Sweet Sixteen

My sweet Penny is SIXTEEN today. This calls for a fancy hat party!

lady penny

A very elegant senior lady ~

seriously mom

“One indignity wasn’t enough?”

fuck my life

“My mom’s an asshole.”

5.20.20

That Hindsight high lasted a good minute. That was a solid period of bonhomie.

The last two months have been hard, starting with that migraine in late March, followed by this ever-loving BACK! which I pulled three days before my birthday last month. Little did I know it would go on for a month, and longer, I now expect.

Still, I felt good. Positive, happy.

Thankfully, the back pain is livable now, making its ownership of my body known mostly upon rising, of course. I ease into standing, and go about my day. Unfortunately, predictably, it’s triggered a massive fibro flare. I’ve taken it all with a sense of humor, resolve, and purpose.

I fell out of yoga after the cheilectomy (big toe surgery) in November. It’s a long, slow recovery. I passed an important date on May 11th: Six months. I can expect final swelling to be gone anytime in the next two. I did notice a nice improvement in late April. It’s consistently more comfortable, albeit just a little, and I’ll take it!

My body is so tight and resisting! This back debacle has got me back to my mat, in the privacy of my own home. The floor was always there, but I’m lazy. What can I say? I’ve been doing baby stretches every day, regardless of pain. Sometimes I just lay there, feet up, if that’s all the back will permit that day. The strain was going along, recovering nicely if slowly, when BAM! Three weeks into “getting better,” I reverted to the inability to stand, for another three days!!! At that point, my mood began to plummet. What the fuck?

It’s one thing when you can identify a cause, but I have done NOTHING in quarantine but study Spanish, stretch, and practice the guitar. Not one thing warranted this relapse, and here it was. I was immobilized.

I was fed up.

In all my complaining, I’ve avoided the real reason I couldn’t take it anymore. Penny up and popped an aural hematoma. Remember Cricket’s cute cricky ear? It resulted from surgery to correct aural hematoma! And now Penny? What the actual fuck?!

cricket in the er

“My dandruff is out of control, because I’m terrified in the emergency room, and I puffed it out of of my undercoat like a scared chicken pops out its feathers, but isn’t my cricky ear adorable?”

The tech at Banfield was stunned, having never heard of the condition in cats. It’s more common in dogs, but both my girls get to have their go at it. The kicker is that Penny’s heart murmur – rated 4 out of 6 – prevents her from having surgery. All we could do was drain and fill it back up with steroid, hoping that would reabsorb and treat it. It didn’t. Blood rushed back, darker, bigger, and angrier. Our only recourse was repeated draining and filling. My poor kitty was traumatized.

She had three appointments in a week-and-a-half. The second course has done better than the first, and I’m encouraged by that. We had a follow up appointment yesterday, that I expected would be a sign off of sorts: Continue to watch and hope the small pocket that’s left finishes draining and retreats permanently.

During Covid, I instructed Penny repeatedly not to get sick right now. I’ve kept my sense of humor about that, even while it forces me to drop my baby off all day – separated from her mom, stuck in her carrier, terrified – for a brief treatment that otherwise would have been done in-room, where I could be with her and take her home straight away. She hides under the bed now. This is so devastating for me. I’m fighting tears! My kitty doesn’t trust me. Everything she’s ever known is unsure now, and she doesn’t feel good!

(Being cooped for so many hours in her little carrier has aggravated her arthritis to a point that she won’t put weight on her front right paw! What had been, with one medicated treat per day, an almost imperceptible limp upon waking is now a heart-breaking hop!)

Penny’s old age is harder than Cricket’s. Cricky had thirteen years with one emergency that gave her the silly ear that so suited her funny offishness. Finally, there were three months at the end, when we fought but never got the better of a disease that ended her sweet, gentle life. Penny is falling apart piece by piece, and it’s brutal! A bad heart precipitates teeth that hurt, because she can’t have her annual dental cleaning under anesthesia (and I didn’t know pets need their teeth cleaned, until mine were old and started having dental problems). A mistake I made – using essential oils to freshen the air – gave her chronic bronchitis! (This was another moment I was grateful not to mother humans. The guilt is unbearable.) And now she can’t step on her front paw.

And the ear condition her sister wore so well lingers, frightening and uncomfortable.

God in heaven, let her passing be soft and beautiful like Cricket’s. Let me sing and hold her in my arms. Please. With Dr. Kpat and the beautiful Banfield team that’s taught me as much as my two girls have. They love Penny. They see more of her, because I just didn’t understand until diabetes took Cricket that they have to see the doc throughout their lives, just like we do. It seems so obvious, but I just didn’t know. They’re my first. They’re my only. They’re my world.

The team at Banfield all tell me how sweet and affectionate Penny is, how they love her little chirp. Elise delivered her to me curbside after one appointment and confided, “She’s my favorite lady.” I believe her. Penny’s the best thing on Earth. I tell her every day.

Yesterday’s appointment was to be 10-15 minutes only, thank god! Unlike the previous appointments, I could wait at the curb for her and hope to put this all behind us.

Enter Rich, my landlord. He offered a ride. I was so grateful! I hadn’t quite known what I was going to do. I couldn’t ask an Uber to wait indefinitely, could I? I imagine I would have asked for Galen’s help. But Rich offered.

