28 October 2006
This is Cinders. He's a good cat.
We got Cinders when I was 13. He was a funny little kitten, not very social. The first day he was at home with us, he spent most of his time under the sideboard in the dining room hiding. He even hissed at us. He was scared; I can't blame him. He'd been a stray, possibly born feral. Hard to say for sure. When we brought him home he was probably two months old, if that.
He was a very clingy cat, not bothered at all to use his claws to hold on, whether to your shoulder or to the back of one of the old rocking chairs he used to sleep on like a leopard on the limb of some great tree in Africa. He always had a little bit of the wild in him.
Cinders was there every day when I came home from junior high school. Every day when I came home from high school, he was there.
Cinders was there every time I came home from college. He was there every time I came home from pilot training. He was there every time I came home from a deployment. And for most of the last two years, Cinders has been there every day when I come home from work. We used to have long conversations in the kitchen while I fixed dinner. Cinders has been my whole family; he's played Hobbes to my Calvin for a long time.
But he's not going to be there when I get home this time. Sixteen years is a long life for a cat, and he wasn't in perfect health when I left home in July. Still, I didn't think that he'd seen his last December. When I said goodbye, I didn't think I was doing so for good. The truth is I'm not going to get to say goodbye.
Death is a cruel thing. Though I hope he will, the odds are Cinders will not get to slip peacefully away some night soon in his sleep. He's not dying of anything that will be so kind as that. This is what saddens me the most. No matter how comfortable Mom and Dad make him in these last few days or weeks, no matter how much he gets to lie in the sun on the porch and sniff the breezes and eat the yummy canned cat food, the last thing that's going to happen to Cinders is that he'll have to go to a scary place he doesn't like, and go into a white room, and get a shot from some stranger. He doesn't deserve that. But he doesn't deserve to suffer, either.
It's probably for the best that I'm not there. In the past the unpleasant duty of saying the last goodbye to family pets has always fallen to my father, who manages to hold up okay. I know there's no way I could do it, not for Cinders. I'm not keeping it together right now.
I'm going to miss my Old Buddy. I already do.