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Making Space for the Untouched
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It’s best if people don’t know you. Once they get to know you, they form opinions, and that’s that. Thankfully, my cat, Pixie has proved to me that no one will ever really know me anyway. She proved it to me in ways so humbling. For probably 15 years of her life, due to misdiagnosis, and just our typification of her temperament, we totally saw her as female. Changing vets, we were otherwise informed and corrected, and looking closely (only once, thank you) we couldn’t argue. We made a joke, she was our trans cat. I never got over the use of female pronouns with her; it didn’t seem fair to change her identity late stream. She will always embody that tenacious softness of a female cat for me; a pronoun, or even a physical characteristic won’t alter that.

They say that the old lose the skill for sleep that children and teenagers have without thinking. At the end of her life, maybe Pixie had the same experience. She certainly accelerated my losing of capacity for sleep these last three years or more years. Every night, anywhere from midnight to four a.m. she would go mousing. We have little stuffed rats, not so little really, the size of a real rat. Despite her infirmity, Pixie would find these soft replications of prey, grab them between her teeth, and make the ascent. She could barely walk up our flight of stairs, 12 steps took her 20 or 25 seconds. But up she paraded, with multitasking. As she haltingly ascended to show us her catch, with the rats neck between her teeth, she announced her presence with a deep baritone howl, that was a combination of some kind of triumphant roar, and a justified case of pleading for food that was close to a demand.

So, no matter what the hour, or how hard it was to get out of bed, do you think I could in good conscience ignore her? Truth be told, sometimes I did ignore her at first, after taking my herbal remedies that make up in part my lack of skill in sleeping. But, nothing if not persistent, more heralding, and more rats and mice would arrive at the top of the stairs. By the second or third round, I knew I had to give up. I knew I couldn’t countenance being the source of her giving up.

Part of the grief is that Pixie ate less and less and less each of those final three years. Often, my heart sunk as she sniffed at my offerings, took one little bite, and walked away. Every time, this would lead to a long drink of water from the running pet fountain which she preferred; she was so good about hydrating. Then, up into her heated bucket before the south window where she could greet the sunrise, if clouds did not get in the way.

Every day, twice a day, for those last three years, years gifted only by a talented and perceptive vet, I would orally medicate Pixie with 3 medicines from 4 different syringes. She was so good about it, I new she hated it. I know that I hated it even more, causing discomfort she could not understand. She got over it quickly though, and went to the water font.

I was pretty close to Pixie, as you can see. But thinking I know her is not a delusion I court. I know I never saw things from Pixie’s point of view, even though, even now part of me is trying to.

I find the stuffed rats and mice around our house, moved from wherever I thought they were I like to think that Pixie is still amongst us here in the house, reminding me of so many things I need to know. First among them I think, is that even our closest companions are a deep well, from which we only see an occasional burst of font.

The mystery of the Great Other deserves the dignity, and reverence of allowing not knowing. I’ll never really know why Pixie hauled those stuffed rats up the stairs with such emphatic vocalizations as difficult as it must have been for her. More important to her than ease. We each take our inspirations from places others don’t, and can’t, fully understand. I’ll never really know what requests were behind Pixie’s softly enquiring glances as she waited for me to finally “get it.” As we grieve our limitations in understanding each other, we have to let go, and do the work of more fully understanding ourselves.

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