falling snow

TC's Journey

This is the story of TC's journey, our attic dwelling feline of 19 1/2 years. "The blackest cat in all the land," we called her. TC, "Tree Climber, Tree Cat" was stranded high up in our cedar tree on a hot July day in 1995 until my husband coaxed her down by lacing the branches with deli turkey. She was a wild black kitten, approximately six weeks of age, and I spent the summer and fall evenings sitting nightly on the patio, convincing her that if she dared to trust, I would take care of her in any way she needed. I promised. Once she became ill, a friend relabeled her initials to "Tenacious Cat." It fit her well. Determined. Persistent. Strong spirited. That she was. 

This is a journal of TC's journey through liver disease and eventually kidney disease. I first began "Abbey's Attic" as a place to share card designs and the Attic Treasures; bits and pieces of our everyday we wish to remember. As TC's daily care needs became greater, design work was set aside to spend precious time, to impart the most quality possible into her days. Abbey's Attic became a journal to record the Attic Treasures of time spent with our girl. But it is more than that. It is a celebration of days, the small moments that comprise a life. We celebrated the little things; holidays, every days, a nuzzle, a paw on the back of my leg. Eventually, we celebrated days of awareness and times of strength; clean food bowls and good veterinary check ups. Together, we journeyed a road of gratitude; to be grateful for the blessings in our midst. We didn't celebrate because we believed she was improving, for we knew the reality and finality of her condition. We celebrated because it was the appropriate thing to do. To be grateful for what was. Her small, quiet presence invoked a new way of being in the day to day; the busyness, the shoulds, the musts, the obligations and commitments were all put away for some other day. I struggled at first, unable to let go of trying to do it all. As I became more aware of all the moments for gratitude, the moments became more frequent. 

We were tremendously blessed along this journey by companions who accompanied us. We could not have traveled this way alone. We were blessed by exceptional veterinary care that treated TC whenever the need arose. Gentle handling, warmed blankets, patient administration of subcutaneous fluids (when the wiggles arose), in all ways treated as though she was their own beloved pet. There were friends along the way, too. Those who sent cards, called or emailed to check on us, sometimes daily when illnesses arose. And there was our friend who came nightly for several months to help with the fluids once we began administering them at home. She blessed us with her caring, surprise meals, and love for one small black cat.

TC's journey is one I began knowing I would do everything possible to insure her life was filled with quality. It is a journey where today I can truly say I have no regrets. It is what this life is about, isn't it? We companioned together, she and I. And now, I invite you, dear readers, to share the journey with us.

Blessed be your heart, dear TC,

Sally (Spirit and Abbey, too)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I'm Rockin!

I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago. 

You know the kind. 

A happy spot in the inbox, one that garners an instant smile and makes your heart glad just knowing you are thought about and loved. I clicked on it instantly, bypassing all the others, and began to read, still with that silly grin all over my face.

You know the one. 

It was a just checking in, thought of you, catching up kind of email. I had been rather quiet of late...

As I began to reply and write the happenings at Dogwood Manor, Ruth Hulbert Hamilton's verse came to mind:

"The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."

I suppose "kitten" could adequately replace "baby" in this verse since there aren't any little ones around here. Time has once again come to remind me quite harshly of its precious gift. As some of you know, TC, the attic dwelling feline of 18 tender years, was diagnosed with liver failure on September 5, 2012 and her condition was pronounced "guarded." I appreciate so much the phone calls and emails I've received inquiring about her as well as the support each of you has provided. My heart is full to bursting knowing she is cared about and loved. It has been quite the journey up hill and down for the last nine months with numerous vet visits and worried phone calls, fluid treatments, nutritional supplements, injections, and prescription food. She's experienced a critical allergic reaction to tuna (not fair!) and an episode of a viral infection, both causing dehydration and a temporary rapid health decline. There have been sleepless nights spent with her on the floor and days carrying her blanket wrapped around the backyard for stimulation to her senses. 

There have been good times too, and celebrations of the days that were once taken for granted. In those early days of diagnosis, I feared she would not see another Halloween (her day to shine since she is "the blackest cat in all the land!"), only eight weeks away. But with caring, dedicated, and kind veterinary care and compassionate technicians, she's shown great improvement over her once guarded condition and is in a steady place for now. There have been some setbacks, but we continued to celebrate: a birthday, Thanksgiving (amazing how everyday gratefulness turns into grandeur gratitude!), and Christmas; the welcoming of a New Year; the celebration of love on Valentine's Day; and a gloriously beautiful Easter Sunday when she was able to enjoy a bit of an outing in the backyard. Spring has been slow to arrive but we have found many warm afternoons for a garden stroll in the sunshine. And of course, the every day; the small celebrations of her pawing my leg or nuzzling my face. Awakening in the early morning to find her nestled on my pillow along side of me. Seeing her proudly planted in the middle of the dining room table where she knows she isn't supposed to be! Ah, there was a time not so long ago when I would have scolded, insisted she return to the floor where she knew she belonged. But those days are yesterdays; I celebrate her strength in jumping and let her stay where she most wants to be. After a while, I scoop her in my arms for a bit of snuggling and a gentler return to the floor. The table can be cleaned, as I remember too well the September days spent entirely in her bed, too weak for any wandering or jumping at all.

And now we wait. A celebration of Summer in our near future. But we dare not hurry past the ordinary days - the ones of companionship and feeling well. The times I watch her sleep and hear the slight snore that has come with age. I watch her watch me as I carry her to the different windows to see the birds at the feeders we installed to provide stimulation over the Winter season when she couldn't be outside. I notice also she has lost her cat attitude - she truly misses me when I am gone for a few hours and presents her insistent, clingy little self upon my return, to be held and caressed. Reassured that someone loves and cares for her. And that I do, as I promised her I would in those seemingly yesterday, younger days when she first appeared as a wild, helpless kitten stranded high up in our cedar tree. Dh coaxed her down by placing the two-story ladder alongside the tree and lacing its branches with deli turkey, a delicacy even a tiny, frightened kitten found hard to resist. I would always take care of her in whatever way she needed. I promised.

We honor each day the best we can. My heart tells me these days are numbered. TC's condition can go from good to critical in only hours. It isn't that I celebrate because I believe she is getting better, for I know the reality and finality of liver disease. I celebrate because it is the only appropriate thing to do; to be gracious for what is; grateful for another day of feeling well; grateful for another day with our girl.

So, dear friends, if there aren't any comments on the flickr stream or your blog posts, or any card creations here in the Attic for a while, please know you are thought about and missed. Know too that I'm doing what I love, and lovin' what I'm doin':

I'm rockin'!

My kitten. 

'Cause kittens don't keep...

Cuddle your dear ones and your furry ones close this night. Precious time. Celebrate all of the blessed ordinary in each every day.

With gratitude,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This Summer's Today

I am so grateful for each of you who has commented, called, or emailed regarding my last post, "I'm Rockin'!" Your caring comments have warmed my heart and I am deeply touched you have chosen to share your love, concerns and experiences with your own furry companions. My heart grieves for you who have said "good-bye" to beloved friends and we journey together, you who are in the same place and time as I am with TC. Your tender words remind me we are never alone, those of us who choose to share our lives with these gentle creatures. The days rush hurriedly by, and they are all too few for those we love and who love us in return. There are never enough days, never enough time. We are connected to each other through our love for the animals, just as we are connected to our companions. Thank you dear friends for the blessing you are!

