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Life in the Wake

It began Thursday. Thursday night, to be exact. I had just played a successful show at Club Balattou and had arrived home late and exhausted. I turned off the light and fell into bed, and was immediately overwhelmed by an ache for my Rascalbear and a need to cry. I pushed it away, knowing that if I gave in I would be a puffy-faced wreck in the morning. After what seemed like only minutes, I was awoken by my husband. "I can't stop thinking about him," he said through choking sniffles.
I know. Me neither. Cue the puffy-faced wreck: here she comes again. Such is life in the wake of my Rascalbear.
"I won't leave you while you leave me." Rascalbear's final hours.It's been almost six weeks since my little Dumplin left us. I think at least three of them went by before I got through a day without tears at some point. I expected that. What I did not expect is that those feelings would return with a vengeance. What is it about this point in time? Why does it suddenly feel like it happened only yesterday? It must be some kind of normal rebound, because it hit us both at the same time. I chalked it up to finally getting used to the house being empty, and not liking it. It's like a bad joke that just goes on and on and on. Ok, I get it. Life without Rascalbear sucks. You can bring him back now. Joke's over.

Rascalbear enjoying his sun-square.
Over the weeks, I kept notes. Lists of thoughts and things I felt and did. Things such as forgetting to make breakfast one morning. It had always been part of the Rascalbear Routine. No routine, no breakfast. Or flipping over photographs when leaving them unattended, then realizing I don't have to because he's not here to lick them like he had a strange habit of doing. I still cannot open the patio door without a twinge of sadness. That sound always signaled a happy Rascalbear going out or coming in. I see his sun-square on the floor, and yearn to see him lying in it, knowing how much he would love it. Oh, and the weird 'pinging', as I call it, is still going on. It's like a learned instinctive awareness of his presence that's hardwired into my brain. Where's the Rascalbear? I'll go see what he's doing…oh, wait. Or, geez it's ten at night and we haven't been home all day, he must be missing me…oh, wait. These microscopically quick flashes of subconscious thought jolt my heart every time they happen. It's bizarre and disturbing. Yet I hope it doesn't stop happening.
My sleep-sitty little Rascalbear-kitty.Then there's the list of things I learned, usually the hard way. Things such as, don't pick the mess up too soon. I beat myself up for days over clearing away his sick bed, and emptying a litter box that had nothing in it except his precious little butt-print, put there on his last day when he had come downstairs to look for us and was just trying to stay out of the way of supper preparations. I can still see it in my mind's eye, disappearing into nothingness — like a metaphor of his little life — as I tipped the box into the trash bag. What a stupid thing to do. And why was it so easy to sit around staring into space, not writing, not playing guitar, letting time slip by in a way that I was so frantic to avoid before? My idle hands had no Rascalbear to pat, and that felt like such a waste, yet I couldn't stop doing it. We are strange creatures, the way we care about things and spend our time. It is sadly ironic that he may have felt deprived of time and I didn't, and now I feel deprived and he doesn't.
Rascalbear's pawtograph.So, I did crazy yet harmless things to compensate. I returned his water bowl to the stand next to the bed. I refilled his litter box and re-created his little butt-print. I delayed laundering the bedclothes in which we'd spent our last moments together. I didn't vacuum for a month, and when I did I left an area beneath the bed undisturbed, where he'd left litter and hair while huddling there. I purposely left all of his medicines on the shelf, right where they were put after their last use. My red, fuzzy robe that he loved so much hangs on its hook, undisturbed. The inner fold holds a faint, cat-shaped print from his last night laying on. I look at it sometimes, then carefully close it again. I don't need to wear the robe now that its summer, but I do need that print. I only wish the one he'd left on my leg once had never disappeared.
Rascalbear being a Mama-magnet on his last day.Something I did expect is people asking if and when I'm getting another cat. I know they meant well, but a pet isn't like an old pair of worn out jeans to be replaced. I don't miss having a cat. I miss having Rascalbear. But, the answer to that question is "yes", and "I don't know". What I do know is that I'm probably going to get two cats, at least one of which will be another flame-point Siamese mix who desperately needs a home. Having spent hours searching for them online, I know they're out there, although it's hard to look at them and then go "No…not yet". I then hope they will quickly find good homes even if it will not be mine. I want to be a Mama again and give to another cat what I gave to my Rascalbear. I've read how this is the best thing you can do to honor the memory of your pet. And I agree. It is. And I believe that Rascalbear will let me know when he's ready to make a little room in there for another funny little fuzzhead to come in.

But for now, he still owns my heart.

Rascalbear smooches