The brain likes order. It’s why we love jigsaw puzzles and a perfect ocean wave. The crisp feel when two cardboard pieces connect just so, the calm roll of a blue-green curled tube of water gliding to the shore. Order comes in many forms.
When order begins to break down, it can start with the brain directly. A seizure, such as when a loved cat shows her age and you know the end is near.
Hold on to the moments of peace and joy, and the thought that she has traveled a long and winding road with loving homes.
You might say that cats are more agents of chaos than of order. But for Kali, she was order at a crucial time in my life, when I was starting to shed some anchors after college.
I adopted her in Missoula in my post-college years, when my friends Peter and Roni emigrated to New Zealand. I took in Kali and their rice cooker, and both fit my life perfectly. For the first time, I was living on my own without roommates; a seemingly-ideal commune of four old friends had disintegrated for various reasons, and when the landlord dissolved our lease without cause, I found that an apartment of my own was the right path.
Kali wasn’t a demanding cat, nor was she particularly affectionate. But she was happy, and allowed me to give her attention, and added a spark of life to my one-bedroom apartment (300 Strand, Missoula, MT, part of an old brick house partitioned into apartments perfect for young adults). It was in many ways a gentle transition to an adult life. I had a full-time job with Verizon Wireless that paid well, and now I had both a cat and a kitchen appliance other than a microwave. For a time, two of the other three apartments and studios were occupied by friends: my best friend since childhood, Vaughn, and another friend who was close for a time before she dropped us all and moved on to another world.
(That last might sound bitter; it definitely is, but what’s a memoir titled “Kali” without a little gratuitous destructive venting?)
Scratch that parenthetical. I’m letting it go. The girl was always just passing through our world and we amused her for a time, but she never really connected to us beyond a crush on Vaughn, and I was just Vaughn’s friend to her. Life goes on, and friendships come and go. Cats treat you the same, though, as long as you feed them and are kind. There’s a lesson there, somewhere.
But to return to the point. A home with a cat is definitely an adult thing. I loved (love) Kali. She must be 16 or 17 years old now, maybe even 20. When I left Missoula, I left Kali in the care of my parents in their comfortable 1950’s ranch house on 80 acres in Hamilton, and she’s been there ever since, as my childhood cats and dog gradually crossed the Rubicon (because I still can’t bear to talk about pets, you know, dying).
Today, I heard from my mom that Kali has had another seizure.
I’m not there in person, so I can’t say good-bye. I asked my mom to give Kali a kiss for me. It might soon be time to gently shepherd her to the Elysian Fields. Another spirit transmuted out of flesh and fur.
It doesn’t get easy to think about love and loss. Someday my daughter will face this fully, probably with our current cat, Maia, with whom she has really bonded in the last year or so. A patient cat who has allowed Paloma to explore interacting with animals. There’s a silken, golden bond between cats and humans; never take those bonds for granted.
Yes, there is a circle of life, and there is an order to be found in that circle. It doesn’t mean I won’t cry when Kali finally leaves us.
But for now, I’ll just think of the quiet nights when she would sit on my lap and let me pet her while I watched a soccer game on TV in my apartment in Missoula, finding my way towards independence and the ability to move on.
Love you, Kali. Be at ease.