Thoughts and words on Kush-ka : April 18, 2003

It's been such a long road.

Thirteen years ago, my mother used to work for the county. She read water meters, which meant walking for miles a day stopped at residential homes, and imputing the readings into her bulky, hand-held electronic processor. (Thirteen years ago, it wasn't a pda, it was a 20lb monster of electronics). While walking along Fox Hollow Drive, she heard a small little "meow" and looked to see it's source. A tiny, six-week old all grey kitten was laying on the tire of a car and came over to see her. She picked the little thing up and wondered where this too young kitten came from. Walking up and down the street, knocking on doors and asking everyone if they knew who it belonged to, or had any idea where it came from, she was met with unbroken ignorance as to it's origins. My mother is an animal lover to the extreme, stopping to move turtles out of the road and becoming vegetarian to protest the treatment of food animals. So, she packed up the little kitten and drove home.

Thirteen years ago, I was home sick from school. I was sitting around in my pj's watching tv and generally doing what thirteen year olds do when they're home sick. It was a surprise then, whey my mother came home with a little grey kitten in tow. She asked me to bath the poor thing who was riddled with fleas, put him in the pool area - "Don't let him in the house" she told me - and that when her day was done, she'd pick him up to take him to the animal shelter. With this she had to leave and go back to work.

So I ran water and bathed the kitten, washing him probably with shampoo and trying to kill the mass of fleas which covered him. I dried him off and saw there were still more and I washed him a second time. I put him in the pool area as told, and sat by the door, watching him, thinking how cute he was. I started playing with him and eventually - you saw this coming - brought him inside anyway. My mother came home that day to find him curled up, sleeping on my chest as I sat in the oversized Lazy-Boy chair.

Oh mom, I said. I want to keep him.

I had, in the past (back when I lived in PA), a cat who was all white named Sammy. We found him one night during a blizzard, white-on-white in our backyard amidst deep snow drifts. He was such a sweet cat and was taken from us by a horribly cruel neighbor who ran him over to spite my family. From that point on - I was a very young child; probably six or so when he was killed - I never had a kitty, but always loved playing with the cats at my Great Uncle's farm (yes, a real farm - I was in rural, country mountains back in PA) and always said I wanted an orange tabby to name "Marmalade" or a pretty calico cat. (Growing up, I was a big fan of Garfield and always loved orange tabbies because of it).

My mom reminded me of this, saying But he's all grey! She tried to tell me that he was neither orange nor calico; that he was a plain grey kitty and that's not what I had wanted and that she should just take the little kitten with her to the shelter.

Oh no, I did not care that the kitten was grey, for I had fallen in love with the little ball of purring grey fur, so happy to be held; so eager to snuggle up with me. In the end, somehow, I won out. The hard part was convincing my abusive father who was still at that time, married to my mother to allow us to keep him and despite the odds, we some how managed.

I wanted a unique name for my new kitty. I wanted something different. My friend, who lived up the street from me had a mother who was born in Russia. I asked her how to say "cat" in Russian and what I remembered it as was (phonetically speaking) "kushka." I went home and told my mother that I had decided on his name. Kush-ka. Of course, we took him to the vet, got him all his shots, had him fixed, the works and was surprised to learn from the vet that the cat was of a breed. That breed was Russian Blue. I had managed to name a Russian Blue cat the word for cat in Russian. His ironic and very originally unique name has suited him every day of his life and has brought a smile to those who hear of this odd turn of events.

Kush-ka and I grew up together. My mom eventually rescued two other cats - Panda, a black-and-white ball of scaredy-cat fluff; and Socrates, a massive 18lb silver tabby with the smallest little meow you ever heard - and these two entered our house, though Kush was always solely my cat and the others my mom's. Kush never liked the additions to the house, but he stayed by my side and made the best of it. He slept on my bed and in my bedroom with me pretty much all his life and always sought me out to sit on my lap. Kush learned early on how to do all sorts of things from fetch (though he stopped doing it once he was about two or three - I think he realized it was demeaning to a cat *lol*), to open doors, pantries, and such. Kush loved people food and from the start, I had to limit his intake since he'd munch down Cheez-It's, popcorn, ice cream, yogurt, bread products, tuna, chicken, pretzels, etc. Just about anything that I ate, he wanted.

