Her name was Rufus, and for nearly seventeen years she was my best friend. For most of that time I simultaneously feared she would die and believed she would never die.
My cat died a year ago today.
For three weeks she deteriorated. One moment we were watching Star Trek. The episode was titled “Second Chances.” Rufus tried to jump onto one of her favorite chairs. She missed. She would never jump again.
I’d noticed her wobbling as she walked to the chair. I watched her go. I watched her jump. I watched her fall.
Her back leg was giving out. I don’t remember which leg now, and for that, I feel awful. But I’m sure I have it written in a note somewhere. All the notes for those three weeks are tucked in a box in the storage room, along with her diapers and food dishes. The box is labeled, Rufus. But it is not Rufus.
The next morning the vet accommodated us. They believed Rufus had a fibrocartilaginous embolism. An injury that took time to heal, but she would heal, probably.
We did exercises and massages. Three times a day. She couldn’t walk around, but she tried to. I made nests for her. Luckily we have lots of blankets. I’m always cold, and my mother crochets.
I tried to carry her to the litter box, but there were accidents. And then everything was an accident and we returned to the vet.
Well, it depends how dedicated you are. I am very dedicated. Her name is Rufus, and for nearly seventeen years, she has been my best friend. The vet showed me how to express her bladder. We bought her diapers.
Now we did exercises and massage four times a day, and I squeezed her bladder and changed her diaper. We also did laser therapy twice a week, and she got to wear little goggles. The laser therapy maybe promoted healing. We were going to try six sessions over three weeks. We did less than that.
When I tried to sleep, at bedtime, I put her in a crate, all cushioned up with blankets. At first I closed the door, and she did not like that. But then I left the door open, and she was satisfied. She’d perhaps always wanted a room of her own, but not too much her own.
She couldn’t walk, so she stayed in her nests. I flipped her every four hours to prevent bed sores. She laid on the couch and slept. I put on PBS Kids. She didn’t watch it, but I pretended she did.
I work from home, but I could not work. I flipped her every four hours. She couldn’t sleep in the bed anymore. Sometimes I slept with her under the dining room table. Sometimes I slept with her on the couch. But only for four hours, if that could be managed.
Her other leg gave out. It wasn’t an embolism. We tried to get her into physical therapy and scheduled her for an MRI. It probably should have been done sooner. No one had insisted.
I carried her around the back yard. She never had roamed outside before. We looked at birds, at the sky, at the grass. An old Ukrainian lady laughed at her and called her a baby, because she had the little diaper on. Another neighbor said she was a fine-looking animal.
She was fluffy, and she had a little nose.
After three weeks of all this, she stopped eating. It was Friday. The vet gave us emergency food. At first she gobbled it up. But then she didn’t. I squirted some liquid food into her mouth with a syringe. I regret it now. She didn’t want to eat. But I wanted her to get to the MRI on Monday.
On Sunday she stopped closing her eyes. She stared into space. She was no longer there.
I wanted some of her fur. I cut a piece off. Her skin was so stretchy, it gave away like nothing, it disintegrated like a thin piece of injera. I accidentally cut off a piece of her skin. I thought it was fur. She flinched. She bled.
It was the worst moment of my life.
The vet would come to do an in-home euthanasia. But we had to wait until the evening.
It’s so peaceful. They go to sleep. Everyone said it. The vet said it.
It wasn’t peaceful. The vet sedated Rufus. Then he gave her the dose that was to kill her. But she knew it was happening. She lifted up her head. She meowed.
Meawr meawr meeee-aa….w….r.
I saw the moment she died. I heard it. It was loud and confusing for both of us.
She may have been scared.
I try to remind myself that she is not still scared a year later. The fear lasted a moment. She doesn’t remember it. She doesn’t remember me.
I adopted Rufus when she was six months old. I was twenty. I was lonely, anxious, and wanted to die.
At first she was aloof, and spent much of the time hiding. It took two years for her to warm up. It took two years for her to crawl up and sleep on my legs while I napped. We were very different. Rufus was brave and loved to be squeezed and hugged and kissed. But one thing we had in common was a love of naps, and especially taking them with a friend.
When I was saying goodbye to Rufus, I thanked her for saving my life. I’m not sure that was entirely accurate. Because what she had done was save life more generally, she spread out the corners of the sun, like readying her afghan for naptime. I believed that without her little paws to keep the ripples of light spread, day would collapse.
But her paws are gone. The daylight isn’t. I’m still here without Rufus, but so is life. She must have done more than spread the sun-blanket. I’m thinking it was a covert long-term project, and when I thought she was just scrunching and situating the folds before our naps, she was actually knotting a pattern in place. So now the sun is fixed; her paws are no longer necessary. And when I wake up from a nap and look at the afternoon, at golden light crocheted into every fluttering leaf, every second-guessing squirrel, every anchor of the day, I remind myself: Rufus did that.
Voice Stewards, Part One is currently being proofread and will be available to read on Wattpad beginning December 6. In the meantime, I'd like to make advanced print copies available for those who can't wait!
The zine style booklet is 48 pages long and contains episodes 1-4. I am printing these on demand for whoever purchases them in the next two weeks (through November 28).
You can use the PayPal button below to make your purchase. Please ensure that you include the correct shipping address.
On Wattpad episodes will be published every Friday, Concluding December 27. So, those who purchase an advanced print copy will get to read Part One in its entirety a month before those who wait for Wattpad.
