Saturday, January 23, 2016

Because we forget

I once interviewed at a place in the morning and Shane told me I should have gotten the last interview of the day so I'd be remembered better. So before I left the meeting, I left them a picture of me and Rudy so they wouldn't forget me. I got the job.

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Rudy used to leave stuffed toys at her food and water dish. She'd carry them around like they were babies. At our townhouse, she used to take my things and put them in her special hiding place. It was like a shrine to me.
Baby Rudy.

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That time Joel was over and I left my sandwich on the table to visit with him outside. The kids came running out, "Mom! Rudy is eating your sandwich!"

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She would howl and scream right around 3 a.m. when Shane woke up. She did this daily for years (on the weekends, she'd wait till about 7 a.m.). And when we'd open up the basement door (she slept in the basement because she used to scare me awake when she'd jump on the bed), she'd walk out with the teeniest meows like she hadn't been making all that racket.

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Lanie and Rudy would hang out together and watch TV every night. Rudy would nuzzle and purr for Lanie and no one else. They really loved each other.

Lanie would also read aloud for school work, and even though Rudy had gone deaf, Lanie just read anyway and felt comforted having the cat around.

***

On Monday when Rudy was declining, Erin began to think of all they things Rudy wouldn't be able to do anymore. And then, with great emotion, "I never got to finish reading a story to her, and now she'll never hear it!"

"Get me the book," I said. "We'll read it to her now."

Read it to her. The deaf cat. And I read it as the cat lay in my lap. The Mouse Mansion, a favorite of Erin's and we'd gotten her a copy of it for Christmas. Erin showed me where she left off--the part about Friday night dinners, and I felt choked. At the last chapter of the two mice friends getting ready for bed and mama mouse speaking goodnight over them, it was all I could do to speak the word, "goodnight." I hate endings--in books and in life.
Erin's picture of Rudy sleeping

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The first night without Rudy, Erin slept in bed with me and Shane because she didn't want to be left alone. She brought Rudy's toys to bed with her.

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When Erin goes up for bed she says, "Goodnight, Mom. Goodnight, Dad. Goodnight, Nella. Goodnight, Rudy. ... I'm going to keep including Rudy until I forget."

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Lanie wanted to get some books at the library. She still plans on reading out loud to Rudy. Not that she believes Rudy can hear her, but because it brings her heart comfort.

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Yesterday, Erin said, "Remember the Bible you got me when I started kindergarten? Remember how I drew in the plain spaces?"

Me, "Yes."

"I found this picture," she showed me. "That's Rudy getting a book off the bookshelf. And here," she flips a few pages later, "That's Rudy sitting down to read the book."
Rudy picking out the book

Rudy at the table reading a book

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Back at our former house, (she) wrote to me that they would dedicate the cat door to the laundry room to Rudy.

The sweetness. And how I could have cried at the very ordinary things we leave behind. Like it says, "We were here" long after we are gone.

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An old friend wrote me how our pets work their way into our hearts. I thought of a former neighbor who had lost her dog and how quiet the house seemed without him. It had been so long since I had known that truth that it was hard for me to imagine. But these days, I know exactly what she meant. How I could be so busy parenting, schooling, housekeeping, yard warrioring, that I didn't sit and cuddle with a cat like I did when she was a kitten. And yet, somehow she was there in all those things and I wasn't even aware until she was no longer there. Places where we were used to seeing her sleeping. How she'd walk through a room or drink from the dog's dish. Her morning song.

When Lanie heads downstairs to watch The Waltons, and I feel the void.

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I think of her in my arms last Monday, her looking for safety and protection and comfort. Think of the night vigil we kept for her, and the softest meows she made, sometimes not even a sound as she opened her mouth. Holding a dish up to her head so she could drink. How small she seemed and so much older. And still, after the kids had left and Shane and I were going to take her to the vet, I lifted her up upon a folded towel and she growled low and made a swat at me. Still a bit of feisty left in the old girl, and I knew if she'd had any more strength, she would have ripped my face off.

She hated the vet. And I hate the last memories I have of her there. That's been the hardest to shake.

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My kids asked if animals go to heaven. (People I know say that you have to confess Jesus is Lord to go to heaven, and animals can't do that.) I told my kids that the Bible says the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. From flowers to sunrises, bird song to cat meows, everything does what the Lord has created it to do--and I believe in that way, all the earth sings praise and acknowledges him. Even cats.


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I look at my dog. I have no idea if she understands what's going on or that the cat is no longer here. But I look at her and know that one day she'll be gone too. I wonder with this horrible mix: why would people ever get pets ... and how can people live without them?

one of Rudy's toy

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