Category Archives: Family matters

In which we discuss matters of the family.


At first I put off writing about this because I was holding out hope that he’d come back. But it’s been four months since we last saw JJ T. Cat, and I stopped holding out hope sometime over the summer.

I didn’t expect him to be around for too many more year. He was 16 years old and that’s pretty old for a cat. But he was in good health.

He’d been a mostly indoor cat since Marsha passed away in March, and he had transformed from a stand-offish guy into a small, furry dream cat. And then one evening he went outside, and he never came back in. We never found a trace of him.

Our new neighborhood has a bit more wildlife than our old one did, and I’m afraid something caught him by surprise. Whatever happened, I pray that it was quick.

He could be a difficult guy, but in his last few months he was so loving. I’m glad we had such good memories of him at the end.

In memoriam

The weekly calls from Rockford’s grandmother started shortly after we moved to Missouri. I didn’t know her all that well, but I welcomed the calls anyway because I was suddenly hundreds of miles from anyone I knew at all.

“Nichole, it’s Mom,” she’d say. “Sorry to bother you.”

“Mom, you’re never a bother,” I’d say, and that’s how most of our weekly conversations started for the next 17 years.

When the kids were babies, she’d tell me stories of when Rockford’s dad and aunt were babies. My father-in-law, she’d tell me, had always been a handful. When Rockford started traveling frequently, she’d tell me how she coped when Pop was overseas in the military and she was home alone with two small children. Sometimes she’d talk about her childhood or how she met Pop, but mostly she just wanted to hear about how we were doing.

After Pop passed I talked to her even more frequently. She was lonely, and I was worried about her. Most of the time I’d call her from parking lots while I was waiting for Poppy after soccer practice or Pete during guitar. She still wanted to hear about her great-grandchildren, but she was more forthcoming about herself in the last few years. She had trouble sleeping. She missed Pop. She still worried about her kids. She was forgetting things more and more often. She was ready to go.

She didn’t pick up the last time I called. I wish I’d known the last time I talked to her would be the last time I talked to her. I would’ve kept her a little longer.

I’m grateful to have known her. I’m relieved for her. I’m so sad. She was my friend, and I’m going to miss her.


I am grieving.

I am grieving, but I am hesitant to say it aloud because it feels somehow wrong and small and silly to grieve for a cat.

But she wasn’t just a cat. She was my constant and my comfort. She was waiting at home 14 years ago when our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. She was waiting at home 12 years ago when we brought our first baby home. She always knew which one of us needed her, be it because we were sick or sad or just a little bit cold. And she was always there.

I wanted her to be the Oldest Cat Ever, but it wasn’t in the cards for her. We’ve known for a few months that she was in her final days. We took her to the vet after a sudden and dramatic weight gain, and we learned that she had advanced heart disease. We could try to treat it, the vet said, but the medication would hurt her already-struggling kidneys.

She was a strange, funny little cat. She was the runt of the litter, and she chose us. She loved to be carried, and she liked it when we danced around the living room with her. She always wanted to be where her people were, even if it meant being dressed in Santa suits, doll dresses or cowboy hats. She never met a person she didn’t like, and she adored every member of our household.

I thought I was ready. She was always a communicative cat, and she let me know she was ready to go on Saturday morning. I was not ready. I carried her to my bed and woke the kids up, and we gathered around her and thanked her and told her we loved her. Then we took her to the vet and said goodbye. It was peaceful, and it was horrible. I was not ready. I would never have been ready.

I’ve been struggling a lot this week. I cried when I put some ice cubes in my cup, because she wasn’t there to remind me that she too would like some ice cubes in her water. I cried when I walked past her spot on the couch and absentmindedly reached out to scratch her head. I cried when I drove past the vet’s office and when I cleared away her litter box and when I heard a sad song on the radio.

Marsha T. Cat was the finest of felines. I am so grateful to have had her in my life, and I am heartbroken that she’s gone. She was 16 years old, and she was beloved for each and every one of those years. I hope she knew it.

On Joy and Sorrow
“The Prophet”

by Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.