On October 11, 2010, close to 6 PM the first great love of my life breathed her last here. The last thing she saw on this world was the girl who had come to love the both of us and I. I had placed her out in the yard earlier that day so she could feel the Breeze and the Sun as she used to. I had been sleeping on the floor with her the past couple of nights before the end just to squeeze every moment out. To kiss her more, to feel that tiny head and that silky fur and hopefully to let her know that she was and is the highest treasure. The time between the first kiss when she was a kitten and the last was a blink.
She came in April of 1990 to the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts. My great friend, Rick and I had barely survived the eighties came to my work. “I just dropped two kittens off at your house.” I began spluttering in protest. I couldn’t take care of anything, not even myself beyond the basics really. That night I opened my apartment door and peaked in. I heard this tiny stampede. Suddenly four blue eyes were staring at me when I flicked on the light. I set a blue dish down for the first time and filled it with a gross Nine Lives mixture. They ate it right away. Felch, the boy was short haired and gray and white with black stripes. He was outgoing and was where I was. The little girl, Brewster had longer hair, soft; gray, with tiger markings and a white bellyful of curly fur. Both were as long as my hand. Brewster could take or leave me. I could feel the beginning of what Anatole France described as an awakening.
I have many memories and many pictures of those early years. These tore up my apartment of the Mohawk Trail. Constant brawls wherever they might be. Swinging high on the blinds. I let them both go out and play behind the apartment. I worried but I knew that they deserved to get a chance to go nuts out there. They ate their own stuff and whatever they wanted out of what I had. Sometimes they would step in my plate to get it. One afternoon I was handwringing during a thunderstorm because Brewster was out. When the clouds parted, a little wet rat oozing indignity came to the back stairs of my apartment. She complained while being toweled off. It was joyous relief such as I’ve never known. “Felt” is the operant word here because in adult (physically) life, I really had never felt anything but shame, fear, remorse or resentment. Felch died when he was one when he got out and I couldn’t find him. I write this and grieve for Felch too.
Brewster became a Beautiful Queen with 6 toes on the right front paw and 7 on the left front and a mighty ruff. I looked at her and realized that this was as close as I might get to seeing the face of God. She silently told me that love was greater than all of my foolishness. She might have the ability to tap into Consciousness where I could not save in increments under her gaze. Not all of me was dead anymore. In those first couple of years, I knew people and it wasn’t just me. Everyone who met her felt her force. All animals lives being unique and precious here was one that stood out majesty. She needed to be the best of the best at her job to break through to someone who circled the drain daily.
In the Spring of 1992 I moved to a long low red farmhouse built before the Civil War in Sunderland, MA. In between the main house and the carriage house near the end was a tiny one bedroom apartment. The carriage house backed up to a field that was hundreds of yards across and surrounded by forest and the Connecticut River. Brewster now had green grass, dark forest and wild animal dangers beyond her experience (Coy dogs, skunks, raccoons, and turkey’s – even some of the larger cats), all in acreage that a shopping mall with parking could sit comfortably on. She went out every day and night. I would leave for work (or wherever) in the morning and let her out in the middle of winter, spring or summer or fall. I would come home and look for a small gray dot in the field or some other hint she was around. If she was in the field, the gray dot would get larger and larger or she would burst out of hiding from the forest. Some blessed days in the summer we would sit on a towel or even a plaid blanket (still in my closet) and she would run around with clods of earth flying behind those mighty fronts and grey boots behind. In the beauty of a small mountain beside a river in a field in the sun she somehow surpassed them all. She would allow me to touch the silky fur for a moment before she was off again. She knew the sun and the fierce mystery of night with its dangers. At night (and morning of course) the ritual of filling the blue dish and touch became central. We would watch TV with her on the plaid blanket and me on an old red couch. She was there and always would be.
It was almost with sadness that I was accepted at a vet school in 1997. The day I left with Brewster I cried again for times we had there and ones we could not have there again in this life. She was in her cage in back and loaded up on AcePromazine. It was a small apartment in a hood in Minneapolis. In the Summer of 2001 things came to the end. I found my perfect drinking partner, right across the street. I would go there for days, abandoning Brewster. I don’t know how long I did this. Someone came to throw me in detox. An angel from vet school got her.It is said that only an awakening of sorts can relieve the obsession. I had a little something like that. I had abandoned Brewster to die while I died. The one thing in my life I thought I loved above all others and I was leaving her in my sorry apartment alone. I could not live with that. I could not live the way I did. I could not make it up to her, but I could go forward and show again that I loved her instead of just saying it. Brewster is stronger than addiction. She began a process that outraged family, cops, jail, ostracism, ridicule, humiliation, unholy physical and mental anguish could not. We moved to Guelph in 2002 and flew up on someone else’s miles. Brewster’s cage rode on top of all the stuff I brought with me on a luggage cart in the Toronto Airport. Later, I got a basement apartment near a river on a side road without much traffic. There was a vet place a block away and a ton of dogs and cats around. Brewster turned 13 in a place that she could hop up in the window and go out. Her blue bowl went up on the counter. Perhaps not feeling the same iron of her insolent youth she generally didn’t go far and would back down from some of her brother and sister ferals. But she seemed happy and would walk with me down to the river. It wasn’t Sunderland, but once again she had some freedom and a tiny apartment to curl up together at night. I treasured her anew and was Poor as shit but I didn’t care. We had a scare with what turned out to be a mast tumor on her jaw in 2005 when she was 15. It was benign, but the thought out of losing her rocked me. Maybe she wouldn’t be with me forever. I denied that away. I had too much to do with her.
