Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Goodbye

From the kitchen window, the moment I saw my husband lift the little cat over the fence, I knew we had a new family member.
We already had a longhaired gray female, Georgia Precious and a male Golden Retriever, Willie Junior. This cat, being male, became Leo, after my mother-in-law, Leona, who came every summer for several months. She took a special interest in Leo. Several years later, as she began developing Alzheimer’s, I could hear her wandering the backyard calling for “Baby Leo”. She became obsessed with his whereabouts, if he wasn’t with her. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was calling for her Dad who had died when she was two or the baby she had lost at birth.
Leo was a great cat, very affectionate and always careful not to scratch you, unlike his feline sister, who seemed to thrive on using her claws on someone.
I had a shaman once tell me, our animals will take on our diseases, as I had discovered Leo had glaucoma, just like I did. It was impossible to put drops in his eye, his left, same as mine. Consequently, it became much worse through the years. Finally, when he was twenty years old, his eye had gotten so much worse, becoming quite large and bloody, and his nervous system was very fragile. It was time to let him go.
I had become allergic to my cats about ten years after they came into my life. Most of the physical affection they got from me came from my feet. The week I had made the decision, with the help of others, to put Leo down, was a time of bonding and understanding between us. One evening he jumped upon my bed, my cats knew never to do that. He wanted to connect, but in my shock and paranoia, I ushered him down. The next day I spent time holding him in my lap, talking and singing to him, all the while, feeling the tremble of his nervous system.
My now former husband was in town during this time. I was grateful for his assistance and apparently this was something we needed to share together. He drove while I snuggled Leo in a towel. Bill was ready to burst into tears just as we turned on to 55th, nearing the Humane Society.
“No, you can’t yet, you’ve got to hold it together to do the paperwork when we get there”, I said.
When we finally got to one of the back rooms, I held Leo while he was given the fatal shot. Bill let out a howl of sobbing, causing both attendants to jump. I felt little Leo’s body soften and let go as his soul passed on.
After we got back to my house, we both cried and cried. He said I don’t know why I’m crying so much. I said don’t you think Leo represented your Mom, who had just left us a year or so before. And he also represented the last of our family ties, as the other pets had gone long before. It was a sad healing.

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