It's been rather quiet here in the Attic for the last few weeks. There have been many to-do's that have remained undone, and I have tried my best to maintain quiet in the household. TC experienced a setback through a bacterial infection the beginning of June. She was recovering when I wrote my last post on the 12th, but by June 14th she was critical again with the infection's return. After two 24-hour antibiotics and two 10-day antibiotic injections, daily fluid IV treatments for two weeks accompanied by the uphill and down of good days and bad, she is recovering once again. Her weight has declined the last couple of weeks, so we are doing our best to increase her food intake; just last week an appetite stimulant was added to her regime. She is receiving fluid IV's two to three times per week now and is beginning to regain her strength. The days are spent closely monitoring her progress; the girls and I head outside at dusk for a bit of fresh air and night time coolness; and we continue our rockin' whenever requested!

This has been a different kind of Summer here at Dogwood Manor. Because it has had to be, and because I have chosen for it to be. This Summer is about today and not about the to-do's. There are many which have remained undone, some inside, but mostly outside. It is the first and only Summer when there have been no flowers in the planter boxes or containers. The shade flower bed was tended in the cool, early days of April, but has gone untouched since then. Sadly, the sun bed has been neglected since last Fall and there are no annual pots of color gracing the green of the already bloomed perennials. Statuary, stepping stones, solar lights and other garden decors sit on their shelves in the shed, awaiting next Summer's light. There are no flowers to be seen when we gaze through the Attic window; the table and chairs are absent from their place on the deck. (Truth be told, we are in the process of staining the deck between predicted rain showers that haven't happened and pop up showers that changed weekend plans for long painting sessions. It is the primary to-do in need of completion this Summer.)

Even the front porch is missing its welcoming array of Summer colors this year. The barren containers await next Spring's blooms...

I struggle so with the undones. Always have. I keep an ongoing list of things to be completed; there is a real sense of accomplishment in checking off the finished tasks. The list has been put away for another day; instead of motivating, it became overwhelming, just thinking about all the remaining projects. And I feel better not hearing its incessant daily call, instead tending to life in the moment. The realist in me tells me to let go of some things for now while the perfectionist continues to demand it all, everything done and everyone cared for. Ms. Realist has asserted herself in this Summer season; I welcome her wisdom and I listen. Ms. Perfectionist is slowly taking her rightful back seat and becoming less obtrusive, learning this is not her time. A difficult lesson, to be certain! Occasionally, and still all too often, her insistent, piercing whine is heard. Ms. Realist politely lets her have her say and then kindly tells her to sit down and be quiet - her season too shall come!

There are weeds to be pulled

and bushes to trim,

scruffy stragglers to spray

and Winter's leaves to be raked.

Inside, there is clutter to clear

and tiny nose prints


and paw prints to clean (is this cat speak for "clean me?").

I remind myself this year's season of Summer is about today. Through all of the to-do's and undones, I look around and behold the beauty of it all. 

These faithful perennial friends who appear year after year with little or no tending from me.

The stargazer lilies who scent the garden with their sweet, sweet fragrance.

This ever-growing clump of shasta daisies which began with a single plant in a quart size pot, planted many years ago.

The purple coneflower who spring up wherever to surprise and delight.

And the white phlox, their scented heads nodding in the twilight, casting a soft glow in the night for enjoyment from my darkened windows above.

These hope-filled morning clouds of much needed sustaining rain (that never materialized)

and a surprisingly glorious sunset in June after a full day of nurturing, cleansing rain.

A summer filled with today and gratitude for the life that is today. 

Like this face...

and this one . . . 

and this one . . . 

Yes, it is a different Summer, this one, an awakening, quieter Summer; one that bears its own gifts, treasured for today, and certain to be treasured tomorrow.

"The cleaning and scrubbing can wait . . ." Ms. Realist reminds.

"How long? Just how long can it wait?" Ms. Perfectionist whines.

"'Til tomorrow. The cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow. Whenever tomorrow comes. . . Whenever." In her wisdom and in her knowing, Ms. Realist gently replies.

Blessed be your today. Put away the undones if you dare. There are far too many to-do's for today anyhow. And join me in whispering a prayer of gratitude for all that is, the life that is. And maybe, even say a blessing over those to-do's who await their time in their own season.

Blessed be,

eta: Yes, dear readers, in the time this post began toward the end of June and its posting now, some to-do's have been completed. Paw prints and nose prints have been cleaned; bits of clutter have been cleared; and bushes have been trimmed (thanks to dh and an unusually cool, breezy summer evening!). Ms. Perfectionist has hushed her whining, and even Ms. Realist has breathed a quiet sigh of contentment. . .

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One Year Ago Today

September 5, 2012. A year ago today, our predictable (as predictable as life ever is) daily routine changed. We began a journey of uncertainty, facing the unknowns. Along the way we found hope and discovered depths of celebration and gratitude we hadn't felt before. Dear friends and new friends have companioned us on our journey; we've shared stories filled with laughter over the antics of furry ones; and we've shed tears from fears and losses.

Often times this day seems only yesterday and other times, many years ago. The day's memory is still so fresh in my mind as we have lived its consequences this last year. I hear Dr. S's words and feel the heaviness of heart they brought. We now had a reason why TC was hungry all the time, eating so much, and yet losing more weight upon each veterinary visit. Blood tests confirmed it and we had a name for it.  Liver failure. Those words screamed the invevitable in my mind, but Dr. S. had a calm presence and reassuring words. He had a plan and we acted quickly. Nights were spent researching liver function, liver disease and courses of treatment; learning as much as possible to give our girl a life of quality.

Today I am pleased to report TC is doing well. She has had a long Summer struggle since June with a viral infection that refused to let go. Several antibiotic shots and rounds of daily subcutaneous fluids some weeks have helped her through the rough days. She was diagnosed with 25% or less kidney function in August as well as anemia. She is now receiving four supplements to help her liver and kidneys and to calm her stomach from the residual toxins. This new regime is keeping her strong and her appetite good. Just last night she climbed to the back of the recliner (a feat performed in younger days) with me beside her, and last week when I returned from errands I found her proudly planted on the dining room chair! I am hoping now with Indian Summer days approaching, the stability she has enjoyed the last three weeks will continue. We will be outside more and Autumn's sights, smells, and sounds will keep her stimulated before the Winter cold forces us inside once again.

It has been a year filled with emotional highs and lows; days of rocking and nights sleeping on the floor beside her; days of activity catching up on the must-do's when she is feeling well and nights spent just enjoying her presence. It has been one of the most celebratory journeys as we have gained even more appreciation for the blessed ordinary in our everyday and found gratitude for small blessings always in our midst. 