Kush-ka, like Russian Blues in general, was a quite cat, almost never meowing, but instead, fixing you with his weighty gaze and big, open eyes, getting your attention all the same. We used to joke that when he was young, people thought he was mute because you could almost never get him to actually speak. In fact, we had to try to train him to meow by holding a treat from him and saying his name, asking if he wanted it until he'd meow. Can you imagine, actually trying to get a cat to meow? But, he was so quite, it was fun to hear his little voice.

Kush was always so smart and loving. He never hissed or scratched or bit. He would just sit and deal with things he didn't like - such as baths - and make small gestures of his unhappiness, but he was never an angry of aggressive cat. He followed me from room-to-room all my life, earning his nickname as my Little Grey Shadow. Other nicks stemmed from his immense personality and curious nature. My mom referred to him as "Mr. Investigator" since he always had to have his nose in what you were doing and check out everything without fail from paper bags (which he loved as a young cat to lay in), to food, to a book you were reading - anything which was around him, he wanted to see and be part of it. I always said he was more a little person in a grey cat suit then a kitty, and his nick of "Little Grey Man" has ever stuck.

Kush has ever been a companion and friend to me. He's always known when I was upset and come to find me, wherever I was in the house without me doing a thing. He'd come to me and look at me, and give me a little "mwrrr?" and jump up on my lap, purring and happy, making me instantly feel better. He smothered me with his love and never for a moment made me think he was anything other then a little, precious gift, sent to help me through my hard days - the beatings I took when my parents divorced and my biological father took his rage out on me; the stresses of moving in with another man and his delinquent daughter far too soon after the divorce; the stresses of school and life and relationships; problems with health and pain and suffering - and give me something solid and real and good to counter those hurts.

Kush moved out with me when I did, following me around in various apartments over the years, always just settling in with minimal fuss to wherever we went next. For awhile, he had to live back with my mother, but I visited him every few days and he was ever happy to see me and when I took him back home where he belonged, he was right there at my side as if I had never had to be away from him.

In June 2001 I had to take him to the vet because we found a lump. Turns out the lump was cancerous. He had surgery to remove it and the vet proclaimed it a success. A little less then a year later, another lump was found. He underwent a second surgery, which again, was dubbed successful. But in September 2002, it came back a mere four months later, it came back a third time. At this point, the vet called it terminal and didn't advise a third surgery. He gave a few weeks to a couple months.

And now here we are. April 18th, 2003. Seven months after his last vet appointment and today is the day I call the vet to make the final appointment. I'm putting it off and stalling because I don't want to do it and make it real. If I just don't do it, will it go away and can I pretend it doesn't need to be done...? How can I express the depth of love I have for what some people would see as nothing more then just a cat? How can I ever explain the years we've seen and the tragedies we've overcome? How can I ever tell the ways he improved my life and the things he did that kept me going with his unwavering, unconditional love? He is family to me in the deepest and most meaningful way I could ever describe.

As I sit here and think about this which I must do, I cry and cry, and I wonder how there can ever be enough hugs to give him, or times with him on my lap, or listening to him purr, or hearing his sweet little meow to fill the long, cold years that I'll never have any of it again. How can it ever be enough? How can I hold on to the next four days (having arbitrarily decided I will schedule the appointment for Tuesday - no day being any better or any worse then any other for doing such a thing) enough to make them last my lifetime? I don't ever want to forget those little things; those small animating characteristics that you take for granted until they're gone. The feel of his fur; the way he paws at my leg and chair; the texture of his little charcoal grey nose...all these things will be gone and I can't fathom this. It's just not enough time. He beat the odds for so long, and lived months longer then we ever thought possible, and now I sit and face the day I didn't want to think of and still don't want to deal with. It's now up to me to end things and it's just so....hard... Looking at him and knowing I'll be without all those little things...

Stalling and passing time...hoping to make it not real and to keep hold of these moments just a little while longer. But the clock keeps ticking and I need to call the vet and make the appointment. I can't back down because all I want to do in the world is back down.

Think of him in the coming days for me. Wish him well, send your thoughts, give your prayers that he passes softly and painlessly. That I can get through this loss and that he comes to peace. Above all else, love each other; your pets; your family; your friends and capture those little moments in your heart. These days will never come again.

-April 18, 2003-

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