Sep 21, 2010

Fall and Honey

Fall is here. I don’t know why they wait until September 21 to call it autumn. I can feel it weeks before. I always sense it first in the sky: the light gets low and melancholy long before the temperature drops and the leaves fall. I sensed it as early as the end of August. It feels like earth must hit a particularly sharp curve in its lap around the sun, where it loses more time each day than in, say, June or July.  I'm not an astronomer, just guessing.  At any rate, I could sense it from Labor Day, that low achingly sad light in the afternoon sky, the slow slipping down of the temperature.

And now, finally the leaves are beginning to fall (what leaves actually fall in LA). The pepper trees shed their seeds, the maples are beginning to turn. And our wisteria vine is losing its leaves.  I've only now been willing to go into the back yard.  The gladiolas died off completely, but I haven’t had the will to pull them from the ground. I haven’t been able to go into the back yard. There’s too much of Honey back there.

I've always loved fall the best: that time to be thoughtful and beautifully melancholy.  It prompts a time to reflect, take stock, then hunker down and get to work. It's no surprise to me that the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement occur in the fall.  Except this has been a particularly sad season. Too much loss this summer; so I'm not appreciating the melancholy of autumn this year. (Then again, if the sun were blazing happily above me I might resent it mocking my sadness).

I haven’t watered in the yard since the day before Honey died.  I'd been “gone” working on a movie for nearly a month: either pulling 16 hour days in town, or gone completely on the road. That Friday was my first real day off. So I went out into the back yard to pull the dead gladiola flowers off their stalks. Honey padded over, trilling “burrup” the whole way. She kneaded her paws into the grass, then lay down at my feet and rolled over. I sat down and petted her for a while, then scooped her up, held her for a while and brought her inside. Thank God I did.

Just a few days before I’d groomed her, which she enjoyed. In retrospect, I must admit that thought that crossed my mind, “if she Is in pain, this must be a welcome distraction, t his pleasure she has in getting groomed.” I’d noticed her complain when I picked her up the wrong way. I worried she had some undiscovered mass, but when Larry took her into the vet, he said he didn’t feel any masses at all, and her blood work was fine. So I was lulled into believing. Still, grooming her a few days before I wondered … if she did in fact feel any kind of pain, perhaps the grooming made her feel better. Funny, the thoughts which float over the transom of your mind. Funny how you wish they’d lodged in your brain and made you pay attention. Made you ready.

Thank God I scooped her up that day. Thank God I’d made sure she went to sleep on our bed that night. It would all be over ad she would be gone less than 24 hours later. Thank God for one last memory of Honey.

Death turns everything into an affront. I winced at the violets in the window box: “How dare you go on living? How is it you can still be here, pulling life out of that soil and she’s gone?” I remember feeling that way when my father died. How could people go on, driving their cards and shopping for food and bickering and, well, living?! How could they go on living like the world was the same; when it was so horribly altered? That’s what it felt like when my father died. That’s how it felt when Honey died.

Every time I went out into the back garden it ached; it hurt from her absence. Today I walked down to the bottom of the garden and noticed how ragged the roses had become, rust on the leaves and trapped with spider webs. I didn’t care. Let them die for now. Maybe I’ll think about the roses in spring.

There have been more tears for Honey than I've shed for anyone else, and it was more than my midsection could handle. Everything from my neck to my pelvis hurt. My arms hurt. That was an odd, my arms hurting from grief. Like something had been ripped from them and the vacant space just made them ache.  The hole she left made my arms hurt. My chest hurt from crying. My heart hurt. Everything hurt.

There were things to put away or to hide: bags of catnip, her scratching post, her winter bed and her summer pillow. I couldn’t even throw away the unopened cat litter I’d bought just a week. Larry got rid of the things he could see, but there were always more things to find. More things to remind you of a friend who’s been with you for what seems like most of your adult life. I had to reach back into memory to recall a moment before she had been around. She was in every place I lived for the past 13 years: the first place I got by myself, where I drank my way into sorrow and then got her to heal my way into sobriety. The house in New York, where I moved when she was only two years old. That house had about eight women come and go over the course of five years. They all knew Honey. And then there were all those house-sits and sublets and flats I’d lived in up until the day I got married. I couldn’t bring my mind to recall that last studio apartment I lived in alone. Because I didn’t live there alone; I lived there with Honey.

A friend emailed me. She recalled the writing groups we had at my house, and remembered how Honey plopped herself in the middle of the room, or the table, or the couch, and made sure she was part of the group. She was special, that cat. That soul. That little girl I loved so well. And miss so much.

