I rolled the two, small, overly warm sleeping bodies of my children off of me, and I crept out of bed. I wanted a cup of coffee, which I would sip as I perused my favorite blogs in the quiet stillness of early morning.
However, my foot had barely touched the ground at the base of the stairs when a small voice from up and behind me said, "Mama? I hungee."
Within a few minutes the downstairs was a chaos of noise and demands, with everyone up and about. But, we all carried a happy anticipation.
First, I had a very exciting and happy work stuff (nope, not being ironic).
Next, we had a playdate with Kyla and the Tars. A little known fact might be that Kyla and I live pretty close together. Since we're all fans of Kyla, I'll bear your envy stoically. Another little known fact might be that our kids are the exact same ages. With every reason to do it, we planned a nice get-together.
Then, my sister was arriving. She's moving down from Pennsylvania, and will live about an hour from me. My mother is already here, staying with me. It's a tough call who was more excited and happy. It's a first place tie: the kids and Nana. We planned to talk on Friday (the day her movers were delivering her stuff) and go over sometime this weekend.
Some neighborhood friends were gathering to take our older kids to a stage performance of high school musical. All the little girls 5 and up were so excited! Moms were bearing it, with grins.
Finally, I had high hopes for the blog post my husband was going to do about his time in the ring with Romeo "Rocky" Raccoon. (cue theme music) He was flattered by (and frightened of LOL) the encouragement.
Is that a knock it out of the park lineup or what?
So here is how Friday went...
First, when I went into the kitchen to make coffee I noticed another one of our trees listing. I got so distracted and tied up calling the tree company, alerting my husband, and so forth that I forgot to make coffee and eat breakfast. Next, my sister called. My father had planned to come help them with the move-in but his boss canceled his vacation and he wasn't able to travel here. We knew that with four kids and a move, she might need some company.
We all planned, replanned, and planned yet again for the morning as more and more wrenches leapt into the works.
We did have a wonderful time with Kyla and the Tars. Honestly, she is so great, as, of course, are her kids---cuter and brighter than even those awesome photos you see show. That KayTar. She is is something special. Which is not to detract from BubTar who is adorable, sweet, has the biggest brightest eyes, and is so wonderfully big brother five. He ran and played, Patience ran and played, Persistence ran and played, and after a bit of running and playing, then accepting that Mom was not going to allow her to go up the slide, KayTar decided the next most entertaining thing to do was sit with the grown-ups and charm our pants off. She smiled, she flirted, she chatted, she entertained, and basically added more fans to her club.
After a happy farewell to the Tars, we hopped on the highway and drove to my sister's new town and home. Beautifully wonderful to help her settle in here. The kids were so overjoyed to see one another, they played adorably together, and even the two year olds could barely manage one small turf battle of Mine. They even all nicely shared Nana. When we left, Patience asked, "How soon do we get to go back?"
It's when we arrived home, you see, that I learned how much had gone on while we so enjoyed a good day, what had happened while we weren't looking.
It was dark, and almost 10 p.m. by the time we pulled into the drive. The girls had fallen asleep in the car before we'd even left my sister's neighborhood, exhausted after a long and fun day, and well-past their usual bedtime. My mother and I climbed out of the car and each carried a semi-dozing child in to the house. I walked in first, stepped to the left so my mother could walk in behind me, and started towards the stairs.
That's when I saw my cat, Bubba.
He had died. On the stairs.
I stepped back, shocked, unaware of anything except the sight of him, the loss of him. My mother, now blocked from entering, called softly, "Julie?"
I turned and whispered, "It's the cat. Children in the living room?"
She understood immediately. Bubba was elderly, and quite sick. The dying had been coming for a long time. He might have made it through the summer, but I believe last week he caught a stomach virus. He lost weight he couldn't afford, and the damage from the illness was, I thought, the end of it. But he seemed to rally over the weekend. Early this week, to my surprise, he began grooming himself a little. He became a little more sociable again, wanting to be in the room with us, meowing for attention. I think, deep down, I knew he was setting a stage. I think we all did. We all changed towards him, made him more of a priority. Especially Patience. We all understood, somehow, that this was really the end.