July marked eighteen years since she chose us for her family; she, a wild, tiny three to four month old black kitten stuck high up in our cedar tree, chose us. July through October that Summer found me on the patio every evening, talking, coaxing, gaining her trust until one day she walked across my lap. "The kitten," we called her. By October, dh (darling husband) said we needed to find her a home since it would be cold soon. "Uh-huh," I replied. "I'll make up fliers and take them to the vet's offices." Dh is always ready for a computer project! "OK," I replied. My lack of enthusiasm for his great idea and motivation was quite clear. What I was thinking, but didn't say was, "Ok. Knock yourself out. I have been outside every night this Summer with the kitten. That cat has a home. She's coming inside when it gets cold!" Not so surprising, no one called in response to the fliers. TC was named for the tree climbing, squirrel's nest dwelling cat she was. Yes, she spent her nights in an abandoned squirrel's nest high up in the front yard pin oak tree. Late October that year found her quickly adjusting to indoor life with Chelsea and Benji, the canines, and the rest of the story is 18 years filled with the unconditional love, antics, and joy her furry companionship has brought to her chosen family! I hope she has been pleased with her choice. I hope in her own way she knows how very loved she is. I hope she knows how grateful we are she chose us. . . 

TC Today

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Halloween!

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author Unknown
T.C. Black Cat. 
Blackest cat in all the land.

Halloween has always been our girl's day to shine! And so we celebrate.

Our annual Halloween photo was taken inside this year - too gray, rainy and cold to be outside today. We may not have a Halloween photo every year, but there is an October photo for each year we've had T.C.

Wishing you all pockets filled with candy and sweetness to light your way! Thanks for popping into the attic this night!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

'Tis the Season!

Just sharing a photo session from Christmas, 2007 - love these girls (even though they question my definition of "love!")

Wishing you the joys of the season in these final days leading up to Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you 

a holy, blessed Christmas

 filled with the hope



and love

born on that first Christmas so long ago. 
May your spirits be filled with wonder and your hearts be filled with joy.

May it be so, Dear One, may it be so.

I am so grateful for your visits to the attic this year; 
each of you truly is a blessing.

Merry Christmas dear friends!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Catching Up

Goodness, where has the time gone? We were snuggled into the midst of Winter gazing out the attic window at barren trees and snow for my last post, and now we are well into the greening of Spring, late blossoms in full bloom. I have had several ideas for blog posts jostling around inside and many, many photos on the camera awaiting their turn on the blog. Time has escaped me once again and I am playing catch up. Instead of skipping over the posts I've written in my head like I have done in the past, I thought a series called, "Catching Up" might be in order. This way, when I write of snowy days or Easter in August (hopefully it won't be that long!) it won't seem as though I have completely taken leave of my senses! 

One of the reasons I began this blog, in addition to sharing card designs, was to document the everyday, the twinklings which make us who we are. Attic Treasures, so to speak. Words. Photographs. Those pieces of memory we fold and wrap in tissue, tie with a satin bow, and tuck neatly away in the antique attic chest. Bits and pieces of everyday gratitude, experiences, keepsakes. Moments we think we'll remember, but all too soon we forget. We don't mean to let them slip away, but they do. Until one day. A rainy day. A snowy day. A nostalgic day. We wander into the attic seeking our cherished friends, our treasured memories. We move a few boxes of this and that, wipe away some dust, and notice a line of paw prints from one edge of the chest to the other. TC, Spirit, or Abbey have been exploring on their own. We open the lid and before us lie the treasures of our lives. A spotted feather. A rock from Lake Superior. A crocheted cross. The tattered and very worn childhood quilt. And the cards, oh my, the cards! Firsts. And lasts. A veritable treasure trove of cherished times, recalled memories. The little big things. Without the attic, how can we recall these memories? Abbey and I invite you to share with us in our space, Abbey's Attic, the shelter, the holding place where our day to day experiences rest and dwell to one day be cherished again.

Attic Treasures - TC's Journey (Part One of Two)

And so, let's begin. This is a terribly long post, and if you haven't time or desire to read it, I do understand. My wish is to document our black cat's journey as I have written in previous posts. And in case anyone is wondering, our girl hasn't been neglected during this lengthy journal entry; much of it has been composed while holding her nestled in one arm, rocking her, patting her, while typing with the other hand.

I have been remiss in not updating more frequently with TC's progress and I do apologize. I have shared phone calls with some and updated others via email and I thank you from the depths of my heart for caring as deeply as you do and checking on her. TC is currently well, spending her days in the sunshine or making certain she stays near me. It has been quite the journey uphill and down since her Halloween photo was shared. Has it really been seven months already?

Friday, October 25, 2013 is another of those days etched in my memory. TC stopped drinking from her water bowl in Autumn, 2012 shortly after she was diagnosed with liver failure. There were days she obsessed about the water bowl, but was unable to drink. Eventually she stopped going to it completely. She began subcutaneous fluids a few times per week upon the initial diagnosis. So I did think it odd when on Sunday that week she began going to the bowl once again. This time, however, was different; she was pushing her entire face into the bowl, soaking herself numerous times per day. Over the course of the week, the frequency became less, but I started noticing other signs she wasn't feeling well. History reminded me her condition could go from good to critical in only hours.

I made an appointment with Dr. S. for Friday afternoon. That morning found her unable to eat, barely able to walk, stumbling into the walls, and becoming stuck in familiar places. By the time we arrived at the vet's office she was no longer able to stand, her back legs turning under at the first joint. There were other neurological abnormalities as well. She was cold to the touch, her body temperature quite low at 98.5. (Normal temperature for cats is 100 - 102.) Dr. S did not like what he was seeing and neither did I. Blood was painstakingly drawn from her frail back leg and then we waited. She was wrapped in a heated blanket and I held her, rocked her, wanting to heal her, to keep her in my arms forever. Dr. S returned to the room, sat beside me, and explained the findings. TC's kidneys were not filtering out sodium and chloride, the very components of the subcutaneous fluids she was currently receiving three times per week. Her sodium level was so high the lab report could not register a number and was indicated simply by ">." The chloride level registered a dangerously high number as well. In essence, her body had become toxic from the very fluid that was sustaining her. The course of treatment was an IV to bring the levels down. She would need to be hospitalized overnight. My primary concern was that she would not survive the stress and confusion from being alone in an unfamiliar environment. Dr. S consulted with a specialist who recommended an alternative treatment that didn't involve an overnight stay. The success rate was 50%; I knew we had to try. Her front leg was shaved and the IV was inserted; I sat holding her in the operating area for two hours until the office closed. She received a special mix of subcutaneous fluids before we returned home for the evening.

That evening was spent caretaking and preparing for what I was told could be a lengthy illness. The sodium and chloride levels had to be brought down very slowly over several days. I prepared beds for us in the living room. She had recently been taking refuge in a pop up laundry basket tipped on its side. Abbey's toy became TC's bed for a few days. I layered a memory foam rug, the heating pad, and her fleece blanket on top. More blankets were added around her to keep her warm. I made a pallet for me with two more memory foam rugs and removed our faithful blue blanket from its shelf in the linen closet. This blanket has seen us through many illnesses, movies and even a picnic or two since its purchase the first Winter of our marriage. Quite an investment in those early days for a young couple beginning life together, but a worthwhile one for certain to have this source of comfort so many years later. Once again, it offered nurture, warmth, assurance through yet another illness.