Also, in a few weeks I will be publishing an annotated ebook on Amazon. The ebook will contain explanations, background information, and appendices not available in the Wattpad or print book. So if you want extra goodies, stay tuned and wait for the ebook.
I hope you enjoy Part One!
My name is Robyn, and I’ve been a Cubs fan for 91 years. Heartbreak is a heavy burden, and I’m carrying the weight of three generations of Cub fandom upon my shoulders.
On Wednesday night, when Kris Bryant fielded that chopper, I jumped off my couch. When he lobbed the ball to Rizzo, I stood.
That’s it. I stood, for several minutes, my hands pressed against my mouth. If you come from a Cubs family, you probably experienced a similar bout of incomprehension. Any time the Cubs win it comes with an ounce of disbelief. But the World Series? The Cubs? They won the World Series? In those minutes of shock, thirty-five years of memories came to me.
Of Grandpa Ralph, who treasured his Cubbies and his grandchildren, and always found a way to fit both of them into his life. I’d sit with him in his car at the Portage Jr. Miss Softball field, watching my older sisters play their games while listening to the Cubs hissing and crackling on the radio. I ate popcorn and snowcones in the passenger seat, pretending I was at Wrigley Field. We never went to Wrigley Field when I was a kid. I guess we didn’t have the money. When Grandpa died, my only inheritance was a stuffed Cubbie bear.
Other memories came: all the times we sat in Grandpa’s living room and watched games. Just watched and watched, raptly, no matter what the score. And the times spent working on jigsaw puzzles with the game roaring in the background. Perhaps the most soothing memories of all: lying on Granpa’s couch, falling asleep to Harry Caray’s play-by-play.
The last time I saw Grandpa was towards the end of his battle with cancer. It was 2003; the Cubs seemed magical that year. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Sammy Sosa. Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez. Surely next year was here. Grandpa had a hospital bed in the living room, where his couch used to be. He was weak. He was confused and befuddled from pain killers. He pantomimed smoking a cigarette. I’m not sure he knew who I was. Quite honestly, he scared me. But I sat with him on his bed, and we watched the Cubs. I tried explaining to him that the Cubs were doing so well. They were maybe going all the way. Hang on, Grandpa, I thought. Just another month.
Grandpa died the first week of October. The night he died, Mark Prior, a young pup my age, beat the veteran Greg Maddux (a former and still beloved Cub). I remember thinking to myself that it was fitting: cycles and regeneration. The new coming up to take the place of the old. The torch being passed on.
His death also came 11 days before the Steve Bartman incident. My only hope is that he died thinking that yes, this is their year.
Of course it wasn’t. But we picked up the pieces and continued on for thirteen years, which I suppose is a bat of the eye in the life of a Cubs fan.
While Grandpa was a calm, quiet, fan, eternally hopeful, my dad is more dynamic. I’m certain he has personally cursed every player on the Cubs roster throughout his lifetime, declaring each and every one of them a bum or worse at some point, and dramatically switching off the television before Harry had the chance to shout, “Let’s get some runs!” But, of course, he always turned the game on the next day.
As a Cubs fan, I take after my dad more than Grandpa. After every loss, I declared the entire season a failure. After every season, I gave up. But like Dad, I itched every spring; walking with my heart abuzz with hope. The Cubs have been one thing we could share together. Being the strange daughter, I’ve always done my own thing, and I’m sure I have been incomprehensible to my dad my whole life. But there has always been baseball. The Cubs: allowing dads and daughters understand each other for thirty-five years.
In the moments after that final out on Wednesday, after all of my memories of my dad and grandpa passed by, only then did I cry.
It will be interesting to see how things will change now that the Cubs are champions. To be honest, I’m prepared for next season to be an embarrassing failure, and in some ways, I’m hoping for it, because that’s how I’ve always used the Cubs to relate to others. Commiseration. While the Cubs winning it all is a huge relief, it’s also sad, like saying goodbye to an old friend. Like saying goodbye to Grandpa. After all, the Cubs are not Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. They are not Addison Russell and Javy Baez. The Cubs are their history, whether Joe Maddon likes it or not. And now that they are winners, I worry that they won’t be the Cubs anymore.
But, of course, win or lose, life will go on, and we’ll find a way to love and hate the Cubbies. Grandparents and grandchildren will go on making memories. Because baseball is not life. While this feat is amazing, the Cubs winning the World Series is not world-changing, as many people have boldly proclaimed. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a game, and the success of the Cubs is unnecessary to anyone’s survival and well-being. Of course, so is birdsong and traffic hum. So is the smell of rain, and red and gold leaves in the fall. Even the years I didn’t follow them closely, the Cubs have always been something rather close. Always in the background, filling the spaces as I moved from one place to the next. I’d still get to where I was going, but the journey would have been duller.
So thanks, Cubbies. Or, perhaps more accurately, thanks Grandpa and Dad. You are the real Cubs, after all.
Hello! The new website is under construction. I am playing around with things, so I apologize if things go a little wonky. These things cannot be helped.
The new website will contain links for where you can read and/or purchase my latest installments of Voice Stewards. It will also feature additional content about the world of Alonadee. I'm hoping to include various appendices: maps, family trees, a lexicon, etc. So stay tuned.
The site will for the time being also be home to Keeper Keepers, my elementary curriculum that provides teachers and students with information about endangered and threatened species, all while teaching Common Core standards. Hopefully I will have enough curriculum so that it will branch out into its own site eventually, but for now I will nest it in this little tree.
October has arrived. I have mixed feelings. I hate cold whether, yet I love all the sights and sounds that come with the season. How do you feel about autumn's arrival?