The first time as an adult that I had a pet die, I was blown away by how much grief I felt. We always had pets when I was a kid, and while I have vague memories of sadness when one of them passed away, I don't remember the loss really affecting me that much. The only pet death I even remember explicitly was when I was in 8th grade and my hamster, Pavlov, killed my other hamster, Skinner. (Yes, I was that geeky). I remember discovering them, bloody in the cage, and then sitting on the dirty steps in the garage, sobbing hysterically while I waited for my dad to get home and comfort me. But other than that, nothing. Maybe that's just the blurring of time, or that kids are just really resilient creatures, or that those pets were not as much mine as the pets I've had as an adult. I dunno.
But when my cat Kermit died a few years ago, I was devastated. He had a seizure in my arms out of the blue one afternoon. Though we rushed him to the vet immediately, it was too late. He'd had a congenital heart defect and his little heart finally just gave out. I remember walking around in a teary daze for days. Weeks even. Missing the way he always had to be touching me. I'd raised him from kittenhood, working hard to socialize him and overcome his skittishness. He'd been with me through multiple moves across the country. Through my breakup with my ex-fiance. Through the beginning of grad school (and, as it turned out, the end). It felt as though I had lost a person in my life. But I always thought it would be easier the next time around.
I don't know if that's turning out to be true. Sure, I know what to expect more this time, because I've been through it before. But I miss Scout pretty terribly at the moment. Last night, I dreaded going home from work, because I knew she wouldn't be there on the porch, waiting to be let in and fed her dinner. I knew she wouldn't be there to curl up with my just as I was trying to go to sleep. To lick and lick and lick with her rough little tongue until I paid attention to her. I realized that I didn't have to put away the ball of yarn I was working with on a project, because Scout wasn't there to bat it all over the house, tangling the red wool around the sofa legs, under the dining room table, into the coat closet. Three days in, I'm still breaking into tears at random moments, hit by sudden aching bursts of missing her. Scout moved with me across the country, too. From Chicago to DC and then from DC to here. She was always good for a funny story or six. She was the longest cat I ever saw, stretching her skinny body out as she craned to look at whatever she found interesting in the moment. Everyone who met her loved her. I feel terrible guilt over letting her be an outside cat. If I'd only kept her inside, this wouldn't have happened, the voice in my head keeps telling me. But she was always so much happier outside than she was in. And I don't keep myself inside just because I might get hurt. And, really, let's be honest, Scout used up her 9 lives long ago with all of her escapades. She had a good life, short as it might have been.
And losing her has reawakened fears that are always lurking there for me -- terror over the possibility of losing my parents, my sisters, D., all the other people I love in my life. Fear of getting old and dying myself. Frankly, the circle of life scares the crap out of me. And sometimes I worry that I don't feel things as much as other people -- that I bounce back more quickly than I should from anger, from sadness, from whatever I'm feeling. My moods feel so . . . transient, so quicksilver. And then something like this happens and suddenly I fear that I feel too much. Fear that the sadness won't go away this time.
I guess what I want to say is this: My heart hurts. I'm hanging in there, but it's hard -- so much harder than I expected.