Posts Tagged: Jack the Cat

Jun 10


I find myself thinking of him, even now, even after all this time has passed. I thought I had mourned him completely, was ready to move on, but today, after I opened a cabinet, I found myself thinking of him again, the way he would bolt like lightning into an open closet door, hungry for something that he could only find in the dark. I think of him in half-wakefulness at night, as I reach for his warm body to curl myself around, waiting to hear his purr. Instead, I hear and feel nothing. I think of him as I am falling asleep, a quick memory of padding to the kitchen to make sure that I filled his food bowl because otherwise he will most certainly wake me at some obscene hour of the night to have his midnight snack. He would wake us, cautiously at first, nibbling on our noses, escalating to loud meows if not responded to in a timely fashion.

I feel freshly emotional when I recall his last days, the days of his decline. His growing confusion, his inability to control any aspect of moving his body. His loud voice asking, what is happening to me?

The way he snuggled up against newborn Anna.

His paw, reaching out of the box that we first brought him home in, swatting Puppy Lucky right on the nose, setting the dominance right from the get-go.

Him, curled up in the terracotta pot of catnip and cat grass, nibbling and dosing.

His quiet, still companionship.

Oh, Jack. Beloved cat. Rest in peace.

Sep 09

The world is big, and yet, so small

I really feel like I got the majority of my grief out of me in the vet’s office, stroking Jack’s small, soft head as the life passed out of him. Deep, heavy sobs. Big tears, “big feelings” as they would say at Anna’s preschool.

There are others things that stick with me: the imaginary purrs that haunt me in the evening, that dash of black and white I think I see rounding the corner. A blanket, bunched up just the way he used to form a little pocket when he would paw his way under the covers for warmth.

But, most of all, the feeling of what it is like to live in a moment where another being’s living is being extinguished. Like a woosh, a thundering in my ears, a silence so deep and so profound. A coldness, a stillness. It’s haunting. It stays with me. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced death. In a way, it makes my own will to live that much more intense, knowing the depth of the moment of non-being.

I got a beautiful book for Anna that she is not all that interested in. She has occasionally asked for Jack (while in her spontaneous, “I LOVE MY DOG! I LOVE MY CAT!” moods), and after I explain, once again, that Jack is gone and is not ever coming back, she asks for him again. Hmm. This one’s a toughie.

It’s a toughie for me, too.

Last night I slept nine hours straight. Woke up and reached beside me for my purring cat, only to find him not there. Fresh grief bubbled out.

We’re all born, we all die. We’ve all got the living in between. And here we are, on this big ol’ earth ball, rolling around in the sky, reaching towards….what? Groping our way towards happiness and health and relationships. It’s a connection we all have, whether we live in California or Connecticut or….China, the Czech Republic, Canada.

I don’t know about you, but it kind of makes me want to lean on in for a big group hug. Squeeeeeeze!

Sep 09

Jack 1994 – 2009

Jack picked us, at the Humane Society in Pasadena. When Adam and I walked into the cat room there, I immediately eyed a gorgeous Himalayan with gorgeous fur, beautiful eyes. “Oh, Adam, look!” I had no interest in the domestic short hair that ambled up to us, meowing and purring.

Adam insisted that the cat needed to choose us, and that is, indeed, what Jack did. Five year old “Jacques” (how in the world could somebody have given up this cat????) became “Jack” after we brought him home that day in 1999, the day he reached up out of the cat carrier and swiped Lucky, just a curious puppy then, right on the nose. That set the order, right then and there: the cat is here, and the cat is in charge.

He was in charge, but he was also the sweetest (cross my heart), truly the sweetest, cat I have ever known in my life. Social to the core, he insisted on nestling on laps (especially those allergic or not a fan of cats). Excellent with children, he put up with all kinds of well-intentioned curiosity: tail pulling, being sat upon, fingers poked in his mouth and eyes and ears. I don’t believe he ever scratched a child.