We returned to the vet's office by 7:30 the next morning for an additional 4.5 hour IV during which I swaddled her, rocked her, assured her, possibly more for me than for her. She received another round of subcutaneous fluids, followed by another blood test. The chloride level had improved a small amount which also meant that even though the sodium level still didn't register a number, it was improving as well. By 12:30 pm we were home and on our own until Monday when the vet's office would reopen. There is something reassuring about knowing a doctor's office is open, isn't there?

And so our routine began. I gave her warmed food and water with a syringe as often as she would take it. She wanted the food, but was only able to "smoosh" her face in the bowl, a very technological term I learned at the vet's. As day followed day, sometimes she ate on her own; other times she needed to be fed. She needed help in and out of the litter box for several days. She was held and rocked either in the rocker or while walking to encourage her to sleep.

The wee hours of Sunday morning found us having, "the talk." You know the one. I had drifted off to sleep and awoke to find her eyes glazed, her body limp and not moving. She had wet her bed and as I cleaned her, she remained motionless. Between 4:15 and 5:20 am she went from a motionless state to walking approximately 20 feet on her own. It was a good sign, or so I thought. She was unable to settle herself, walking, wandering aimlessly the rest of the day, through the entire night and into the mid-morning hours on Monday when sleep finally gave her respite for most of the day and evening.  

Tuesday found her very weak, sleeping very soundly and difficult to awaken. We had been to the vet for fluids around noon this day, but by 5:40 pm, I found her temperature had dropped again. I spoke with Dr. H and we decided she should be seen. Their office closed at 6:00 pm, but he and a technician stayed so she could be evaluated. This veterinary group has been amazing in their display of compassion, care, and gentleness in all of the ways they have handled TC and responded to her care. They have treated her as their own beloved pet and for that I will always be grateful. Another blood test was run and more fluids were administered. We would have to wait until morning for the results.

Dr. S called at 7:30 Wednesday morning with the test results. They were good and bad. The sodium level was almost normal; the chlorine was not dangerously high. But the kidney values were higher which meant they were working less efficiently than they were on Friday. Dr. S and I spoke at length regarding all the things we think about when time is of the essence. Essentially, we also had, "the talk." He advised to wait and see how the day went since she was developing a somewhat cyclical pattern; critical mornings and improved afternoons. She had an OK morning, but then became weaker by noon. I spoke with Dr. S again at 12:30 pm and he recommended daily fluids the rest of the week. He examined her when she received fluids at 3:00 pm and she seemed to be better by then.

Halloween, the day of fright, dawned dreary cold and rainy outside and equally as dismal inside. It was our girl's day to shine, the day made just for her, and yet we awoke to another morning of TC being critical, weak and stumbling, her eyes vacant, unseeing. Another conversation with Dr. S and again a discussion about what to do. His advice was the same as yesterday. And so I waited. I called dh to let him know her status, and together we decided against any action this day if it could be avoided. I had spent a lot of time thinking about "when the time came" and having conversations with TC. But not today. It could not be this day. Be scared. Be very scared. It was a morning and early afternoon filled with the fright even the darkest dark could not invoke. She was difficult to awaken at 1:00 in the afternoon from our pallet in the living room, but by 1:25 pm she came in the kitchen as she heard her food being prepared. She ate her chicken baby food on her own and by 1:40 pm I felt confident she could handle a very short photo shoot - the annual Halloween photo. I set up the scene, placed her in a basket, a couple of quick photos and it was complete. It had to be indoors this year due to the rain, but a good photo, considering her condition only hours earlier.

By late afternoon the rain and gloom that began our girl's day gave way to the warmth of sunshine and a beautiful Indian Summer treat. TC felt better after receiving fluids; doubly blanket-wrapped, we were able to head outside to enjoy a bit of her Halloween day.

Sometime during the week, TC decided she preferred sleeping next to me at night instead of in her laundry hamper. I moved a fleece pillow cat bed next to my pallet on the floor, and every night we began with her on her bed on top of the heating pad and covered with her blanket. Within a few minutes, she would wiggle and crawl over next to me, nestled in one arm, enfolded with the other. We rested this way for 17 nights, she and I. She slept the slumber known only to children and animals; restorative, healing, peacefully sound and deep sleep. I cat napped as she lay beside me. Adjusting covers, stroking, repositioning myself ever so slightly, remembering, keeping watch. Always keeping watch. I inhaled the sweet smell of her fur, how it absorbed the scent of my hand lotion or the Downy from her freshly washed blanket. I listened to her sleeping sounds, the contented ones, the troubled ones. I felt her warmth, her breath, under my chin and against my neck. I noticed the occasional tremor of a curled leg tucked tightly against me. I felt her tuck her front leg inside the neckline of whatever I was wearing, her position of choice since kittenhood. And I longed, no, I ached, to remember these moments, cradling them safely inside as securely as she nestled beside me.

I left her only twice during those 17 days, both times for a trip to the market; more deli turkey and baby food for her, more Diet Pepsi and bakery M&M cookies for me. Yes, it was a deliciously distressful fear-induced junk food binge as though the excessive calories I consumed might somehow benefit her. When she ate, I ate; when she didn't eat, I still ate!

Our days continued on in this way. Ups and downs. Victories, disappointments. Bad days and better days. Saturday, a week since her IV, found her sleeping a lot and difficult to awaken. She had spent the morning laying in the sun streaming through the front door and after our return from the vet for fluids, I decided to take her outside to experience yet another unusually warm Indian Summer afternoon. I sat on the driveway cradling her, my back against the black car, absorbing the warmth its shelter provided. TC slept in my lap for over two hours, her black fur also absorbing the sun's warmth in much the same way. She never awakened, but surely I think the sun's nurture must have been a welcome source of healing. Any activity to bring comfort was certainly worth a try.

As the leaves began to turn and Autumnal glory arrived outside, slowly, bit by bit, our days inside began to turn as well. TC was improving, becoming stronger, more aware, more responsive, her countenance brighter. Sunday, November 4 - Day 11, I noted in her Care Journal, "Good day. Strong, awake and alert until evening with only one nap. Acted like she felt better today. Slept all evening." I began this journal in September, 2012 at the onset of her journey; it is the place I record her activity, food and water intake, and general state of wellness. Again on Wednesday, the top of the journal page reflected, "Good Day!" and was underlined twice. There were three of these days in a row, followed by some days of setbacks, but all in all, we turned a corner where her condition was no longer termed, "critical." By November 11, I finally felt comfortable enough to leave her through the night and was back to sleeping in my own bed with TC either beside me or resting on her kitty pillow. Oh, how I missed my soft bed, its welcoming cushion, the warmth of the blankets and comforter snuggled around me. The comfortable familiarity of this haven of rest. As I laid on the living room floor with TC night after night, I spent much time thinking of those who miss the delight of warmth and softness to rest at day's end. It is not a choice for others as it had been for me; I pray for them a night of restoring rest that they may greet each new day refreshed.

Mid-November remained warm, filled with perfect Autumn days. We tried to spend a bit of time outside each day for stimulation, enjoying the offerings of the season. Winter would soon descend and walks outside would be replaced with walks to and from different windows, our role as active participants redefined as casual observers of the coming Winter. November 19 was one such day with a painterly sky backdrop against the now barren trees. The girls and I ventured into our backyard to enjoy the fleeting season's temptations to our senses.

