Sunday, July 16, 2006

Meowing off into the sunset

Awhile back we had a cat explosion around Diva Ranch. We had 12, then Mama Cita had her kittens, but we never found them and something must've gotten 'em because they've never appeared. And the litter that Cindy Brady had plus the two orphan cats disappeared then reappeared minus one. Then, Mija and Junior wandered off/got eaten/were abducted by aliens. So we were sittin' at 9 cats. And they come in various sizes - small, medium and large.

In the last litter Mija had there were two Siamese lookin' kittens, one much prettier than the other. Abby adopted the pretty, whiter one as hers and named her Joyce. Yes. I said Joyce. Not Fluffy, Buttons, Smokey or Socks, but Joyce. She said that because she was so pretty that just looking at her gave her joy. I know, I know. She's precious. And after all of the trauma that has occured this last week regarding Miss Joyce, I may very well end up with a granddaughter named Joyce someday. She really was attached to that cat.

Get ready. You know what's coming.

Last Sunday I was running late to go pick up Tater's tots and didn't do my usual bang on the van hood and honk the horn thing to run the cats out from underneath.


I did.

I made cat salad out of my daughter's cat.

I turned the van on and it was idling while I put on my seatbelt and put on my sunglasses. Then as I was getting ready to put it in gear I heard Kathump-kaTHUMP. I groaned and my heart sank to my toes. Abby goes, "WHAT was that?!" I just turned the van off and said nothing. Quietly she said, "You don't want to tell me, do you?" I shook my head and opened the door. Sam, being Mr. Diva's son and therefore tactless most of the time, said, "Cool! Mom shredded a cat!" Kady began bawling her head off. Abby remained calm and because she's a natural-born mother hen focused on calming Kady down. Sam was just anxious to see the carnage.

I popped the hood, got out of the van and stood there for a few seconds, taking deep breaths and praying for strength. I felt around for the latch and that's when I started gagging. It wasn't that I had seen anything gross or smelled anything bad, it was the thought of finding Cat Tartar under my hood. I stepped back, took some more deep breaths and again tried to open the hood. And again, I started gagging. I got my cell phone and called my mom to tell her I was going to be late and then called Mr. Neighbor. He laughed, but said he'd come up.

He's a police officer, he's used to things much worse than Kitten a la Transmissione, so he got right down to popping the hood and found one very small, very angry, VERY pissed off kitten sitting on the battery. She was unhurt and was spitting and hissing to beat the band. I felt pretty silly for calling Mr. Neighbor then. She wasn't going to have anything to do with the likes of us humans, so he was trying to poke her with a stick to make her exit my van. Instead of exiting, she went further in. *sigh*

And he poked far enough in that he ran out Joyce. Joyce a la Transmissione.

Her tail and hind leg were pretty nasty looking, but she ran - and fast - and we figured she's just gotten nicked by the fan and would be fine. I honked the horn a few times, no other beasts ran out, Mr. Neighbor headed home and I headed out. And as I put the car back into drive after backing off the carport I watched another small kitten run out from under my van. It was kind of like watching cockroaches run out of a cabinet. (Not that I have extensive first-hand experience with cockroaches. I watch Discovery Channel.)

We kept an eye on Joyce this last week and Abby reported daily that she was doing fine. She limped a little, but was eating. I'm not sure if she was just putting on a brave kitten face and pretending to be okay or if something just went nastily awry as time went on, but yesterday morning Mr. Diva came in the house and said, "We're gonna have to put ol' Joyce down. She's dragging herself with only one front paw." Oh the drama that ensued - wailing, gnashing of teeth, dramatic throwing of bodies across beds, etc. I soothed them best I could and promised we'd have a funeral. Mr. Diva said, "You're going to have a funeral for a cat?" Four heads turned to him and glared. Coldly I said, "You can't honestly tell me that you didn't have funerals for your pets when you were a kid." He said, "Uhh....I can honestly say I never had a funeral for a pet when I was a kid." I was stunned.

Growing up in the country and both of us being mushy, tenderhearted girls, Tater and I never passed up an opportunity have a good funeral for any dearly departed critter we found. And if we were lacking in subjects, we weren't above peeling butterflies from the grill of Mom's car and burying them as well. We put to rest countless butterflies, frogs, caterpillars and worms in that driveway growing up. Possibly a few goldfish. We were very solemn and no service was complete without singing and scripture. So, naturally, it seemed right that we give Joyce the same treatment.

