We are doing okay, Max and I. (Andy’s okay, too, but I wasn’t worried about him. He wasn’t as attached.)
Grief is a strange thing. It starts out sharp, then gradually mellows, always with the ability to become sharp for a moment. Or many moments.
Max comes for a bit to snuggle. At night, even, like Gracie did. But he doesn’t stay. Last night I said to Andy, “I miss having to be careful as I snuggle down under the covers.” Gracie would settle into my lap while I lay in bed for awhile, reading, poking around on my phone, etc. Then I’d have to carefully maneuver to lay down. It was easier some nights than others. But Gracie wanted to stay, so even if she was annoyed for a minute (sometimes she would go for the ride on my legs as they moved further down the bed, other times she would jump up), she usually resettled. Sometimes in the same spot, sometimes beside me. I’m a restless sleeper. I don’t stay in the same position all the time. But she put up with a lot of that. I even would try not to disturb her during those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. And, like the maneuvering to lay down, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But she’d come back and settle down after I climbed back into bed.
I’ve had to transition Max off of getting canned food whenever he comes around. At the end, I was giving Gracie watered-down canned food whenever she came looking for it. She never ate all that much at a time, and I figured at this point she probably wasn’t trying to eat the dry food we have in a feeder. And whenever Max realized I was feeding Gracie, he got some canned food, too. (They usually just got some at night and free-fed from the dry food during the day.)
I keep wishing she had lived longer than 13 years. Even though that’s considered senior, I’m used to my animals living long lives. Cosby was 17, Pepper (my dog) almost made it to 15, Max is 15 and still going strong, we never knew how old Blackie was because he was a stray, but he was with us for a long time. (We did have a cat named Sunny who only lived to around 12 or 13, but she wound up being totally Tracey’s cat and wanted nothing to do with the rest of us, so I don’t consider her one of my animals, even though she lived in my house.) Koda is 12 at this point, and I see her slowing down, dealing with a bum leg, and my mind can’t even go there right now. I know we are in our final time with her, too. But my heart has enough grief so I’m not letting any more in.
When I think of Gracie living only her 13 years, I also realize that maybe she lived long despite her issues. She had something called tooth resorbtive disease. It’s a dental disease and the jaw reabsorbs the root of the tooth. During that process, there are lesions in the mouth. She had two surgeries over the course of her life and only a few teeth left. I can’t help but think her jaw growth was related to this. The vet said no, but my heart says yes. So, she had an overactive jaw and, eventually, it was irreparable.
When I was taking Gracie to the vet, I had asked for her to send me signs after she left. I told her I’d look for her among the stars after twinkle twinkle little star started playing on Pandora.* But, Gracie-of-her-own-mind is sending me signs (or God is) via robins, it appears. The day after she died, a robin started flying into our window. Now, my mind knows that this is most likely a male robin seeing his reflection and attacking the intruder, but this has never happened here before. And it started the next day. That same day, while the robin was flying into the window, I looked outside and a squirrel was on a tree branch outside my window and his tail was twitching frantically. Gracie was always twitching her tail. The following morning, while I was still in bed, the robin started up again. And I’ve been seeing robins on my way out in the car and on my way back in. Even in the rain. As I came back the other night, a robin flew across the driveway and under our truck. I stopped and looked at him because it seemed so abnormal (“did he just fly under the truck?“). And once, at the kitchen sink I said, “Gracie, I miss you.” I looked up (and out the window) and there was a robin, looking at me for a moment before flying away. (I’m saying he, don’t know if it’s all the same robin, and once there were two together.) Now, all this could be a figment of an overactive imagination, many would say. But I’m a spiritual gal, and I choose to believe otherwise. And, besides, a robin has Gracie’s colors. Black, orange, and white. The calicos of the bird world!
This is getting long, so I’ll stop now. But I’m writing all of this down so I can look back and remember. Just as grief fades, memories can, too, and I don’t want to lose the memories. This time on earth with Gracie was special. Hug your pets today! I’ll be hugging the rest of mine.
*We’ve only had one clear night where you could see the stars since she died. I still look up and say hello.
I’m going with the robin theory, too. Cats bring their owners birds they’ve caught as tributes. So it makes sense that Gracie would send you a bird.