I’ve come to hate the grieving process. And I’ve come to hate my particular languishing slog through it. Why does it take me so long to get to the actual sad stage sometimes? And why do I find myself moving so slowly through it?
We lost our Birdie (black cat) to a rapid case of feline leukemia this weekend. She was a good cat, probably the best one we’ve ever had. Always sweet and gentle with the girls, always outside ready to greet me or any guests. In fact it was her quietness that made me first realize she was ill. I hadn’t seen her around the house, not climbing in the windows to meow at me in the mornings or afternoons, not there to greet us when we opened the garage door in the morning. I went looking for her and eventually found her in the barn, quiet and still, looking at me but not respomding to my call. She let me pick her up, but only let out a low purr, not her usual violent one that lets me know how happy she is to to be loved.
Together we examined her and couldn’t find any noticeable cuts or evidence of a fight. She drank water but was uninterested in food. We hoped she had eaten something foul and would just need a day or two for it to pass.
But it didn’t. Nate called me this weekend (I was out of town) to let me know she had not improved and in fact only gotten worse. It was time to put her out of her suffering but I asked him to wait until I got back home so that I could say goodbye and be there with the girls when he told them.
As cats usually do when they are dying, she disappeared sometime on the Sunday of my return.
I dreaded coming home to see her suffering and to give her a final goodbye, but now I think it is worse that I didn’t have closure and can only pray that her death was quick and painless.
As I’ve had a chance to start processing this, and with the death of my grandparents at the end of this summer, I’m coming to realize (late of course), that I am far from the peaceful acceptance stage. Nope, I’m still stuck in sadness, and sometimes, regretfully, bounce back all the way to denial, which feels cruel this many months removed.
Today I’ve found myself envying the girls’ grieving. MG lets hers out in one cathartic hour of sobs, but then is able to peacefully move on. Bea, being blissfully unaware, asks to visit Birdie and calls for her when we are outside. I reminded her that Birdie is sick and that we won’t be able to see anymore. “Okay” she says with a hint of a sad face, but that is all. She moves on.
Tonight I used my grandmother’s hot glue gun to finish a project. It was one that she gave to me many years ago and it is outdated and the trigger is extremely squeaky, but it makes me happy to have sometime tangible of hers in use.
Where I am in the grieving process with their passing is thinking about their house. The house that they had lived in for as long as I’ve known them became a constant in my childhood, as we moved several times, but we always made our way back to there for summer vacations and winter holidays.
This house was a white farmhouse, 1920’s style, with a big yard, old trees and a long, black driveway. It had a screened in front porch with two swings and several rockers that we spent some of my favorite hours in. I’ve written countless letters and thank you notes to its address and probably won’t soon forget the order of numbers and letters as I’ve had 31 years to memorize it.
It sat next to a field on one side and another old house on the other (home of my grandfather’s late parents), and in the 60+ years they lived there, they watched the developments go up around them.
Behind the house was a dog pen alive with hunting dogs, a weathered hay barn, and soulful cows. During the better part of my childhood, there was a grape vine, a huge garden, and the best tasting apples I’d ever had that sprouted from several golden apple trees. All of this was cut down in later years and only the cows were left when Grampy started on his last illness.
The inside of the house starts at the back of the house. No one ever entered through the front door. Up until about 5 years ago, Grampy always anticipated our arrival and met us at the back door with a “how yall doing, get in here!”. Many a roast beef sandwich for lunch and a peanut butter cracker for a late night snack were eaten at the round table in the kitchen (late night snacks were always encouraged at this house, much to my delight).
Nanow was a wonderful cook, much like you imagine most grandmas to be, and cooked for us every time we came until she physically could no longer. They always made sure to have our favorite cereals and snacks when we came, and there was always ice cream in the freezer.
The dining room was the next room you entered and the gathering of many, many family meals. Anytime we had more than 4 people, the dining room table was set up, the appropriate amount of leaves were placed in, and we sat around the table breaking bread.
There was a guest room and a living room that held their tv-facing recliners. They had many recliners over the years I visited them, but they always sat side-by-side, facing the same direction. Whenever I picture my grandparents, I always picture them sitting there.
Their bedroom was off the hallway, along with Nanow’s sewing room and the “apartment” in back that was an addition built by Grampy when Nanow’s father became ill and came to live with them. They cared for him, even up until he became unresponsive for his final 18 months. They kept him nourished and flipped him side-to-side to prevent bedsores. Grampy rigged a doorbell for him to ring whenever he needed them.
Now this apartment serves as a guest area and where we spent our extended stays when visiting them.
I’m so thankful N was around for some of their better years and got to know this house as intimately as I did. It does ease the loss a bit to know that it is carried by both of us, and really many of us.
Anthropomorphism is a literary word that describes when an inanimate object takes on a human like personality. In the story of my childhood, this 1920’s farmhouse became anthropomorphic to me; personifying love, goodness, and family. May we all be so lucky to have a little white house in our lives like this someday.