I had wrapped TC in her blanket for our outing, but the sun's warmth was more than adequate. I removed the blanket, and soon she became wiggly and squiggly, wanting out of my arms, preferring instead to explore on her own. The assertion of her independent little nature was a joyous sign to behold. I carried her to the flower bed to set her down so she could enjoy her freedom. Oh, how my heart skipped to watch her wander through the crisp leaves, sniff the many scents, and finally climb and perch upon her favorite rock wall! Tears of elation streamed down my cheeks as I sat on the ground away from her, watching her, granting her space and time to simply be a cat, capable of doing things on her own after such a lengthy illness. She would have been content to stay in the garden for the entire afternoon: she was definitely becoming stronger with each new day.

Even Papa (the big guy) and his daughter, Chloe, the neighborhood cats, came for a visit that afternoon. They too seemed to sense the fleeting of these days and enjoyed the crisp leaves beneath their feet, the gentle breeze, and a bit of companionship in the midst of their adventures.

I carried TC slowly back up the hill in our yard, lingering to capture the last bit of our afternoon adventure. The leaves on the old oak had turned their vibrant golden and I knew all too soon the wind would carry them to join the others that had already fallen.

The girls and I headed back inside after an hour or so. TC napped all afternoon and evening, only waking for dinner and treats before bedtime. I assumed this meant it was a grand afternoon for the blackest cat in all the land, to be outside, basking in the sunshine, finally feeling well and strong, enjoying the rapture of Autumn. If she were to speak for herself, I would like to think she would say, "goodness is made of moments such as this, for these truly are the days, my friend!"

TC's journey, part two, follows soon.

Blessed be your days, my friends,

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

By pumpkins fat
and witches lean...
By coal black cats
with eyes of green,
By all the magic
ever seen...
I wish you luck
this Hallowe'en.

TC Black Cat. 

Blackest cat in all the land (at least that's what we remind her).

It's Halloween and our girl's day to shine! 

And shine she does as we celebrate another year of loving her. 

A year ago today, our morning was filled with the fright even the darkest dark could not invoke. And here we are today, TC blessed with enough strength and tenacity to participate in a brief photo session and give me quite the chase as she continuously made a break from her blanket on the step.

Here is our "Trio" of little witches just for fun.

Oh yes, these girls do love me! They must to suffer such adornment! But even though their love is true, I'll be on the lookout for some spooky tricks that just may be coming my way tonight!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Attic Treasures

TC's Journey - Part Two of Two

(TC's Journey, Part One, begins here.)

December found us venturing out as many warm days as possible, if only briefly, knowing winter's chill would arrive all too soon. We wandered in the yard on December 3, an unusual gift of the season, and TC was able to shed her blanket once again.

Abbey spent her time wandering,


and being the silly, playful girl she is.
Spirit, on the other hand, ventured from familiar sitting spot to sitting spot, eventually deciding upon the stairs to enjoy the breeze and let the sunshine come to her.

TC was feeling well and strong after her October illness. I didn't realize quite how much strength she had gained until she began to climb the deck stairs on her own. I stayed close behind, reassuring myself probably more than her that she could climb all the way to the top.

She navigated a few steps at a time

and paused part way up for a bit of a bath, something she hadn't often done since her illness.

She made it all the way to the top and lingered there for quite a while, pleased with herself at her solo accomplishment. She surveyed her familiar territory, taking it all in from a lofty vantage point.

It was a grand time for our blackest cat in all the land, sunbathing during the lingering days of autumn into winter's warmth.

She began to walk down the stairs alone, all ten of them, but that was far too much independence for her and way too scary for me! Safe in my arms once again, we made our way down for a bit more exploring before time to head inside for what was to be our last long outing before winter's snows arrived.

It began as a day when the "to do" list dared to present itself, having last year been tucked away in the kitchen drawer (remember this entry?) One of those, "check something off and get 'em done" kind of days. But the calling breeze and the beckoning sunshine implored more emphatically than any list ever could. My spirit gave way to a day outside for the girls, the list put away for some other time once again. Oh yes, there was a time when the to-do's would have won out, a time when the call of the spirit would have been postponed for tomorrow. But not these days. These are TC's days, the most treasured days of all. Incredibly blessed and thankful, one of TC's most powerful teachings has been to let the spirit have its way, for spirit always knows best. Thanksgiving continued into December as untold gratitude surfaced into tears, watching our girl so strong, capable, and determined, while the best gift of Christmas came early this day, atop the deck stairs, beneath the old Maple tree.

We said good-bye to 2013 with the last sunset of the year 

and began to look forward to our days inside in the coming season.

Winter was very kind to our girl, making trips to the vet minimal in January and February. We only had to venture out once monthly for her B-12 injections. I was relieved knowing she could be spared the bitter cold since her body no longer adequately regulates its temperature. It is what I had hoped for, with no major illnesses or infections. Our days were spent inside, with her laying by her snowman, absorbing the warmth from the lights during the day or evening, and spending her nights either snuggled next to me under the electric blanket or on her own bed in front of the heat vent covered by a fleece blanket. I brought the snowman upstairs very early last Fall, a comfort and warmth for TC when she was so ill in October. A handmade gift from a friend about six years ago, TC claimed the spot in front of the snowman from the very first time the lights were turned on. Those big bulbs do give out quite a bit of warmth.

It didn't take Spirit long to realize there was something different about the snowman set up this year as she discovered the addition of the heating pad under the kitty bed. It then became squatter's rights for whoever snuggled in the bed first, with the outsider left to stare, willing the comfy kitty to move. 

And so, as with many occurrences this year, things were changed, we adjusted. A bed was added, the heating pad unfolded, prime real estate expanded, and one content kitty became two. Things were a little more crowded, the path through the dining room narrower. It is what we do...

Once TC discovered the heat vent in the bedroom and decided that was her place of choice, I made her a new fleece bed, loosely stuffed with polyfil. She claimed it immediately, either knowing it was for her, or in an effort to keep it from Spirit and Abbey. 

Spirit only had one chance to lay on it, when I first placed it on the floor. She and Abbey must have known it belonged to TC since neither of them made any further attempts to snuggle on this bed.

January and February were filled with cold days and several bouts of snow. We were warm and safe inside, looking out, enjoying these days free from errands and obligations. Abbey entertained herself by watching the birds at the feeders, while Spirit chose to nap awaiting Spring, and TC rested contently. 

A racoon visitor in our front yard around 10:00 PM mid-February.
Super Bowl Sunday is always a big deal at our house. We so look forward to this day. No, I can't say who played in the game this year, or even who won. It isn't really about football for us. It's about the Kitten Bowl that's played the same day! We purchase our game day munchies and get our work done quickly just like everyone else, in preparation for the big day! Abbey loves to perch in front of the TV for the entire game. See her chair sitting there? It just isn't close enough. She likes to be up close and personal where she can really follow the plays. And what's not to love? Time outs for naps and penalties for being, "too cute!" My kind of football! Ha! 

Along with fun time during the Super Bowl, we had some creative time in February as well. I wanted to express appreciation to our veterinarian's office for all they had been doing for TC. Just in time for Valentine's Day, the kitchen was taken over by hoot owls, thirty of them to be exact!

