This is another entry in my series “Attachments” about the things with which we develop attachments because they have something, however distantly connected, with the loss of one of our animal companions.
Time passes and smooths the rocks as it flows over them, cleansing the wounds, and in time healing comes. Something which at one point may have caused great pain offers a twinge, some regrets, lots of memories, but no tears and heartache. While other treatments may be applied to grief, only time can bring this relief. The measure of time is different for each of us, and for each loss.
February 3, 2022 was the 10-year anniversary of the day I lost Cookie. She’s turned up in my articles on attachment because I lost her after I began blogging, readers were familiar with her, and I could easily document instances as they came up. I have mentioned other losses, but by staying with Cookie I could also follow the course of healing after a loss. Here I am after a decade and I still find things that were significant in our lives together, and I still have at least a twinge of missing her. Am I nearly completely healed from her loss? Should I even expect “completion?” Do I feel a twinge of guilt at the thought of no twinge of missing her at all? All these questions have complicated answers, but even the questions show progress toward healing.
The broken cookie jar
I had more than a little twinge of sadness and regret when I found this fractured piece of pottery in the garden last spring. I was clearing the brush and odd items I’d tossed onto the upper garden when my hip became a problem—sections of wire fencing, miscellaneous lumber and used wood, pieces of old wooden chairs, plastic bottles I once used in the garden. Over a couple of years, burdock, curled dock, jewelweed and Indian mallow grew up through these items and cleaning off the surface of the garden entailed untangling all of it and sorting it into other areas.
When I got to the soil level I found this piece of the cookie jar. I knew instantly what it was, and had no idea how it had gotten there. I had not used it as a pot for flowers or herbs practically since Cookie because the ceramic isn’t intended for outdoors and even back then it had fractures. Then the bottom came off and that was that. I kept it, because of Cookie. But I would not have tossed it onto the garden, out of respect if anything else, but also for safety as shards of pottery can generate some messy gashes if you encounter a piece buried in the soil. Also, I use old pot shards in new pots as drainage. It may have ended up there by one of the people who helped me with things before and after my hip surgery.
Encountering it like this was unexpectedly painful, in a way that wouldn’t have been if I’d found it under the deck ready to be broken down into pieces to put in the bottom of a newer pot. I felt irresponsible, and by being neglectful I’d disrespected Cookie and her memory, and our time out in the garden all those years. And one of my last memories of Cookie a few days before she died involved this very cookie jar.
But there’s a larger, overall reason I reacted that way, and it’s something we encounter as we grieve all the time. I was also looking at it through a haze of my own neglect at several things, many things, in fact, that had been somehow ruined in the time I was somewhat incapacitated by my hip and also by finances urging me to keep working as hard as I could to continue my income, and not pay attention to the details that didn’t contribute to it. That’s been a common theme for me in the past few years as I clean up after that time, and though I could do little else than what I did in those years, and I understand how these items ended up that way, it complicates grief overall.
I felt bad for the losses of boxes of specialty envelopes for note cards I had bought years before that were in the way when water came in the basement, my stash of greeting card boxes grew mildewed as I couldn’t afford to replace them, the sash from a bathrobe I’d made for my mother years ago fell into a litterbox, and more. I was really grieving something larger, which was the life I’d built that had nearly come apart, and which I’d never be able to recreate. Cookie was part of that life, as was the cookie jar. All these failures, as I’ll call them, show my ineptitude and contribute to that feeling of loss.
I try to just ride the wave of feelings and let it carry the bad feelings back out to sea. I know I’ll always feel a twinge of loss when I think about Cookie or encounter anything that reminds me of her. I will always miss her. That, for me, is normal. I don’t need to hold onto the rest.
But it brought back a happy memory
This photo is from January 29, 2012:
I’ll plant flowers and vegetables in anything—with Cookie’s supervision, of course! Occasionally I go around to yard sales and buy some cheap ceramic items and use them for flower pots, in this case a canister set that had mostly broken lids so each pot was maybe a dime.
This one in particular held a pepper plant, not a cookie tree, but even though Cookie has been interacting with this pot nearly every day since last spring, checking it every morning, sitting by it in shade and sun, drinking from it and lately eating her snow cone from it, I never noticed it said “Cookies” until today. Guess that might have been why she’s been so fond of it.
Once she was done inspecting the inside for cookies, she decided to do the typical cat thing with the stem—run her nose along it, then gnaw on it for a bit.
You might notice that Cookie looks a little shabby. In that post I also gave an update that included, “We are winning little battles, but we are slowly losing the war.” We would lose her less than a week later.
I remember those days. I keep them with me in part for Cookie’s memory, and in another part because there will be another loss, and I will need the wisdom I gained from those days. Remembering how Cookie’s condition progressed and what I did and how I felt actually brings me comfort in another situation. Here I’ve been thinking it would be Mimi soon, and then Mr. Sunshine was diagnosed with his condition.
Here is the happy memory, or memories, going back to that post brought to me:
We are winning little battles, but we are slowly losing the war. Her hyperothyroidism along with the renal issues have been causing her heart to enlarge and it’s beginning to impede her circulation and breathing; she is frequently short of breath and her hind legs are typically weak. I carry her around though she doesn’t like it, but I can’t see her straining on steps and possibly falling.
Kelly has calmed down and attempts some comfort for Cookie, cuddling with her and giving her a pretty complete bath now and then.
Mimi sits with her by the kitchen furnace vent which is under a chair, forming a barrier so the heat will stay underneath and keep Cookie warm, and gives her very practical momcat baths.
The Fantastic Four keep an eye on her, and I’ll see one or another moving toward the top of the steps if she’s headed in that direction, Giuseppe keeps an eye on her on the cabinet in the kitchen, Mewsette cuddles with her, and Jelly Bean sits next to her and purrs fervently.
One evening as I was checking her temperature and heart rate behind the closed bathroom door, much to her objection, I could hear shuffling outside the door and knew the Four were out there, probably waiting to see if any food would come their way. Then Mr. Sunshine’s favorite wooden clothespin emerged little by little under the door right next to us, followed by a black paw giving it one final shove. I thought that was darned nice of Mr. Sunshine to give us his best clothespin, knowing it would make us as happy as it made him.
I had a good laugh over the clothespin! And I am so comforted at how compassionate my household was, something I was aware of but couldn’t fully appreciate in the moment.
Get a copy of the book when you support my Patreon page
As I’d mentioned a few months ago, I’m resuming promoting my Patreon page to provide some income as I work on my writing and my illustrated books. The book I’ve been planning entitled Attachments has always been intended to be a perk of subscribing to my Patreon page. My plan was to have six essays and other information on pet loss and grieving. I’ve been working on the sixth and final essay, as well as working over the ones here to make them more consistent, to feel like a cohesive document that can inform and guide you on attachments as a part of grieving a loss. This book will initially be an e-book, but hopefully I can have a few bound copies printed. It should be ready by the end of June.
So if you’d like to help support my writing, read this post then head over and donate.
My series “Attachments” discusses the things I’ve developed attachments to because they have something, however distantly connected, with the loss of one of my cats. They may seem silly and hard to explain and we often try to deny or hide them, but they are indeed attached to something we hold dear. They have a role in our life, but in time we should be able to recognize their role, and let go of what they represent. I write about my own experience and how they were resolved for me to encourage others to consider their attachments and what role they play.
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