I asked the night before if he was still willing . “Yep,” he assured me. “Remind me an hour before.”

“I will. Thanks so much!”

I did as instructed, and yesterday I tore my poor kitten from under the bed, shoved her in a dreaded cage, whereupon she started crying, and I ran next door to grab my ride, who wanted me to sit and watch the end of a game show! Not only would this potentially make us late, but my baby was alone and terrified right now! He rolled his eyes at me.

I sat and waited, just dying inside. When the program didn’t end but went to a final cliff-hanging commercial break, I pleaded with Richie, “We’re gonna be late!”

HE LOST IT. Rage!!! He was up and screaming. Violent, red-faced, vein-popping, murderous, immediate RAGE.

I left. He chased me. “Fine!” he screamed. “Let’s go, then! I’ll miss it cuz you can’t wait two goddam minutes!”

I went home, locked the door, and canceled the appointment. He kept screaming. I shut the windows, so he banged on the door. I got off the phone and stepped out. I couldn’t subject my already traumatized cat to that hostility. “It’s okay,” I reported, breezy. “I’ve rescheduled. Don’t worry about it.” Nothing irregular here.

That made it worse. Now he’s pacing to the garage and back, to his truck and back, to their door and back. “I emptied my whole day for you!…” (He just finished a job, and would have gone to the lake today if not for a days-long high wind event he knew was coming. He’s a Navy man with a boat on the Great Salt Lake. He knows the forecast. He was staying home.) (And he offered.)

“I’m sorry I got impatient.” Neutral face.

Still screaming, he didn’t hear me.

“I’m sorry I inconvenienced you.” Neutral tone.

“No, you’re not!” he shot back, venomous. “You enjoy it! You did it on purpose!”

I went back inside. I tried. He raged on, inside, up the stairs, to Molly’s office and kept her from working for more than an hour, screaming blame and hatred of me.

I never matched his energy. Not once. I did try briefly to break through but, having done all I could, I removed myself. This had nothing to do with me.

I did everything right. In the past, his behavior so closely resembled the dynamic of my childhood home that I’ve fallen into ineffective battles. This time, I walked away.

I’ve told him before not to treat me like this. This time, he won’t. He’ll never get close enough. They’re my landlords, not my friends. They don’t have access to anything but my apartment, with my permission.

In time it will blow over, but I’m finally permitting myself to cut Rich out of the deepest warmth of my heart. I’d already removed Molly, the true homeowner (who makes it known to both of us all the time). She’s passive-aggressive and demeaning. When held to account, she excuses herself as “blunt,” a lie that only fools her.

There’s a difference between truthful and blunt. Honesty says, “I esteem you enough to say the hard thing.” Blunt doesn’t care if it hurts you. Indeed, the right to wound is an entitlement of the rude. “Just sayin’.”

And Molly’s not even blunt. She’s cutting. I hold passive-aggressive people in utter disdain. A healthier response would be to dislike passive-aggression, but it would be dishonest. I hate the people, and I confess to feeling superior. I think it’s the weakest, most cowardly, selfish, juvenile, deluded interaction. And who do you think you are, some arbiter of everything that’s right and good? You’re an asshole. That’s blunt.

You said it. Own it.
It doesn’t take long for me to remove those who pretend away petty meanness.
Gone. Outta my heart.

The thing I hate most about passive-aggressive people is that they don’t think they’re aggressive. IT’S IN THE NAME, YOU IDIOT.

The irony is that she’s totally pleasant company. I like her! I’ve never had a relationship like that, in which there’s little regard but I enjoy the person. I take what she has to teach me (landscape architecture), and retreat when her ugliness rears its head. It makes me feel broad and open-minded, to enjoy someone I find basic and cruel, haha! Until she says something triflin’ again and then I hate her. Then I don’t care. Cuz she’s triflin’.

Rich, on the other hand, goes longer between periods of abuse. I get lulled into the friendship anew. Until the next time. And there will always be a next time. I did nothing to deserve this. There was no extra stressor, in particular, to precipitate it. (All the others I could see coming.) Out of the blue: Rage, blame, hatred.

Thankfully, we pretty much keep to ourselves most of the time. I’ll stay invisible for a good long while with this one, then reemerge eventually. I’ll weed and maintain the flowerbeds and share the garlic I planted when it harvests.

Penny is not long for this world, bless her. I’m preparing myself, tearfully. (Yesterday, not surprisingly, the dam broke. I sobbed, loudly, for half an hour, quietly on and off for the rest of the day.) Life goes on as usual, nothing that hasn’t happened before.

There’s a part of me that so desperately wants to leave, but I promised Penny I wouldn’t do that to her again, and I don’t want another roommate. I love living alone. I’m so self-entertaining. I have my little to-do lists. I’m keeping up with my 2020 goals, except stretching daily. (Thank you, back strain from hell, for keeping me on task.) I think I’m hilarious. I laugh all day long, and I have krcl. Best music on the planet!

And my tiny apartment is so pretty. So here I’ll stay, unless Molly kicks me out. I live in fear of that. It’s why I don’t push back any harder than I do. And I’m glad. I learned a lot. It makes no difference to abusive people what you to say. You don’t matter. So fuck ’em.

