18 November 2009
5 here, kitty kitty
this weekend, sitting around with the libdears (who need a better nickname since it's a blatant knockoff of lindears but all i'm coming up with is libbom, which simply will not do), the conversation wound its way around to the pets of our past.
i don't know if this is a topic that my presence prompts or if i just hang out with people who like to ponder such things, but it is undoubtedly a subject that arises with alarming frequency when i am around. make of that what you will.
my family are fervent believers of pet replacement theory. we totally rock the rebound. so totally, in fact, that my grandmother has on several occasions expressed a disapproval so violent that it can only mean she assumes we apply pet replacement theory to people as well. we don't. but we are fervent nonetheless.
when i was a kid, a pet would die in the night and i'd awake to a new one the next morning. for a surprisingly long time, i harbored a firm belief that the spirits of our pets simply assumed new corporeal manifestations on a rotating basis. like benson was just big kitty but in a different coat.
i was twelve before i realized fish were not immortal. that we hadn't had the same crop my whole life, but that my parents had spent a decade surreptitiously restocking the tank. given the ease with which my family has murdered fish in the years since, in hindsight their diligence is impressive.
it is astonishing, the effort expended to protect me from the reality of animal death. in fact, i avoided it almost entirely until the day before my 23rd birthday. that traumatic morning when cookie was killed by her haircut, at which point i sat on my bed, gave up on life and greived for every cat i had ever known.
seriously. the cats of my childhood. the cats of friends. cats in classic films. cats i had met in various bookstores. all cats i could only assume were dead by then. a whole heaping world of dead cats. for them, i grieved.
i like to think i'm way beyond this, but then just the very thought of living in a world with no vieve makes my throat constrict and i know i am not. hopefully this is a reality i'll be spared awhile.
my parents, however, have suddenly found themselves the king and queen of the kingdom of elderly animals. darcy is hobbled and arthritic. mimi is on a restricted diet and has worried a gash on her ear with such vigor for the last two years that it's hard not to wonder if her soul is clawing its way out.
the other day, my father said to me, as mimi's death yowls echoed in the background, i think we're done with animals. we're too old for this. and for just a second, the thought dashed through my mind and almost escaped my mouth that no, no, one day you'll wake up and they'll be all new again.