I was at the front of the store where I worked tagging new merchandise when my husband and daughter walked through the door exchanging sheepish grins and acting as if being followed by the KGB.
“Ok, what are you guys up to”, I asked, recognizing the signs of devious behavior. As if that question was his cue, a furry, tiny, tan head popped out of my daughter’s jacket. The grinning continued back and forth, punctuated by my daughter’s exclaiming, “oops”.
This was the moment when Micro and I first met. I will never forget it…nor him.
We already had a Cat, Isis, who was a major part of our family of three and would indeed, not be amused. She had assumed the role of co-mothering our 13-year-old and saw no reason to add another ‘child’. And what a child he was. When he discovered that fake brick made it easy to scale the walls it added a whole new dimension his skills which included running up the coats hanging on the hall tree and riding it down to the floor when it toppled over. There was no limit to his antics or his energy.
My love for all things furry, feathered or scaly was evident by our array of cages and aquariums in the den. From the Hedgehog, “Edith Prickly” to “Iguana Trump”, the formerly tiny lizard who was now over 2 feet long, we were never hesitant to provide a home for someone who needed one. However, Micro and I bonded in a way that was like super to glue.
He was a talker who had a vocabulary that included chirps, squawks, normal ‘meows’ and calling me ‘ma’ that began as plaintive, quickly escalating to demanding if I even attempted to ignore him. Every one loved ‘Mike’. He had a personality that radiated charm and he never really cared about ‘Cat dignity’ even though Isis tried hard to instil that universal attribute in her young protegé. Laughter at his expense was not only acceptable, but soon became a sound that he loved to hear so he was always inventing new ways to make it happen. Essentially, we had the Queen and the Fool under the same roof.
The roof changed locations a couple of times as did the number of inhabitants under it. The words, “free” and “Kitten” were aimed at my heart like Cupid’s arrow and hit their mark when Rhiannon and Astarte came on board and Jake and Peanut became part of the family when my daughter discovered that she and her husband were ‘Dog people’ so their Cats become our Cats.
Shopping in the Cat food aisle always won me the first place title in the game of ‘how many do you have’ with other “Cat people” discussing what their little divas would or wouldn’t eat. Only once did I lose out to someone who had me beat by one with seven. Show off.
This was where we drew the line and stopped acquiring additions. By now we had built our own home so hiding our ‘stash’ from landlords was no longer an issue but each of us had our niche and it felt purrrfect as it was. When Trump crossed over at the age of 9 from renal failure, we lost the last of our ‘exotic’ family if you don’t count the Koi from the pond.
Looking back now, it amazes me how these little wonders share so much of our lives. When Isis left us, going on 3 years ago it was so hard. She was 21 years old and showed it. It was hard for her to get around and a daily pill for hyperthyroidism was the norm. Then Jake became diabetic and had to be given injections twice a day. He also had IBS that never responded well to anything from special diets to probiotic supplements. He crossed over a year ago at the age of 16.
Micro, however, never missed a beat. He still ran around and jumped, never losing his love of ‘getting high’. My daughter and son-in-law’s visits with the ‘grand-children’ including the towering Great Dane, Duncan sent Micro skyward as he hung out above the kitchen cabinets glowering in the gargoyle position until they left.
It’s almost two weeks ago yet the loss lingers like greedy, hooked fingers tearing bits and pieces out of my attempts to feel ‘normal’. The day began like any other. I burrowed under the covers until Micro’s repetitive renderings of “ma” had me scavenging for slippers that automatically aimed toward the kitchen and the food. The can was popped and its contents were emptied into a dish where the rules changed according to who was there first. Micro had lost weight, but his last visit to the vet indicated that his numbers where great for a Cat that age.
I went down to the lower level to work out in the home gym and Micro ate his breakfast. The first indication that something was wrong was when he appeared to be trying to relieve himself in the hall way. This was out of character for him. Soon he bagan to vomit. My daughter had called for our daily chat before work and I filled her in. By then, I decided I was not going to work and called in. I woke my husband, who called the vet and his job. We could not get him in for 2 hours. Since Micro had never been sick we didn’t think it was anything serious. However, the vomiting continued and he became lethargic. Instead of waiting for our scheduled appointment, I gathered him in a blanket and we headed out for the vet.