I couldn’t learn that in the context of my family. There’s simply no objectivity. I’m so conditioned to make room in my heart for people who harm me. (It’s a Taurus thing, too. We hold onto relationships longer than any sign. We’re loyal to a fault, staying by your side long after others would have left. If you cross that final line, and we make it very clear, you don’t exist. That’s it.)

I feel lighter having taken back their capacity to hurt me. They don’t matter. They’re exacting, insensitive people and I don’t fucking care.

I’m getting better at responding in healthy ways. I’m cutting out so many people! The time to launch is ever closer. I can feel it happening, now!

The friends I chose while I was sick and acting out of maladjusted habit are getting fewer and fewer. I get to build a community of friends who support each other, forgive their own and each other’s shortcomings, apologize and mean it, and live happy, consistently, for the love of all that’s holy! Everyone around me is as fucked up as I was. (Imagine.) How is it that I’m the only one who sees it and wants to change?

Well, I will. I am. Someday soon, my circle will mirror that back to me. How wonderful!

Molly will raise my rent again this summer. It will officially get me into the range of “house poor,” but such is life in Small Lake City anymore. Who do you think you are, SLC? San Francisco, with rents like these? Fuck you, too, while we’re at it, haha!

When Penny goes, I GO.

You know, when I realized I was going to have to do the big scary thing: Become a globe-trotting, amazing, dynamic, fearless woman of a certain age (rather than the Chief Lover and CEO of a family unit, which is what I actually thought would happen when I talked all big), I started to panic. I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it! I just wanted to be a mom!

Now, I’m laying the groundwork for a future I’d considered empty swagger. Instead, what I said for two decades – “If I don’t have kids, I’m moving to Bolivia and teaching English” – became my instructions to the Universe. I will teach and take a leap into the unknown, and I’m getting excited for it. Scared as hell, and so excited!

And someday, someday off in the near future, my fucking back will release, the world will reopen safely, and I will go to yoga, never to neglect my beautiful body again!

And my cat will live for a few more years, and I’ll love her so well while she’s here.

Today is hard. I feel like crying a bit, and curling up in blankies. Instead, I’ll go stretch and make a warmy soup to enjoy on this cold Spring day the wind blew in.

penny's hematoma

“My ear is full of blood and I feel lousy.”

I feel better having written this. I was in danger of having another rainy day mood. Match the weather and wallow in it. Instead, I feel empowered and… fine.

Thank you, 2020! You really are working for me! What was a playful resolution to post on every “20” became a fortuitous rescue this month from a shitty day.

Pray for kitty? Thank you.

(P.S. I’m reading Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.)
(P.S. Fuck is my favorite word.)
(P.S. The sun came out. It’s a bright, crisp, beautiful day out there, and I’m smiling.)
fucking lady
Later that day… soup
I made rainy day soup! I even used filtered water for the base. The whole thing is from scratch, and I made it all up! Turns out, I’m a good cook. I just didn’t like my mother. That’s sad, for real, but whadya gonna do? Figure it out later!

(We passed another six-month benchmark in May: Mother hasn’t spoken to me since November. She didn’t even call after my surgery. None of them did. They’re so fucked up.)

Oh, and did I grow my own cayenne peppers, dehydrate them, and pulverize as needed in my own mini mortar and pestle? Of course I did. Fucking overachiever.

Hindsight 2020!

copper mule

I make a fine cocktail, too. I don’t have fresh limes, but I have lime juice. And why not? #drinkingsolo #pandemic2020

1.10.2020

Ten, in Numerology, signifies the completion of a cycle. Tonight, the first full moon of the New Year is the last in Cancer, completing the cycle of introspection, revelation, and intense emotion. More meaningful, for me, is the timing of the beginning of moon in Cancer, a turning within that focused the need and desire to SELF-CARE.

Where was I in July 2018?

I was moving here! To the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, a home that hugs me every day. A year-and-a-half on, I’m still drunk on love of this place. I’m healed here.

In July 2018, I put my sweet Cricket to rest. I felt her so strongly the moment I remembered the move. Going within, looking deeply, and mending my shattered spirit was exactly the intention I brought here with me.

My Cricket is with me today during an epic, rare astrological event: Perigee and an ECLIPSE! The Super Blood Wolf Moon.

Of course you’ve come, my darling mystery! My kitten, black as night, whose mind I could never quite know. Of course you come in moonlight energy, Little Black Magicat, my glorious dark eclipse. My Shadow Cat, hushed like a whisper.

I feel her!

She was at once impenetrable and plain. She loved me – I knew that – but I never could unravel her mystery. “Tell me what I can’t know,” I begged in regular cuddle refrains. “My Enigma, wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate.”

Oh, how she purred and lolled into me! Oh, I miss her big body and simple sweetness.

What an auspicious start to an amazing New Year! Tomorrow is 1.11. New Beginnings.

****

Oh, that’s so funny! The eclipse was visible in only the southern hemisphere! So very Cricket to not be visible to me. She was always so deliciously off. Hahaha!

The Temple

I had some friends to take with me to the temple. I took pics of Jazzy, Ray, The Brothers Jones, and my little Cricket.
temple BRC 2019

I love the temple. It’s reverent. There’s an energy that’s so overwhelming. It really is sacred, blows my mind every time. It’s beautiful and loving, and unique to itself.

