Monday, August 15, 2016

In Memoriam, A Blythe Spirit: Miss Blueberry Muffin

Miss Blueberry Muffin: 2011-June 27, 2016

Calm center in the busy noise of boys and mama and daddy in the family room
Lounging presence hogging the heating vent in the kitchen
Reading the comics on the floor daily with Christopher
Pawing at the creamer lid for my tea
Finding the sunny spot outdoors to roll and roll
Inspecting drains with Noah for chipmunks
Daily buddy inches away as I work, and napping or watching the birds outdoors, often a paw just touching, so we are connected
With me always through illness after illness; big eyes looking at me in affection as I hold your fluffy self upside down and stroke your parti-colored furry toes. 
You took life in to its fullest, sunny friend, and rubbed and purred your last morning.
We love you deeply, darling. 
We'll be together again someday.

Muffin, little Muffinee, Fluffy-britches, you were family, little kitty, you loved with all your being and we loved you with all of ours.

Nothing like raw sheep fleece for a blissful rub.

Catnip unnecessary. Sheep fleece is delightful, thank you.
Without ceremony you arrived in a cardboard carrier, a surprise. On the way home from a work appointment in Cincinnati, I told myself that I needed to stop at PetsMart for food, knowing in my heart that I what was really needed was kitty time. Ladybug was so shy, and the twins just one year old, and work was so hard. The boys were so darn cute, and loving, but I was so, so tired, and beginning to be ill a great deal of the time, and I longed for a furry someone to cuddle when the hours were too overwhelming, another kind of baby to coo over and nurture.

To find you there in a steel cage, a small fluffy self no more than five pounds or so, with your big eyes and such a sweet, sweet nose. How my heart beat hard and I practically ran to the volunteer helper, to ask if I could hold you. How I lifted your thin, so-soft self from the cage and you trusted me then and there and melted on my neck, paws around it, and purred. All I said was "Oh darling, come home with me", and that was it. Your first hours in that cage were your last ones -- you'd just arrived in the noisy store that morning. You'd been, said the Humane Society volunteer, with them in their main building since May, just a few weeks, dropped in the Night Box with your kittens. Who left such a trusting, gentle kitty, with her kittens? Had they been overwhelmed themselves, or did they not understand the depth of your gentleness? Night Box, indeed. A long night in the dark, alone and closed up with kittens to care for. Think about it.

Noah introduces young Muffin to his Australian-born kangaroo.

You'd had to recuperate. You were young! Perhaps six months, already with kittens. You gave so much of yourself then, when you were hardly out of kittenhood. Your troubles didn't have time or ability to scar you, for you were made of gentleness and good humor and joy in being. You radiated it, and we all loved you for it, everyone who came to the house and couldn't help noticing the gorgeous, fluffy fur-person checking out whoever walked through the door. We none of us understood how close we'd become, when on that first day I carried you in the back door, and Mom, watching the boys, saw the carrier and said loudly, "No!". She thought of all the responsibility another kitty would be, and we were underwater with work and with babies and baby laundry and short on sleep with twins who had different sleep schedules. How rapidly things changed.

Chipmunk ahoy!

You were with me constantly. You were with all of us constantly. Your center was our center. You preferred to be in the mix, with loud and wobbly toddlers who thought the world of you -- you knew they were kittens themselves and didn't understand how to pet a cat. You taught them gentleness, and they respected you, and you didn't mind being chased: you let them run after you and your fluffy back leg britches and proud flag tail might be just a few feet ahead of them until you flopped over and you all regarded each other with equanimity. You grew very fast, and the boys knew you were too heavy to pick up, so you'd lounge together, buddies.

Where a smart cat positions herself on a cold day.

There is a spectrum in cat behavior, said Dr. Hastings, from a cat who must be sedated before even the most cursory examination, to a cat who will let whatever be done that needs it, without fuss. Muffin, said Dr. Hastings, was on that extremely gentle end: she purred her way through everything, comforting herself when she was worried, trusting that humans would not harm her. I protected that purity fiercely; we all did. We knew she was a gem of a being and we patrolled the borders of her life so that it might be as blissful an existence as ever we could give anyone, just as we did for our boys when they were small. When it was time to start letting our boys know that the world has sharp edges and disappointments and tragedies, we lifted that Pandora's box just a crack, but for Muffin, the box was sealed.

She grew into a glorious purr. A sweet, wedge face with a pink nose perfectly proportioned for maximum cuteness, rounded sensitive ears, well furnished with furry protection. Large, large, almost round eyes, tipped up at the outside, warm and considering. She had extraordinarily thick, dense, downy fur as a base, finer than rabbit down, and long guard hairs that looked like a halo when the sunshine was at her back. She was stocky, short-legged, large-pawed, well padded with fur tufts underneath, her tail as full as that of a fox, an ideal nose protector when she curled up in winter, and an equally ideal flag when raised while she walked. It usually was raised, too, displaying her confidence in the world. 