Normally, Micro hates riding in the car, but he remained silent on the trip. We were ushered to a cubical and as soon as I placed him on the table he had a seizure. The vet rushed in, listened to the stuff they listen for and announced, “he’s on his way out”. Nothing could be done for renal failure except an IV and some blood work, but it was not going to help. “Neurologically, he’s already gone”, pronounced the vet as Micro slipped into a coma. After all, he was 22 years old which translated to 105 for you and me and there were no miraculous recoveries waiting in the wings no matter how badly we wanted one. We just never thought of him as old because he never allowed us to.
From that point, the numbness invaded my being and it all unravels in a heap of disbelief and tightly knotted pain. On the trip home, as I held him, he kicked twice and left this incarnation to join Isis and Jake, my heartbeat, the last thing he heard as I embraced him.
We coccooned him in his blanket and placed him on the sofa as if he was sleeping and my husband and I spent the day sobbing and escaping into occasional ‘Cat naps’. Arrangements were made to take him to be cremated the following day after work. Coming home that day was something I dreaded most of all.
Micro was always sitting in the window awaiting my arrival. By the time I parked in the garage and came through the service door, he was right there. It was our ritual. He’d lift his front paws up like a child begging to be picked up so I’d put down my bag, pick him up, gather up my bag and climb the stairs to the kitchen. There was a time he’d turn himself around and perch on my shoulder for the ascent, but perhaps feeling a bit unstable, he began to choose just clinging to the arm I supported him with.
The days passed and I now come home to Astarte assuming the role of official greeter, and I am grateful for that. Yet my eyes fall upon the little paw printed tin can at the base of the fireplace that contains Micro’s ashes and the tears begin to flow. The can next to his contains the remains of Isis, and Jake rests in the Woodland garden in the yard, where I know he would want to be. Micro, Isis and Jake have crossed that Rainbow Bridge of which the legends speak. That rainbow is created by sunshine and tears.
The grief is going through its stages and, true to the pattern, I have good days with random crying jags and the empty echo of denial even though I know it’s true. The guilt was laid to rest by the vet who assured that there was nothing we could have or should have done differently, although I still struggle with would have. I have this time line based upon his presence running on a loop. Two weeks ago was my last day, week, hour, second of having Micro.
Time, a funny thing that. It seems to pass so easily and quickly, yet there is a thief that sneaks in and grabs increments of it and we barely notice unless it is marked by a memorable event. My daughter was in her second year of junior high when we got Micro. Next month she will be 36. She pointed out to me how ‘heroic’ it was that Micro was 22 years old. That is so rare, she said. He had a very long and very happy life. Was I naive enough to think he’d live forever? Of course not, but I expected there would be signs of his getting ready to leave like Isis and Jake displayed. Not that it made it easier, but it was expected and accepted when they crossed over.
The other day I was thinking about all that Micro was a part of. Our daughter’s wedding to the boy she dated since the time we got Micro, the career changes, the moves, my husband’s heart surgery and the burglary that, upon discovery, had me dashing around the house to make sure that all the Cats were ok and the guy was more interested in stealing our stuff than sadistically harming our Cats. The milestones, tossed over my shoulder, accumulating into a huge pile as I recounted the moments, significant and seemingly not, that Micro shared with us. Then I began to focus instead on all the lessons that he was in our lives to teach us, all the while being patient with students who were too oblivious to notice. This is the Tao of Meow of Micro.
“Be totally unaware of your age. Pay no mind to the ‘rules’ of how you should behave or think or live as dictated by society. Let the years pass seamlessly.”
“Routines should be loved for the beautiful reminders that they are of the assurance that life goes on. Form them and embrace them because they are comfortable. Being comfortable is more important than being excited.”
“If there is something wonderful that has your full attention, whether it be a sight, sound, taste, smell, touch or thought and someone calls your name, ignore them.”
“Experience things as if it’s your first time no matter how often you have been there and done that. Tuna, a toy, or seeing the face of someone you love come into view.”
“Live in a perpetual state of “Oh wow!!!”.
“Be curious about everything all the time. Granted, there will be times when that curiosity will get you into trouble…it is always so worth it”.
“Accept diversity in all things. When others are different it simply confirms the fact that you are special and unique”.
And the most important lesson of all, “Love as if there is no tomorrow. Because there just might not be.”