Grief

It’s been two weeks since we lost Oliver. It’s been a really difficult two weeks of missing my boy and just feeling absolutely heartbroken that he’s gone. I cry less than I did that first week, but I feel sad a lot and everything seems just so difficult to do. On the outside, I think it looks like I’m doing reasonably well – I’m getting up for work, showering, doing normal tasks. It just feels like I’m doing all of it from underwater.

What I really wanted was just to take some time to gather myself and get my head in a better place, but my job has been so busy that I wasn’t even able to take the day after we lost Oliver off from work. Every time I try and schedule any time, something happens and some deadline requires that I work it. I took the Friday off before Labor Day weekend to give myself a nice four-day weekend…and ended up working part of Saturday and Sunday. I’m beyond burned out and there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I try to look on the bright side, that I’m beyond fortunate to have a job right now and at least work is a distraction…but I feel like it’s taking a lot more effort than usual to be present and none of the quality of my work is as high as I’d like it to be. I guess I’m doing well enough, because no one I work with has seemed to notice.

I’m trying to do things that make me happy. Bill and I have resumed our morning workouts (we had taken a brief hiatus while Oliver was sick because I wasn’t sleeping much at all), and it does feel good to accomplish something at the beginning of the day. I find so much comfort in our other kitties, Saturday and Ernie. Their sweet, affectionate, and silly selves never fail to make me smile and I think they are truly the best part of me. Our friends have been beyond wonderful to us and we received thoughtful flowers and well-wishes, and a couple we’re close with even threw us a celebration of life party (just the four of us), complete with a specially-crafted menu of gin drinks because we decided that if Oliver were human he would be a gin drinker. The last two weeks have been filled with very nice times, and I do feel loved and very thankful for the wonderful people in our lives.

Last week Oliver’s ashes came back, along with an imprint of his paw in clay and a lock of his fur. Whoever clipped it even made sure to get both orange and white fur, an attention to detail that I thought was really nice. When I tried to pay the final bill, I learned that my vet had covered everything – the euthanasia, the cremation, all of it. I am beyond touched that he would do something so nice for us and so, so appreciative that when we had to go through this hard time that we had such an amazing vet and vet tech by our side through every step. Dr. Chris and Jill, you are the best. Just absolutely the best.

Grief is a funny thing and I know this, some days I feel more like myself and others I spend most of the day hurting. I try and focus on all that I have and not on the kitty I’ve lost, including the memories of him that I will have forever.

 

Oliver

On a sunny Sunday in May 2006, I drove to the animal shelter “just to look”. I was newly single and had just transferred from my old 411 operator job to working in the sales and billing call center of the phone company, and with that job came a bunch of overtime hours that I was grateful for because I needed the money but that left my Siamese, Angel, alone for 10+ hours every day while I was at work. I had convinced myself that in order for this new lifestyle to work out, Angel would need a new friend.

Of course I didn’t “just look”; I adopted a spunky little orange kitten that I knew the minute I laid eyes on that I had to have in my life and that I would name Oliver after the Disney movie Oliver and Company. He was just too cute. He would eventually grow into his ears but at that stage he definitely hadn’t yet and he looked a little bit like baby Yoda.

Angel was not even a little pleased at the new arrival and made her introductions to her new brother by biting his neck and trying to carry him around. For the first few weeks that Oliver lived with us, I had to separate them when I went to work so that I didn’t worry that she’d hurt him. Luckily things got easier as we adjusted to being a family of three, although Oliver proved to be a very mischievous little kitten. He liked to jump up on my kitchen counters and then get behind the stove. This was problematic because once he got back there he couldn’t get out, and I had to stretch out across the stovetop, stretching my arm as much as I could to try and reach him, all the while thinking that maybe this time he’d learn it was a bad idea to go back there but at the same time knowing he probably would learn nothing at all. I was relieved when he finally got big enough that he couldn’t fit back there anymore.

