The trouble with grief is that it seems to make everything prescient.
Morris was our second cat, he moved in with us when our first cat Puss-Puss brought him back one bright summer morning. I can see that morning as if it was yesterday; Puss sitting stock still in the middle of the garden and looking at me in an odd way and, when I asked him why he was acting so strangely, he simply turned his head to the fence where a smaller black cat peered back nervously. This was Morris.
It transpired that Morris originally lived at No: 1 in our road but the owners bought a dog so Morris moved out, made friends with Puss – in itself an odd event as Puss wasn’t a cat that suffered other feline company well – and first appeared in our garden while Gail was away with a friend in Turkey. I rung her to tell her we had someone new coming in and she insisted it was something to do with her Grandfather passing away earlier that year. Gail was one for things like that.
It took a battle with the original owners but it was clear Morris wasn’t moving out and when a neighbour reported that ‘our cat’ had spent a week living in our front garden while we was away on holiday, I realised we had to do something. Reluctantly, the original owners – who still insisted Morris was eating food from their house even when I knew he’d been asleep on my bed all night – relented, passed over his papers and we registered Morris as our own. He lived with us for all bar his first four years.
Morris had a good life with us but developed hyperthyroidism later, he lost a lot of weight and had to go onto a constant diet of tablets. This prompted Gail to respond to questions about our cats – by this time Puss had sadly passed on and he’d been replaced by three others in an effort to fill the gap he’d left – by replying that “Morris is dying”. This annoyed me intensely and I always responded “We’re all dying Gail, Morris is just getting old but he has a few good years left him in yet”.
He did indeed have a good few years in him. Morris lived with his thyroid condition for well over four years and, in a twist of fate, eventually survived Gail. It prompted friends to say “I can’t believe Gail has gone and Morris is still here” and, in truth, it was something I was only too aware of. I had to speak to Morris about it – at the time of Gail’s passing he was already 18 – and explain that, whatever happened, I needed him to live ‘at least another year’. The idea of losing my oldest pet so soon after Gail would have ripped me apart, and so it was I set about trying to keep Morris alive for as long as I could.
Many people don’t understand pet grief but all anyone needs to know is that a pet is part of the family dynamic. You talk to them, interact with them, respond when they want to sit with you or demand food from you. Morris, for example, was my lap cat. After Gail passed and on those long nights when I couldn’t sleep or I’d woken and couldn’t get back, Morris would simply curl up on my lap and I’d be asleep in minutes. I can’t calculate the extra hours sleep I must have got purely because of Morris in that first year. But he, along with my three other cats Buzz, Gus and Ziggy, kept me sane in the months after Gail passed.
Morris did indeed survive the year and, although obviously frail and – judging by the way he ignored the Dyson – totally deaf, he was a functioning member of the family unit until 48 hours before I was due to go on holiday with my Son and Daughter-in-law. With horrible timing and with me due to fly out on Friday, Morris started to deteriorate on Wednesday, I prayed he would at least last until I came back from the holiday as I couldn’t afford to cancel it and, being a teacher and consigned to specific times of the year, it was the only week my Son could make. You can read too much into these things but I think Morris may have spared me the pain of holding him while watching his life ebb away. As it was, it was the Cat-sitter who had to hold Morris as he was put to sleep with me watching on Skype 1500 miles away, sobbing my eyes out at a hotel pool.
By the time I got back, the Cat Sitter had retrieved Morris’ ashes from the vet and placed them with some flowers and a card next to a photo of Gail. It was a lovely gesture and it was nice to open the door after returning from holiday and find Morris’ little casket. I’d hoped I’d be able to shed some tears however they wouldn’t come. Apart from the morning I sat in swimming trunks by a pool in Madeira, watching on a Samsung Notepad as Morris had his injection, I’ve not been able to cry.
I’m upset, of course, but it seems as if the intensity and upset of the last year has become so all-pervading that I don’t have any tears to give. Either that or I’m subconsciously bottling it up and there will be a major meltdown. On the other hand, I’ve never felt I cried enough for Gail either; for someone who gets as emotional as me with books, films and music, this seems strange.
I’m wondering if I use or lose the emotions in the persuasive way I throw myself into mundane tasks and, with the first anniversary of Gail’s funeral approaching and another day I have to set aside, I’ve decided I need to see if I can find out. I’ve strenuously avoided it so far but I’m thinking it might be time to see a Counsellor.