I put Cricket’s pics up first. Then I slowly walked the grounds, reading dozens of memorials, touching with my fingers those that touched my heart, adding my friends. After the week I’d had – I didn’t bike out ’til Saturday; the burn was almost over – it was a sanctuary. I sat down and drank in the quiet hush. Chimes, bells, singing bowls, sniffles, the low hum of voices, laughter.

Outside, I burned sage around the perimeter from my friends’ ranch, that I introduced who got married out there. (I put it out on the chain guard of my bike. I love the burn scar.) I was ready to leave then, but I wanted to see my Cricket once more.

Silly, I dismissed it. I have all of those pictures at home.

I started to leave. I turned back. I wanted to see my Cricket again, here.

I couldn’t find her. I was immediately panicked. I kept looking. I really couldn’t find her. I put her near another cat memorial fairly low, right inside the first entrance I walked in. I could not find her. I saw strangers’ pics that I remembered, but not her.

I was frantic. It was instant. I tried to tell myself that it belonged to my difficult week, some reverb stress bubbling up, but no amount of reasoning could calm me down. It didn’t matter that I’d see the pictures elsewhere. I had to see her, now. I was almost in tears, and not the appropriate, mourning kind. The unhinged kind.

Settle, Christie. She’s here.

I looked again and could not find her. I was flipping out inside and just about to lose it. I was standing in the middle of the temple with people all around me, barely holding it together. I closed my eyes and took slow breaths that felt like drowning.

You don’t have to see her, Christie. She’s here.

I did have to see her. I felt sick. I couldn’t leave without seeing her, and the fear I wouldn’t find her brought the panic up again, because I also wanted to get out of there!

I knew if I opened my eyes, I’d cry. Loudly. I didn’t want consolation. I wanted to disappear, to freak out without notice and search wildly. I didn’t want to pretend my tears were holy so my panic attack wouldn’t ruin the vibe. I just wanted my cat!

And there she was. I don’t remember opening my eyes. I just found myself looking up at an image so bright, I couldn’t imagine how I’d missed her my first time through. Someone had painted a portrait of their beloved kitten, and it was Cricket.

“I’m just here.”

It was as though she was showing me what she looks like now. I’ve asked!

She still has her cricky ear.

cricket in the temple resize

I stood motionless and sobbed. Dripping, silent tears. I could breathe.

She found me. I didn’t look for my pictures after that, just stood smiling, and crying a river of relief and awe. I closed my eyes again, and held her for the longest time.

I looked down. A man sitting beneath me was holding his hand up to me. I don’t know how long he’d been offering, but I took his hand and went back to my Cricket for a little longer.

When I was ready, I thanked the man, took one last look at my girl, and left.

cricket at the ER

The “crick” is a little different, but the fact that it was the same ear sold me. It’s my Cricket. “I’m here, mom,” vibrant, still gentle, and all heart. She’s so beautiful in heaven. I love her for breaking through my meltdown and calling me to her. I miss my kitty.

Leaving the temple, I knew the panic I fell into had nothing to do with the rough burn I’d had, and everything to do with losing my kitty. I was panicked then, too. I was with her.

I love Burning Man. It’s a crucible. It shoves all of you onto you, out of the blue and all at once, then holds you up while you heal.

I needed to have a panic attack in a safe place, in front of my biggest fear: witnesses. The temple wouldn’t let me go until I progressed through a barrier.

And my cat was there to help me grieve her death. I mean, come on! Fucking magic.

Meow >^..^<

One Year Without My Cricket

A year ago today, I lost my first furbaby.

For a year, I distanced myself from emotion. This month has been very tender for me as her anniversary approached. Time has made the loss bearable. I’m ready to process it, but it hurts. I’m quick to tears.

I miss her. I’m so grateful she came to teach and love me. I love her so much! She was the sweetest little black magicat, the funniest big fat belly cat, and a very gentle soul.

I’m not hearing crickets in the summer nightsong yet, like I did last year when she left. Strangely, that seems to be the thing that causes the most anxiety, but I know why. She’s come to me in profound and reassuring dreams. I know I can feel her, but I’m scared that will fade. If I can’t hear crickets, will I stop hearing her?

Her sister is still with me. I don’t think I could have survived losing Cricket without her. Penny is my best friend. Cricket was my baby.

“Good-bye, honey. Be very bad! I’ll never know.”

baby cricket

Her voice was never more than a squeak. At 12 hours old, she and her litter mates writhed and wriggled together like little bugs. Cricket was born.

young cricket

She was such a funny, guilelessly naughty kitten. She grew into this power! Being near her was to be enveloped in gentleness. She was peaceful. She was shy. She loved only me.

penny and crick

Pen and Crick

pen and crick 2

“Oh, Cricket! I like your big body!” She LOVED that, rolled all around and purred almost as loud as she did when she ate.

big fat belly cat

#memelife

ER

Her second trip to the ER in one weekend – this visit – was when I understood that she was ready.

pillow

We had the most beautiful, gentle passing wrapped around each other. I whispered my love to her. All I had left was, “You were a very good kitty.” It was my mantra. She purred to the end. “Sing to me in the nightsong of crickets.”

