Another week, another life crisis pushing aside the pashmina post.
Gary, a big, beautiful, marmalade marshmallow of a cat died in his sleep last week. He was just shy of 12 years old, and is survived by his very close brother and litter-mate Sponge, his mom, me, and his dad, my ex-husband. We’re all heart-broken.
Gary and Sponge were the first pets I ever had as an adult, yet this adult (i.e. “me) named them after kid’s cartoon characters, Gary the snail and Spongebob (we cut-off the “Bob” part). They were rescues from the Milo Foundation.
Those boys, or “gentlemen” as we referred to them as they grew older, were everything to me and my husband at the time, who had vehemently opposed adopting cats, yet grew to love those guys with every fiber of his being.
Gary had short hair and a long, linguica-like body. Okay, so he was fat. Sponge had long hair and hid his curves under all of that fur. I used to joke that Sponge looked better in clothes.
These magical cats helped me survive the death of my mom, the near implosion of my business, a DUI, fibroids, a burst appendix and busted marriage. They would listen to me agonize over things too private and personal to share with anyone else. They understood. Or at least pretended to.
And that Gary loved to groom me, grabbing my head with both paws, licking my hair with that sandpaper tongue, purring ever so slightly. I loved it.
During the divorce I lost the cats to the ex. As much as I needed those boys, he needed them more. I cried for days. My hair went ungroomed for weeks and months at a time.
I’d visit them as often as I could, which was always hard. Upon entering their new home, I’d bow down, and Gary would rush over and grab my scalp, just like old times. If I sat in a chair, he’d drape himself over my head. He was the best hat ever. Even though I’d moved on to a new husband and new cats whom I loved, going back to see the ex and Gary and Sponge brought up all sorts of memories. They had been my family.
And so when I got the news that Gary died, I lost it. I mourned for poor Gary, but even more so for his dad/my ex, and his brother, Sponge. I mourned the loneliness they would all feel. I mourned my own loneliness that lives inside me. The sadness was overwhelming.
As each day goes by, I feel a little better. I’ve learned Gary died quickly and didn’t suffer. I’ve learned that the ex has kept his sense of humor, sharing how Gary’s dead body, stretched out in a languid sleeping position and seized by rigor mortis, was so long and log-like it required two hefty bags to contain for stroller transport to Pet’s Unlimited (without a car, the ex felt it would be weird to take Gary by Uber or cab.) And I learned that when Sponge sniffed his dead brother’s carcass, he nodded, and quickly moved on to his food dish for breakfast. Gary moved on, and so, apparently, had Sponge.
We all deal with death and it’s never easy. But somehow, the death of a pet can be especially hard. To anyone out there who’s lost a beloved animal recently, I hope you are coping as best you can. I know I’m trying.
I wish I could be more like Sponge, looking forward, not back. But I guess that’s the deal when one is a human, not a cat. And this human is sad and grieving the loss of the Gary. Who perhaps has set up a salon up in cat heaven.