He Was Such A Good Cat (I Know What Death Looks Like)

He was such a good cat. Albatross. He meowed too much and was demanding and was always on the counter or jumping to the top of the cupboards, or opening garbage cans. But he loved us all so much and we knew it. And oh, he was handsome.

We adopted Albatross and Minos from the SPCA at the same time. Nick saw him first and was intrigued. While all the other cats were sleeping and otherwise boring, Alby was awake, “playing” with a toy mouse. His playing consisted of him softly and slowly, touching the mouse with one paw. Not even looking at the mouse, but at Nick, as if it say, “Look at me. I am fun. Adopt me.” And we did.

We soon learned of his adventurous personality. The first weekend we left the cats alone and had a cat sitter look in on them, we returned home to our brand new ceramic top oven, smashed beyond repair. Although neither cat confessed, we are confident that it wad Albatross who made it to the shelf above the oven that held our wine and scotch bottles, which were all knocked off…

Alby could jump straight up and land on the top of a door. As in the 1 1/2″ width of wood. He loved to be up high. Other times he would get to the top of the cupboards, like at Jean and Karen’s home, or my dads, and We would say he was the king, looking over his kingdom.

He loved to look good. We described Alby as a metrosexual, as he loved to be brushed and bathed and carried and groomed. He even let me tote him around in a cat carrier I bought for him – it really was a Baby Bjorn for cats. He loved to look at himself in the mirror.

And he loved opening things. Cupboards, garbage cans, toilet seats.

And I am crying while writing this, as I miss him dearly. He left little paw prints on my floor, from dirty paws (he was still getting into mischief in his last days), andI can’t bring myself to wipe them away yet.

He was sick for over a year. And we tried new diets and procedures and pills and shots. But it was all to just delay the symptoms, and there was nothing we could actually do to cure him. I’ll admit at times I refused to accept reality – he was so young, only 10 when he passed. And I wasn’t ready for more loss in my life. But I know what death looks like, and I was living with it while Alby was still in this house with me.

I felt so alone with making the decision to put him down. And great guilt and selfishness. And I kept second guessing my decision after it was too late. And once I had made the decision, Alby’s last days were filled with all the foods he longed for his entire life, and was never allowed to have. Roast chicken, tuna, milk, DQ ice cream and steak and lobster. Yes, I went to the Keg and brought him back steak and lobster. And I cuddled him every moment I was home. He knew.

Arrine and I went to the vet, she wanted to go, even though I had explained to her exactly what would happen, multiple times. We took him outside for a while before we left. The staff at the vet were (are) amazing and provided me the answers and support I needed. And I cried. I let out sobbing cries, while I pet him and laid my head on him and breathed him in, just as I remember breathing in my mom.

The timing worked out well. We took Alby’s ashes to Batoche with us, just a couple weeks after he passed. And we left him at the cemetery with my mom. It felt right. And beautiful and calming. And the morning Arrine and I were getting ready to leave for Saskatchewan, this is what Arrine said to me, “Alby was in my dream. And he got all better and he came back to life and he was in the house again.” And a tear left my eye and I hugged her, and I knew what I had done, and was doing, was right.

I love Arrine’s visions… And I love Alby and I miss him dearly.

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I See Dead People

There have been times when Arrine will make comments about Grandma Anne-Marie that don’t quite make sense to me. In that if I took the literal meaning of what Arrine told me, she can see and hear Grandma Anne-Marie. And before, I would explain these comments away, with the normal miscommunication you can expect from a toddler. But now that her speaking and vocabulary has evolved, there are some things that I just can’t explain away.

Like a couple of weeks ago. Arrine and I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. Of course using Grandma Anne-Marie’s recipe. I put music on in the living room, the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. It was a bit of an odd choice, but I did. Arrine had never listened to it before, nor had I ever told her how it held such a strong connection to my mom for me. Each day while mom was in the hospital, I listed to this soundtrack in the car on my drive there and then my drive home. And when my parents had been in the city visiting before she was sick, I took them to see the movie at the Garneau because I loved that movie so much.

So when Arrine came into the kitchen from the living room, dancing, and said to me, “She’s singing. She’s singing and dancing.” I of course asked, “Who? Who’s singing and dancing?” And dear, sweet, adorable Arrine replied, “Grandma Anne-Marie!” And my heart stopped. And I felt weird. And I got down to Arrine’s level and asked slowly, “…can you see Grandma Anne-Marie?” And she didn’t really answer. So then I asked, “Can you hear Grandma Anne-Marie?” And again, she didn’t actually answer. She just said, “She’s singing and dancing.” And the spun her way back into the living room.