His decline these past few weeks has been just heartwrenching. This weekend, he could no longer walk. He was incontinent. He couldn’t eat or drink much of anything. He was like a newborn baby, needing to be fed and led to water, carried and sat in the sun, cleaned up after wetting himself. Last night he cried and cried and I didn’t know how to help him. I don’t want to remember that part. I do want to remember this:

His favorite things: sitting on laps, curling up on a sun spot on the floor, being fed food piece by piece by hand, nestling up under Adam’s armpit during the night. Anna. Oh, how he loved Anna.

Jack died peacefully this morning, in my arms, as I murmured words of love and gratitude to him. He was much beloved, and will be much missed.

Rest in peace, sweet Jack.

Sep 09

Calming the emotional battleground

Anna alternately lights up my life and shoves me into a world of frustration and annoyance. I’m practicing my calm breathing and chanting the mantra “I am in control of my emotions” as we enter a new phase in which every rule is questioned and tested. I don’t want to have to be an enforcer, but some things are non-negotiable. Like wearing pants to the grocery store. I don’t care who you are: pants are a must. It’s just not okay to flash your private parts at Trader Joe’s (though, sidenote: weirdest thing! We went to the zoo on Sunday morning and there was this guy there who was TOTALLY cruising around the zoo in a tank top and boxer shorts. TOTALLY not acceptable. V. V. Strange). Though of course it’s okay to enjoy a little naked time in the privacy of one’s own home, the pants on rule is a line in the sand. Also non-negotiable: kicking or hitting Mama or Daddy, sitting on our poor, weak, elderly cat (who, by the way, is now at the point where he cannot eat unassisted. Jack needs to be propped up so that he doesn’t fall over while eating. How sad is that? Also, please don’t yell at me for this, but as sad as it is it’s also…slightly funny to yell, “Sorry, honey, I can’t help you wipe your pee right now, I’m helping the cat eat.” Giggle. Or is that just me?).

New tactic: CALM CALM CALM. And firm, when necessary, though I find that sometimes…it isn’t necessary. Problem is, you kind of have to know, up front, which things are necessary and which things aren’t or else it makes you a pushover parent. Not cool. Any matching of toddler ramped up emotional intensity equals trouble. Hours and hours of screaming, terrible trouble. So: CALM. Calm replies. Quiet answers. Respectful attempts to resolve issues without budging on those things that are necessary. Calm offers of help and/or time alone, when necessary.

I don’t actually think that she’s a terrible kid. I just think that she’s trying to figure out how to get all of herself under control. A big task! This time in her life feels so crucial. I want to get across the right messages. These are the things that I’m trying to be careful to say:

It’s okay to have big feelings, even angry or scared or hurt ones.
It’s not okay to hurt others.
It’s okay to take some time by yourself, if you need it.
It’s more fun to be with you when you aren’t being hurtful in words (“NO! GO AWAY! I NO LIKE YOU HERE!”) or actions (kicking, hitting, biting).
We love you, no matter what.

We’ve officially been sick for forever. I’m sick of being sick, sick of being home without my friends and without preschool. I’m ready to get back into the swing of things but I don’t want to be that mom that brings my sick kid around school or playgroup or a friend’s house or whatever. Anna, as of today, was still snotty and coughing and, really, if she were someone else’s kid, I don’t think I’d feel that great having those symptoms near my child. So…stay away we must. It’s just been really….intense at home. Not only is Anna having extreme emotions, she’s also very clingy and needy when not overtly emotionally upset (“Mama, play with me in my room” heard over and over and over like a broken record and YES, of course I do play with her but sometimes a grown woman needs a break from playing with My Little Ponies or reading “Everyone Poops” for the umpteenth time. To do glamorous things like prepare meals and fold laundry).

I know it’s just one of those things, like all other things: a phase. We’ll get through it. But somehow this last week has seemed interminable.

I miss my friends!!!! I miss the routine of getting out and about and in the world!

Sep 09

Waffle Day

Sunday = Waffle Day

Anna woke up as she often does, ravenously, grumpily hungry. Needing to eat Right This Second. “I so hungry now, Mama!” she whined as I hurried to make the finishing touches on our Goodnight Waffles (recipe is made mostly the night before, with the exception of the addition of eggs, baking soda, and vanilla the morning of).

