
Or finding a soulmate.
I am haunted
By the breadth of my music
And the depth of my commitment.
The failure
of my eyesight.

III.
The carnage is absolute;
A battlefield strewn with my corpses,
Beer cans and shrieks and cigarette butts,
The best of intentions and
The stench of taking things for granted.
These raw wounds
I have sustained over my lifetime
Of loving how I should have been loved
Never seem to heal;
They just ooze and pulse
Making heartbeats painful;
A crazy accumulation of luggage
Like owning an airport carousel
Of baggage you can’t strip off.
It just grows with you,
Older and less attractive,
Smelling faintly of urine and gangrene
When you can’t bear
To perform the required surgery.
It hurts too much;
I’ll excise memories I want to keep
Along with the decaying flesh.
Retrospective or post-mortem;
It’s still the death of a relationship
That I thought would live forever
As if I had infinite chances,
Infinite quarters.

IV.
I was pinned to a mortarboard
Like a butterfly from a caterpillar,
When I had to eulogize my friend;
My brother, my partner-in-crime,
Someone who understood
By the merit of not being female
The depth of love and an enduring relationship.
I don’t ever want to do that again.
It is the same with love;
I know I can, and it will be better,
But the pain of losing someone to provoke that work
Is too much to accept;
Besides, who the fuck will do that for me?
The answer is as clear as hindsight:
20-20.
I listened to my voice echo hollow through a church
That he wouldn’t have appreciated
To the people who were left behind,
And became even more haunted.
I did my best to represent,
Tell tales, romanticize, believe
And I went home with ashes in my mouth
To cry, cry out, want to evaporate,
Disappear, erase myself from existing
Because I had lost something precious:
A true friend.
It’s a lot like losing your love
Because you have lost a friend.

V.
The light switch is off.
This is the eye of the storm for me.
Now I deal with the still shatter of leaves,
The cold of being alone,
And shoving my hands into the campfire.
There is no warmth.
This destroys the fabric of memories
That took deep commitment
And sweat equity;
Deeper resources than I had without you.
And I see them all retreat,
As if they never existed;
Vanish into the thin, thin air
That I breathe.
Flatlined.

VI.
To move along,
Because there is nothing to see here;
It’s a pretty penance,
My cross to bear;
One that gets weightier
The more years I carry forward,
This boulder I am pushing uphill.
It’s that lost luggage from the carousel;
It’s those old wounds from the battlefield;
It’s those lyrics of happier times
When I would write, compose, sing
Of how I loved being in love
And how I expected forever
But you only had right now to give.

VII.
Perspective is a function of wisdom,
Which is a byproduct of experience,
That is what happens when you live and die
Through these things.
Perhaps they build character;
Actually, they create defense mechanisms
To try to prevent this from happening again
And again.
Expectations collapse
And you lay bricks and mortar in the fortress
That you think will keep you safe
But not sound;
You all are quite persuasive.
Certainly isolated
In the aftermath
Of bequeathing your everything —
Heart, mind, soul —
To your everything
Around that campfire
And you look up and discover
That she is long gone.