In May of 2008, in order to take the place of our last lost cat Jamie, we brought home a tiny fluffy black kitten. Dad always tells the story that she kept clawing at the box, one arm through the airhole, determined to get out. He always says that he was worried he’d have to pull the car over and just leave it to the cat.
By the time he got her home, she was covered in her own mess, spooked and dirty. He cleaned her up, and when my mother and I got home, they were curled up, fast friends. Zaphod has been my dad’s cat ever since.
For almost 10 years she’s been that same crazy menace. This is the cat who would climb up on the toilet seat and then fall in and drench herself. This is the cat who got sent through the dryer briefly, because she jumped in while my mother’s back was turned. (They realized very quickly that the dryer sounded unbalanced, and–wait where is the kitten?!) This is the cat who would climb up doors and stand on the tops, then look at us and yowl as if it were our fault that she was now stuck up there, unsure of how to get down. She would terrorize our extant cat Ami, pouncing on her to play and then immediately flopping down to be submissive–and yet Ami never smacked her and asserted dominance, just ran away and hissed.
This is the cat who would sit on the backs of chairs, then turn back and forth to face different directions, promptly dragging her feather duster plume of a tail across your face. Over. And over. And over. Would yowl outside to be let in your room, and then not know what she wanted. The cat who, for the past few months, seemed to be very concerned with my end-of-day routine. I’d find her sitting outside the bathroom when I emerged, and she’d following me yowling all the way into my bedroom, when she would then yowl at me, more and more distressed as I got dressed for bed, as I got into bed, and then until I finally settled and she could lie on my chest and put her paw on my face.
Her name was Zaphod, after Beeblebrox himself, and whenever anyone asked me if she had two heads, my response was always “no, but she acts like she does.”
And now, in March of 2018, we are saying goodbye far too soon.
Z is just shy of 10 years old, and as far as we can tell, she has been diagnosed with cancer, and it’s acting fast. She’s stopped eating, drinking…she’s lost 30% of her body weight in less than a month. As I write this, it’s Sunday night and my father is planning on calling the vet around lunch time to see how soon we can bring her in. Because if we don’t bring her in soon, we’re going to come home to find her gone. We are preparing for a trip in a matter of days, to celebrate my father’s birthday. It’s been planned for a while now, and my uncle has very graciously sunk a lot of money in making sure we have this trip. Dad leaves Wednesday I believe. Mom and I leave Friday.
Part of me thinks this will be a good chance to get away, to be not in the house and grieve. Part of me feels guilty for going off on a celebration just after we lose a member of our family.
I don’t know how to feel. I’m sad, of course. My heart is utterly broken. She’s been such a huge part of my life and now we’re saying goodbye far too soon. I’m angry at the cancer for stealing an otherwise healthy cat from me–because the vets said the first time she was there that she was in remarkably good condition for a car of her age. Three weeks later, we are facing death.
But right now…I’m sitting in my room, with my door closed so that she can’t come in, because I know it will break my heart more. I have YouTube Let’s Play videos playing next to my blog window, laughing at reactions even to games I’ve seen before. I feel…normal, in these moments. And I feel guilty for it. Should I be acting this normal? Just playing my games, watching my videos, planning whatever is happening next in my life? How can I possibly be so calm when I am losing someone dear to me?
Or is it better this way? I don’t know.
Maybe my emotions will be different once she’s gone. Maybe I’ll feel more destroyed once she actually is gone, and it sets in that she’ll never sit on my chest again. Never yowl at me while I get ready for bed. Never interrupt my audio recording again. Maybe once it’s more than words on a screen it’ll set in. I don’t know.
But I wish I didn’t have to write any of this right now.
Ave atque vale, my dear Zaphod. We always knew you would not go gently into that good night. But you will be in good company as you cross the Rainbow Bridge, with Tim and Kiki and Alice and all of the other pets my friends have lost lately. I hope that you keep Alan Rickman good company up there, because he could use a floofy black cat familiar.
I love you, Z. Rest in peace.