I miss her more than I miss my father; perhaps more than I will miss my mother when she goes. My mother has been leaving us, bits at a time, to the point that there’s little left of her. I marvel to think she stood up and watched me get married four years ago. She can’t walk anymore. She doesn’t remember anything. When Mom goes, of course I will cry and miss her. I’ll ask Mom to look for Honey when she gets there. I’ll ask Mom to tell Honey I miss her.

I tell that to God a lot: that I miss Honey, and that will he please let Honey know that. I’m more than convinced she’s made it to heaven. She’d make it before I would. She never sinned or disappointed God or told him to “go away,” the way I had done. She was just her true, loving self: more of a completed soul than I’ll ever be this side of heaven. But I wonder what she knows, what she sees? Does she ask around, “where’s Susan? When is she going to be here?” I pray she finds my friends and family and they look after her until I arrive.

You don’t really notice when grief finally leaves. It just gets a little easier every day. I don’t recall when I stopped crying every day. But I did. Still, all I need is a little prompting. Just last week I was sitting in a coffee shop and cried. Larry and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and I noticed her waxy ear-mark on the corner of the fridge. I had to stop eating. Her collar hangs on my corkboard, next to the many photos I finally had printed off my computer. The collar hangs in such a spot that my lamp usually obscures it. But I moved the lamp just a few moments ago, and there it was: the black braid, the gentle bell, the tag with her name and my phone number that told people to whom she belonged. Only once in her life did someone have to call me. I’d been working all day, and Honey had been sitting out on the front lawn, waiting for me to get home. The kind neighbor called to let me know “your cat is on the lawn, looking around.” I came home soon after. I remember several nights back at that last apartment, coming home late, and seeing her little silhouette next to the driveway. Patiently waiting. She never strayed beyond the parkway. Never once saw her run across a street. She knew where home was. Home was the only place she wanted to be, except when I wasn’t there. And now it’s hard for me to be home, when she isn’t here.

Our dog is little comfort. He’s young and arrogant, and he’s Larry’s dog. He adores Larry; he only tolerates me. I’m still his biggest competition and he lets me know it. It’s tiring. I want my cat.

Larry and I talk about getting another dog, mostly for Wally to have a playmate to run around with all day. Cut down on our doggie day care bills. Larry says, “We don’t need to get another corgi. Get the kind of dog you want.”
I say, “I want a cat.”

My friend Katherine has had many cats. She grieved over the loss of every one of them; but there was one special cat. Miles. Katherine has never forgotten Miles. Katherine says you never heal adequately until you get another cat. Maybe we'll get a dog for Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll get a cat for Christmas.

But it's only September. I’m not ready.

13 comments: said...

girrrrrrl. I can't read these stories of Honey without crying!! you make me feel normal, thanks. I have a cat that is 13 yo this fall. I am in LOVE with that cat. I am single and 27. like you, this cat is the one always there. I had to send my cat to live with my family in Aug while I'm in a moving transition, till i chase my dream of moving to NYC in oct. i kept telling her she is going to be a great city cat! I can't tell you how much I balled the day my family took her. I was far more sad about seeing her leave me then my family. I warn people about how much time I will be out of commission on life when that cat passes one day.

Thanks for sharing your stories. Amazing what God shows you - the love - through a pet. THX. saw u in clt almost yr ago. hope to see you on tour in nyc soon. can't wait to see who you get for Christmas!! Best!

Thoughts for the day said...

I am with you on this one. A cat person. My own Smudge sits beside me near the computer. In fact the chair is 'perhaps' hers and she so kindly shares it with me?
She is 14 and I dread the day we say goodbye. In the last 20 years we have had to say goodbye to our 'loved ones'. Lucy our yellow cat who was a grand old lady at age 19. I can still hear her meow, she talked to you like a person in her meow chatter. Then we had Sadie my dog who at 18 had to be put down, then Noah who was near 20 another dog who had to be put down, Sophie a doxie dog, who was also near 15 had to be put down and the latest was Hannah my big black cat who was 13 who had to be put down. We have not had any of them 'die' on their own except for Critter a stray cat I gave a home to she died in our bathroom. It is hard to say goodbye and let them go. I miss them all.
Smudge is my last cat for now. We have Emma my dog who is 12 and Samson my husbands dog who was a pound dog and we guess he is about 15 now. I told told my husband after these last three seniors leave us maybe we won't get any more. They have always been a part of our life together but it is so hard to let them leave us.
Tears are shed and there is indeed a time of mourning. Memories are recorded in photo albums reminicing is ok. The heart that hurts does heal with time. Even the animals mourn when Noah passed from us Sadie sat near his bed for days. Grieving.
It is hard, I hope you find peace in your memories and it is good to write about them too.

