It takes a nation of millions not to read them.

365 Days: A Maow Story #5

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One year today.

And a quiet, lonesome year it has been.

Maow was the soul of our home, the mouthy, furry, opinionated, playful, scornful, purring, napping still point of my turning world, and not a day passes that I don’t miss her like an amputated limb. She was the long-suffering object of my constant affection, my greatest gift, my sidekick, my backup, my office manager, my supervising editor, my not-so-silent partner, my confidant, essential to the machinery of daily life — and the gears of our little operation have slowed to a grind in her absence.

Because I tend to anthropomorphize and project, and because I had scant prior experience with cats, I used to fret that Maow’s world was so small, confined to the walls of whatever space we lived in or the backyard we occasionally allowed her to roam and forage, that she was a hostage, a prisoner. Then over time I shrank my own world down to fit into hers. Her world became mine.

And before you think it or say it: Yes, I know that was probably unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that it — that she — wasn’t the best thing for me at the time. You can’t convince me that human contact had anything more to offer me. I mean, you’ve met people, right?

In many ways my world is still as small as the one I shared with Maow. I am branching out a little at a time, gradually re-expanding the sphere of my experience, but I am still waiting for the catalyst, the inciting incident, the course-altering event that will point me toward the undiscovered country of who I’m going to be without her.

Of course, Maow is still with me every day. Literally. The tiny pine box that holds her cremains occupies a shelf not 20 feet from where I spend most of my time — which is to say where we spent most of our time together those last two months.

She pops up frequently in Facebook and Instagram memories, and rare is the day that Adriane or I don’t have a picture of her to share with each other. I admit to feeling cheated on those pictureless days, but I have also had at any given time as many as 16 open browser tabs in which I’ve saved various ones for quick reference. (Never mind the voluminous archive of Maow photos that is effectively just a few extra mouse clicks away.)

She turns up in my dreams occasionally, as recently as a few weeks ago in fact. And I hope she continues to do so, even though my febrile unconscious mind too often busies itself with improbable architecture and casts of unknowns staging impromptu one-acts cobbled together by whatever’s playing on TV when I fall asleep and whatever I happened to eat or drink that night.

She lives in my waking imagination as well, which is to say I often consider an alternate timeline in which Maow is alive and well and factoring into my decision-making, however unmoored from reality those big-picture considerations might be.

When Adriane and I finally listed the Silent J on the market, I scrambled to find Maow and me a new place to live. The house had been at least twice as much space as we needed, and had I not required the use of the master bathroom, neither of us would have had any reason to climb the stairs.

For the short term, we were downsizing to an apartment, but I had for some time fantasized about — was frankly mildly obsessed with — an unconventional dream house: a converted Quonset hut with a mostly open floor plan of about 1,000 square feet, no stairs to climb, a domain whose breadth Maow could survey with a single sweeping glance. Never mind the unlikelihood of finding an extant one locally or the unreality of my buying a plot of land and commissioning the design and construction of one — if people can live in yurts and igloos and tiny houses, I saw no reason why Maow and I couldn’t have a Quonset hut to call home.

It was not to be, of course, but even now I find myself on walks about town judging the merits and drawbacks of various small ranch homes and ramblers I encounter, considering their suitability for Maow and me. Not some prospective feline to be rescued, adopted and named at a later date, mind you. Maow.

Earlier this year, when I read for the first time Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America, I indulged the equally ludicrous fantasy of hitting the open road with Maow in a Rocinante of our own. Never mind that Maow loathed and distrusted the implications of car travel. I imagined that, appointed with appropriate creature comforts, as it were, a homey enough vehicle would grow on her, and she would gladly divide her time either comfortably ensconced in our cozy living quarters or curled beside me on the front seat as I drove. (Much like my Quonset-hut pipe dream, I imagined cutting a hole in the back window to accommodate a Maow-size airlock connecting the truck’s cab to the camper.)

At one time or another, in one way or another, I’ve failed everyone I’ve ever loved. So when Maow and I became two against the world, she became my last, best hope to love someone without fail or regret.

Over what we did not know at the time was the last year of her life, I left Maow on a few occasions — a fishing trip with my dad and brother; back home again for Christmas; a family wedding in Texas — and I dreaded every departure and hated our every minute apart. Even though the neighbor kid was a kind, attentive and reliable pet-sitter, even though Adriane had bought us a Wi-Fi–connected camera so we could look in on her, I hated the thought of Maow alone in that big house, with no sense of the passage of time, no certainty that I would eventually be coming home to her, even though I always did.

All told we spent about five weeks apart that last year, and even though I spent that time in the company of people I love, I wish I had it all back. I wish I had never left her.

That’s exactly the kind of monster I am. Now you know.

Because with an unhesitating degree of certainty I can claim for no one else, I would have run into a burning building for Maow. And at the end, as she became weaker and smaller and the inevitable drew nearer, I would gladly have traded her failing health for that burning building, because it would have meant that I could actually do something for her.

In the end, all I could do was let her go. I hope but will never be entirely convinced that I didn’t fail her in some way. I will never believe I entirely reciprocated all that she gave me. I will always have debits in the ledger. I will always wish I could have done more. I will always wish we had more time together.

Maow was my whole heart. She still is.

Written by Shepcat

November 14, 2018 at 4:05 am

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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2 Responses

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  1. I loved my cat, Thane, much the same. I’ve never understood the antipathy so many people–men more than women–have for cats. Really nice piece of writing. Cheers,Mark


    November 14, 2018 at 5:55 am

  2. Pets are the best family and make all the difference in this world.

    On Wed, Nov 14, 2018, 6:07 AM THE SHEPCAT CHRONICLES Shepcat posted: ” One year today. And a quiet, lonesome year it has been. > Maow was the soul of our home, the mouthy, furry, opinionated, playful, > scornful, purring, napping still point of my turning world, and not a day > passes that I don’t miss her like an amputa” >

    shannon Smith

    November 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm

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