They were packaged with toppers stamped using Hero Arts, "Whoo Loves You?" and a bit of Wink of Stella was added to the owls and the hearts for some Valentine sparkle.

TC would not have approved of an inky paw, so a string of hearts was added on the back letting everyone know whooo loved them.

I promised TC she could deliver her cookies, but Valentine's Day proved far too cold for an outing. However, I didn't sense any disappointment from her in missing a trip to the vet.

Spring made several attempts at arriving early this year, and each time we thought it was finally here. The colors, the scents, the warm breeze, all were so welcome after our winter days inside.

It was a spring sprinkled with days of warmth, rain, and sunshine.

The tulips bowed their heads in thanksgiving for moments of nurturing rain, something all too infrequent last year.

Autumn Glory (yes, we named her), the Fireglo Maple we planted last fall, survived her first winter in our front yard, delighting us with her newborn foliage.

The backyard lilac bush was covered in clusters this year. Who would have thought this would happen after so many snows and so much cold? I opened the attic window, even though there was still a chill in the air, just to enjoy the lilac fragrance as it filled our space with its brief, yet oh so familiar scent in the early spring.

Yes, spring arrived, and the Attic view was lush and oh, so welcome.

The finches shed their winter brown attire in exchange for daffodil bright Easter finery that clothes them through autumn.

My favorite tulip did not disappoint this year. It is a lone bulb, one I harvested from my childhood home many years ago. We have no idea how it happened there, having grown for numerous years at the edge of the woodland where I spent most summer days, playing, imagining, dreaming.

And yes, there were flowers this year! The pots that remained barren all of last season were once again blooming with color. My heart smiled as their nodding heads welcomed me home or greeted me as I looked out the front door. It really is the simple things, isn't it?

TC enjoyed her early spring days, resting on the deck stairs as I arranged and rearranged flowers in the pots, deciding which ones should be in the front yard and which in the back. Oh how I enjoyed these dear friends, having missed them so last summer.

I wish I could say spring and summer were as kind to our girl as winter. TC developed what her vet termed, "a raging bacterial urinary tract infection"the end of March and received a 10-day antibiotic shot followed by an additional 10-day course of a different antibiotic to rid her system of the bacteria. There was yet another bladder infection in July and another one in September. She suffered a micro stroke the end of April; the results of her neurological tests were not what I had hoped. The only course of treatment was to wait and see how much she could rebound. Three weeks later, when it was time once again for her B12 injection, her neurological tests were greatly improved. She has continued to have some residual effect in her back leg, but all in all, a good recovery. Each illness takes its toll on her small body, never fully recovering to her previous state of wellness. But tenacious she is, and not much stops her.

Mid-April I left TC to run some errands with my friend. We were gone only a short time, an hour and 45 minutes. When we returned, TC was missing. We checked all of her usual resting places and then began searching under furniture and places she seldom frequented. After several frightening moments, my friend finally found her, wedged in the four-inch space between the wall and the fridge, at the very back corner. I don't know how she managed to fit, but there she sat, scrunched, facing the wall. I am not certain if she was waiting for rescue or was quite content for respite from the incessant walking she had been doing all day, the wandering this time caused by an adverse reaction to a new anti-nausea medication. My friend moved the fridge and was able to slide her hand under TC's tummy, scooping her to freedom. Since then, we have scrutinized our surroundings and hopefully TC-proofed our home. The days are made of such caretaking; how I wish it wasn't necessary, but I am grateful to provide the care she needs.

TC visited the vet on April 30 for her monthly B-12 shot, a necessity to keep her levels in balance. When she becomes low on B-12, nausea and drooling set in and she is unable to consume the food necessary to maintain her weight. She becomes lethargic and basically doesn't feel well. While we were there, I was asked if she could be on their FaceBook page as the senior pet for the day. Of course I agreed. I think our girl posed quite nicely for her social media debut!

Once May's warmth descended upon us permanently and the front door was opened daily, TC returned to her favorite place on the entryway rug, her black fur warmed by the sun shining upon it. Abbey decided that was her chosen place to hang out as well. In addition to the sun's warmth, I also believe TC developed a need to be near someone at this time. Abbey didn't always like sharing what was usually first claimed by her, but she was ordinarily a good sport and let TC lay unusually close by.

Once summer's heat arrived in June and we turned on the air conditioning, TC decided the vent was no longer her friend, even though we shut the louvers and completely sealed it off. She sought out a new place for her bed and discovered the warm air coming from under the fridge. It continues to be her favorite place. Her bed there is made of two memory foam mats stacked on top of each other, along with her fleece blanket for padding and another blanket to cover her. I am not sure if it is the blowing warm air or the constant hum she finds comforting. It is a bit awkward place for her to be, but it doesn't deter me from my numerous trips in and out of the fridge. It just means she receives extra cuddles and hugs as I scoop her up each time to open and close the door. Was this her plan all along? 

TC's summer days were filled with good days and bad. For the most part, the good won out. The bad ones were very bad, filled with confusion, an inability to stop pacing, vomiting, drooling, nausea. I was told this was the course we were on. We celebrated the good days and provided reassurance and comfort to ease the bad ones. Much of the nausea, drooling and vomiting has now subsided due to the addition of potassium to her daily fluids instead of the oral medication that was discontinued in July when it was found she could no longer tolerate it. It has all been a process, discovering what does and doesn't work.

Our summer, like the spring, was filled with several rainy days as well as thunderstorms. The storms were especially difficult for our black cat, even though they never bothered her before. Sometimes she would pace for a couple of days before a storm, and other times it would be during the storm. No amount of holding her or rocking could console her or give her respite from the uncontrollable walking that took over her body sometimes for many hours at a time. We tried several different modes to calm her; closing all the blinds, playing soft music, sitting on the floor with her. Fortunately she has calmed some in the last couple of months as autumn's arrival has brought fewer rainy days.

Last fall's illness involving the toxicity to her subcutaneous fluids was the beginning of TC receiving daily fluids at home instead of at the vet's office. November through mid-July, my friend came every evening to hold TC while I administered the fluids when dh wasn't able to be home at the scheduled time. There were times when my friend and I changed our plans for an evening out and decided to have take out food at my house instead, based on TC's condition for the day. Just recently, upon hearing that TC was quite ill over the weekend, she brought a surprise Chinese dinner once again. She's like that, my friend, always knowing what to do, and when to do it. Her presence blesses me and she is loved. Her devotion and concern for TC (and me) has been unwavering. She has heard my fears and celebrated the good times with us. After TC's micro stroke in April, eating from her food bowl was quite difficult unless I sat on the floor and held the bowl up for her. My friend, ever so kindly, asked if I had tried putting the bowl on a phone book. Well, no, the thought had not occurred to me, so involved I was with care taking, that common sense escaped me. Her idea worked beautifully, and to this day, TC still uses the phone book. It really does take a village, doesn't it? While I could have done the fluids alone and somehow kept TC from escaping, especially in the early days, it was so much easier with my friend's help (or dh's help). But then, everything is always easier with a friend, isn't it?

