Underneath my yellow skin

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Hoping the New Year is Better Than the Old

It’s the end of 2017, and I, for one, am not sorry to see the back end of it. It’s been a lousy year politically, and there hasn’t been much for me to crow about, personally, either. I lost my beloved Raven at the end of 2016, and I still think about him almost every day. It’s not as painful as it was when it first happened–and it was such an unexpected shock–but it’s a dull, aching throb that doesn’t go  away. Shadow (his brother) and I have slowly adapted, but it’s been a long, hard road, and we are nowhere near normal. Or, to be more accurate, we have created a new normal. One in which it’s only the two of us. In the first six months after Raven’s death, Shadow was a changed cat. He was clingy whereas he used to be sweet, but more aloof. He would spend hours on his own downstairs, sauntering back upstairs whenever he felt like it. Right after his brother’s death, Shadow clung to me like glue. He followed me everywhere, and he meowed mournfully whenever I had to leave. When I went to the back porch to smoke, Shadow would stretch out his front paws up on the sliding glass door and cry until I went back in.

He was never much of a talker when his brother was alive, but he truly found his voice after. We have a wake-up ritual now that includes him meowing at me until I get out of bed and feed him. He’ll meow at random times during the day, and he’ll mournfully cry when I go to bed. I have theorized that the meowing in the morning and when I’m headed for the kitchen is because he used to rely on Raven to inform me when it’s time to eat, and now that Raven is gone, he has catted up and is taking over the duty of letting me know it’s time to eat.

Another change is that he snuggles with me much more than he used to. He used to like perching on top of the couch by my feet (he still won’t sit in his brother’s spot more than a few times), but now he prefers either sitting in his hidey hole (favorite bed) or nestling on my legs. After six months, he started doing his own thing again. In fact, he’s downstairs as I’m writing this. But, he will come up eventually, and he will stiff-walk down my body as I go to sleep tonight because that is part of our new normal as well.

I’m tired. I’m doing better overall, but I’m still in recovery. I will continue this post tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a video of Shironeko (white cat) snuggling with a buddy. Happy New Year, and may 2018 kick 2017’s ass.

Creating a New Normal

king of all he surveys
Raven on top, Summer of 2011

The best two seconds of my day are when I first wake up, before I remember that Raven is dead. In those two seconds, life is as it was before. Me and my two boys, living a cozy life together, forming our own little family. Before I open my eyes, I can pretend Raven is still with me, and then the grief floods me once again. To the outside eye, I probably appear as if I’m handling it well. I rarely cry about it, and I don’t talk about it except with my closest friends. Even then, I don’t mention it much, but it’s because it hurts too much. I still feel it all the way to my core, even if I don’t show it. It’s the little things that jar me the most. Reaching up to pet Raven who loved to perch on the couch above my head and patting the empty air. Going to the bathroom and not having to turn on the faucet for Raven to drink from it. Feeding only Shadow and not having to guard Raven’s food for him because he’s a slower eater and Shadow is highly food-driven. Listening to Raven growl at me and growling back because I found it amusing. We used to do this for several minutes, though only if no one else was present.

My mother asked me if I’ve accepted that he’s gone. Of course I have. I knew it the minute I looked into his glassy eyes right after he died. My dear, sweet Raven was gone, and he was never coming back. I was never in denial about that. By the way, the boys’ foster mom sent me an article on grief after I told her Raven died. We’ve all heard of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and her five stages of grief, but what we’ve gotten wrong (I learned from the article) is that she was studying terminally-ill people when she came up with her theory. The stages are what terminally-ill people go through after learning their diagnosis, and suddenly, it made much more sense to me than applying it to the general population. I couldn’t make the five stages fit what I was going through concerning the loss of my Raven, and after reading the article, I was relieved that I wasn’t a freak for not going through the stages. My mom then said she hoped I would get over the loss soon, and that seemed like an anathema to me. I don’t think there’s a ‘getting over’ a loss–only finding a new normal. When Raven first died, Shadow would cry for a long time after eating his breakfast as he wandered around the house. I knew he was looking for his brother, even though I had explained to him that Raven was gone and wouldn’t be coming back. I didn’t know why he did it at that specific time, but I decided it was because that’s one thing they always did together–eat. So, it made sense that Shadow would feel the loss most strongly then. It broke my heart to hear his mournful howl as he tried to find his brother, and it was frustrating to know that there was nothing I could do to help him.

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RIP, Raven–You Are Loved

bestest friends and blood brothers
My favorite picture of my boys. Raven (R) & Shadow (L).

Ed. Note: It’s been a week sine my baby has died, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet. I wrote this post several days ago, but I haven’t been able to publish it yet. I don’t know why. I thought now was the right time.

My Raven died Saturday night. I think it was a heart attack, but I’m not sure. Ian tried to revive him, and we rushed him to the Emergency Vet, but it was too late.

That’s how I’ve started the messages to my friends about what happened to Raven. Writing it again doesn’t make it any more real, nor does thinking about it.

The first time I saw Raven, nine years ago, he was named Midnight, and in his picture, he looked like a scared, scrawny black cat. I noticed that he had a brother, also black, named Shadow. They were nine months old at the time. Shadow’s bio said he was psychic and knew that I was looking for two cats. I fell in love immediately because I WAS looking for two cats, and these two looked exactly like what I wanted. In addition, they were going to be at an adoption fair at the PetSmart/PetCo in a city near me the very next day. I felt it was fate, and I hurried to see them at the adoption fair.
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