And I still cry.
Because I didn't realize I loved my daughter's cat so much. And didn't realize how four cats on one bed could leave a void so huge when the fifth one is permanently missing.
I still find little Fluffy tufts around the house. I smell her on the teddy bear I gave her that last week. I remember her.
I remember her as a kitten walking around the coffee table only to be surprised by Lizzie Cat. Fluffy jumped up so high and puffed out so thick, she looked just like a cartoon Halloween cat!
She loved to lick Dot's face, especially when Dot was upset and crying, Fluffy comforted her by licking away her tears.
As a younger cat, Fluffy would often interrupt Dot's sleep. Dot would be so tired in the mornings and blame it on the cat. "If you ignore her," I'd say, "She'll leave you alone." And then, one night years ago, Dot opted to sleep on the living room floor. While I was still awake I saw what she so often tried to explain to me. She would cover her head completely with her blanket or pillow, yet still Fluffy would find a way underneath. She would nibble her nose, lick her face, tangle with her hair. Ceaselessly.
Once, Dot crawled onto her bed to snuggle with her, and I heard a giggle that turned into a squeal. "Help!" she begged in laughter. So I didn't take her seriously. It was ten minutes before I came to her rescue. Fluffy had gripped Dot's ponytail and entwined her claws throughout her hair. "Just sit up," I suggested. "Leave the cat alone." Dot demonstrated why she couldn't: as she lifted her head, the cat came with the hair. Oh, how I apologized profusely for the last fifteen minutes of disbelief!
Fluffy loved Dot. She was a mushpot. She allowed Dot to dress her up as a doll.
She cried for Dot when she was gone too long. She loved me, too, but in the second-best way that only a one-owner-cat can have.
Until the last month. When she spread her affections evenly between us. She even enjoyed my company in the presence of Lizzie Cat, who was, at most times, her enemy.
Fluffy didn't like being in a carrier. Dot took her to Fifth Grade Show and Tell once, and her carrier was made of cardboard. I was a Classroom volunteer that day, so at recess time we put Fluffy in the box and went out. Upon our return, we found the carrier, half destroyed. And we couldn't find Fluffy. The class had an extra five-minute recess as Dot and I scoured the room. Fluffy was finally located behind the filing cabinet. The school made a new rule about what kinds of pets were allowed for Show and Tell after that. We nicknamed it "Fluffy's Law".
She is no longer struggling, no longer lonely or in pain.
But I am overwhelmed with loneliness. With sadness. With emptiness. And guilt.
Because it was my signature that set her free.
And Frankly, My Dear... that's all she wrote!
[You can read the entire post, and view original photos, here on my Blog.]