The Year of the Cat
I did not cry when my father died. I did not cry when I lost both my aunts. My daughter’s wedding produced no tears. A dear friend’s passing left my eyes dry. But every night as I slip into bed and feel for Troppa and find only a cold expanse of blanket, I bury my face into the mattress and sob from my depths. Every morning when I wake and mistake a sweater on the couch for her sleek fur I sob again. All day long little reminders of her presence produce choked little gasps: her empty pillow on the windowsill, her unopened cans of food on the shelf, doors left open in case she wants in, other doors kept closed to stop her if she wants all-the-way out.
She made no demands but for the occasional meow for food. She offered up a shared desire for companionship. She posed interesting, open-ended questions.
I used to have nothing but scorn for people who endlessly mourned dead pets. Or for those who went to five or even six figure extremes to rescue their animals from a too-soon ending. Why exhaust yourself financially and emotionally for a creature who will only stumble along in a diminished state and die eventually anyway? I only saw the hole left by these absent animals. I never saw the animal.
Now Troppa, I really saw. It was in fact a case of love at first sight. When my family decided they had to have a cat and a friend recommended a shelter, I cynically perused the online photos of the poor souls up for adoption. And then there she was looking out at me from the screen asking very straightforwardly for a home. “Troppa” the shelter had called her. “Too much” in Italian. “Why Troppa?” I asked when my in-person visit only more strongly confirmed that she was the cat for me. No one knew. Could it have been that she’d already had two litters of kittens before ending up in the pound? Was that the “too much”? I don’t know. I only know that she might better have been named Non Abbastanza. Not Enough.
The cheeseball, psychoanalytic take on all this would be that Troppa’s death is somehow a stand in for all all the other deaths of 2022. My father, my aunts, my good friend, Ukraine, democracy. As the child of a psychoanalyst I say…