Tomorrow, I'll go to pick up the ashes of my cat, Antone Boudreau. The doctor offered to scatter his ashes in a memorial garden she has. "Thanks," I told her, "but he needs to be buried here." Here in our back yard, near the big wide red live oak that's wrapped in ivy. Here where three other deeply loved cats already lie. Here where his brother is buried.
Cancer had ravaged Tone with the deadly speed of grass fire last weekend, and she'd advised me to...what? She said euthanize him, which is as good a term as any I suppose. Better than put down, the meaning of which is now curdled by parents putting down their toddlers for naps.
When the doctor told me Tone needed to be euthanized and I agreed, she asked if I wanted to be with him. "I was there when he came into the world," I told her, 'it's only fair I see him out."
Tone was born at home, along with his two brothers, Cutter Bob and Puddin'. His mother, Lola, is a black tortoise; she's still a tiny cat and old now, like Tone. He was 15, she is 16 and I dearly hope she'll stay with me a little longer.
She may not. She's sleeping next to me on my desk right now, and sleeps a lot, these days. All her sons are now dead.
I drove fast to the vet, talking to God all the way. I'd given Tone over to him the day before without a whimper, I'd thought. Your will and only your will be done, I whispered, tears bleeding down my face, my makeup a mess. Tone deserved my tears, my sloppy face, my letting go: he was a good cat. Just let me be calm when I see him, I begged now, let me tell him what I need to, let me pat him one more time. All I ask, God. All I ask. But of course, it wasn't all I asked, not by a long shot, and God, the Universe, Whoever already knew that much. After smacking down the man I love, I wanted him, her, or them to spare one small fucking cat.
Surely I'd suffered too goddamn much. Surely.
But tears are my end of things, not God's, so Tone wasn't spared. Even so, I got to see him, hold him, and say goodbye. And my voice was calm so he wasn't frightened and sat up happily when I used all his names like always: Tone, Tone-Bone, T-Tone, da Tone.
It was me and Antone, like always. He was happy to see me, even though his suffering must have been terrible. He had a brain tumor and his eye bulged in a way it hadn't the night before, but they had rehydrated him, and given him antibiotics, so he felt better than he had when I'd first stormed into the vets.
I said, Hey Tone, Tone-Bone. Hey T-Tone, da Tone. Here you are, about to have a big adventure. The biggest ever. Remember when that silly yella cat came into the yard? And you got after him? The only cat you ever chased. You're gonna run like that now, only faster. Like a yella comet with a long, long tail, and some night I'll see you up in the black sky, rolling around with Cutter Bob. And you'll have a higher incarnation too, because your love is perfect. It's never faltered, never flagged, never failed. No sweeter, better cat ever was.
Be a Buddha, Tone.
And the vet came in, shaved his poor foreleg, slipped in a needle, and Tone sighed like I'd seen him do a million times before, settled down, and died. A momentary transformation, I whispered.
I've cried many salty tears for my cats, and so has my husband. He wept too, long and bitterly, when I came home. "No, no, honey," I said. "No darlin'. It was peaceful. He and I were together, and I said goodbye." And then I remembered when our first cat died: Darby, D-cat, a beautiful Himalayan.
I am here to tell you that I was so fucked up over that, my boy and I repaired to a bar and drank tequila shots all day. My head was down on the table as I drunkenly beat on it. Aw, don't take on so, my husband had said, he's probably a little kid in Japan right now. And I remember brightening up, because he'd said the perfect thing, as he often does.
But I had nothing perfect to say now, as is so often true, so I kissed him, patted his hand, and we sat together a while.
Oh, my brother! May I recognize you in your next incarnation! I will be so happy when we meet!