And left me standing the in kitchen, holding a spoon with chocolate chip cookie dough, absorbing what just happened. And then I ate some dough, right off the spoon.

I Miss Writing… But It’s Kinda Ok That I Am Not…

I have been wanting to write for ages now. I have so much to share, and in the moment, I am compelled to write. But as the time passes, the moments seem not as significant or urgent. Even though they were such special moments at the time. I just have so many other fun things going on in my life right now, it’s hard to find the time to write. I really have wanted/needed to for over a month.

But I have my notes and will refer back to them to capture all the beautiful, and hard, experiences I have had these past number of weeks. I need to write about Alby passing. And the trip I took to Saskatchewan with Arrine. And the impact that Women Who Run With the Wolves is having on my life, and the lovely ladies who I am honoured to call my friends. And how I am pretty sure Arrine can see and hear Grandma Anne-Marie. Maybe I will write that quick post right now…

Would You Just Die Already?

The guilt of wanting someone to die is life changing. You question how you could be in a place where you would wish that upon someone you love so dearly. And you feel selfish for even considering it or it being a thought that your mind could create.

But this is how I was with my mom. The doctors told us for weeks, “She doesn’t have much longer.” Over and over again. And then I would ask, “Well, what does that actually mean?” And their response would always be, “Well, we really can’t say.” So for weeks (months), I prepared myself every day that I would get a phone call in the night that she died or each time I got to the hospital in the morning, the room would be empty. It was exhausting. And I was to the point that I just wanted her to die. I wanted her to die so we could grieve her death and I could leave North Battleford and I could try to pull together my life again. And I felt devastatingly guilt over this. I remember finally admitting this to a dear friend of mine who had lost her dad years prior. And she comforted me and shared that she had felt the same way and it was such a release for me. I didn’t feel so alone in these horrible feelings.

Believe me, I cherish every moment I had with my mom while she was in the hospital. I learned so much about myself, and her, each day that I sat beside her and worked on my computer or read my book or brushed her hair. But she wasn’t living. And neither was I.

I have lived with death. I know what it looks like. And now I am living with it again. My poor cat Albatross is really sick. The last vet appointment was a diagnosis of pancreatitis (on top of his IBS), so he was put back on daily steroids to try to help with his appetite and reduce the inflammation in his joints, as his hind legs were so weak he drags his little legs behind him. He really has been sick for over a year now, getting a bit better and then another trip to the vet is needed. And I feel that I am back in the land of guilt, wishing he would just die.

That sounds so heartless and cold. But the poor guy isn’t living. He sleeps all the time (more than a normal cat) and limps to his bowl when he does eat and just meows. It breaks my heart and I feel so helpless. And I want to do everything I possibly can for him, but I don’t know what that is. I am taking him to the vet again today, because he is just so skinny and now his eyes are watery. It’s to the point that I don’t even want to pick him up because he is so bony I am scared I will hurt him. And he seems so sad. But still wanting cuddles and purrs. He’s a trooper.

So last night I had the talk with Arrine about Alby and how sick he is. I alluded to it before, but never had an official sit down talk with her. I never came out and told her that we may need to CHOOSE to put him down. I just told her how he is so sick and I am not sure if the doctors can make him better, so we need to prepare for him to die. And then I made reference to Grandma Anne-Marie, so she could understand better what I was trying to say. She was sad and gave him pets and then when I started crying, she once again placed her hand on my cheek and said, “It’s ok, Mommy. Don’t cry. Don’t be sad.” And I said, “But I am sad about Alby. Because I will really miss him.” And in her sweet 4 year old mind she said, “But we have another cat… Minos!” And I giggled at her and gave her a big hug and kiss.

So off I will go today, taking skinny Alby to the vet. And need to ask questions and make some decisions based upon those answers. I don’t want to choose to put him down just to do it. The vet said last time that he isn’t in pain, but how do you make a decision about a cat’s quality of life? And how do I not know if we wait two more weeks with the steroids that he will improve? All these questions with no obvious or easy answer.

These last few nights when I have come home, I have found Alby tucked into the pile of stuffies on Arrine’s bed. It’s like he is a little toy kitten, just enjoying his time, surrounded by his friends.