The morning wore on and I did everything I could to keep the kids occupied in the back of the house. I didn't want them to hear the gunshot. When we should've been working on putting the girls' room back together, instead we pulled out their baby photo albums and sat back there looking at them. I heard the gun cabinet open and dug out more baby pictures. And turned on the radio. We laughed, giggled and strolled down Memory Lane while Joyce was strolling right on into Cat Heaven. Finally Mr. Diva came back and solemnly said, "You can have your funeral now. She's gone." Memory Lane was abandoned. The tears began anew. Abby said, "Did you have to shoot her, Daddy?" He said, "Ab, she's dead." In Abby's mind that meant she just passed on without assistance. And we're okay with her believing that.

The kids got their shoes on, I grabbed a handful of Kleenex on my way out the door and we headed to the back yard to put dear Joyce to rest. I was not prepared for what we saw in the backyard. The man who had been cranky since he woke up that morning, had been nothing but snarky and hateful to the kids and I the entire day, and had scoffed at our funeral request had buried that little kitten, mounded the dirt up neatly and had made a little wooden cross and placed it at the head of her grave. I looked at him and immediately forgave him for being a butt.

Kady, ever the drama queen, immediately fell to her knees, threw herself across the grave and proceded to cry with such intensity I was afraid she was going to rupture something. Abby buried her face in my shoulder and sobbed quietly. Even Sam, Junior Tactless, ran to his daddy and cried unashamedly. Mr. Diva and I looked at each other while we held our distraught children and cried, too. Not over the loss of Joyce, but at the loss of a small piece of their innocence, at the grief they were feeling and at the absolute unpleasantness that being a parent something brings.

When the tears started to taper off, Mr. Diva took all the kids to the crepe myrtle growing by the kitchen window and cut them each a branch of flowers to place on the grave. We all said a few words and then headed back into the house to carry on with life. But not before the kids stopped to pet Mama Cita's hugely pregnant belly and vow that her kittens would be named Joyce 1, Joyce 2, Joyce 3.....


Anonymous said...

When Itty Bitty Pretty Kitty died a few years ago, we didn't have time to give him a proper burial. My sweet Hubby wrapped him in his favorite blanket, put him in a plastic bag, and put him in the freezer of the old refrigerator in our garage. This was June. He finally got around to burying him sometime in October but not before the story got out. I wonder who could have "let the cat out of the bag". Moi? Anyway, a couple of years later my niece got married in our outback and yes she said her vows right over Itty Bitty's grave. We didn't mention it until later. We had lots of people there and didn't want to get the kids worked up. Maybe its a girl thing but I remember burying things just for the funeral and the songs too.

Cap'n's Mom

Melessa Gregg said...

We had some good animal funeral in town too. I teared up reading this feeling sad for Abby. I am thinking she's around the same age as my oldest DD and, from what you've described, very similar in personality and I know how hard she would take a similar loss here.
I hope she does wind up with a Joyce 2 or 3.

Stacie said...

Poor It Bit Prit Kit, stuck in the freezer like some hacked off limb in a serial killer's home.
Diva, I'm so sorry about Joyce (love the name, btw). When my Dottie died, I couldn't even stay long enough for her complete funeral. No words, songs, or scriptures. Just lots of tears. Even Mike cried.
Now I think I need to go russle me up some Kleenex.

Jennifer said...

Poor Abby! When I told dh what happened in hush tones and what I thought was code, dd piped up in the back seat - OH NO NOT JOYCE!!! She cried too and said prayers... I know Wendy has more kittens if you want another?

Shannon said...

OOOWW sorry about the kitty! I know where you can get more. :)

It is hard for kids to lose a pet. We lost our Basset Hound puppy that we only had for about 3 mos. (a couple of years ago)..It is very hard.

Cazzie!!! said...

Awwww, well, all the Joyces in the World hey....I had all pets imaginable as a kid, living on a farmlett and all that. We had an aviary with rabbits, guniea pigs and quails at the bottom of it,...then finches, canarys and sometimes a budgie or two. We had a Bell Bird, kinda Rosella or something that my sister let go. We had ducks, until they shat on the back verandah and mum got dad to take them to my nan's place up the bush. We had a lamb, she played soccer with me and my dog...until she got feisty and head butted everyone and mum sent her to nan's again....roast lamb, yumm!!
I had me a horse, named Mabel, but that was the worst thing ever when she was put down...I reacted like your daughter did with the cat..but, at least her cat got a funeral, my horse was taken away :( Now I know where she would have ended up :(

Shannon said...

