Almost 8 years ago, I sat in our living room, high on a snow-covered hill in the Palouse farm country, while my partner of 15 years lay dying of a horrid, metastasizing prostate cancer.
On the foot of the bed, his gray, morningsuit cat, Gus, lay, licking a paw, casually. His twin tuxedo brother, Rufus, was on my lap. Not every moment of hospice with a loved one is sad, and that dsy we erre discussong my life after his death. I had told him I would not remain on the Farm (I’ve never been a farm girl)… He was supportive, and suggested that I should find another mate or partner also.
I was skeptical about a new partner. I had been married and divorced nearly 20 years earlier, then repartnered and soon to be widowed at 59…no children. I had spent much of two careers working with psychotic felons teaching undergrad psych, and doing mental health crisis work. I know how normal one can seem, and yet loom and act perfectly fine and charming. I did not trust myself to find another good man!
Bob said not to worty, because “Gus will choose him for you…” We both laughed, as the Gusmeister shrugged his agreement and went back to bathing.
Fast-forward a year, and I was still on the Farm. I’d decided not to go back to crisis work or prison teaching, and had almost gotten ready to leave the farm… and met L. Over a period of weeks doing informal therapy with him, I was convinced he should visit me and get out of the city for an afternoon, to a place without cell reception, and the only link was a dial-up modem. L was circling my living room, slowly looking for a cell signal, and looking anxious, when Gus walked in.
What happened next was significant. L, who had never had a pet in his life, looked at Gus. Gus walked slowly toward him, put his forehead down on L’s knee, and then rolled over, belly up and paws spread… L asked what was up, if he was dying, was ok, what? All if a sudden, the winter’s day conversatiin flashed back…and years later, L and I are a solid, and very loving item…
But…Gusgus, our deeply-loved mat h-making Gusmeister, us gone, leaving L, Rufus and me, deeply bereft. The fourth anniversary of his sudden loss to a rare, ruptured tumor, on my birthday eve, is two weeks away. It took more than a year for L to begin a relationship with Rufus, whose meow has ever-changed without his brother…and Gus has yet to have a successor, though his buddy Karl from across the street, visits Rufus on the porch from time to time.
We feel your loss poignantly…even four years later… we value deeply every day with Gus’s twin, and I am overprotective with bim, as he approaches 11 this Labor Day weekend.
I hope that your fond memories will surmount your grief one day, and I know too, that I still see Gus now and then, still hope Rufus will play again, still see them both young, and strong, and bounding toward me through the tall grasses of the farm, when I return from work, racing to see if I’m pleased with the day’s “gifts” they’ve tag-teamed for me and left on the sidewalk.
I am certain Gus has pucked his successor, and that L will encounter him or her, and bring him home to us. The pain of each one’s loss (Gus and Rufus were my 9th and 10th cats, this life), regardless of type, is indescribable, and deep…and yet, if you are a cat lover, the successor always finds you, and becomes as deeply loved. … as you see…
Thank you for the re-released tears your story brought today. If you ever find yourself in eastern Washington, look up the 18oo House B&B…I am Gillian…L and I are owner-innkeepers. I never went back to the jobs I had when B died…but I did go back to city life. Photo of Augustus Reepicheeks and Woodrow Rufus attached.