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AYE, HERE’S THE RUB

My poopie-kitties were a great source of comfort. I still wonder if it was unfair or cruel to let them go by giving them back to Scott when I went to Scotland. When they showed up at Polly and Emilio’s, Polly said if I couldn’t be their forever mommy, I should not take them from her foster care. Also, no declawing (of course). I could not have conceived that I was going to ever be without them, ever. I was married; we were stable; we had a large enough apartment for two cats and a dog; I had a good job, and could afford shots, vet care, flea powder, food. I couldn’t have foreseen how it all went down.

Initially, I wanted to have Scott keep them while I went on the 6 month sabbatical, and I’d collect them when I could, as I became more permanent somewhere. While he wanted to help, he made the statement that if he were to care for them for any significant time, I was not to expect them back. He would become too attached to give them up. He already let them go when we separated, and didn’t want to do that again. I understood and concurred. It was so hard to agree to that! But frankly, now we were divorced, and Tucker puppy passed (at 19 years old!!), Scott needed someone to care for. I couldn’t deny his need not to lose another soul so soon.

I know that Scott has special bonds with both cats. Each in their own way and different from their bonds to me. He is their daddy, after all. Entirely trustworthy to keep them, not even a question. Though he didn’t know quite where he’d land for a few months or years, he was not going so far afield. My guilt was that maybe the cats had some psychic contract with me—that they had agreed to be my cat, and what if I was throwing a wrench into their very purpose in life? This question was finally put to rest by Diana, the animal communicator, telling me they “were ready to retire, and be window-ledge kitties.” They had done enough hard work for me, and wanted to take it easy now. They had launched me and were excited for my next move, but exhausted. This made perfect sense to me, because they did hold me together, and I do know that couldn’t be an easy job!

With Scott, they could rest, because they weren’t doing the hard spiritual work for him that I know they did for me. Scott has relied on them for comfort and companionship, yes, and for the animal nature that he shares with creatures. Ordinary cat stuff. I know him to be more of a dog person, but these cats were always scrappy, fierce and masculine, so they made fine companions to him as their lives continued beyond my departure. Malo can still “get his biscuits made” and Caesar can sure enjoy smearing himself on Scott’s lap for a doze like melting taffy. They love him.

ABSENSE OF CAT

Still, my guilt remains a mild ghost of the issue. It is hard to fathom that I don’t see Scott, either. We can at least call. But I am devastated regularly to remember that I don’t have my cats. Where are they? I feel an “absence of cat” that seems wrong to me. Is Caesar going to show up at my elbow any second out of nowhere, like he used to? Especially poignant is when I think of getting a new cat here and now. The realization: “I have cats already” breaks my heart anew. They are amazing and beautiful creatures who would remember me the instant I walked through the door, and whom I haven’t seen since 2011. C’est impossible!

They are living contentedly by all accounts, with Scott at his parents’ house, in the room over the garage. They happily roam the yards nearby for baby moles to mangle and present to Scott. They are much happier with the relative wilderness of West Virginia. My lifestyle in Los Angeles would not suit them after so much freedom. Still, they know on what side their bread is buttered, and the entire Higgs family is happy to spoil those cats.

I almost cry when I think that they brought comfort to Scott’s dad (whom I called ‘Da’) before he passed. Caesar was his little buddy. I also can’t help but chuckle when I think of what consternation they brought to Scott’s mom (‘Mutti’), by remaining slightly aloof when she wants undivided love. Those cats always did have a way of forging their own relationships with the humans in question. Yes, my babies have complex personalities and are quite discerning!

I guess I just wish I could see them again more easily. It’s the hardest aspect of not being financially flush yet. All my effort goes into merely living here on the west coast, when I need to travel. I need to travel. I need to visit my babies, and revisit my lives. My many, many shed skins…it’s not as if the cats can visit me. They are content with having a territory–mastering it, exploring its edges, defending it, filling it utterly with their presence. Cats don’t want to roam too far. They, in my schematic, don’t “miss” me, because they are not limited to believing in one-time-and-place. If they could imagine me, then I am there, no division. If they don’t imagine me, they are not missing me—and that is okay, too. I hope for their peace. But with my human mind, it is a bit harder for me to not miss them, when I long to pet them in the physical world. I want to pick them up and feel how they let me do it. They used to let me, anyway.

THE WHITE ONE

Caesar has the softest, long, white fur with black and gray splotches and eyes like a person. He could express all sorts of things, and I gave him many points for wisdom. He mothered with his eyes; he asked politely with his eyes; he was disappointed, all with his eyes. Caesar would silently witness everything going on around him and then make his moves. He wasn’t very brave, and would hide in the basement if he found himself outside. He would still try and escape out the kitchen door, and then he would be too frightened to contend with nature. We’d find him later, filthy behind the dryer in the laundry room, and drag him screeching into the safety of his warm bed. And his big, blue eyes would thank us and settle in. Everyone loves our sweet kitty—whose full name was Great Caesar’s Ghost, for making those surprise stealth appearances.

THE BLACK ONE

Malo Mas o Menos (“bad, more or less”) was more of a cyclone. He has needle-sharp claws that kneaded into my shoulders as he sucked on my clothing. Polly calls it “making biscuits”. I had a red chenille sweater I used to wear for just such an occasion—soft enough for Malo to feel like I’ve got fur, too, and thick enough to protect me (only nominally, only at first) from his impossibly-viscous saliva! He’d start to jump up for this ritual, and I’d have to hold off his persistent hunger until I could throw on the red sweater. It had a smelly spot on the left shoulder; he wouldn’t go to the right. I know it was gross, but he was my baby, and he knew no other mommy. Anyone with kitties weaned to soon know what I’m talking about!

I’m always glad that Malo, who is tiny, shows the more fierce hunting spirit, and Caesar also parents him, so I don’t worry; he has no serious vulnerability. Maybe he’s channeling the spirit inherited by being a black cat. I also miss his ravenous appetite for buttered popcorn. He once jumped in four-feet first, and, as we pulled him out by the scruff of the neck, he emerged with crazy eyes, popcorn in his mouth, and skewered on all four paws like kebabs! He’s a glorious maniac. I miss those moments when he seems so, so very young and indominable at the same time.

PLAYING PEEK-A-BOO?

I still have plenty of pictures, of course. I have the comfort of knowing my poopies are still alive and well, though I dread the prospect that one day…I only hope I see them first. I want to know they exist, and that I exist for them, as it seems now that they were a dream.

Object permanence is supposed to be a trait one outgrows quite early in life. Why is it I can’t hang onto my life’s connections without repeated contact for reminders? I feel like I’m playing a vast game of peek-a-boo with everyone in my life whom I love. Are they still there when I turn the corner?

I can picture Malo saying, “just don’t make me keep up with you anymore. Even familiars have a limit.” I don’t blame him. Caesar just patiently blinks at me with understanding.

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