I feel guilty over not having more time to spend with him. I feel guilty for the times I got annoyed with his meowing and scolded him. I feel guilty for all the times I was mad at him for puking on the carpet and needing to clean it up. I feel guilty for all these feelings I have surrounding him. I feel guilty for so nonchalantly, thinking about putting him down.

I love this flipping cat…

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“She Has The Worst Luck With Men” – I Call Bullsh*t

We have all had at least one of her as a friend at some point in our lives. The “She Has The Worst Luck With Men” Friend. The girl who always finds herself caught up with a guy who cheats on her, or doesn’t commit to her, or is controlling, or he has another girlfriend, or he steals from her or Insert Dickhead Trait here. And many of us are quick to find compassion and pity for her and say, “There, there. You’ll find someone who is better for you. You just have the worst luck with men.”

And I call bullish*t.

What we need to be telling her is, “Go through whatever you need to go through to gain some confidence and inner strength and truly believe what you deserve from a relationship and quit allowing these men to treat you like this. Don’t stand for it. Demand better. Demand to be respected. And until you do, you deserve all the heartache your bring on yourself.”

Now, that may seem a bit harsh. As I know that when you are in the moment of not knowing how to assert yourself in this way, or haven’t learned the tools to accept nothing less in your life, there really is nothing you can do, besides live through the hurt. And that’s what your girlfriends are for – to support you through this time when you need their patience and listening ears and McCain Deep n’ Delicious chocolate cakes. But if you aren’t learning and taking the good lessons from each dickhead who has made you cry and feel small, then I will have less and less patience for you. Because YOU need to make the decision to better yourself. And if you don’t, then I can’t hold your hand forever through it…because it is exhausting.

And I can say all of this, because at one point in my life I remember standing in my kitchen and saying to myself, “I have the worst luck with guys.” I was one of “those unlucky girls”, but that was in another lifetime… And now looking back, I see that I brought it on myself. I allowed it. It wasn’t that I was unlucky. I just didn’t have the inner strength to attract anything more into a relationship. But with my recent readings and discoveries, I can travel back to when I was that girl and be honest with myself and take responsibility for those dickheads in my life.

But I wouldn’t be the Kirsten I am today if I hadn’t been through those sad and hard times with guys (boys). And I wouldn’t know what I know now, so that the next time a girlfriend comes to me with her heart broken over a guy, telling me she has the worst luck with men, I can tell her with confidence, because I was once her, “It’s your own damn fault.”

I Should Have Listened

These last couple of months have been really good for me, from my Wild Woman perspective. I know some of you may feel like all I talk about is my flipping Wild Woman and the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, but man. This book is so goooooooooood. I have been taken through how our inner psyche processes relationships, love, passions, happiness and motherhood. And I am only half way through it. But the stronger my relationship becomes with my Wild Woman, the happier I have become too.

True happiness entered my life again when I let the death of my mom go. But there were (are) still things I struggled (struggle) with and was working on letting go. And these last two months have been amazing for that. Then, just the other night, I was faced with a decision that was being answered by my Wild Woman. I will never forget it. I was in the shower, hands rinsing the soap from my hair and my inner voice (Wild Woman) said, “Nope. Don’t do it.” And I went against her advice and said, “It will be fine.”

It wasn’t fine. I was knocked down again from the outcome of my decision to not listen to my Wild Woman. But this time not only was I hurt, but I was mad at myself for being so stupid! I really did know better, but expected a different outcome, when really, there was no indication that things would be different.

The universe has been showing me signs lately. And I have been really good at accepting them and not trying to change anything about how events play out – this is connected to that control issue that I have and love to try to apply to all aspects of my life. And this is just another sign. And I am seeing it, and acknowledging it and accepting it. A hard, sad sign.

Yesterday when I was in the middle of all of this, I was testing my bestie Tee about it. Then I sent her this:

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I love how we can still laugh when our hearts are sad.

Arrine Effing Rocks

While driving home from daycare, no lead up to this line of questioning:

Arrine: What colour was your mom’s hair?

Me: (Turning and smiling at her.) Dark, dark, dark like mine.

Arrine: Was is curly or straight?

Me: Straight. Very straight.

Arrine: I want straight hair.

Me: But curly is great! I will straighten it for you though.

Arrine: Yes, I want straight hair for daycare and then I will show all my friends.

Me: What made you think to ask that?

Arrine: I dunno!

