Friday, April 19, 2013

My heart's far, far away

I'm sitting here in the Midwest thinking how terribly ridiculous my choices were three years ago. Why did I decide that being away from home was a good idea, that moving away to somewhere cold, devoid of family and (at the time) friends would be good for me?

Lately, I've realized how tragedy can draw you closer to people. In the event that you feel nothing has gone or will ever go right, having someone beside you to hug you until you can barely breathe provides some sort of solace. Unless there aren't people. In which case, it can make you curl up into the fetal position, looking only inwardly and beating yourself up in the process, feeling increasingly lonely by the second.

Well place me in category two for the moment because I feel not only a sense of sadness at not being in California at the moment, but of guilt as well.

I wanted nothing more than to go elsewhere in 2010. I only applied to three schools instate. The others were all on the East Coast or in the Midwest, a few in England. I was sick and tired of California, but barely considered the issue of separation anxiety.

Now I'm here.

And to get to the point of this tirade of bleakness, my cat is near passing away.

I haven't been sad about losing a pet since my first dog died almost a decade ago. I still remember taking her to the vet to put her down. The memory haunts me, but the camaraderie within my family during that time also encourages me. It marked a special time in my life, when I felt like I was happily surrounded by those who loved me. That even though I'd lost an incredibly special presence in my life, I had others nearby to make up for it. The sun shone again without much effort.

Since then, two of my cats have passed away and two remain. The two that left this mortal coil did so while I was away - either on vacation or at school. And while I felt sadness having seen the loss of  another life I'd known since as soon as my memory served, I was never intimately connected to those cats. They were friendly faces, but I didn't associate them with too many of my fondest memories. So I wasn't broken hearted.

Mozart is causing a different sort of reaction.

He's the only cat I have conversations with. He greets me when I come home - annoyingly so - meowing loudly and in that certain tone of his that says "Notice me" or "Please give me your undivided attention." But also, underlying all the context clues of his noises, was the feeling I always felt expressed - "I love you."

It's weird to think that you have a caring enough bond with an animal that you can feel love towards them, or that they could feel that way for you. Maybe I've gone soft since becoming a vegetarian, or maybe my dietary choices are symptomatic of a sensitivity to the emotions of my pets. Whichever way it goes, I know that in my life Mozart has been more than a cat. He's been a companion.

We used to play games. If he was lying on the floor of the living room, I'd walk in a circle around him until he'd fall over and knead his paws at me, purring and meowing until I leaned down to pet him. Sometimes he'd walk in between my legs and I'd trap him by keeping them close together. He'd struggle free then beg for attention again. There was no tiring him.

There were times in my youth when I was sad and in response he would come to me and nudge me, sit down next to me and purr. He would help me get over my pain in subtle ways. It always seemed to me that he had an intuition that, however apparently ridiculous to those who believe cats aren't sentient, within him made perfect sense.

He had a loving bond with his brother cat, and he eventually forged a bond with one of my other cats - after several years of animosity - thus proving that he has the heart of gold that a lot of people attribute to dogs. Well, dogs may be "man's best friend," but Moe is everybody's best friend.

Now, in case my father is reading this - or anyone who has any intimate relationship with my favorite of all the pets I've ever owned - I will stop before I dig too deep into the emotional well that only accounts for more tears and sorrow.

He is still alive. He is still loved. He is still loving. And for that I rejoice.

My only sadness is that in these, his prescribed final hours, I will not be home to give him the attention I haven't been able to lately. I will not be able to kiss him on the head, scratch him under his chin or tell him I love him. Maybe it wouldn't have made a big difference in the long run, but I still believe that I should be there, at home, helping him along. Helping my whole family along.

It's times like these when you realize what's most important in your life. Not getting away and living in an unusual place for four years, but being surrounded by people who make you feel that even in the darkest days, there is a light.

I hope that when I come home I will feel the love of my family even if the lovely presence and the wall-pervading voice of Mozart is gone. After all, I can't call him gone yet, and I will not fully accept it until I must.

But let this be a reminder to myself of what is important in life - not just in dramatic moments like this, but always.

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