(an essay from my soon to be born book)
Indeed everything has its season. For me the season of feeling confident, safe, secure, and sure of who I was slowly becoming, came right after one of the worst times in my life.
I once had someone, a stranger to me really, try to tell me the things that would or wouldn’t make me happy and satisfied in my life. Being told this by someone who did not really know me made me very angry. I might have been more receptive to her opinion had what she said about what had made her happy in her life held some truth.
No one on earth, even if they imagine they know everything about you (never mind a stranger) knows what will or won’t make you happy at some point in your life.
In 2008 after living in a home for 12.5 years–12.5 years of poverty (combined earnings of less than $25,000 yr), a $500.00 house payment, and living next to 4 people who totally and completely despised me–we left.
Our life after that would be without my having to entertain an entire family at all times who despised me, had lied to me, had pretended to accept me, and who had not only stolen money from me, but had stolen my time–both mine and my husband’s time. I had nearly single-handedly taken on my husband’s brother and father via email mostly and finally unearthed all I felt had been done to us over a period of time and then just like that because of my behavior–we were free. Just like every other time in my life when I’d had enough–all I had to do was wait and the other party would seal the deal. His father’s way was to deny we ever married and make the statement that I no longer existed or was welcome in their home. That was it.
During our first year out of that relationship I was pretty relieved, a weight had been lifted, we were starting over, and honestly we were happier than we’d ever been. We lived in a crappy apartment, but we were getting by and we had a little spending money for the first time in our married life. But something was missing for us–something to love. Our gardens and lawn and bird feeders were gone and we needed something to nurture. So we began looking into adopting a greyhound, which by the way is not an easy endeavor. We found a beautiful girl named Jessy, or should I say she found us, and we were all set. All set that is except that she had not been trained properly and refused to potty outside. When I tried to train her she would growl and snap at me. Then she would proceed to have an accident in our apartment. I couldn’t blame her as her foster parents had always let her run loose in their vast yard and do her business. They were supposed to train her on a leash but did not–so of course we had issues and because we were in an apartment and I certainly didn’t want to be bit or have her bite someone else—we took her back to her foster parents.
So, life went on for another 3 months or so until I saw an ad for giveaway kitties. I talked with hubby and he said “sure, let’s go see.” And the next weekend we did and just like with adopting greyhounds we let the kitten “pick us.” A little orange tabby head butted me and when I looked down–there he was. We were standing in a garage with old dressers and dresser drawers and paint and oil cans and there were kittens all over. Two mothers had given birth around the same time and all their kittens were running loose. We were told he was eight weeks, but later determined he had been 4-5 weeks old when we got him. I picked him up and off we went home. His name would be Gabriel named after the archangel and one of my favorite actors Gabriel Byrne.
Once home and settled in it was feeding time. Gabriel wasn’t my first cat–I’d had cats most of my life up to this point. But he was the first kitten I’d had in a long time–definitely the smallest one and when feeding he wouldn’t stay at his feeding spot and eat. Every time I left the area he followed me wherever I was going. Day 3 and I figured–well, I’ll stand here to get him to eat and then he’ll eat. Which of course worked great as long as I stood right beside him.
Our apartment was small and my hubby did not like cats in the bedroom so he was kept out of our bedroom. Our neighbors, which had 24 hour around the clock barking dogs were only a wall away from us–and there was really nowhere to put our kitten except in our bathroom. So we bought a cozy cat bed and at night after his last meal we would tuck him in and he’d go to sleep until 6 am.
One night while I was laying on the couch reading a magazine (with his bed right beside me on the floor), I remember as clear as if it was yesterday he looked back at me as if to say “you’ll take care of me, won’t you?” and I remember saying inside my head–“yes, I’ll take care of you your whole life.” In just that minute exchange of what his face looked like as he looked at me and I looked back–we bonded. I didn’t know it at the time, but from that moment on nothing I did for him was a burden, or job, or chore, or hassle. I loved him, he was mine, he depended on me, and there were no limits. I wouldn’t find out that this was due to he and I bonding for some time.
Around the time he was 1.5 years old it was time for me to graduate college with a degree in finance and a 4.0 GPA. I had spent two years giving 100% of myself to a program no one who ever knew me would have guessed I would enroll in. Add me to that group because finances and I were two things always at odds with one another. The program had changed me and I would be graduating with honors-which was absolutely beyond all my expectations. And then the night before graduation….Gabe ate an entire daylily flower. At 11 pm I heard him throw up and jumped up and saw green leaves on the carpet. I had received a bouquet of spring flowers that contained daylilies of which I had no idea are poisonous. In fact at this point, I had no idea any plants or flowers were poisonous to cats except poinsettia’s. Because of the way he seemed shortly after this incident (30 minutes), I decided to look up lilies and much to my horror discovered they are almost always fatal if ingested by a cat. You have very limited time to treat your cat before it goes into kidney failure. It is highly recommended if you want to save your cat to rush it fast to your veterinarian. Of course we live in a small area and at the time there were no emergency vets within an hour’s- to even two/three hours drive in any direction. So, I rushed Gabe to the sink and started wiping him down with cool cloths, and I syringed milk down his throat, and for the next 12 hours kept him awake by doing any number of things. I even went so far as walking him on his hind legs around and around our coffee table, a cool bath, syringes of food and milk and water every couple of hours until mid-morning the next day. When we finally got a hold of our veterinarian he was shocked Gabe was still alive. His words were – “he had a 1% chance of making it without veterinarian intervention.” Now, thankfully there are emergency veterinarians in our area and even within 1-2 hours from us that fortunately we have not had to ever contact. Read all about plant toxicity here Of course you know, I chose to miss my college graduation much to my instructor, classmates, and the dean of the programs dismay. There was no way I was going to leave our cat on his own hours after being poisoned by ingesting a lily. I made peace with my decision and have never regretted missing my college graduation. I’d had one two years earlier and two years after this one, I’d had one again. Still, I would choose him over graduation given that choice to make again.