TC has now enjoyed a lifetime of 19 years and five months (an approximation since she came to us as a small feral kitten). Her weight is currently less than one-half its once robust 12 pounds, the effect of kidney disease. On good days. On bad days or when she is a bit dehydrated, it may be less. She receives a special mix of subcutaneous fluids once per day and medications two times per day. There are now a total of three prescriptions. I give her 24-30 ml of water per day through a syringe and 5- 6 teaspoons of water on her food since she has been unable to drink on her own since her diagnosis in 2012. She eats 4-5 times daily. Her once all black fur is now showing tinges of auburn as it did in her kittenhood, an equal sophistication to gray, for certain. Earlier this summer, I spotted the first white hairs, a few on her tail, a few on her right hip.

For everything TC has been through, the good days and the bad, her spirit is still strong. Dr. S calls her "amazing." During one of our visits last month, after discussing yet another rebound and another possible stroke, he has come to believe she has 18 lives. Dr. H calls her "a tough ol' girl." My friend who cuddles her for her fluid treatments thinks she's "incredible." Another friend who visited her this summer called her "one loved little kitty." That she is. And then there is a long distance friend who has never met TC, but always checks on her, who has relabeled her initials from "TC - Tree Climber" to "TC - Tenacious Cat." I like that. Determined. Persistent. Strong spirited. That she is.

Her mind may wander much as her body does, but there are things of which she is certain. She knows where the sun spots are and follows the sun's course as it moves from room to room throughout her day. I too have learned where to find her at a given time. She knows the difference between me holding her and someone else doing the same. She is content to sit on her blanket on the vet's examining table until Dr. S comes in the room. It is then she reaches up, climbs into my arms, paws for my shoulder and turns her head away from the one who has come to help her. She knows when my friend arrives and it is time for fluids. We head for the bedroom, where I attempt to place her in a kitty bed. She reaches again for my shoulder, tries to hold on, knowing that in my arms she will elude the daily needle poke. Her ability to tell time remained unwavering until the last few weeks. Treat time at 10:00 p.m. was never missed. Spirit and Abbey depended on her movement, telling them it was time. She would sit in front of the cabinet until it was opened and I sat on the floor with them, handing out treats. In the rare event I missed the designated time, she came to find me, pacing between me and the cabinet, until she convinced me I had missed the holy hour, the time when the treat gods arrived! 

I reflect on our December days and I am so glad I took time out from the busyness and chose to spend some days outside. Spring and summer did not offer TC the enjoyment for being outdoors that she experienced last year. She no longer desired to be in the grass or to go exploring, preferring instead to wander on the patio or the front driveway. As often as possible, I continue to carry her the short distance to the corner, showing her up and down the street, and then we make our way home, all the while hoping the stimulation is enjoyed by her. It is sometimes hard to tell.

Summer took her leave abruptly this year as autumn ushered in her appearance. Short sleeves and sandals one day were replaced with sweaters and socks the next. The air conditioning has been turned off and the furnace has had some brief trial runs. September 5 marked two years since TC's initial diagnosis of liver failure; it was a year ago in August we received her diagnosis of kidney failure. TC's Halloween photo above was taken in September this year while the mum was still in full bloom. So many years frost comes early and the mum is replaced with another arrangement.

We have had glorious Indian summer days this last month followed by short bursts of cold that have kept us inside as we prepare for the seasonal change. This brings us full circle in seasons since part one of catching up on TC's journey began last October. It is TC's autumn as well. I do not tease myself. There will not be another year of seasons shared together, she and I. I know the signs as surely as I know the falling leaves are the harbinger of winter's arrival. This impression flits before me and is fleeting, much as the leaves descend and dance their autumnal dance upon the brisk breeze. I do not allow it to dwell and take rest. To do so would dismiss our today. I prefer instead to continue our own dance, to treasure the holding, the moments, our time together. We have been on a journey of gratitude, she and I, for whatever blessings have come our way, a journey of quality in a lifetime, quality time together. We have celebrated milestones with holidays and mini treats I never thought possible in the early days of diagnosis; days of strength and wellness, good veterinary checkups, a soft black forehead pressed against my cheek, a nuzzle. 

TC has shined her black cat shine for another Halloween, and for the blessing of that day, we can ask no more. I believe she knew they were her Halloween days made just for her, the blackest cat in all the land, for she experienced exceptionally good days on October 30 and 31. Below is her Halloween photo, taken October 30, since Halloween day was predicted to be cold, cloudy and windy.

And so our days continue on. I appreciate your time and devotion in reading this very long post and I am so very grateful for those of you who have been following TC's journey. I realize there are many blogs to visit, and time is precious. Abbey's Attic began as a place to share card designs and bits and pieces of our everyday. Since I have had very limited time for card making these days, it has become an online journal, a place to record TC's journey and to share the Attic treasures. One day I will have some cards to post and will share a few I haven't blogged yet. For now, my days are spent with my girls, caring for and loving them.

As I have been writing this very long post a song my Grandmother loved has been playing in my mind. I think about her a lot. The faith she lived, the strength of her spirit, her wisdom filled words, all molded and shaped an infant into her early adult years. The lyrics are the refrain to "Those Were The Days," by Mary Hopkins. I have substituted some of the words as I suppose that is music's purpose; to inspire, to move, to claim and even perchance to mold the words as our own.

"These are the days my friend.
We pray they never end.
We sing and dance forever and a day.
We live the life we choose, 
We fight and hope we'll never lose.
These are the days,
Oh, yes,
These are the days."

Blessed be your days my friends,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Day

Written November 12 - December 17, 2014

It is the day I hoped away, wished away, prayed away. 

The one I didn't want to ever come.

It came anyway. 


It always comes, doesn't it?

You know the one.

September 29, 2012
Uninvited, it insinuated itself into my somewhat calm, somewhat orderly, predictable day-to-day, creating its heartbreak and leaving a trail of tears in its path. 

January 25, 2008
But it hasn't taken long, only a few hours really, to understand what the heart already knows. It is necessary, this day. In it, as in all days, lies a gift whenever we are open to receive it. The gift is peace granting freedom from weakness, confusion, a body no longer capable of a quality life. It isn't easy for us, the ones left behind, for we continue to love, to cry, to wish for even one more day.

November 2, 2013
My arms are empty now, no longer cradling the blackest cat in all the land. Carrying her. Holding her. Nurturing her. Loving her. 

November 11, 2004
And yet, my heart is full to bursting with the love and joy, loyalty and devotion she graced upon me as we companioned together this journey for one-third of my life. I continue to be in awe each time I recall the strength of her spirit, the determination within her to triumph.

First Christmas - 1995
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose."

"In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be. 
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see." 

"For God will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn. 
Make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of God's hand." 

"I am with you always." 

Words of assurance, comfort. These known words carry us to the home safe within us, granting us some semblance of peace and security when all about is muddled and confused, when there is little offer of consolation. They are the words we trust in for their comfort is familiar, their message assuring, words we have heard and turned to many times before.

First Photo - September, 1995
Nineteen years, six and one-half months. 

Seven thousand one-hundred thirty-one days, approximately. 

First cat. 

A spring day in early May, 1995. July, 1995. September 5, 2012. October 25, 2013.

November 12, 2014. 

