I'm not writing my thrillers. I'm neither performing nor writing comedy. I've been rewriting the same chapter in a thriller for the past three weeks - and having trouble watching any television show where people or animals die. This, in fact, is the first long piece I've written in weeks. My life is now consumed by nursing this cat. I'm giving her fish oil and B12 supplements, and every three days, sub-q fluids. I'm coaxing her to eat another bite, opening cans until I can find something she'll tolerate. Today, she's not eating as well, so I upped the meds, and if she doesn't eat later, I'll rub the appetite stimulant onto her ear.
I found her in our window well in Trenton when she was two weeks old, on a cold May night, and she probably would have died if we hadn't brought her in. I bottle fed her. I wiped her little behind with wet paper towels because mother cats lick their babies to stimulate the passing of waste. She adores my husband who didn't wipe her behind and didn't want another cat, and she tolerates me most of the time. In the sixteen years that she's been a member our family, she's bitten me, my son, my daughter - but rarely my husband. She's had three close calls up to now, a fungus that grew on her brain - that nearly killed her twice - and then she had an encounter with a ribbon that required surgery. The vet says now that she could have anywhere from three months to two years. I doubt the two years, but we'll see.
Since I've been an adult, I've had four dogs and five cats, and part of the pet experience, is that they will die all too soon. The dogs are gone and three cats: we now have Lizzie, 16 years old, and Xiao, 9. It's never been easy when a beloved pet get close to the end, but it seems particularly hard now, with this cat that loves my husband more than she loves me. I keep thinking if I just do the right thing, give her the right supplements, the right food, she'll keep going. Maybe we'll get the two years. My kids and my husband tell me I'm feeling too much responsibility for keeping her alive, that my anxiety and guilt are not rational.
I also know it's not rational, and I'm planning to see the therapist who helped me when my mother died. Somehow facing Lizzie's mortality has brought up all the guilt I felt and still feel because I wasn't there when my mother died - and all the guilt I feel at being unable to save my father from dying of Alzheimers. Then there's the thoughts of my own mortality and that of my husband - thoughts which most of the time I manage to keep locked away in the back of my mind. After all, my mother lived to 88; my father to 95 - and I'm very healthy and very active. so is Jim. Still, I'm feeling that cold fear and the panic.
And yet Lizzie is still here. So am I. So is my husband. It'd be nice to enjoy whatever time we do have, wouldn't it?
I have to remember that Lizzie isn't the only one with a disease. Anxiety is also an illness, but there are treatments. Maybe my therapist will help. I know one thing he'll suggest: doing things where I can be totally present - the way I am when I write. Maybe that's why I decided to write this blog. And maybe tomorrow I'll try writing something else.
Wish me luck.