I moved here in August 2005. My beautiful Queen of 15 years rode again on the cart top as we approached U.S. customs. This time it was almost a triumphant return for the two of us rather than a shaky exodus. We had the nicest apartment we ever had. We crashed on the floor in front of the fireplace on an air mattress for a week. The blue bowl took its place by the kitchen. We have a greensward outside the back of the apartment. After the furniture came we would sit on the blue couch and watch my old TV, content. Well, she seemed to be. I was still always ready to live in the past or future despite her beauty right in front of me gently chiding me.
A trip to CSU told us that her kidneys were starting to go. How dare they. No one can take her from me. I was just well enough not to totally flip out but there would be no talk of leaving now. Just before her 16 birthday in 2006 I met someone. She had two cats, dear creaky, crotchety Smokey and Crazy Sassy. Patty met the Queen and like anyone with a lick of sense fell in love with her after a period of being intimidated by her majesty and aloof manner. Brewster thoroughly screened her before ever setting foot on her lap. She who had with easy indifference brought me out of Hell seemed to be unwilling to trust any aspect of my care taking with anyone but the finest. There was some acceptance and perhaps unbeknownst to me a small passing of the torch.
Brewster continued to awe. At 17 on the greensward outside the apartment she would occasionally run to me displaying the old ground ripping speed. Once she was out and two hungry foxes came by. She did the wild thing and put her back to a tree forcing them to come at her from two sides. My fighting monster would sometimes play deadly a game of tag with foxes when there was only one. In the summer of 2008 we moved into a house. After a few tentative forays downstairs Brewster decided something to retreat to my room indefinitely. She took all her meals there and I had her litter box in the closet. The blue bowl went below a desk in front of the window where she lay. I brought her outside but she definitely didn’t take to it like before. We still had our times. I couldn’t wait to see her and her place in front of the window was at the foot of my bed. The time the day was when I cracked open the nuts and she would jump from the window to the green blanket next to me on the bed (Patty had bought for her.). I would rub her and kiss her head and we would sleep side by side. When I would go on trips Patty would have her on her lap and they would lie in the bed together. Seasons passed. I would still tell her I would miss her every day all day. Her fur got a little straggly so we shaved her and Smokey. She was still trim and healthy under all that. But she was 18, and then 19. I scoffed, she is eternal and life would be with her. Calcitriol actually seemed to reverse kidney failure.
Brewster turned 20 in March 2010 and at first I thought she would hit 30. She was graceful and sleek still. Sometime later that spring I couldn’t deny that her loin was less full than it used to be. In August, Brewster stopped using a litter box. In September we noted abdominal swelling. It was fluid of unknown cause. She was thin. Her glorious eyes attained the sunkeness of the dehydrated and I would lift her from window to bed. We held onto each other’s long as we could. She even ate for me right until the end.
That day at 6 PM there were four heartbeats in the house and then only three. Three are not enough. How could she be gone? My world and this world cannot afford to lose this piece of the divine. There is alarm without hat fur and that face and that silent council. Not neither to touch her again nor to kiss her ever? That routine of daily feeding and petting and sleeping together is gone? The blue bowl she ate out of will not be filled for her again? Impossible. She walked with me for twenty years, six months and eleven days. I often told her I couldn’t imagine life without her and I still can’t. The pain surprised me in its razor simplicity, the pain she gave me the ability to feel for her, for Dillinger, Frisky, Felch, Lipton, Lady and all the others. Without her I would have felt nothing. Of her many mischief’s this is perhaps the greatest. I wouldn’t be able to experience these depths if I had never met her. All is bleak. All is desolate. I am empty.
I see her in every sunrise and sunset, I feel her in every breeze. I keep myself from joining her by thinking/knowing that the separation cannot be permanent. I picture her running through the green grass as before. She is surrounded by love many times greater than mine and Freed from a body worn by time and care taking. She is beyond personification, beyond family, an extension of God who led me back from an abyss. There will be no letting go other than what has been done already. Thank you God. Thank you for her. Even though I probably don’t deserve it I ask to hold her and look into that tiny face and kiss her again. Can I someday stay with her and all the ones gone before? Can we sit outside in the sun while she runs and plays and when it starts to get dark can we go into a small house to feed her and everyone else, watch TV and fall asleep together never again to be parted. This time I promise to live in the moment that never ends.