Whatever Words I Say

It has taken me weeks to be able to say this: we lost Drusy. This is the last picture I took of her. I’d made an appointment to take her to the vet, and had the presence of mind to realize I didn’t want to forget even this moment, in which she appeared disappointed I hadn’t filled her water bowl in some singular way.

Over the summer and even on the hottest days, Drusy responded to my being home all the time by occupying my lap whenever I sat down. It became a problem while I was working because typing around a cat, no matter how tiny, is still difficult. And Drusy was tiny. Pete and I laughed all along about the special gravity exerted by this giant personality as finding ourselves “trapped under the 6 lb. cat.” In the last year, she was closer to 5 lbs., and toward the end, barely that. The day I took her to the vet in September, he called me with shock in his voice, saying she’d lost almost 5 lbs. I knew she was very thin, because the day before, she lay on my chest and there was very little pressure against my ribs. He laid out a grim scenario: she had a mass on her intestine. There were few options: surgery or putting her to sleep. I wanted him to try to save her, so he did the surgery. She was with him a few days post-surgery. On Saturday afternoon, September 12th, I felt suddenly hot, then cold, and I knew it was over. Saturday evening, the vet called to say Drusy had died.

It was too painful to contemplate never seeing her again. Because of COVID, I hadn’t been able to visit her in the hospital, to hold and comfort her, to assure her I hadn’t given her away. The pain of this even now stings, but for the days she was in the hospital, I felt like I’d grabbed a live wire and couldn’t think clearly. Instinct took over. When the vet told me she’d died, I told him we would collect her body the next morning, which we did. Very early Sunday morning, Pete and I dug a hole. I’m sure the neighbors are still talking about it. When we got home, I took her body out of the cat carrier and held her in my arms, wrapped in a towel. Her fur was soft; her body limp. It’s irrational, but I had to do this to know she was gone. I placed her carefully in the hole. As the vet suggested, we drenched another towel in ammonia to prevent predation, and covered her body with soil, a ceramic marker and, later, a perennial aster in a planter. This is just the end of one story. Every day, I make a reason to walk past that spot and murmur, “I love you, Drusy. Love you, love you.”

Mama, tell me more about my eyes.

For all of her life, these things were true: Drusy was the Queen of Our House, demander of adoration, graceful recipient of it. While the other cats scattered, Drusy greeted every visitor with a cautious sniff, offering the chance to admire her properly. I would say, “Cats, your friend _____ is coming over,” and only Drusy believed me.

Drusy was utterly quirky. She loved crunchy paper, so Christmas was somewhat about the gifts but a lot about Drusy savoring the noise and sensation of walking slowly, over and over, across a floor littered with wrapping paper. When she was young and we still kept the bedroom door open all the time, we would come to bed and find Drusy had left us the gift of a tiny finger puppet. We called her “DrusyClaus.” She did this for years. She would do little backflips. None of the other cats ever did backflips. And she would do them only in this one spot where I could see her do it. During the summers, she would lie in a doorway on her back with her paws in the air. Only one of the other cats every did this, and I think that cat learned from Drusy that our hearts melted each time we saw that.

Most black cats, like Topaz, are a mix of brown and black. For most of her life, Drusy had black fur and jewel-like green eyes. I am not enough of a photographer to convey her true beauty, which has always been a trial for me. She also did quirky things I would never have been able to photograph. After our first housemate moved out, Pete prepped and painted the bedroom. While the door was open, Drusy would sit in the middle of the room and sing. She liked the sound of her voice echoing through the room. When the room was rented, Drusy didn’t give up on her singing career. She would sit at the top of the stairs, sing like a tween with karaoke stars in her eyes, then race down the stairs to ask us if we’d heard her sing. Did we? Did we? We did! We did!

I want to remember everything about her. Drusy and Topaz came to me at a time when my heart was battered and exhausted, and Drusy in particular helped me put myself back together. She demanded up close and personally that I love her. For example:

This is the first picture of Drusy, April 14, 2007.

In the beginning, before Topaz and Drusy had names, I called them Thing 1 and Thing 2. Drusy, who was always front and center, was of course Thing 1:

Thing 1 is affectionate and loves me openly. She walks around my head while I’m writing, settling across my chest, where we sit nose to nose and she turns into the sweetest, purringest Princess Kissyface and my icy heart melts and she lies against me like a tiny five-pound baby and I have to muh-muh-muh kiss her nose and forehead and because I hate cute I could just KILL MYSELF. I feel pretty confident that Thing 1 would be okay going to the vet’s office with me, and if she were frightened, she could sit on my chest and we could have a talk about boys in her French class.

Four month old Drusy, a heartbreaker from the beginning.

Here in the present tense, I’ve seen her twice since she left us, both on the same day. I didn’t think I saw a black cat. I saw Drusy. She was so much tinier than most cats there was no mistaking Drusy for anyone else. She ran into rooms like a ballerina runs on toe shoes, only to survey the room. She would climb onto Pete’s and my chests when we were sitting on the couch and gaze into our eyes. Drusy demanded and received undivided attention, her arms around our necks. She did such odd and unusual things from the beginning that both Pete and I asked her, in sometimes awestruck tones, “Who are you really?”

When Pete and I drove to the vet’s office to pick up Drusy’s body, it was a test of our courage. Neither of us was ready for that. Drusy was a once in a lifetime cat for both of us. Even so: there were important things to remember. The vet was in tears when he delivered the cat carrier containing her body to our car. We were crying, too, but that’s not the end of the story. I said, “Years ago, you told me Drusy might have a heart condition and we might only have a short time with her. I guessed we might have three to five years with her. Everything after that was bonus time. We had thirteen good years together.”

He said, “I have never been so happy to be wrong.”

I will always love you. Go in peace.