Oh, and forgot to say we have funerals for all of our pets. One of the backyards of my parents many houses has a dog (Ginger, that we had for like 16 yrs), my rabbit Snoopy, and grandma's bird buried in it.
We had funerals for our Basset and Alyssa's golden retriever.
We have goldfish buried all over, and my brother's chinchilla is buried out behind his house he used to live in.

Hillbilly Mom said...

We had a kitten, Gizmo, who died after he fell into the green Hillbilly Fish Pond water. I think he must have gotten a deadly bacterial infection or something. son was 9, and reached into Gizmo's little box in the garage to pet him one morning. He said, "Mom, I think you need to look at him." Gizmo was deader than a doornail. He was still warm, but his eyes had that glassy dead look. The boy tried not to cry all the way to school. When we got home, he said, "Mom, go see if he's still in the box." Yep. Exactly the same, only not warm. HH had to bury him. The boy wouldn't watch. He said, "Please wrap him in his blanket, Dad. I don't want him to have dirt in his fur." HH did the deed, and the boy went out alone to "say a few words."

One of the teachers at school said, "I had to bury our kitten 5 TIMES because the damn dog kept digging it up." Thank the Gummi Mary we didn't have that problem!

MamaKBear said...

Capn's Mom, don't feel bad...the cat I literally grew up with (from age 1 to 17) died in the winter while the ground was frozen solid, so we couldn't bury her right Daddy wrapped her up in a plastic bag and she stayed in the freezer 'til the ground thawed enough to give her a proper burial.

Diva, my condolences to the kiddos on their loss of dear Joyce! Poor kitty...

Carmel said...

My mom wasn't keen on pets, so we only had one when we were growing up, and fortunately he didn't go to doggie heaven until I was much older. But we've had the requisite pet funerals for our children's pets. It's tough. Mr. Diva's a real softy inside.

GERBEN said...

I am so sorry for the loss of Joyce. I grew up with animals and I know how hard it can be to learn the lesson of life and death. I thought I was going to cry though when you said that Mr. Diva had already buried Joyce and gave her a little wooden cross and all. What a great guy.

Redneck Diva said...

Cap'n N's Mom, when I told Mom and Tater your frozen cat story last night they both stopped chewing their food. Finally Mom said that really, you were about the only person she knew of that could get away with something like that and make it hilarious.

Oh and when I started telling the story Tater said, "Yes! I remember her talking about It Bit Prit Kit!" That cat was a legend.

Melessa, boy girls at this age take everything to heart, don't they?

Oh yeah...we now have Joyces 1 through 6. Yay.

Stacie, crying over poor little Joyce brought back memories of our beloved Belle and Paul and I had a little moment of silence for her as well. Man, we loved that dog.

Abby told me yesterday, "Ya know, Mom...I was sad when Joyce died, but if anything ever happens to's gonna be really bad." Boy howdy, she ain't kiddin'. We are so attached to him....I can't stand to think about it.

Jen, NO.

Shannon, I know where to get some more, too. Our barn. Joyces 1 through 6 reside there now. Yay.

Cazzie!!!, wow, you were a regular Junior Doolittle when you were a kid! At one point growing up we had 23 cats. We're at half that now and if ever get even close to that, Mr. Diva will divorce me, I'm pretty sure.

Hillbilly Mom, ohhhhhhhhpoor baby! It's so hard for them to deal with a loss like that. How precious that he didn't want him to have dirt in his fur. I could just cry.

Yeah, well, kind of fortunately, Jake (or whoever the grave robber was) took the cat, the plastic bag and ran for the hills. We haven't found any evidence of her. I'm so thankful for that.

MamaKBear, this was our first "real" burial. Usually they just "disappear" or "run off" and in truth, Mr. Diva just throws 'em out in the back acre. Ah, country life. I'm glad she died in July and not January - I don't have any extra freezer space!

Cissy, my Mr. Diva likes to be all tough, but when it comes to his kids he's a bit mushy. I like that about him.

Real Kidd, he really is a great guy. I am blessed. Well, when I'm not wanting to strangle him I'm blessed... :)

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...