I warmed up the waffle iron as Adam added the final ingredients to the batter and stirred. All was chaos: Adam ran back to pull on a t-shirt (it’s getting chilly already here!), Jack the cat meowed in hunger, stirring restlessly between my legs, further scattering cat food (that he had spilled, in a loud, dramatic fashion, in the wee hours of the morning) all over the kitchen and dining room floors, Lucky the dog, groaning to be woken so early, stretched and panted, hoping to catch any stray food that might make its way to the kitchen floor.

I pour the first serving of waffle batter onto the iron, close the lid, and flip, as I’ve done these past many years. Except! This time, the waffle apparatus falls (falls! the horror!). “Adam! Get in here NOW! I’m having a situation with the waffle iron!” Adam scrambles in the bedroom, down the hall, and appears in the kitchen, concern written over his face. Anna whines, “That one my waffle! I eat it now!”

“Not now, honey, we’re just….OOF….trying to fix it….something’s wrong with it.”

[Adam and I, burning ourselves on the hot waffle iron, have a brief moment of laughter over the similarity to the Corn Holer in our beloved series Arrested Development.] Adam runs to the garage, returns with a #2 Phillips. I’m trying to hold the damn thing together, steam and heat and hot waffle batter and all. We flip it open and out comes the most beautiful, breathtakingly gorgeous waffle ever. Somehow. Even with a broken waffle iron.

Anna gets the waffle. Of course. The benefits of being a beloved only child (though we did make her ask for it nicely, no whining, thankyouverymuch).

Adam declares the screws stripped, swears. Declares he’s calling the company and demanding a replacement. I sigh, knowing that I would prefer to just buy another waffle iron: to me, it’s not worth the time and effort dealing with a company who probably doesn’t care one iota, who will stonewall and transfer from person to person to person before finally, maybe, begrudgingly, will conceded to perhaps provide a replacement, provided we pay to ship the old one back. Sigh Sigh Sigh.

Somehow, Adam rigs it up in such a way that we can cook more waffles, albeit it carefully, with much care, with the care that new parents take with the wobbly head of their newborn child. “Careful, now!” Adam says. He will not leave his post. He makes more waffles: one for me, one for him. I start another one for Anna and…..the waffle iron falls apart again. Adam fixes it (sort of. temporarily, at least). It makes the last waffle and then busts apart again.

Sorrowfully, we turn the iron off. We’ve recently discovered that one single waffle, minus syrup or other toppings, is almost 400 calories. Yikes. Must be all that butter. Mmmmm…..butter. Defiant, we vow to continue with our waffle tradition, topped and all (and me with my tea with sugar and cream–once a week!), but limiting them to one each (well, with the exception of Anna, who is too young and slender to worry about the deleterious effects of too much butter and excess calories–she generally eats two waffles, they are that good and that crispy and light and yum yum yum).

And that, my friends, is how we began the morning, believing all was right with the world, believing that waffles could continue on, as always. We ended the morning with a screwdriver on the counter and another thing on the to-do list, a little less trust in the providence of the future. Oh, the horror! The horror of a future devoid of homemade waffles! This must be remedied at once!

Nov 06

An open letter to Jack the cat

Contrary to popular (your) belief, all the new baby stuff does NOT, in fact, belong to you, nor is it intended to provide wonderfully comfortable places for you to sleep. Yes, it is cozy. Yes, it is new and must get broken in. Our intention was for these things to belong to Anna (you know, that baby that you think belongs to you).
On a happier note, it is quite cute to see you curled up next to Anna, cuddling up against her. It may be that it is all about the personal warmth factor, but I choose to believe that you actually feel some sort of attachment and affection for her. Let’s keep that up and avoid the use of claws.
Thirdly, I would like to personally apologize, as Anna’s mother, for the abuse that you have (and will continue to have) to put up with. Anna has a strong right hook, and I’m sure that the toddler years will bring many incidents of fur pulling and chasing throughout the house. Thank you for being so patient.

Your home-sharing, food-providing, non-furry subordinate,

Jennifer Gray