November Sorrows (2018)

[Content Note: Pet Death]

I wasn't able to finish NaNoWriMo this month because tragedy struck in early November. My dear Quincey, who had been my constant companion for almost 15 years, suffered kidney failure and passed away peacefully on the 14th. This is posted in his memory.


Grief is a hole where something beloved once dwelt.

Quincey and his sister Mina were the first cats which were "mine" rather than my parents'. I went searching for them after my first divorce. They were "free kittens" in the newspaper, the last two scrawny babies of a litter being given away by a family with fleas in their house and (or so I felt) an appalling lack of care that these two babies were being eaten alive by vermin. I didn't like the humans and I didn't like the way they handled the kittens. I carried the two kittens away with the furtive air of a thief, determined to take them somewhere better.

Quincey was the runt of the litter, tiny and with sparse fluff that formed a tuxedo pattern. His legs wobbled unsteadily when he walked. Mina was a little poofy cotton ball of white fur and a calico brown tail. She had two little brown thumbprints on her head and bright eyes. I asked my mother, voice full of reluctance, "Do you think she'll be a long-hair? She'll shed fur everywhere." My mother just gave me a resigned smile. "Does it matter? You're not leaving her here." She was right.

The little boy fell asleep in my lap on the car ride home, fearless. Mina cried little panicked cries which calmed down the moment food was placed in front of her. She'd worried that wherever we were going might not have anything to eat. Once food was secured, she was happy--at least until the baths began. I bathed them five times a day that first week and picked off fleas with tweezers when they swarmed away from the water. I killed dozens of fleas. Eventually, they were clean and safe, if a little baffled by all the baths. We hadn't been able to use chemicals to kill the fleas because they were too young.

My mother didn't want the kittens downstairs in her home and I hadn't yet moved into my apartment; I was still staying in my childhood bedroom. We put up a little baby gate at my door so I could go downstairs for dinner without being followed by the kittens. Quincey climbed the baby gate with little trembling jerking limbs, pausing to rest with each inch up. He was determined not to be separate from me. I rescued him before he tumbled down the stairs, and promised not to leave him again.

From that day forward, as long as we were in the same building together he was always within a few feet from me. He napped on the couch next to me as I wrote my books. He slept in bed next to me, the two of us lying side by side. He snoozed on my desk when I played video games, occasionally kicking the microphone I used for my Let's Play videos. Almost every video I have on YouTube includes me pleading: "Baby, we don't kick the microphone!"

He was the most contrary cat I ever met. He hated every cat and human he ever encountered, and he regularly tried to kill both my spouse and my parents--but he loved me with his whole heart. He reminded me of Tinkerbell from the book Peter Pan; faeries, we are told, are so tiny that they can only experience one emotion at a time, but they experience it with complete fullness. Quincey could only love one person, but he loved me totally.

I named him for Quincey Morris, the laconic Texan in Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'd done a senior English project on the novel and fallen in affectionate love with the character who does things which need doing without bothering to talk or inform the other characters of his thought process. My Quincey was not reserved and silent; instead, he was the loudest, most complainy cat I have ever had the privilege to love. He loved to spend his nights walking around the house yowling his displeasure while the lesser inhabitants tried to sleep. But he was brave and strong and never let anyone put his hands on him without feeling his wrath. He taught veterinarians to fear him and he schooled visitors who insisted "but cats love me!" when I warned them that Quincey didn't like to be touched. Or talked to. Or looked at. He drew a lot of blood in his life, but even when he was at his most scared he never once laid teeth on me.

When the time came to say goodbye, Quincey let me know. I held him while he purred for me. He hadn't been able to purr much in the previous few days, but he purred at the last for me. He went peacefully to sleep, surrounded by the people who had loved him most in his almost 15 years of life: his mommy and grandmommy. I didn't give him life and I couldn't save him from death, but I could give him the best possible life I could arrange for him, and a peaceful painfree passing. I loved him with my whole heart and I will miss him so terribly much.

Quincey, you will always be my first and best baby. I love you.


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