Numbers. Dates. 

Uncharted, yet innumerable additional remarkable, ordinary every days, holidays, special days, moments in time. Days of quantity, days of quality. Days together. Countless days and still not enough days. One more day.

December 25, 2003
TC. TC Cat. Tree Climber. Tree Cat. 

T. Teedle. Teedle-E. Teedly-C. 

Black Cat. Blackest cat in all the land. Best black cat around. TC Black Cat. Baby Black Cat. 

Sweet Pea. Buttercup. Snickers. Snicker-nickers. 

Sweet cat. My sweet girl. My girl. Girlfriend. 

Names of endearment. Names for love.

December 4, 2005
I have prepared for this day for over two years and yet I suppose one is never really prepared. In the days leading up to this single day, I feared I saw it coming. Still, I had seen it before, and TC rallied. Dr. S and I had another conversation at TC's exam in October, initiated by me, in an effort to prepare. We spoke of quality once again; from the onset of this journey, it was important that her life be filled with quality. This journey was to be about her, giving her the days she was meant to have. Reluctantly, I made the appointment for her B12 injection on November 12th, although I realized it probably wouldn't be necessary. TC had become very weak, stumbling, sleeping soundly, but continuing to eat well. I knew the signs. Our time together was spent cuddling her, gently handling her, and allowing her to sleep as often as she desired. The days were cold; we couldn't be outside, but we looked out the windows together and she napped a bit in the sunshine. I was reasonably certain, but not absolutely, my return home would be alone this time. We talked, she and I, and I was prepared. I thought. There is a difference in anticipating an event and absorbing the reality of the finality. The question from D, our technician, "How is TC doing?" was more than I could answer; I could only shake my head. Dr. S carefully examined TC, gently handling her as he always did, stroking her, turning away, updating the chart. I still hear his whisper, "it's time." And time stopped suspended in that moment. I am certain my breath stopped as well. I couldn't look up. I could only stroke the blackest cat in all the land as she laid under her blanket, curled against me. I asked some questions, barely audible. I always have questions. I requested, and was granted, time together, the two of us. An hour later I cradled TC's head in my left hand, stroking her chest, her side with my right. I kissed the top of her head, longing to imprint her sweet scent into my memory. Hesitantly, I began our often times daily exchange, asking her one more time, "TC Black Cat, do you have any idea how much you are loved?" I waited, gathering myself. And one more time, as I have done all those times before, I answered for her, "More than you will ever, ever know. More than you will ever know, baby black cat." 

February 14, 2007
The Trio has now become the Duo. Spirit and Abbey will grieve, each in their own way, as they did for the canines, Chelsea and Benji, who have gone on before. They will go on. They will rearrange the order between them, although to me it will look much the same. Spirit will maintain her position as leader, princess, diva even though she has always been the middle cat. She will continue to make the rules and enforce her rules upon our entire family. And Abbey will let Spirit continue to believe she is the leader, all the while doing whatever her playful, carefree, do as you please spirit inspires her to do. In the days to come, they will receive more rounds of playtime, cuddles, snuggles, and love than they ever imagined or desired whether they want them or not.  

Easter Sunday - March 31, 2013

March 24, 2014
And yes, dh and I will also grieve, each in our own way. We will each recall different events, share memorable stories, and combined piece together a complete life story with one stray wild black cat, "the kitten," as we originally called her. We will tell the story over again of how she lived in the squirrel's nest and ran head first down the old oak's trunk at the rattle of her food bowl. We will recall my insistence that we call the fire department to rescue her from the cedar tree, and dh's veto, instead choosing to climb the extension ladder, lacing the tree branches with deli turkey to coax her down. It will not be easy this time, for the more dependent she became upon my care, the closer we grew. The last few weeks have been hectic preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas; the cleaning, cooking, shopping, and planning have occupied the space where grief ordinarily would have resided. I know myself well. The days ahead will be for remembering, reflecting. I will wander, begin projects, and set them aside. A restlessness of sorts will find me uncertain what to do with a free schedule once ruled by the clock for feedings, subcutaneous fluids, medications, caretaking for a dear friend. The day will come when I will take out the to-do list and begin again checking off some items. But not today. Or tomorrow. Or even the day after that. No, these days are for remembering, for treasuring. Perhaps I will go through the photo albums and print the digital photos on the computer. I will think I need a print of each and every one and remind myself to be selective. I will make a photo album just for TC. And maybe some scrapbook pages, too. Yes, these would be good projects, ones for total immersion. Catharsis.

December, 1996 - Once TC came inside, Chelsea claimed her as her own kitten.
December, 1996 - Never far from Mama Chelsea's sight, even at bathtime!
December, 1996 - Clean, shiny and dry once again, time to snuggle against Chelsea
for some warmth and a long nap.
I have no regrets. It is what our life is about, isn't it? To live in such a manner that when we look back we can say we gave our best, fulfilled our promises. It isn't always possible, but we do the best we can. I promised TC from her early days as a frightened kitten that if she dared to trust, I would care for her in any way she needed. I made decisions with TC's interest in the forefront to honor her. The busyness, the errands, the so-called obligations, commitments were set aside for the more treasured time with our girl. I like this slower pace I have come to accept the last two years; it wasn't always easy, quieting the voices of "expectation" or "must do." I intend to honor it and draw upon the lessons I learned because of one so small. "Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." I am humbled that this quiet creature, one who always hung back, one who asked for so little, gave us her best, and tolerated so much could instill an awakening to accept a different path. A shift in perspective to a quieter, gentler way. 

June 22, 2007
I did not say good-bye to the blackest cat in all the land for she will always be part of our family and dwell within our hearts. She has influenced who we are and the way we live. How do you say good-bye to the one who has invoked so much laughter and joy by her antics? When she was a very young kitten and first came inside, she received 10 stitches for a ruptured abscess on her side, possibly caused by running into a stick in the yard. She was supposed to remain quiet. Her vet called one evening to find out how she was. Did I dare tell him that while we were speaking she scaled the living room drapes and was currently hanging near the curtain rod? No, there are some things even the vet doesn't need to know. No, I could not tell her good-bye, the one whose fur absorbed countless tears and whose ears heard the secrets of the heart. Instead, I thanked her for choosing us, told her how grateful we were that the best black cat in all the land claimed us. She was our first cat and as such acquired a certain prestige; not that she was any more special than the others, but there is a certain distinction, respect, hierarchy that comes with being first, providing our first glimpses into cat frolics and feline wisdom. 

December 7, 2014
We went together, dh and I, to pick up TC's pawprint from the vet's office on my birthday. I was so touched when they said they made one. I waited with the anticipation of a child awaiting Santa for the day I would hold the print in my hands. There was no finer gift this day than the small clay cast which allowed me to trace the imprint of her paw with my fingers. It was the first ornament placed on our tree this year, hung together by dh and me as soon as the lights were lit.

October 4, 2003
The following verse is displayed in the kitty exam room at our vet's office, a room I have frequented many times and often too many times over the last two years. I have read and re-read this verse, knowing one day, a not so distant day, its meaning would change; it would be written for me.

"We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives more temporary than our own,
live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only 
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan."
-- Irving Townsend

Blessed be your heart, dear TC.

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