The beauty of growing and the pain of letting go 4.5.14 / by Emily Holmes

Hello all, it's me again. Currently, I'm sitting on a couch facing my back yard. The canyon breeze is rustling the leaves and coaxing our wind chimes to play. It's about 70 degrees and sunny, a lazy kind of sunny with some haze to keep it diffused. It's quiet and I feel calm. The baby is napping after a lovely mama and baby hang hosted by our mama group's member Claire. I have time to rest and think.

I'm very fortunate. Let me begin there. I love my home. I love my friends and I love my family. We are all healthy and doing well. Riley has always been chattery, but now she's not only expressing concepts but is making small sentences to describe what she sees, what she needs and what she remembers. It's a great time to be around her. She loves life. And while curiosity can make a mama insane at times (Don't put that in your mouth? Don't climb onto that table? etc.), in the long run, it will be a good quality to have.

I've been watching her morph from a baby into a little girl. It's fascinating and altogether so amazing. I'm lucky to have the time to do this. I'm also lucky to have friends experiencing the same thing. We're each others' sounding boards. We're also growing closer as our kids spend time together. We'll be forged together for years to come having shared this time with each other and with each others' children.

I'm happy to watch my husband, Brad, evolve as he takes on a new career. I'm seeing him open in new ways and experience a lifestyle with work that he has seldom seen, as his previous career as a TV editor. Nothing like a blast of midday work sunshine on broker open houses to combat years of editing in a dark room...

I'm growing slowly too. While I haven't had much interest in writing of late, I've had a great opportunity to work with a fellow mama Bess on her theatre show, Death of a Boob Man, where I perform 3 of her songs at the top of the production. It's been a fun time working in a live theatre again. And it's a great experience being part of a 3 woman team!

As with all growing times, there is letting go. I have to let go that I'm not working like I used to. I have to let go of the notion that by not working as I once did that I'm not contributing anything positive to the world around me. I have to let go of perfection, because there is NO perfection.

Sadly, though, and more reality-based, is I have to let go of my dear friend and 12-year-old kitty, Jables.

Around the weekend of my 40th, he started limping. Now, he's an outdoor cat a good bit of the time so I figured that he just twisted an ankle jumping off a wall or had bad arthritis. A visit to the vet kind of took the wind out of my sails when his doc told me an x-ray showed a large tumor in his hind leg. The bad news was that the location was not good for operation and given how quickly the symptoms came on, it was likely a very quick to grow form of bone cancer, which is usually a quick death sentence for cats.

So, I think to myself, I'm waiting for a cast on a possible small fracture and you're telling me inoperable cancer with weeks or months to live. Shit! Well, I didn't want to subject the poor guy to lots of vet visits, poking, prodding, MRIs and other nonsense when he could be hanging out with us focusing on the best quality of life. And that's what we did...

Jables has been on some meds since the 25 February and sadly, been on a slow, steady decline. His back leg where the tumor resides is nearly lame and while he still gets around on the other 3 well, he lays around a lot more than he usually does. I know it's not time yet, but I recognize it's coming. I've had to research vets who make house calls, euthanasia and cremation services, which is heartbreaking.

At one minute, I'm fine and doing the business of being a responsible pet owner. Then, I flashforward to the scene of putting him down in the garden (his favorite place) in my arms and I lose it. In fact, just typing this, I'm crying.

Then there's the business of knowing WHEN is the right time. I struggle with this because I don't want to feel in any way that I rushed it for Jables. In many ways like today as he suns himself on the brick porch under our lanai, he seems like the old Jables, no cancerous tumor, just chilling in the rays. I want to remember him this way but I don't want to live in denial. He's going to die and likely not too terribly far away from now.

I got Cage and Jables in 2002 when my then landlord's cat got knocked up by a tom cat in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Sounds like the lyrics of a Tom Waits song, I know. There were 4 kitties born and I took two from the litter. Jables was named "Cutie" by the landlord's kids because he was the most handsome of the litter with his big white neck and stomach against his grey-brown tabby coat. He also had HUGE ears, paws and eyes. The former two belied what was to become my huge (nearly 17 lb) cat. His sister, Cage, is like a little replica of him.

A little background on the names, they're named after nicknames of Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass, from the short lived HBO series of the same name.

Jables and I have also been through a ton of health issues with him. He's a "crystal producing" cat, which for those not in the know has nothing to do with sci fi and everything to do with UTI. His body chemistry produces stones that block. When cats block, they can't go to the bathroom and can eventually die from this without surgery. He's blocked 3x in his life. The 3rd time he had a very intense surgery called a PU surgery, which essentially emasculates him allowing him to not "block" in the male aparatus. I know, TMI... but this is his story. I always wanted to make t-shirts that said "I love my TG cat!" Too much?!?

Happily, after the PU surgery, he never blocked again. That was almost 8 years ago. I felt like we had the bad stuff behind us because like most pet owners I guess I thought he was immortal and would never die. Now I'm facing this reality and man, it's tougher than I ever thought it would be. I'm also being real about it and just showing him with as much love as I have for him but maybe lost track of in the haze of having a new baby.

One of the things that really kills me though is Riley knows the kitties now. As in, she knows them as OUR kitties. She pets them and kisses them occasionally, and calls them by name. This just kind of happened in the last few months. So, now, beyond saying my own farewell, how am I going to explain this to her?

I'm filled with doubts and grief and also a bit of relief in that I know when the time is right, we'll be together here and he won't have undue suffering. So, those are the transitions at Chez Holmes. I'm happy to have today where everything has gone really well and I'm feeling both emotionally strong but also serenely vulnerable. Growing and letting go, like breathing the air over and over again...