Monday, October 29, 2012

For Frank, Who Is Dying

When I was in my char-hearted, callow youth, one of the things I found privately the funniest was people who spent inordinate sums on keeping their elderly pets alive. Since we've solved all human suffering and all, I would scoff. My pets - if I was weak enough to have any - would be handled with a practical hand. I would not go into debt for their care and their lives would not be artificially extended.

So of course we found ourselves rushing our old man cat to the vet - who is AN HOUR AND A HALF AWAY on Christmas Eve IN A SNOWSTORM two years ago because he suddenly stopped being able to walk and then found ourselves cheerfully agreeing to his expensive diabetes treatments because of course. Of course we would - he is not the IDEA of a cat, and he is not YOUR cat who I do not care about - he is my own cat, my Franky, taken from my parent's farm right after we married when he was a lanky young cat and Bill and I had yet to figure out that loving something - anything - meant that they would have the power to hurt you, forever. Even me, with my protective coat of sarcasm and distance.

"He's a philosopher!" the vet told us, which we found somewhat dubious since we think he is only slightly smarter than a fern. But no, she insisted, he was in fact a thoughtful cat, taking everything in and then she taught Bill how to give injections to a towel and we brought him home, expensively saved from death's very clutches and could not look each other in the eyes for a few days because here we were, silly over a cat.

And now he is dying, a gentle old man's death, little bit by little bit.

"It's okay," Frank, who is philosophical about these things, says. "Being a cat means I don't have the first idea about death, anyhow."

We could take him to the vet's to be put down, but it's such a long trip and he finds it so scary and we don't want his very last hours to be horrifying and traumatic and so instead he is sleeping away the end of his life at home, getting frailer and frailer every day.

I don't have any anecdotes to prove that he loveable. He's just my cat, a sweet shy cat who much prefers Bill but who will consent to me rocking him like a baby, even now. He has no meanness in him. It has never occurred to him that he is much bigger than our other cat, who pushes him around and takes the best food, never occurred to him to scratch our toddlers and their obnoxious hair-pulling love. He has tried his best, we think, to be a good boy. He has, we think, loved us back.


If all it took was money to keep you, Franky, our sweet dumb cat, we'd spend it. But time is unknitting you, undoing your bones and every day brings less and less of you, an enviably sweet and sleepy death and meanwhile all I am left with is unreliable words and no actual way to say - in this unfamiliar, earnest tongue - how sad I am, how undone I am, you good boy, you sweet sleepy thing.




26 comments:

  1. Oh, I think you did find the words, Beck. Just exactly the right ones.

    Hugs to all of you.

    =)

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  2. That sucks. A farmers daughter myself I have held proudly to knowing, that if or when necessary, I could steel my heart and make the hard choices. But instead, even with the knowledge of how necessary death is, I bawl. I'm softer than I pretend. They know it.
    This sucks. I'm so sorry.

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  3. Oh Beck, now I'm crying. I act all tough too, but when it's my own pet all my resolve crumbles and I just want it to be all better now, please.

    He's a beautiful cat. I am such a sucker for orange tabbies.

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  4. oh Beck, Your post has me in tears. Poor Frank. Give him a snuggle from all of us.

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  5. So sad. Poor Frank. He's a good cat. He's lucky to be a part of such a good family. I know he's "just" a pet, but he's your pet, and I totally get it. I think you're doing the right thing, letting him stay at home.

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  6. Beck, I'm crying for you! They sure do get under our skin and into our hearts, don't they?

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  7. That is sweet and heartbreaking. God bless Frank. Really. And you, too.

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  8. *sniff* Wahhhh! That's so sad and so true. Frank is so fortunate to have you and Bill to love him so.

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  9. Tears, real tears are rolling down my face for your cat. I bloomin hate cats too! They shit in my garden! But he's yours, he's loved, he knows. Xxx simply beautiful x

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  10. Poor, poor Frank. Is he the cat who ate buttons? Or is that the Cat-Whose-Name-We-Must-Not-Mention?

    When our elderly dog died in March the guilt of having to put her down was equal to the grief of her death. There were no more extraordinary/expensive measures we could take to prolong her life or ease her pain. So we waited until the visiting vet came to town (like you we were not prepared to make the long drive to the city w/ a terrified, elderly pet), and he humanely put her down. Then I lay in bed for days crying, and looking at old photos of her. And because I am a slow learner, I then went out and got a new dog. I am a moron.

    Give Frank's ears a scratch for me.

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    1. The Button-Eater is the other one. Frank does not have the intellectual wherewithal to figure out how to eat a button.

      My parents keep offering us shiny new kittens. Possibly I have had enough cats. Possibly not.

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  11. Oh good lord. Sobs. In the middle of the hurricane.

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  12. So sorry. It's damned tough to lose a pet.

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  13. There goes my mascara. I'm so sorry about your kitty Becky. I remember many years ago - Paul wanted to bring him home from your folks' place, but he was already promised to you. Paul knew a good cat when he saw one. I'm glad he has had such a wonderful home all these years, and I hope his final time is special and painless.
    Love you!
    Tammy

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  14. You say it so beautifully.

    My Zack started to fail when my vet was on vacation, and I called her in tears about whether I should take him to the vet to be put to sleep (he hated to go into the car). She told me that diabetes basically just shuts them down little by little and it doesn't hurt which, I hope, will bring you as much comfort as it did to me. May Franky have as peaceful and quiet of a passing as my Zack. I'm sure he knows how much he is loved and is greatly comforted being around the people he knows so well. It's so hard to adore these sweet creatures who are not meant for this earth for so long.

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  16. I am so, so sorry that your sweet cat is slowly leaving you before your very eyes. I have ambivalent feelings about the grief I've felt at losing animals, but in the end I just let myself be sad and love them and grieve.

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  17. oh beck i am so sorry. our pets, they are so special, so full of love and faith in us. i hope the end is peaceful for him. for you. xo

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  18. This is so beautiful, and I'm so sorry. Friends of ours adopted our guinea pig because of allergies in our family, and they recently spent a ton of money on surgery for him. Surgery that didn't work. I offered to chip in because I felt responsible. They said no. We all loved that creepy little rodent.

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  19. Franky is so lucky that you love him so much to let him go his own way. That you love him is more than enough...but your words are quite reliable. xoxoxo to your heart from mine.

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  20. What a post to see on my first visit to the blog... Wow...

    *sigh*

    I lost my Tyson last year, and wrote a similar post... It's never easy...

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  21. Oh Beck... I know. I know this. The shortness of their lives in comparison to the depth with which we shower them in love is tragically skewed. We had to put our Dakota Bear to sleep last summer and I swear to GOD, I cannot drive by that vet clinic without getting emotional.

    It is only now, 2 weeks away from bringing home our new kitten, that I feel somewhat at peace with his death. At peace with the death of a CAT.

    MY cat.

    I feel your pain for dear Franky. I hope he has little pain...

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  22. Oh, I'm so sorry. Hugs to Frank. And you.

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  23. Ah, I understand this, because my own Henry is 18 and frail and his companion genteely crawled under a table and died a few years back and I expect him to go at any time. I am, I think, okay with it because we have had him for 17 years and he has had a good run, but I do wish him the kind of easy passing that Ginger had and am daily torn between wanting him to just keep on until he is record-settingly ancient and wanting him to rip off the bandaid, as it were. He is, also, getting very skinny and drooly and yowly and fairly pathetic, so some days it seems like nature would be kinder to all of us to let him go, but even so...

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