The reality of losing him was devastating. Before, during and after the realization that he was failing quickly and he had lost the battle within, was sadness personified.
Walking through life in the days that followed left an empty hole in my heart.
Then life went on.
Junior Cat became our Only Cat and he didn't show any signs of missing his furry, purry buddy. There was one mournful meow he let out for no reason whatsoever, but that was the only indication that his life had changed.
My broken heart started mending and I started missing the fact that I missed Andre so much. It wasn't right. I sort of wanted to hold onto the "sad" because I felt closer to him that way.
It didn't happen.
My son and I went through the collection of pet photos we have amassed over the years and reminisced. We replayed memories, videos, we talked and we laughed. We were beyond the tears.
This week, I have been missing Andre again.
His close up is the screen saver on my cell phone and his entire face fills the screen. I just gazed into his closed eyes and thought of his purr, his snuggle and his ability to love each of us for who we were.
I have been spending endless hours outside with the kids and I miss my little black kitty. He loved, loved, loved the outdoors and if he was still with us, he would have been soaking up the sun or hiding in the lilac bush or snuggled up on the lawn swing or ...
I miss him.
Andre's junior partner in cathood is not a snuggly, purry cat and he is terrified of the world outside of our doors. He's unique and different from Andre in every way. Except his black fur coat.
It was like he read my mind. I missed seeing my little black kitty enjoying the great outdoors. Yesterday, our Junior (and Only) Cat took a few tentative steps outside.
At first, he needed to know he could come and go as he pleased. There was much going inside. Then outside. Then back in. Then back out. He needed inside. Then he meowed to get back outside.
He explored the deck area. Then had to touch carpet to regain his composure.
Back outside, he rechecked the boundaries and eventually allowed his feet to touch the sidewalk. Then ... he placed his two front feet on soil (it should be grass but it is packed dirt) and he stayed there.
Two paws on brand new territory. Two paws placed firmly on solid cement. He came to terms with that arrangement. Then he took two more forward steps and started exploring the grassy area of the back yard.
He made a half-lap around the yard. He stuck close to the garage but the fenced area frightened him. He hustled back inside again. Then came right back out.
He made another half lap, going the opposite direction. Then he stopped at the fence line. It was as if he had an inner state of knowing the fence was all that was saving him from losing us and his home. He wasn't taking any chances.
He did this for a while, expanding his horizons with every step outside his comfort zone. He was focused. He saw nothing but safety verses the unknown for the first long while.
Then there was a change in his posture. It seemed to happen all of a sudden. His chest started bursting with pride and if he had a voice I think it may sound a little like my little two year old daycare daughter who mastered climbing a ladder onto a new platform at the playground a little while ago. "I knew I could do it!!", as she bursted with pride as she overcame her fear and hit new heights. I think our Only Cat would have sounded very much like her.
Once he overcame his greatest fears and actually didn't need to check in with the house to see if he was still welcome there, he started noticing the great big world around him. In small ways.
He started attacking the little almost invisible flying "gnats" that came to life with each step he made in the grass. His expression changed in that moment to reflect his senior partner in cathood. He looked like a curious little kitten, instead of an overgrown lion cub who was let outside for the first time in his life.
He started hearing the birds singing in stereo sound around our back yard. It was as if he fully appreciated the view outside of our living room window coming to him live and in color. And he was an active participant instead of a quiet observer in this thing called "life".
I sat on the swing and just watched our big, black kitty coming to life right in front of my eyes. My heart swelled as I thought of our little black kitty and how much I have been missing him. It felt so right to have his best buddy outside chasing bugs and eating grass and starting to notice the birds.
Andre was an outside cat with a quest for adventure. We couldn't tame that, as much as we tried. He had a zest for life which I now marvel. It was hard to keep that little kitty tucked inside of our home where we could protect him from the dangers outside of our doors. In the end, we couldn't protect him from the illness that consumed him. He was so wise to live hard and push limits while he was here with us.
Our Only Cat is so different. He is afraid of everything. He has lived with us and known us for two years and he still jumps at shadows and acts like he can't trust us. His eyes are so full of fear of the unknown and that-which-lies-outside-our-door.
It felt good to sit still with my son and watch this brand new side of our big, black cat emerge. It was like opening the living room window and inviting the world into his realm of safety.
Life isn't all about sitting back and watching it pass by. It is about taking those tentative steps into something new and rediscovering it. Day after day.
Welcome to the big, scary world, Kitty Cat. We'll do our best to keep you safe. I promise.