Out-of-Touch Reading

I met with Danielle Tremblay on Sunday, from Insight With Animals. I was really excited about it. Every reading we’ve had has been so accurate and healing.

I went to a party the night before. I planned to go early and leave early. It was the birthday of a friend, and only a block away. I figured I’d have a couple of drinks, watch some fire spinning, and be in bed by midnight.

Instead, I met a boy and stayed til 5am.

I ruined my reading. I was so sick and scattered, I just couldn’t connect. The reading was more meaningful hearing it back, but even then, I was just so spiritually distant, not much could be done.

Penny usually goes crazy when we talk to Danielle. You can hear her meowing on the recording, and she lolls about seductively with her cute, blond furbody, like, “Yes! Yes! Everything I ever wanted!”

It was the same with Cricket when she was alive. She was more restrained – always  – but the look on both of their faces, right in mine, was wide-eyed wonder and excitement. “Mom can hear me!”

Not this time. Penny walked away, didn’t even participate with me. Danielle can still connect, but I couldn’t. Makes me sad.

She did tell Danielle that she doesn’t want all the interventions I’m shoving on her. (With the bronchitis, chronic vomiting, limping, and bad gums, I’m a nervous wreck.)

She especially hates the nebulizer. Really hates it. It frightens her and has a strange smell. “It’s a human device that was never meant for a cat!”

For her teeth, I thought dental wipes would be more palatable than a toothbrush, which I also tried (NO!), but Penny says, “They sting.”

She “backs up” at the idea of another cleaning, citing sensitivity to drugs, and described the vet’s methodology as proactive. Evidently, my cat prefers a conservative approach.

“Mom and I have our own way,” she explained. “We treat things as they come.”

That’s all well and good for a cat in her prime and a human with no experience of animal care, but what’s coming now is worsening tooth pain or, worse, the possibility of another broken tooth and begging for immediate emergency surgery – after a night spent holding a screaming cat. Prevention is necessary.

But will she even wake up from anesthesia this time? Her heart murmur’s rated 4 out of 6. Last time it was a 3. It’s significant, and serious. It’s a real risk.

I’ve left the appointment on the books, but I have time to consider it, to worry, and discuss it with the vet. And Penny.

****

Cricket said she sometimes sits with me while I’m writing and puts her paw on my hand to stop me. It’s her belief that I need to stop “thinking, thinking, thinking” and just be. Apparently, I need to meditate.

I thought that was so cute. And true.

Cricket showed Danielle the image of her sleeping at the head of the bed with me, and acknowledged that there’s another cat there now, too.

“I like her,” Penny said. “I see her with my own physical eyes. I know she’s still here, and I don’t mind.”

Hahahahaha!

That was the best part. Penny’s very much the type of cat who deigns.

I asked Cricket if she will be there to help Penny across when her time comes. “Of course,” she answered. “Sisters help sisters.”

It didn’t seem so “of course” to me. There was a time Cricket wouldn’t leave our room, thinking Penny didn’t want her out in the house. That was a wonderful reading, our first. Danielle talked to both girls about that impression, and invited Cricket to participate in more of my life – which is, let’s admit it, basically on the couch, watching TV.

“Mom would like to see you,” Danielle told her then.

I’ll be damned if that cat didn’t walk into the living room that very night! It was amazing.

This time, Cricket reported having a clearer perspective, and I’m comforted knowing that she’ll be there with us when Penny goes to the other side.

I guess what I’m facing now is the ultimate experience of the universal inability to control outcomes. I’ve written before of what a driving force that’s been in my life. This is the biggest test to date. Penny’s almost 15. I don’t know how long, or how.

But I’ve been invited to stop thinking, thinking, thinking. 🙂

Penny’s fine. She scolded me a bit. “Don’t think of me like an old lady.”

When I talked at length about her teeth – What to do? What to do? – she said, “I’m still eating, aren’t I?”

“I just want to be left alone,” she summed up. “I want to eat what I want to eat.” (She asked for soft food, but try cleaning that vomit up!) (Danielle suggested Stella and Chewy’s. I’m going to try it, mixed in with her prescription food, which is $70 a bag!)

I still think a dental cleaning will be good for us. Her mouth will feel better. We’ll be in better stead for the future. She did mention that her immune system is improved by sunlight. Perhaps by Solstice (her birthday), Penny will be strong enough.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know!

Just be, Christie. That’s what Cricket thinks I need. Penny, too, I imagine. Just chill out and love my beautiful kitty. Oh, I love her so much! I miss that fat sister of hers.

hungover

hungover and hanging out after Penny’s reading

Cricket Checked In

It was a dream in real-time. My house was different, but it was home.

My BigFatBellyCat walked in.

“Cricket!” I squealed. “You’re here!”

She walked outside. I followed. She turned the corner of the house. I followed faster. She turned again; I followed still.

On that side of the house, Penny walked up, while Cricket walked off to the left and joined some other cats.

“Oh, she’s just there,” I said to her sister.

I picked up my Penny and went inside.

It was a visitation, I know it.

I was needing it. I miss my kitty.

