Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall

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Last night she was here.

Unsteady on her feet she walked to Andrew’s room, leaving tiny wet footprints on the floor.

I picked her up and placed her on the end bed where she curled up, the same way she usually did, to listen to Andrew’s bedtime story.

She hadn’t always done that. Back when Simon was alive she had less patience for Andrew. But Simon is gone and Andrew is older and Celia came out of her shell a little.

So last night she was here, on Andrew’s bed. She purred as we stroked her.

When I brought Celia and Simon home I was living in a share house in North Fitzroy. Not long out of Uni I was basically a kitten myself. She shat in the shower which was gross but if a cat is going to shit anywhere that isn’t a litter tray, she shower is probably the easiest one to clean.

She killed a bird, once. Back in the days where she used to occasionally go outside she didn’t ever leave the little courtyard. If she had access to a little patch of dirt she stopped shitting in the shower. I thought she wouldn’t do any harm. But she’s a cat; she killed a bird.

When I moved to a little unit on my own in Essendon my cats came too. I didn’t get as lonely as I thought I would.

They didn’t come with my right away when I moved to Woolloomooloo after Suresh and I got married. My brother fostered them for a few months but eventually he insisted that I had to take them back because he hated being so hated in his own home.

She mostly ignored Suresh because he was her second favourite person.

The day the cats flew up to me from Melbourne Celia leapt on to my lap and purred. I only had my cats back; Celia had her human. You can’t really compare.

Mostly self sufficient I used to leave them alone for a few days at at time when I went down to Melbourne. Get a friend to check in every few days. How are the cats? I’d ask. Fine, probably. Didn’t see them.

We moved to North Strathfield. While I was pregnant she used to sleep in the bassinet. After Andrew was born she totally ignored him; he was her third favourite person. She brought him half a skink, once.

The cats came with us to Mitchelton in Brisbane and then back down to Sydney when we moved back again. It never seemed to take them long to get used to a new place. It never took me long either. It was already home; the cats were there.

Suresh was away when Simon died. The vet tried to tell Andrew that she was putting Simon to sleep.

“He’ll wake up tomorrow!” said Andrew.

“We’re helping him to die,” I said.

“When will Simon come back?” he asked, when we went home without him.

“He won’t,” I told him, “because he is dead.”

“What is dead?”

How do you explain ‘dead’ to a child?

It was important to me that he not be confused. Death isn’t like going to sleep; when you go sleep you can wake up. Death isn’t like going away; when you go away you can come back.

There’s no way to explain exactly what it means. Their body stops working and then they’re not in it anymore but they are also not anywhere else.

He didn’t understand it. You have two cats. And then all of a sudden you have one. You hold a cat in your arms as a vet pushes a syringe and then, one moment to the next, your cat is not a cat. He couldn’t understand that. But then, neither do I.

“Celia won’t die,” he told me.

“She will,” I said, “but not today.”

Andrew stopped chasing Celia when he was cross. She started to like him more. He liked her too. She was a recurring feature of his art-work at school. When asked to draw his family he would write “Mummy, Dad, Andrew, Celia”. That’s drawing. Because you’re using a pencil.

She started to join us, sometimes, when we read Andrew his bedtime story. Sitting perched on the end of his bed. She’d jump off when we were done and go to my room. Sleeping, most nights, curled up against my legs.

She got very cranky for a while. Simon always ate a lot more than she did and the bag of food we had lasted quite a while. We used to mix two kinds of food together, a Royal Canin oral care one as well as the Hills Science Diet old age cat kind.

They ate both, or so I thought.

When I brought home a bag of the Hills food she chewed a hole in the bag. I’d thought they’d eaten both kinds of food. But without Simon to eat the Royal Canin she’d not been able to pick out enough of the one she liked.

She had a UTI a month ago.

We went to Melbourne over Christmas and one of my support workers checked in on the cats. How is the cat? I asked. I didn’t see her. She shat in the shower.

Last week she didn’t seem quite herself so we took her to the vet. She was on IV fluids for three days. There was bacteria in her urine again but the anti-biotics weren’t helping her kidney levels. Had it been an acute infection from another UTI she would have gotten better. But she’d gone into chronic kidney failure.

After no change for several days I brought her home for the weekend. Suresh had gone away for the weekend and I wanted her home. The vet isn’t staffed over the weekend – they just visit twice a day to feed them. I wanted her home. And if she was going to die when she went off the fluids there didn’t seem any point in pushing that out.

So she came home. But she deteriorated faster than I’d expected. I took her in to the other vet – the one that’s not just up the street but is open on the weekend – on Saturday afternoon. She’d spent most of the time curled up on the bottom shelf of one of the downstairs-again* (our townhouse has three levels; upstairs, downstairs, downstairs-again) bookcases. She lost control of her bladder when I picked her up.

The other-place vet told me that while she could give her subcutaneous fluids and some anti-nausea medication we’d only be prolonging the inevitable. She’d probably only last a few more days.

“That’s enough,” I told her.

So last night, when Suresh came home, she was here.

You hold a cat while the vet pushes a syringe. And then the cat you’re holding isn’t a cat anymore.

One day I had two cats. Then suddenly I had one. Today I have zero cats.

But last night, she was here.

She spent most of yesterday hiding in Andrew’s wardrobe. I went in to scritch her little head every now and then.

In the evening she toddled to our bathroom where there’s a litter tray and a water bowl. She sat next to the bowl and mewed at me. She briefly licked the wet shower floor and then lay down in the sheen of water that always tends to sit in the bottom of our shower, which doesn’t really drain.

And then she walked, unsteady on her feet to Andrew’s bedroom. She left tiny wet footprints on the floor.

Last night she was here. I stroked her fur and kissed her head. I told her she was loved and imagined that she knew what that meant.

A classically coloured tabby cat sitting on a colourful bedspread

Last night, she was here; the last night she was here.

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One response to “Last Night”

  1. Diane Avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s brutal and weird and fucked up and I’m glad you could give her love and comfort in her last days.

    We’ve lost three cats in the last year. I worry what it’s done to our poor five year old who’s had to watch this swift procession of deaths. She still talks about them, though, so I’m hopeful she’s taking the good with her and leaving the bad behind. We got a kitten to keep our remaining original cat company, which has been nice.

    I hope your happy memories of Celia carry you through the difficult times of her loss. Hang in there ❤️

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