Gabe continued to improve and after a week we knew we had beat the odds.
Then a year or so later he got crystals. Another issue that can harm cats and is so difficult to cure or keep cured especially in males and especially in tabby cats. $2000.00 later, test after test, medications, doctor visits, and special food syringed 8x a day and he was cured. He has stayed cured too with no kidney damage.
He’s had allergies his whole life to food, dust, and pollen and will eat anything off the floor–and I mean anything so we are constantly on alert. He also never got used to eating without Momma by his side so I feed him spoonful by spoonful 6-8 times a day every day. We have had to stop traveling and I changed my work to remote due to his increasing separation anxiety which we feel comes directly from his being too young when we adopted him. Kittens learn confidence through playing with each other. This playtime is pretty constant during 4-8 weeks after birth and he was already in our care by 5 weeks. We have used toys–interactive play to build his confidence but nothing has worked 100%. His daddy finally relented when he was 14 months old and started allowing him to sleep in our bed. For almost 3 years he slept at the foot of our bed on my side with me scrunched up to accommodate him. He’s always had both mine and his dad’s love, attention, coddling, and doting and we’re not ashamed to say spoiled to no end. He doesn’t ask for much–mainly just his nom nom and a treat now and then. He has beds in every room of our apartment and baskets of toys and the freedom to climb on whatever he wants –even the counter tops much to my husband’s dismay. He is living his best life and so are we.
All this to say he is the love of my life in every way and once I realized he’d saved me, I knew why he had come into our lives early or not. He had needed me and I had needed him. After awhile even my husband couldn’t imagine his day to day without our boy. Loving him, sacrificing for him, worrying about him, caring for him before I even consider myself where all new things to me. Besides being loved by my husband, I’d never felt loved in my life before we adopted Gabe. Honestly, I didn’t know how to love. Children were a burden to my parents, I’d been a burden to a significant other, siblings showed no love, friends were the fairweather kind. Who I was and how I’d loved was a reflection of the many dysfunctional relationships I’d had in my life. That night with Gabe was like the stars finally aligning. We had bonded. I wish I’d had the conditions in my life present that night for other times in my life, but I just didn’t. My emotions at one time in my life had been solely dependent on the kind shown to me. I had so many issues to work through early in my life while maintaining dysfunctional relationships, being disowned from family, and involving myself in both work and situations that took me further and further away from ever being placed in the kind of situation or moment the night I finally was comfortable enough (safe, supported, loved, secure) to accept someone or something needing me and at that moment feeling there was nothing in the world I’d rather experience than someone needing me and me providing love and care while doing it. And from that– love that has been returned back to me from a cat that has made every moment of my life since –a life of true fulfillment and purpose.
My life in so many ways has changed since that night. I’ve grown exponentially –like the Grinch’s heart in so many directions. My ability to love and be loved, to let go and learn to fully trust for the first time in my life, to be close, really close to someone, to commit for all the right reasons, to stay and not run when I got scared and more. In opening myself up to whatever might come, even bad or sad things, and giving 100%, even if it left me feeling vulnerable–all of it helped make me the person God always intended for me to be.
So, for everything there is a season. Our life may dwindle down to our last couple of years, hours, or minutes but if it is to be in our life, it shall be no matter what force tries to stop it. There is always hope and even when you don’t realize the things you need the most–they find you.
Don’t ever let someone who doesn’t love you or support you or know you tell you what to do or what you should or shouldn’t feel.
Here is our boy on his 13th birthday–one he shares with his grandpa! xoxox
Not the happiest camper because his card has a grey tabby on it and not an orange one. I told him to blame Target–I tried! A beautiful healthy 13 year old who still weighs 12#–stable weight for 10 years, eats 6 oz of wet a day and one good sized handful of kibble, plays a lot with mom and toys, and snuggles with dad and walks him to the door on work days. I should add he still gets tucked in bed at night, stays on an actual feeding and sleeping schedule, loves to watch birds and squirrels, and is wild about tumbleweeds. He’s a one of a kind, well-mannered boy and we LOVE him!