Conversation with Cricket

I had another session with Danielle Tremblay of Insight With Animals mainly to connect with Cricket. I checked in with Penny, too, just to make sure she likes the new apartment and to see if there’s anything more I can do for her right now.

Penny likes the new space, says it’s light and bright, and warm, safe, and comfortable. She feels like I’m not finished unpacking. In fact I am, but she complained that “all of the objects aren’t out for me to look at.” I think because we’ve had roommates for so many years now she’s used to seeing the bookshelf in my bedroom, where most of the chotchkies sit. It’s in the dining area now, the least used room in the house because I’m a bachelor and I eat dinner on the couch watching TV. They’re spread out on the mantel, as well, and throughout the shelving in the main entryway, and all over, really.

Actually, I don’t know what Penny’s talking about. I’ve downsized quite a bit, but this place is so small I feel overwhelmed at times by “visual noise,” still. My knick knacks, however, are sentimental and vital. In the last couple of moves, I’ve been strict and severe. Keep only what you cannot part with. What I kept I love and I have to see it. It’s out, on display, fussed with, futzed with, admired, enjoyed. Stuff!

Perhaps, like me, Penny is blinded by eye clutter. There isn’t a designated “place” for objet d’art, per se. It’s everywhere, scattered throughout. Maybe she’s just adjusting to the new space. It’s different from anything we’ve had. It’s compact, no question, but it’s beautiful! By far, my favorite home to date. In all my life, this is my favorite cozy abode to come back to. It’s me. It’s mine. It’s dripping with pretty, albeit a little too much of it.

It always amazes and amuses me when Danielle can tell me what my homes look like from what my cats show her. Penny likes one room in particular with a “wall of windows,” she said. “Wow! A wall of windows!” She also told Danielle that the ceilings are “very tall.” Well, yes, they are.

When we lived at Jax’s house, I asked Cricket how she liked it, and she did. She made sure to tell Danielle of another apartment she expressly did not like, showing her a narrow, dark space. “It’s true!’ I said. “I called it The Rail Car, because it was long and narrow, and it had such bad natural light that all of my plants died but one.”

Oh, Cricket.

First, she showed Danielle the image of her wrapped around me like a hug, while seated on a desk or a table. That’s exactly how we were! The exam table comes down at the vet, and I sat on a bench just below it. We were wrapped around each other, and I whispered my love to her while she purred to her last beautiful breath.

Next, Cricket gave a big sigh and told Danielle, “Mom has to know that I am so relieved.”

I knew she was. That last night was so hard. I told her a couple of times, “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll see the vet tomorrow, and you can go.”

She said, “Thank you.” She was so tired, and also, curiously, couldn’t seem to get out of her body herself, so she needed that support. “Thank you for understanding.”

Then I was scared that maybe I’d waited too long, that I shouldn’t even have made her suffer the ups and downs of never quite finding our stable dose, but for those last several weeks. Of course, she had told Danielle back then that she was content to stay in body while we sorted it out, even though she felt lousy.

Danielle reassured me that I hadn’t waited too long. “I’m glad that you tried,” Cricket said. “It would have been a bit of a shock to go sooner.”

“She loved being with you in the physical, and she continues to love being with you now,”  Danielle told me, adding that she sits on the bed near my head.

That’s where she slept.

Penny reported that she’s on the ottoman sometimes, too, next to the bed.

That’s how she got in bed, and she sat there often. It was hers.

Cricket told me that Penny needs extra TLC, even though she’s acting normal. She’s still adjusting and needs extra attention. Danielle reported that Penny didn’t go through a period of mourning. She understood that Cricket was sick, and she intuited and understood everything that was going on.

“This is what happens,” Penny said. She did agree, though, that quiet time is “extra quiet” without Cricket’s physical presence.

I asked Danielle if she could tell me about the days immediately following Cricket’s passing, and you’ll never guess. She tapped into that dream! I woke up with a feeling of her on my chest – and with a cat that girthy, it was unmistakably Cricket – and remembered her biting me in my dream. Cricket told Danielle that the bite was so I would know it was real, and that’s exactly what made it real for me! It was so physical and tangible, I couldn’t dismiss it as my imagination.

Danielle complimented Cricket on how well she got my attention. 🙂

I asked about the song, and Cricket’s reply was interesting. She didn’t send it. It was from the general universe. Of course it was! I believe in a random and loving Universe, and I see signs and magic every day. Of course someone had my back on such a day, losing my big fat belly cat.

I still marvel at the lyrics of that song, the timing of it starting – first strum of the first note – just as I turned the engine, and especially that it was a new to me. Having never known the words, I heard Cricket’s voice.

It felt as though she was speaking directly to me. I could feel her right next to me, separated by a millisecond. I could see what she must be newly experiencing, “standing at the center of time as it uncurls.”

It will forever remain one of the most miraculous things I’ve experienced.

Danielle validated Cricket amplifying the volume of crickets I heard in the evenings after she passed. She told Danielle, “I chirp,” and showed an image of a megaphone. It’s true! The crickets were louder in the days following her passing. I haven’t been in my home long enough to grow numb to the sounds of it, but already that chorus is quieter than those first astounding nights. It was deafening!

Danielle was quite amazed herself by the moments Cricket and I were describing, and Cricket said to her, “Well, it’s all real, Danielle!”