I just didn't think it would come, one day, a happy day, when we were all out and he was alone, but in another way, I can understand that this is when, why and how it would happen.
Alone he could let go. With us, he felt too much of a pull, I think. That he lasted so long is a testament to his love of life and family, to his will---of not wanting to miss a second.
My mother sat in the dark living room with dozing children.
I carried in our things from the car and waited for my husband to get home. I hated to hit him with the news before he even got in the house, but I felt it was best to prepare him for what he would see as soon as he walked in the door.
As I expected he was shocked but not surprised, sad but accepting. We hugged, and walked into the house.
When he saw his cat---for Bubba was his cat, much as Cici has been my cat---he said simply, very sadly, "Oh Bubba." Then he stooped, and stroked Bubba's head. I waited, behind him, there, but out of the way while he had his private moment.
When he was ready, my husband and I carefully lifted Bubba's body. There was no warmth to him, and he was barely rigid. My mind flooded with all the ways the day might have gone, but didn't, and how we might have been home, but weren't. I felt badly he was alone, but I understood, and I felt sorrow he was gone, but also relief because the last few weeks have been hard for him.
We laid him gently in a towel, and arranged him in a comfortable looking pose. Except for his open eyes, he might have been sleeping in one of his favorite positions. Satisfied that he looked at peace, my husband and I sat together and cried while remembering his life and all he meant to us. When we felt a little stronger, we got Patience.
It wasn't ideal, getting her up from a sleep so late at night, but we also knew it was important to have a wake, and moreover, knew this was the only time to do it.
Our dog Brodie, Bubba's littermate sister Francie, my husband, Patience, and I sat together around Bubba. We cried, shared stories and feelings, laughed a little. We made a coffin, which Patience and I decorated with markers and messages of our love and gratitude for his place with us, in our family. When we all felt ready to say goodbye, we closed and sealed the box. Patience had drawn a picture of Bubba, which we put on top, with his name: Our Precious Cat Bubba.
This morning my husband got up and began digging a hole in the backyard. When it's finished, we'll gather around to say a final goodbye.
Then we'll go get a memorial stone and plant, and create a special spot. Patience wants something orange so we can remember our orange cat.
It's hard teaching kids to accept loss, manage grief, and say goodbye to a loved one. We can only hope we do it right. We are sure it's our best.
Bubba was a true character. Bright and golden-eyed. Feisty, and demanding. If we'd been smart, we might have named him Byron. He was a romantic poet in feline form. It's funny how that never occurred to us. We used to be so frustrated because he wouldn't tell us his name. All of our other pets have been so generous, sharing their names easily. But Bubba never would, hence the crazy misnomer he carried. It's funny how now that he's gone, I think, "Byron," and it seems like exactly the right name...too late.
He chose us for his family---and you might not believe it when I say it, but his choice trumped our own. Although he was unplanned, a surprise, and often a lot of trouble, we never were anything but glad. He loved us, we loved him. He was not your stereotypical cat. But then again, none of ours ever were. He was the spoiled rotten only boy in the house, coddled by the adoring females around him. Other than his brief period of rebellion when he ran with a gang of orange tabbies and took a week hiatus from us, he relished and stuck close to the comforts of home and the good life a domestic cat can have. He'd lie in the sun, stretched out, and soak up the warmth. Then he'd rub past his littermate Francie---any excuse to touch and love, this sensual flirtatious cat took it---and go to his ever-full food dish, where he'd snack on a bite or two, lap a bit of water, and return to the sun.
This is what I will remember, and the other things too, as soon as my mind links more to his life, than to his death. Rest, Bubba, in peace.
Everything in that day was almost too much, too big, for one short day.
Even the weather ranged from gorgeous sunny blue to pouring dark rain.
Friday August 3rd 2007.
More than just a day of the week, more than just a Friday.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert