Wednesday, August 12, 2015
And Then There Was One
If you see my facebook posts, you'll know that I'm the last survivor of the small family my husband and I created with our two cats, who came to us as youngsters of seven months old in July 1998.
Now, seventeen years later, my cat Levi had a sudden and rapid decline in health, and on Friday last he was put to sleep. The same thing happened to his sister Freya eleven months previously. And her demise was only two years after my husband departed this plane.
For his last eleven months, Levi and I developed a very intense relationship. He was a cat of very intense feelings altogether. My late husband was the great love of his life, and it took him many long months to come to terms with that loss. Andrew adored him too; he was the favourite cat. That was OK, because Freya was my favourite and I was hers. Oh, don't get me wrong; the love went all ways between all four of us. It's just that there were these preferences, which we all knew and accepted.
After Freya, too, left us, I devoted myself to Levi. She had always been in his life. They had sibling rivalry, jealousy and little spats, but they loved each other dearly too and were good companions. I was afraid he would go into deep sadness at her death, as he had after Andrew's. I missed my little girl – my familiar – but I'd had some months to prepare myself for losing her, since her diagnosis of cancer, its remission and return. After she'd gone, I put all my energy into keeping Levi feeling loved and happy.
She was always the spokesperson for the two of them. When she wasn't there any more, he had to learn to speak up for himself. He had a funny little chirruping miaow which he had hardly used. He learned that with me this was not always sufficient. If I was at the computer working on a piece of writing, he would miaow at me and I would tell him, 'Yes, in a minute,' but sometimes it got to be a long minute. Levi learned that when I was at the computer, he needed to yell!
I had only just remarked that we had evolved new routines and established new habits pertaining only to the two of us, when all at once he was gone too. They seem to be quite good routines and habits which serve me well for myself, so at present I keep them.
If I was too late getting to bed, Levi would come and nag me. (As Freya was my familiar, he was my guardian.) After getting shingles three times this winter – an immune system issue – I conceded he was right and I must take better care of myself. Getting to bed at a decent hour is now incorporated into my routines, after a long life of being a night owl. I even added a brief afternoon nap in the spare room, where he occupied one bed, me the other; and that continues too – after a lifetime in which daytime naps were a great rarity. It's comforting, now, to close my eyes and imagine him still there on the other bed.
I miss my 'supervisor' checking out everything that was going on in the house to make sure it met with his approval.
I miss him coming in through his cat door, straight to wherever I might be, telling me vociferously all about his latest adventures outdoors.
He liked to come and sit beside me on the couch when I watched TV of an evening. This was smooching time – lots of pats, stroking and scratching behind his ears, telling him how beautiful he was and how much I loved him, while he purred and rubbed his nose against me, patted me with his paws, and tried to groom me as if I was another cat. On nights when I didn't watch TV, he would lie near my office chair or under my desk at my feet.
Bedtimes are hard now. So are waking up times. They were major cuddle times. When I started getting ready for bed, he would hang about, watching, until I was actually in bed. I'd be propped up against big pillows, with a cup of cocoa and something to read, and he'd join me on the bed and cuddle up, purring, for more of the same treatment as on the couch. Eventually he'd settle down beside me and go to sleep – until I put the light out.
Occasionally he would stay all night with me, but mostly, after I went to sleep, he'd find a spot elsewhere – by the heater on cold nights, or on my office chair, or even outside somewhere. He'd be back on the bed to help me wake up in the morning, and that was another big cuddle time.
He liked to butt my forehead with his. I read somewhere that when cats do this they are laying claim to you. So I would do it to him too, telling him (a la Game of Thrones) 'You are mine and I am yours.'
The top step, at the front door, was a favourite spot. He enjoyed lying in the sun there. Even if he was inside the house when I went out, he would be on the top step waiting for me when I drove in, and would come padding down to meet the car. I was always scared he'd get under the wheels, but he never did.
That was not a new thing; it happened when Freya was alive, too. She preferred to enjoy the sun in the back yard, where she had her own special spot on the old blanket covering my mini-trampoline. When I arrived home, she would come from around the side of the house to greet me, picking her way daintily across the lawn while Levi majestically descended the front steps. They"d reach me together. But for the last 11 months it was only Levi. He seemed more intent and purposeful than ever in waiting to welcome me home.
Simultaneously, now, I see in my mind his black shape waiting, rising and stretching, coming down the steps ... and I see the bare steps, and his absence.