“I don’t doubt that it’s real,” she chuckled.

Cricket told her she knows that most people don’t often believe or understand.

Cricket also told Danielle that sometimes humans who are in distress at the passing of another “almost un-gel” from their bodies. According to Cricket, that’s why Penny sat on me like she did those first three mornings. If I hadn’t had to get up, she’d have stayed there all day. Normally, she’d wake me and then head straight for her food after a cuddle and a kiss or two. I love her for holding me.

It’s so Penny to do so. In our first meeting with Danielle, Penny said it was her job to care for the grounds, to sweep energy. She did “rounds” several times a day, walking through every room but one in Jax’s house. (That was a curious detail to get right.)

I’ve always called her The Queen. I teased her that it’s all hers, everything under the sun. In fact, it’s hers because it’s her job. She’s proud of her work and takes it seriously.

I’m glad it’s her job to take care of me. Oh, Penny. You started it all, this feline magic.

Danielle was so supportive and validating. She said that the three of us are co-creating all of this together, and we have a beautiful connection that she appreciated witnessing.

I’m so grateful for her. It was everything I wanted and more.

Cricket’s paw print arrived just days before the reading, perfectly cricky, just like her.

Cricket's paw print

At first glance, I didn’t like it. You can tell she’s not pushing back and her claws are wonky. It quickly grew on me. It suits her. She was always just a little “off.” She reminds me of my disheveled high school English teacher, whose slip was always showing. Oh, my sweet Cricket.

Nightsong

It’s been a week without my little Cricket. While she was alive, I’d kiss and sweet-talk her during the night – when I could hear the crickets singing – and tell her how she got her name. I met her at 12-hours old, writhing and squeaking with her litter of mostly black sisters (and one gray tabby 😉 ).

I was smitten instantly. There’s something so enchanting about a black cat!

There were two, The Twins, we called them. Then there was Boots, and she was hard to pass up. Pretty little tuxy with 3 white boots and one sloppy stocking falling down her ankle. One day she was standing in the kitchen in the sunlight and her little whiskers were white, glowing in the hot sun! I was close to choosing her that day.

But I knew I wanted my little black kitty cat, and I knew her name was Cricket. I don’t know why, but they just looked and sounded like little bugs writhing in the night when I first saw them, and my kitty’s name was Cricket.

For several weeks, I went to my friend’s house and played with them. One day, one twin jumped up on the bed. I asked her, “Are you Cricket?” and held her to my face. She meowed in reply, the highest, silliest little mew you ever heard!

Right after her, the other twin followed. “Or are you Cricket?” I picked her up.

When she answered, my heart sang! “Rawwwr.”

It couldn’t even be called a meow! It was just a squeak, higher than her sister’s or any kitten call I’d heard before. In my mind, I could see the fine hairs of a cricket’s wings rubbing together to make that scratchy, chirping melody.

We locked eyes, and it was her! She was my Cricket!

I ran to my friend. “I can tell them apart! This is Cricket! This is my Cricket!”

The next week, I went over and my friend asked, “Which one is Cricket again?”

I picked them each up, made eye-contact, and answered. “Her.”

“Good.” He and his girlfriend smiled conspiratorially.

“Why?” I asked.

The girlfriend picked Cricket up and showed me a patch of tiny white hairs that had popped up on her belly that week. Not a white spot, just 3-5 hairs. They considered that a flaw. She wasn’t pure black.

She was perfect!

Even after I claimed her, even after I “met” her, eye to eye, I tried to talk myself out of taking her home. My boyfriend teased me daily. “Just because you’ve gone koo koo kitty crazy doesn’t mean you need two.”

“You’re right. Of course, you’re right. I don’t need two cats! Penny’s happy and so am I.” But my family was incomplete without my baby Cricket.

We were a fine trio.

****

Penny searched for her all day Monday. She looked to me with searching eyes, round like saucers, needing an answer, meowing, meowing, searching, meowing.

“I know, honey. Your sissy’s crossed the bridge. She’s all better now, but we don’t get to see her anymore. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

And she sure was sweet. Penny was always good at affection, but oh, she was gooey Monday night. And every morning we awoke in the old place, she was on me. That’s normal, except that it used to be that I’d wake and pet and kiss her a bit, and she’d jump off. Time for food, and getting my day started. Now, she’d stay on me all day if I let her.

****

This was a busy, wonderful week. I was glad not to put Crick through the stress of moving. In my mind, it was a short one-mile car ride to the new place. Cats hate cars. I thought that would be the only challenge for them. I forgot that before we move, my stuff had to move! It was a lot of banging, cleaning, flux, fear, noise. It was stressful on my Penny. Cricket was too sick for that.

I feel peace in my decision. I’m happy I let her go as soon as she began to suffer.

She was really sick for 4 days, and then she was free.

I miss my kitty.

During those 4 days of illness, I asked her to come to me in the nightsong of crickets. She does! She really does!

You know how you get used to the sounds of your own house and neighborhood, and stop hearing them? Well, that first night without her, last Monday, for some ungodly reason I was cold!

It’s a hundred degrees in July, and 75 at night! I never turn my fan off. It’s attached to my headboard and blows on me in my almost-nothing tank top and no covers, and still I sweat through the night. For heaven’s sake, I was cold!