She's in the fort. Let's let her be...and they did.
Just off our front porch she posed rock-solid when sweet Ginger, the next-door lab, nosed up, and Ginger decided that Muffin had won the dominance game then and there. She mock-fought the devil cat from up the street who would materialize from the darkness, green eyes first, at the back glass doors, to parade in front of it and dare Muffin to attack. We had to place sheets of plywood there for a while to cover the glass in order that all of us could sleep in peace at night, and so that Muffin wouldn't scream and paw herself into exhaustion.

Ooh, she can climb!

There's a chipmunk in the drain. Did you hear him? Unh-hunh!

She wasn't a fighter with us, but a good-natured buddy happy to trot up for a pet, just as happy to trot off, her darling furry back britches dancing until she'd hop to the top of the family room cozy chair to sprawl, napping with paws hanging off, while we ate dinner or the boys played.  If she did take a notion to take off in front of us, it was never a chipmunk-induced calico-blur-sprint, but a trot ending in seconds with a flop onto her back, not to display four weaponed paws and teeth, but "See how cute and sweet I am? Go ahead, pick me up, I was just playing, and you won."

Why did I know something might happen? Why did I know, somewhere inside, that such lives are often short, that Heaven sends us special friends when we need them most, and then calls them away or sometimes calls them Home?

Muffin, constant companion through illnesses.

Certainly I appreciated her specialness, and when she was nested in the crook of an arm while I napped, or spent days on whatever bed I'd taken refuge with a migraine, or another infection, or unable to eat, there was a clear understanding between us that she was helping, and that I was grateful for her healing purr and clear-eyed regard. Sometimes I'd not be conscious of her joining me, but finding it out, thank her with lots of ear scratches and tummy rubs.

Work buddy, right?

I was a dual personality, a protective mama to Muffin on the one hand, but occasionally a slightly lazy mama on the other, and every so often until this spring, Muffin might wander a yard or two away and try out the smells and scents of a different spot. She never wandered even half the length of a football field, but those were exciting trips and left me panicked when I couldn't spot her with my eyes, bedded down under a boxwood, or playing mulch cat nesting on Black Gold -- horse-manure rich covering for our shrubbery and flower beds, or rolling, silly and in abandon in sunshine, short paws splayed, or sentinel on the watch for chipmunks. Never caught, but chased with vast satisfaction. I think she was proud of the warning chirps that attended her outdoor visits.

Now ill, Muffin takes comfort on our Shetland sheep Lana's combed fleece, and kneads the short ends
to calm herself. She spent a long time in that box during her last week.

Just six years, long enough to grow kitty-loving boys, to get me through health issues. So short, too short! Then without warning, it was my time to take care of her.

Domestic kitties and Siberians -- we were never quite sure what she was, but she did display a wide range of Siberian characteristics  -- are prone to a primary disease called hypertrophic myocardiopathy: a thickening of a heart ventricle that ends in congestive heart failure, the heart unable to pump enough blood out to keep everything else going, the lungs filling with liquid, making breathing a labor. Cats often hide their illnesses, and unless something like this is caught by accident in an x-ray or ultrasound, it's often far too advanced for much to be done, and so it was with Muffin. A week and a half of suffering, not pain, per se, but labored breathing and no appetite, no matter what I set before her, and no energy to walk more than a few feet. I was with her always and she took the many medications and vet visits and procedures without complaint; Curte and the boys went on vacation without me. Alert and purry until it was so hard to breathe, and then we said goodbye, and she looked out the vet's window at the hyrangeas, busy with bees, and was interested, but was glad to find shelter in my lap: such a soft cushion on top of it, and she found sleep and her way to Heaven from there.

The last evening, during an aborted
trip to the emergency vet.
I couldn't put her through yet another
visit. It was so hard for her to breathe,
you could her congestion in each breath.
Yet she purred and was interested in life
around her, just too tired to move, all
her energy wrapped up in breathing.

It wasn't easy to write an elegy, and I delayed. Life moves, wounds begin to heal, and the heart knows that opening up a memory or two is joyful, but if you open to all of them the wound will re-open too, and your breath be blocked and the computer risking shorting out from the tears or the penwork  be soggy and blotted. All great relations deserve an elegy, though. Mourning is natural and an important gift to the one missed, and while memory is raw it should find its way to the page so that more of it will be retained for the times ahead, when those memories are desperately wanted but so many of them have fluttered away to wherever such things go, God forbid into a vacuum, or worse, a black hole, too condensed to retrieve.

I am just a human and like all of our species, have only a vague understanding the the enormities and complexities and myriadities of this state of being that we share with everything else. I have faith, though, that there's more. Having been taught so is only part of it; the rest is based in experience, and while I can only describe it in human terms, and while the more doubting of my species will encompass being into the bonds of the material, I cannot do that. Our understanding is limited by what our senses can pick up. We're only humans, after all. So little Muffin, big soul, thank you for being with us. We love you and hope to be with you someday, in some form, either as I have been taught, or in whatever Being is like when our earthly selves return to atoms. It will be marvelous to Be together.