When I was young, my mom would put things on layaway at the store - - Kmart and later Walmart. She would make regular payments on an installment plan. This was in the low tech days so she’d have to physically go into the store and go to the little layaway window.
Pets are layaway to have your heart smashed into a million small pieces. You pay them (and they you) in installment after installment of love, feeding, pets, purrs, playing… At then, there is the end. The final installment that is in the letting go and in the sadness. You pick up the pieces of your heart. And one day, inexplicably you take out another layaway – you get another pet. Maybe you have more than one pet already so you know this inevitable pain is going to visit your battered heart again and again.
It’s so crazy – losing someone you love. Like when you know it’s happening, you bear witness as they slip away bit by bit. Your heart hurts and the world still marches. Onward. It demands you to pay attention. To show up. Pay a bill. Reset a password. Work. You can’t say, “Wait. Let’s press the pause button on this. I need to be fully present over here – engaged. The very least I can do is bear witness. To support this final transition.” But no. My cell rings as I am around the corner from my home and it’s the guy who followed through and finally showed up for the shed prep. There was concrete under the shed and of course, that costs to remove it and what are you really going to say? You ask how much more and think how unfair this all is. Our cat is dying and I have to write you a check?
Our cat Elliot had an ultrasound yesterday and this confirmed that the news was the worst of the worst. Cancer. In his intestines. Spreading. Lymphoma. Well. Now we know why he stopped eating and shrunk.
People joke about cats – how grumpy they are. Earlier this year, the cat who’s face earned her the moniker “Grumpy Cat” died at age 7. The fact that Elliot got almost twice this amount of time isn’t really a comfort. My mom always used to marvel at Elliot’s beautiful face. And he really is a looker. Stunning. Elliot, with his dashing good looks and swagger, would rub against guests.
“Watch out.” We’d caution. “He’ll turn on you fast!”
“Ohhhh.” People would say, unable to resist his charms. They would pet his soft striped fur just a few too many strokes and BAM! Elliot would lunge with a bite or scratch. Maybe both if your reflexes weren’t top notch.
One guest had reached out, given him a few pets and Elliot swung, his razor-sharp claws slicing her beaded bracelet. Beads bounced everywhere.
Sometimes, you’d be minding your own damn business and Elliot would lash out. One summer day, I was walking down our hall. Elliot was crouched and in position to strike. If I’d been Wrigley or another of our cats, I would have turned around and went the other way. But hey pal, I am the owner. I have shit to do. Apparently, Elliot had shit to do too. He lunged at my leg, his claws trailed down my thigh. He’d drawn blood.
Elliot’s favorite person is Andrea. But even she isn’t immune to a chomp or scratch from Elliot. We knew to proceed with caution.
One night, my mom was standing beside her bed, while Elliot sprawled atop it. We had to unite to remove him without injury to ourselves, so she could get in bed.
In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, we love Elliot. His penchant for hunting mice. Busting people’s and pet’s chops. The days passed slowly, the years fast and here we are. Arriving at the final installment – it too an act of love.
The old bastard left his ties and his suit A brown box, moth balls and bowling shoes And his opinion so you never have to choose Pretty soon, you’ll be an old bastard too. You get smaller while the world gets big The more you know, you know, you don’t know shit. The “wiz-man'll” never fit like the “wiz-kid” did. So why d’you gotta act like you know When you don’t know. Its okay if you don’t know everything Why d’you gotta act like you know and you don’t know It’s okay if you don’t know everything Close your eyes, close your ears young man You’ve seen and heard all an old man can Spread the facts on the floor like a fan Throw away the one’s that make you feel bad Kids today are getting old too fast They can’t wait to grow up So they can kick some ass The get nostalgic about the last ten years Before the last ten years have past Tears land on a hand on a chest The old bastard the had a paradigm arrest He got smaller and the world got big The more he knew he knew he didn’t know shit The “wiz-man" never fit him like the “wiz-kid” did
Bastard, Ben Folds