I put on proper jammies, pulled the covers over me, and still I was cold. At last, I turned off the fan and heard… crickets!

“Hi, fat kitty!”

The next day was Pie ‘n’ Beer Day. (Pioneer Day, if you’re a good Mormon; The rest of us get drunk.) I went to a BBQ at the neighbors across the street of my new place. In his big backyard, with old, established trees and thicket, the crickets were deafening!

The next day, I was bringing boxes over to the new place. Molly, my landlord and friend since 2009, was having dinner and drinks out back with the neighbor, who had brought leftovers. Molly had Pandora pumping through the outdoor speakers. I went inside to fill a plate and heard a cricket! A single, solitary cricket so loud it had to be inside!

“Is there a cricket in here?!” I exclaimed to myself. “Oh my god, Christie, enough!”

I went outside and said nothing of it. I’m losing my mind!

And there it was again and again and again, blasting through the speaker!

“What the hell is that?!” I demanded at last. “I’m haunted! I’m hearing crickets!”

“That’s my phone,” Molly answered. “Chris keeps texting tonight.”

How is it that I’ve never heard Molly’s phone before, and she had it connected to the speaker, of all things! Night after night after night, my sweet Cricket comes to me in a new way. “Mom, I’m here. You asked me to come, and I did.”

I dreamed of her Wednesday! She was only 2 days gone. It was a very physical dream, with weight and body. I could feel her. She bit me, hard. She liked to nibble my arm while I petted her, like she was grooming me for little vermin or something. It never hurt, of course, her little love nips. That’s what she did in this dream, only hard.

It didn’t hurt at all or break the skin, but it was a fantastic, dream-variety bite that I could FEEL. She’s with me. I knew that’s what she wanted me to know from that dream.

And then I was finished moving, sitting alone on my beautiful back patio, illuminated in the dark, listening to the nightsong of my new home. It’s so loud and melodious, the music of crickets here. It’s a beautiful place to sit and reflect on our lives together, to heal from the loss of her physical companionship, and celebrate our spiritual relationship.

She’s with me forever, I can trust that! I guess there was a part of me that feared I wouldn’t feel her or know if I felt her, or give myself permission to feel her.

I couldn’t hide from her if I wanted to!

“Sing our song at night, honey. Make me hear you.”

Boy, does she!

“Thank you, sweet girl. You always were a very good kitty.”

I miss my Cricket.

cricket's memorial

Cricket’s Memorial on the mantel of the fireplace of my new home. She’ll be with me by the fire, after all. Sept. 11, 2004 ~ July 23, 2018

From old, established trees and thicket
Sings the song of my sweet Cricket 

That couplet happened quite accidentally in the prose above. 🙂

Oh, my Cricky. How I love you.

patio

Welcome to Christie’s Corner! (Finally, a place to display my Queen of Hearts caricature from the set of Guys & Dolls, haha!)

Penny explores the new house, luxuriates all over. She’s out-of-place yet, but I think it was wise, quite by accident, to move so quickly after Cricket’s passing. There’s no reason to search for her in our new home. She was never here to be missed.

She is talking more, it seems. Penny was always vocal, but she has a lot to say right now. Out of place? Is she asking about her sissy?

“It’s just the two of us, honey. You don’t even remember when it was the two of us.”

Penny started limping a couple of months ago. It comes and goes, and she’s still jumping to and from tall perches. I hoped it was just an ache. We’ve earned a rheumatism now and then. 2 weeks ago, it became worrisome to watch.

I was prepared for Cricket to go. I didn’t expect to her to live to old age. Her whole life, she was sick with random, bizarro this-n-that. Penny, I never thought as mortal!

I have a sense of panic in the pit of my stomach. I’m trying to release it. It’s okay to be scared. With Cricket’s traumatic illness and passing, of course I’m raw and frightened.

But I never prepared myself for Penny’s mortality. It never even crossed my mind. I’m not ready to face the inevitable: Penny’s advanced elderly.

She sees the doc on Thursday.

“You’re my old kitty now, honey. My Pretty Penny. We’re old women, you and me.”

Little Black Magicat

Cricket’s at peace, and so am I.

Yesterday, Cricket told me she doesn’t need to come with us to the new house.

I regret not realizing my dream of holding her by the fire. I imagine she’ll be there with me sometimes, but there’s nothing like the furry, warm body of a big fat belly cat.

I walked to my car in a daze with her empty carrier. I turned the engine to hear John Florence announce the time. (He’s the only host on KRCL to do that.) 9:11, her birthday.

I got on the freeway, directly behind a license plate beginning with 999 – end of a cycle – as the song that started when I turned the key began its opening lyric.

Sliding on the shimmering surface between two worlds
Standing at the center of time as it uncurls
Cutting through the veil of illusion
Moving beyond past conclusions
Rendering all doubt and confusion clear

If I could be anywhere
If I could be anywhere
If I could be anywhere right now
I would want to be here

– Jackson Browne

cricket's pillow

She had a beautiful, peaceful passing on her pillow in my arms. She purred the whole time. I buried my face in her neck and told her how much I love her. “You’re a good kitty.”

saying goodbye

Sept. 11, 2004 ~ July 23, 2018