 

While struggling with bedtime and Arrine came out of her room again for yet another “I just have one more thing to ask you”.

Arrine: When you are grown up and I am grown up and a mommy, will you still be my mommy?

Me: Yes, I will be your mommy forever. My mom is still my mom.

Arrine: But she died.

Me: I know, Love. But she is still my mom. Come here, I wanna cuddle you.

(Arrine crawls into my lap and snuggles in.)

Me: I had the very best mommy. The best you could ever wish for. (Through tears.) I love when you ask about my mom. It makes me very happy because I miss her so much.

Arrine: Don’t cry mommy. (She looks up and puts her small, sweet hand on my check, stroking it.)

Me: Well, they are sad tears for my mom because I miss her, and happy tears because I love you so much.

Arrine: Don’t cry mommy. I’m your friend now.

Me: Yes you are, Arrine. And I am so blessed to have you.

 

It doesn’t get any better than that…

Oh! Hi Mom!

Life. Is. Chaos.

But it’s a good chaos – more update on that in a future post. And this feeling of life consuming me has defo been a distraction from missing my mom. I have had a lot of good thoughts of her lately, and the sadness is always there, but I feel this is a coping mechanism for me. When life is so busy, I shut off my grief to be able to survive amongst the madness. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, because then it’s just waiting for me in a heap when I return to the real world. But this time, mom is preparing me for it. She did this by checking in with me the other day.

Background – my mom had a lovely friend who is creative and beautiful and artistic and a strong woman and just oozes her inner Wild Woman. Years ago she moved to Toronto and over the years I have lost touch with her and the Christmas letters I sent were returned as the address I had was no longer current. On Sunday, Nick, Arrine and I spent some time on Whyte Avenue and popped into Lululemon (this was for Nick, I would like to say), and moments after I entered the store, pushing Arrine in her stroller, I heard, “Kirsten…Kirsten,” in a slowly drawn out voice, as in disbelief. And it was her – this Wild Woman.

We hugged and held back tears and took our picture and only had a few moments to chat as she was on her way to meet someone else. The last time we had seen each other was at the Anne-Marie Merle Wear Your Red Celebration. We exchanged contact information and in a whirlwind, she was gone.

Shortly after seeing each other, she texted me this: I have not had red fingernails or toenails in years – and today – I did both!

And I knew it was mom’s way of checking in on me, and making sure that I dealt with some of my grief heap now, so it wasn’t so overwhelming for when I return to the real world.

Thanks Mom.

Merle Clan Smart. Everyone Else Idiot.

Ok, so maybe not EVERYONE else in the world is an idiot. But a lot are.

Back when my mom was ill, we had a lot of family time together. My fam has never been super tight-knit (in terms of family vacations and Sunday dinners and phone calls) even though we are small, but we know how to come together to support each other when needed. And when we were faced with the worst, Anth came up with our family motto: We (Merle Clan) Kick Ass. Not to sound pretentious, but we really are an amazing group of individuals who hold the name Merle. And we have Charlie and Anne-Marie and their parents to thank for that.

So whenever Anth and I are complaining about the idiots in our lives, he is quick to remind me that most other people did not have our upbringing and loving and connected parents and, parents who kick ass. And these idiots just don’t know any better because they were never taught or shown or moulded, so it really can’t be all their fault.

I used to be quick to judge others when I felt they were making poor decisions or chose to react in certain ways. But now that I have realized that I was once in a spot that I was doing the best that I could with where I was in my grief journey, and this reminder that idiots sometimes can’t help that they are idiots, I have much more empathy for others than I did before. Some people are just doing the best they can for where they are in whatever they are in.

This new found patience usually comes into play when someone hurts me. Before, I would analyze and try to alter the situation and take it so much to heart that it crushed me. But now, even though I still feel the pain, it’s a different pain. It’s more a pain of loss – wishing that things could be different but they aren’t. And that the person who is making the decisions to hurt me (directly or indirectly), just doesn’t know how to make better choices. And even if they DO know how to make different choices and still choose to be an asshole, they have experienced something in life to make them be that asshole. And I can have pity on them. And feel sorry for them, but then that’s it. I move on. Maybe I cut them out. Maybe I just disengage. Maybe they are just the chick at Second Cup who had a bad attitude and I will never see them again.

But instead of holding onto anger and resentment towards them, I remind myself that not everyone is a Merle, and they can’t help it that they are an idiot.

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