So on that first trip west without the ex, I was carrying too much emotional angst to attempt to carry a 13-pound cat through three airports, so Miss stayed with HIM that winter. When I returned to our hometown in the spring armed with a stronger state of mind and ready to put my signature on a lengthy set of divorce papers, invisible had a proposal: Joint custody of Miss.
Straight to my trusted therapist P. I went, where he reiterated the advice he’d given me on day one of my nightmare: “If you want to get through this and sustain the strength to leave him, you have to cut off all communication with him; trust your lawyer to do what you hired her to do.” Joint custody was just a ploy, said P., for mr. invisible to keep his connection going with me as he tried to wear down my reserve so I’d take him back. Not because he loved me, mind you, but so that his secrets wouldn’t be revealed and people wouldn’t ask, “What could have happened to break up a 30-year marriage??”
I had done what P. said: One day invisible and I were reading the NY Times, crawling into bed for some recreational activity and later taking an evening stroll through the neighborhood, holding hands. Days later, his laptop was at a forensic specialist being investigated within an inch of its battery life, and it still shocks me to say this: I never had a face-to-face conversation with my husband again. His few feeble attempts at emails were breathtakingly absent of emotion, empathy and introspection–rather, they displayed a man in deep denial about his own actions, with a lack of remorse etched in anger.
So I continued with the advice P. gave me, knowing I was doing what was best for me, and what was best for Miss. Cats aren’t as mobile- friendly as dogs, and a back-and-forth situation for a 14-year-old cat whom I’d nursed back to health with two insulin shots a day would not have been her cup of tea. I knew I was moving west permanently, but I was heading into the unknown and needed to concentrate on making a new home and taking care of myself. The best thing for her was to remain with him.
I don’t think of it often, but sometimes a trigger takes me back to the last time I saw her, that day before I headed west, and the lawyer had arranged a hand-off at the vet’s office. It was a biting cold January day, leaden clouds hanging low with wind whipping around me so hard it pulled the hood of my coat off my head. I arrived before mr. invisible, and took Miss in her carry-on kennel inside the waiting room of the vet’s office so we could stay warm. She was quiet, and I talked to her like I always did, in that stupid, sing-songy voice you reserve for babies, puppies and kittens. Ten minutes later he pulled up to the curb and got out of the car’s driver side, opened the rear passenger door and waited.
He never met my eyes, and I only looked up at him at the last second so I wouldn’t miss the hand-off and drop the cat. He put her in the back seat of his car, climbed in, and drove off without ever saying a word or looking at me. She didn’t say anything either, as we’d already said our goodbyes back at the house.
I got in my car and laid my forehead on the steering wheel, and let the tears roll down my cheeks that still burned from that wind and seeing him for the first time in months. After I got home, I constantly looked for her under my feet or searched for her after the 10 o’clock news so we could have our nighttime bedtime ritual of food, water, and a bump of our noses together. Kitten was a silky soft love bug, and truth be told, she gave me more unconditional love in the decade I had her than I ever received from him in three.
An email mr. invisible sent to friends and family announced Miss’ death from cancer in the summer of 2016. My daughter gave me the news when she heard.
I teared up for days, but my real grieving had already been done in that parking lot three years earlier. I know you can’t get back what you’ve lost, but you can honor the loss in ways that keep those precious memories alive.
Today in my new home, I have what my son-in-law calls my “wall of fame” in a long hallway that contains more than 70 framed photos of my family. Kitten rests regally between DD and my grand babies in a prominent spot on that wall. As I come out of my bedroom and walk down the hall each morning, those pictures give me the start to a day that we all deserve–one that brings joy and the feeling of a safe embrace. I try to look at them every time with fresh eyes, remembering how I felt the day each of the photos was taken.
The day mr. invisible left, I felt like I’d lost 30 years; that wall without him anywhere on it assures me that I lost nothing.
Never say never, but I know my Miss can never be replaced. I travel, I’m gone too much and my busy lifestyle wouldn’t be fair to an animal at this point. What I do instead is volunteer at the local animal shelter, where any day of the week, I can go and get an armful of unconditional love from a myriad of tabbys, calicos and yes, my favorites, the regal tuxedos. The strays are given names and clean bedding when they are dropped off at the shelter, and I write their bios hoping to lure cat lovers to come in and adopt: “Napoleon is a big, lean guy whose green eyes glow like emeralds against his sleek, black coat. He’s a playful 4-year-old who likes to welcome his people at the door…and much like his French namesake, this Napoleon hopes to lead you out of the shelter and on an adventure to a new place,” or for Jordan, “Do blondes have more fun? This petite sweetie thinks so, weighing only a whisker over 5 pounds and the color of a Creamsicle…”
The one thing they have in common is this: They all want the same things that we do–a home filled with joy and the feeling of a safe embrace (plus a nice big bowl of kibble for good measure).
Click to read the next post: “Boundaries”
©linda-notonfacebook.com. All rights reserved.
©linda-notonfacebook.com. All rights reserved.