last month i brought a kitten home and in three days he was dead. the vet told me he had feline panleukopenia, otherwise known as feline distemper. it’s nature’s way of keeping the feline population under control, he told me, that’s why his mother abandoned him...somehow they always know.
the thing is, i never knew. the vet did tell me that the kitten had had a very, very slim chance, IF we managed to keep him alive until his immune system could start fighting back. but mostly, i just agonized about how to get meds and food into him since he refused to eat. i worried all the time about how to keep his chilly little body warm enough, about how not to completely fall in love with him, about how i’d manage to ever give him away and whether not giving him away might upset kubla khan too much. i never thought about whether he’d make it.
so i was completely unprepared at the end when the vet informed me that what i thought was the kitten struggling to walk around was actually him going into convulsions. it slapped me in the face, the minute he said it. of course they were convulsions. and i’d spent the entire day happily watching him try to ‘walk around’ more and more. we even had a little dance because he seemed so much ‘better’. i flipped him on his back and sang him silly songs while holding paws with him. he looked blissed out in my lap and utterly beautiful. i should have known then. a healthy kitten would have protested. it would never have put up with such nonsense.
giving up on him is the hardest thing i have ever had to do. but by the time he died i wanted him to go. i didn’t want to shut him in a box and take him to the spca hospital to put him to sleep. i just couldn’t imagine doing it. so when his little body twisted too violently i held it until it was calm. then i put him down and stroked him and told him to stop struggling, to let go…until he did.
my folks came by to check on me the next day. they also came to tell me about how they’d stood in the rain for three hours just to make sure that the house i’d fallen in love with didn’t get flooded, which it did. my father sat in my rocking chair and cried for me that day. he thought he was breaking my heart telling me to let go of the house. when the thing that broke me was that my mum and dad stood in two feet of water and the pouring rain for hours just to make sure for me, and that my father was crying. i was the one who told him it was ok, that it was lucky we found out before we’d actually bought it, that the only thing we had to worry about was how to get the advance back...that there were much harder things than losing a house i never had in the first place.
we seem to have entirely switched positions these days, my father and i. he was frankly shocked when i phoned to give him an earful about ‘not being silly and foolhardy’ this saturday morning after reading about the steady spread of swine flu in the papers. i’ve become the one who calls morning, noon and night with a thousand admonitions about the risks of not taking meds on time, or ignoring the slightest temperature and sniffle, or going vegetable shopping at the sabzi mandi, or to see ‘love aaj kal’ at the multiplex. now i’m the one who nags so relentlessly that he and my mum have begun shiftily side stepping my hysterical calls with muttered gottogos.
yup, july certainly got me on the fast track to senility.
thirty, female, single, living in mumbai. i drink copious cups of filter coffee, collect the mandatory festival packs of chocolate, negotiate with the cats for a corner of the couch by the window and squash in between a pile of books, my lap top and a bowl of pop corn. then i have a long think about life. i get paid to do this. my remaining time i spend acquiring the life experience necessary to mastermind my mid life crisis. this i do not get paid to do, and can therefore do absolute justice to.