Sunday, November 18, 2007


It's amazing how resoundingly empty a house can feel when someone who used to be there no longer is.

Back in August, I had to have my 15-year-old cat Taz put to sleep. He was so very, very sick, and the vet told me that there was basically no hope. He had stopped eating and drinking, his kidneys had shut down, but he still managed to come to me when I called, and he'd let me pet him, and he'd talk to me, and purr. But he just didn't feel well. It was in every movement. The way he would lie all scrunched up on the floor. I ignored it for a while because I couldn't face what needed to be done.

It was August 14 when I faced it. And I had one of my best friends—a member of my family—put to sleep.

"Put to sleep." Such a pretty euphemism. He was executed by lethal injection.

Taz was never what you'd call a social cat. He did his own thing and I did mine. He'd come downstairs and have a bite to eat or a drink of water and use the litter box, then come get in my lap for a short while, let me pet him, purr at me, talk to me, drool on me. And when he'd had enough, he'd jump down and go back up to that spot in the bathroom where he liked to sleep. But even when I couldn't see or hear him, I knew he was here. The house...felt different. Now, there's just this big, silent emptiness.

I'm not 100% sure whether it's the house that's empty or me.

I came home from the vet and cried for 2 days. I didn't go to work. I couldn't face it. I wrote the first short story that I've written in months. It was about Taz meeting Gremlin at the Rainbow Bridge. And I'm an atheist for God's sake (that was humor). I don't believe in that stuff. But it made me feel better to at least pretend.

Gremlin died suddenly. Four years ago. It was completely unexpected, and I think the vet might have been almost as upset as I was. I didn't even know he was that sick.

I watched Taz decline. And had to say, "Kill him."

In the first dream, he was back. He wasn't healthy. He looked skeletal with skin and fur stretched taut over his bones. He wouldn't eat, he wouldn't drink, he just sat in the room and glared at me. Friends in the dream kept saying "How can he even still be alive? Look at him!"

And I remember thinking, "Why won't he just die and not make me have to make the decision again?"

Paging Dr. Freud, Dr. Sigmund Freud. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

The second dream was just awful. I don't even remember it. Just that I woke up after only about 2 hours of sleep and couldn't get back to sleep. I knew it was about Taz, though. I had that same, awful feeling after waking up. Guilt. Self-loathing. A feeling that I'd let him down. That I hadn't done everything in my power to save him.

The third dream didn't seem to be related until after I thought about it a bit. I was some sort of horrible person. I insinuated myself into the life of this powerful executive type and ended up convincing him to jump out of his 30-story building to his death.

It doesn't take a degree in psychology to figure that one out, either. I didn't kill him, officer. He jumped out the window himself. My lily-white hands are clean. See? No guilt blood.

I hope there's not a fourth dream. Three was definitely plenty.

And now the house is quiet. Eerily and creepily quiet. No quieter from a pure decibel point of view, but every bump, every knock, every groan can no longer be blamed on "the cat."

I've never felt so much like a stranger in any place I've ever lived. This is all my stuff, but it's just stuff. I look at it and feel nothing. I could move out and leave most of it behind tomorrow and not even look back. That's not like me.

I can't get a new cat. Not yet. It would feel too much like trying to "replace" Taz. Or Gremlin. Well-meaning friends and family have suggested that I just run right out and get another cat.

It just feels like a betrayal, though. Like one of those women who meets husband #n+1 at the funeral of husband #n.

I know I'm overreacting. That it's just my own feelings of guilt I'm feeling, and that I did do everything reasonable for Taz except that I waited about two weeks longer than I should have to do the last kind thing I could do for him. I put him through torture because I'm a coward.

I'm pretty sure that's no better.