Taking Heart said...

What a tender expression...

Claudia said...

This is so sad and so beautiful.

Ed Blonski said...

Honey is not waiting for you in heaven.

To her, no time has gone by. She closed her eyes here on earth, opened them in heaven and was looking right at you (and Jesus).

Ok, I don't have any Scripture to back this up - a bad thing for a pastor. I might get a lot of crap from my literalist pastor and Christian friends.

Maybe I've seen too many Star Trek time-travel episodes. But I believe that because heaven is eternal, that means there is NO time. No time passes. There is no past or future in heaven. Only NOW.

So while time passes for you since Honey left, no time has passed for Honey or anyone else in heaven. They are there with us now (their now, not ours).

That's probably confusing but I pray it brings some comfort, too.

chandra said...

Oh, I am so sorry. We just went throughthis also. Some cats are so amasing they just seem better people the most people. :( Yes loosing a parent is hard. Just lost my mom and a jack russel terrier. Ed, Honey is waiting there. Tender mercies to you, Susan.

Susan Isaacs said...

Thank you Chandra. I KNOW we will see them again. Read "The Last Battle." A comforting and thrilling peek into the eternal, as only CS Lewis could do it. @Ed: I ended up finding a lot of scripture to back up our hopes we will see them again. I'm not sure how they see us now, what dimension heaven and the New earth exists in. But I know what you are saying, it's also kind of a thing in the Last Battle. Such a good book!!

Simone Says... said...

such a beautiful piece of writing. my heart goes out to you. i lost both of my dogs in the past 2 years and still cry over the loss of them, but the deeply rooted, gut-wrenching grief has been lifted. honey will always be with you. she's here now.

Susan Isaacs said...

Thank you Simone. I ask God to pass her messages. :)

Blue Heaven 62 said...

Dear Susan,
I'm so Sorry about your Honey. You described the emptiness very well.
I had a cat named Joshua who I loved like that. Losing him shook my faith and my relationship to God the way nothing else has, before or since. I guess because he was all that I had to love me that had skin(or fur) The otherness of God seemed really profound at that time and I had no comfort in Him.
God sent me two cats since then, Jake and Jenny. They are wonderful, and fill up my heart sometimes, the way Josh always did. It's not the same, but Joshua is with King David and Jesus and will be waiting for me.
I met you in South Carolina when you were touring with Don. It was wonderful to talk to you and hear you speak those evenings, and I wish you health and every happiness.
(P.S.-I'm sure God will send you another cat. There are many wonderful feline spirits in this big world)
Love, Kathy Heavner

Wikkid Person said...

I'll bet if a compilation of people's blog entries when beloved pets died were made, it would pretty much be unreadable. You'd not be able to get through two before you'd have to stop, it would be so sad. And a pet dying isn't supposed to be as sad as so many other bad things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen to pretty much everyone. Still.
Here's my blog entry on "My cat died:"

Pinky L. said...

I know this post was from awhile ago, and you have a different blog now, so who knows if you'll even get this comment.

But anyway, I'm really sorry about your cat for one thing.

In February, my puppy passed away; his name was Zorro, he was a goof, and my family looked after him while I was away at school, but he was mine. He was only two and a half, and got sick, wasn't responding to any treatment, and before they could even put him down, he passed away.

I've lost people before; my nana, my friend when I was 12, my aunt . . . but I don't know if it's because I'd simply forgotten what grief felt like, but the night after Zorro died was probably the loneliest, saddest night I'd ever gone through. I cried like a baby, and woke up my roommate a bunch of times.

Up until recently, we had two other dogs, but our oldest dog (Bailey) was just put down, and the other one (Libby) is my mom's, not mine. I miss Bailey, but I really, really miss Zorro.

Reading your post, I guess I feel a lot less crazy for missing a pet this much. Like it's totally okay. But yeah. I don't think we'll be getting another dog for quite some time.

Susan Isaacs said...

I'm so so sorry. I felt the same thing: losing Honey was harder than losing my own father. If a pet is YOUR pet, it's like your child. and they are pure love and innocence. I got a dog a few months later. He is terrific. But he's not Honey. I love my new dog, but he cannot replace the one that's gone.

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