i'm sitting at opal divine's, our own little cheers, enjoying a local brew. at four o'clock, the day has already been full. here's the good news of the day: i'm going back to school. last year, i was accepted into st. edward's masters of liberal arts program, and i ended up needing to defer. this year, with the inspiration of helen going for her masters, coupled with my own feeling of academic stagnation, i'm ready. i'm ready to hit the ground running. i met with the director of the program today, and am getting ready to register for six hours this fall. can you believe it?
my mom called me in tears this morning. she had to put my beloved cat, pete, to sleep. i last saw him in january, when helen and i were in erie, and i knew it was probably the last time i'd see him. he was simply an old man, whose body decided it was time to shut down.
pete was my first cat. certainly, as a mccarthy (which is synonymous with "we have many cats"), i'd grown up with cats, but pete was mine from day one. on my thirteenth birthday, i picked up a stray kitten with lots of black fluff and white feets. i asked if i could have him. my father said no; my mother shrugged. and so i pulled my first teenage act of rebellion: i sat on the porch with the kitten on my lap, and refused to either put him down or attend my own birthday party until my father relented. of course, he did. (he always did.) i got my way. and i named the fluffball pete.
pete grew to be a huge ragdoll. i could flip him over my shoulder, and he'd sit there until i put him down. dad fell in love with him, and nicknamed him petya. together, my dad and pete created a fabulous and complicated game of "go fetch that milk ring", wherein my father would perch a milk ring on the top of the rocking chair, and pete would knock it down, and then my father would throw the milk ring up the stairs. pete would then fetch it and bring it back to the rocking chair. repeat, ad nauseum. you get the picture.
after my father died, pete retired the game. he wouldn't chase the ring for anyone else.
i was out of the house by that time, and so my mother took on full custody of my big boy. over the last nine years, they have become inseparable. pete followed her every move, slept in her bed, and woke her up by six every morning. recently, he'd begun to lose a lot of weight. his thyroid was a mess. his kidneys began to shut down. his green eyes went sallow. but he didn't lose his appetite. or his sense of humor.
when he began to flinch when petted, however, my mom knew it was time. and this morning, she woke up knowing that today would be the day. she fed him his favorite canned breakfast, and called my aunt mary helen for conversation. "just talk to me," she told mh. "i need you to stay on the phone with me awhile." and so they chitchatted--mh no doubt gave her a detailed account of getting her ears pierced for her 90th birthday last week--and pete sprawled himself across my mother's lap, with head resting in her hand. soon after, my mother took him to the vet, and held him awhile, before handing him over. she told me that pete laid his head on her shoulder like a newborn baby, and nuzzled close. my mother said that she knew it was his way of saying thank you for the mercy. and then she let him go.
when she called me, i could hear the grief in her voice. i understand the loss well. she confessed, "letting him go was doubly hard because i have always associated pete with you." having him around was like having a little piece of me with her every day. and now he is gone. i told my mother i love her, so very, very much, and today i feel the love i have for her so strongly, and protectively. "just talking to you helps," she sighed. oh, mama. i'm so sorry he's gone. but i'm right here. i promise i'm not going anywhere.
goodnight, pete. rest well. may the milk rings abound in heaven. i'm sure you're running laps around my father's legs, much to his chagrin. no matter his manly grumbling, i know he's happy to see you.