Oliver kept me on my toes for sure. Once he was too big to get behind the stove, he would amuse himself by opening the bottom cupboard door to my pantry and chewing a hole into the bag of cat food so that he could help himself to snacks, and getting up on the table and grabbing the dining room light fixture and ultimately pulling it out of the ceiling one night while I was at my parents’ house for my mom’s birthday celebration. He was awfully lucky he was so cute and that I loved him, because more than once his hijinks had me in tears. But looking back, I know that part of the problem was that I had never had a kitten before and didn’t know what kinds of toys and puzzles and things to give him so that he could channel his energy in ways that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. He was a very loving little guy and was super patient with me, even when I didn’t feel patient with him. I would affectionally call him my handsome lil’ man, even as he grew up and at one point was over 20 pounds.

Oliver had a lot of personality and he was very sure of himself and what he wanted. He was very talkative and would wake me up in the morning with his meows for his breakfast. Whenever I left the house, I knew that when I returned he’d come marching to the front door to tell me hello and receive pets (and, if he had his way, food). He loved napping in the sun and when I started working from home I learned that he had a routine of going into our room mid-day because that was when a sunbeam shone through the skylight in our bathroom onto the bedroom carpet. He knew exactly what time of day the sunbeam could be expected, and on cloudy days he would yell at the floor because he wanted his sunshine. When Bill and I started working out in the mornings, Oliver would march over to Bill and wait expectantly to be placed at the top of the cat tree so that he could get some morning light and snooze while we exercised.

My orange boy’s best friend was our Maine Coon, Saturday. I have countless pictures on my phone of the two of them snuggled up together, fast asleep. Earlier this year I got into the habit of letting them have a paper grocery bag to play in, and once they had had their fun of hiding in the bag they would squish it down flat and nap on it. I can’t say I understand the appeal of sleeping on a paper bag, but Oliver and Saturday believed it was one of the best places ever to nap.

Last year, while Bill and I were on vacation in Chicago, Oliver suffered what our friend and pet-sitter initially thought was a stroke but turned out to be vestibular disease. We rushed home to be with our boy at the emergency vet, scared that he wouldn’t even know who we were. But the minute he saw us he began talking to us. The first few days of his recovery were really hard; he was incredibly dizzy and couldn’t stand or walk on his own, so we would hold him up while he ate, drank, and used the litter box. I slept on the couch next to him each night so that he could wake me if he needed to get up. We weren’t sure that he would ever get well again, but slowly the dizziness subsided and he began to be able to do things on his own again. The vestibular disease left him with a permanent head tilt and his balance was never quite as good again, but every time he relearned to do something we were overjoyed. He was so brave and determined through the whole ordeal. Slowly he started being able to get up on the couch by himself, and he began to play again. As he continued to get better it was such a joy seeing him loving life and doing all the things he loved again.

Over the last year, Oliver’s health declined and particularly in the last couple of weeks he definitely wasn’t feeling well anymore. He spent most of the last week under my desk in my room, where he could be by my side while I worked and could see me when I was in bed at night. He would get up briefly to have a little bit of food and some water, but his energy was gone and he would go right back under the desk afterwards. I moved his little bed under the desk with his favorite blankets, his special little pillow, and the stuffed squirrel that was his favorite toy.

On Tuesday we made the very difficult decision to say goodbye to Oliver. We took all of his favorite things with us when we loaded him up to take him to the vet for the last time. His last few moments were peaceful and warm, as I snuggled him and told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him.

Since Oliver died I’ve been so heartbroken. I miss my lil man desperately and I hate it that he’s gone. I know time heals all but right now I can’t make it through the day without crying, without thinking I see him lying in the hallway before remembering that I will never see him again.

I want to remember the happy times I had with my first boy, and the times that certainly weren’t funny to me fourteen years ago but make me laugh now. Oh how I loved my Oliver, my lil man, my orange squish. He changed me forever in the very best of ways.

You and me together we’ll be
Forever you’ll see
We two can be good company
You and me
Yes, together we two
Together, that’s you
Forever with me
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Yes, together we’ll be
You and me
Together we’ll be
Forever, you’ll see
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Just wait and see