~ Leroy ~
September 23, 2000 – March 29, 2013
In my entire life, I have never been as heartbroken as I am and felt as helpless as I do right now. Leroy, the love of my life, the apple of my eye, the sweetest pussycat, died last Friday, March 29th. He stopped eating and got very sick very quickly over the course of three weeks. I, with help from Nay Nay and The Girl with the Uterus Tattoo, got him to the most caring vets and best hospitals, but my sweet baby didn’t make it. I’m devastated, in disbelief, in a daze. I don’t even want to put in writing that he died because it makes the unthinkable a crushing reality – I can still barely catch my breath. “Let’s Sing a Song about J” recently said that there are tears for when there are no words. My tears have not stopped – and I don’t think they ever will – but I owe my sweet boy an attempt at words for the 12 and a half years he lovingly gave me. For many of those years, he was the only Love and affection I had in my life. And it would have been enough, too, but I had to leave my smokey and sad cocoon apartments and face the world I hated. But faced it I did and survived it I did, despite myself. Over these past two years I found friendship and happiness because I got sober and the subsequent life it rewarded me. My life, now filled with so much Love, replaced that dark empty life I had excruciatingly endured only because I always knew I had a squishy kitty waiting for me at home. (I also had a 12-pack waiting for me, but I didn’t feel as pathetic drinking alone – because I wasn’t really alone – because I had said squishy kitty on my lap with pure Love in his eyes, always happy to see me, no matter my condition). My friend “SBIB” asked me the other day when I told him that my Leroy was very sick, “Do you believe God had a plan for Leroy, even though you may never understand what that plan is? Maybe Leroy was sick for a while, but held on until he knew you were safe and happy enough for him to leave?” Such beautiful sentiment from a good friend! While I can’t bear the thought of him sick, it brings me some necessary comfort to imagine that he chose me 12 and a half years ago because he knew I needed him. I still need him. Then last week, he decided that my ability to give and accept Love (beyond to and from him) was secure, knew I was protected, and knew his job on my lap, on my head on my pillow, in my arms, and in this world was complete. One final kiss and a smoosh of my face into his cute little body, and he was gone. I felt his sweet heart stop in one hand, and his chin fell and peacefully rested on my other hand, like it had done, again, so peacefully, so so many times before. Goodbye my pretty kitty, best boy in the world, the center of my heart. ** Keep reading please – I promise this blog gets happy.. or I hope so, for the Love of God… so sad…! **
At the very end, his gentle and so sympathetic vet, told me that Leroy was crossing the “Rainbow Bridge”. I’d read this “Rainbow Bridge” poem before – if you don’t know what I am talking about, you’re going to have to Google it yourself. It’s indescribable. I must at least say it is suuuuuuper corny and sappy, but I am sure it talked many a grieving pet parent off the ledge of utter heartwreck. Nay Nay, who stayed in the room with me and glued me together through it all, folded a copy of the story and put it in my bag and said I should maybe wait until later to read it. Knowing I could not possibly feel any worse, I did read it later, sobbed, and then had a rush of lovely and funny memories. Part of the poem says, “There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together”. Leroy, being the coolest cat ever, got along splendidly with everyone – people and other cats – had no signs of social anxiety, unlike me, his mom. One time in San Francisco, in-between apartments, BBFITW (the father of my kitties) and I stayed with friends, who also had cats. Our friend wanted to keep our cats separated, but Leroy was like ‘Relax, dude. S’all good’. I came home one day to find him perched happily in the cut-out hole in the middle tier of their cat tree and their cat was perched happily on the top tier – they were a totem pole of delicious cuteness! To date, it’s one the cutest things I’ve ever seen. So, back to the poem… The “run and play together” part applies – I am sure Sweet Leroy is playing with other kitties in Heaven.. but it has to be an INDOOR Heaven. I have a deck where I live now, a big open-roof deck on the top floor of my house. I have only let the cats out one time. One Time. Penny and Oliver were stoked to be outside. Penny hung a left and tried to run down the fire escape. Oliver jumped immediately up onto the 3” railing THREE FLOORS ABOVE CERTAIN DEATH. But little Leroy made himself super small somehow, crouched down as close to the floor as possible, turned his head and looked up at me with those huge green eyes and gave me one of those knowing pleading but silent cries as if to say “why are you doing this to me?”, and the ran backwards inside as quickly and quietly as possible. I realized that in his entire ten or so years my baby had never been outside! Little guy had been living in a safe and sheltered Lap o’ Luxury his whole life! So, the “meadows and hills” bit of the poem needs to be changed to “nylon cat tunnels and tall dressers” to play in.. with “air conditioning and space heaters”.. and on totem poles of delicious cuteness.
As I mentioned earlier, “Let’s Sing a Song about J” once said that there are tears for when there are no words, but 12 and a half years ago, my tears over a different cat brought the cutest kitten in the history of kittens AND in the history of cuteness into my life – my squishy Leroy! The story is very sweet! It goes a little something like this…
In 2001, I was living in San Francisco with a crackhead, let’s call her “CHCH”. (That’s an entirely different story for some other time). We were smoking bowls one night and watching “Golden Girls” when we heard this horrible whining screaming outside. The screaming was not human. Somewhat assured that it wasn’t any of the human lady prostitutes who lined our street, we ran downstairs into the courtyard and found the prettiest little but injured Calico cat, dragging herself by her front legs, crying. CHCH ran out front and rang everyone’s doorbells to see if anyone was missing their cat, while I stayed with the kitty trying my best to be a cat whisperer and calm her down. A neighbor with a car came down and scooped her up and took her to Animal Control who in turn took her to the SF-SPCA. She had all sorts of internal injuries and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. They think she may have been hit by a car, but she recovered completely and I adopted her. Yay! I named her “Sophia”, as in “Petrillo”, and she was the most darling little girl. She slept all day on a pillow on the middle of my bed, and slept all night on the middle of my chest, and we did this for weeks. Then one day, a month or so after I adopted her, CHCH called me at work. She said she had some bad news – the entire neighborhood was plastered with ‘Lost Cat’ posters. I was outraged. Outraged, I say!!! I sent out a mass email to my friends taking a poll on what I should do – what kind of monster lets their cat outside in the city and doesn’t realize she’s gone for two months??! I got some strongly-worded replies that it would be I who was the monster if I did not return her. So, I did, reluctantly and with anger, but I did. It turns out she was the cat of the hipster across the street named “Cara”. She was out of town and when she returned, the cat “Mena”, not “Sophia”, wasn’t home – her roommate got a kitten and was like ‘move over bacon..”. I often talk about how I did not cry for years when I was drinking. I remember now that this was an exception. I cried and cried and cried – after only a couple months, I became so attached to this kitty. So, within the next day or so, BBFITW took me to the SF-SPCA to pick out a kitten. They had entire rooms, not cages, for litters of cats. I sat in a Heaven covered in playful grey-haired kitten fuzziness, (If Heaven has a waiting room, this is exactly what it would be like). This tiny 4-month-old bright-eyed pale- green-eyed angel with a shock of grey hair walked up my legs and looked up at me. Cooooooing, I said, “I like you. Do you like me?” and he gave me a little headbutt, and I said, “He’s The One!”. But as I said earlier, he was the one who picked me, not I him. He said, “She’s The One”. And so began our Love.
The saddest fact about being a pet parent is that we’ll likely outlive our beloved pets… unless our pet is a sea turtle, of course. I could and I will in time write so much about my sweet Leroy, about how he rescued me so many times from The War that was my life, and just about about how pleasant and funny and loving he was. But I am so heartsick right now – I want to tell you specifically about how he is still loving me and taking care of me, helping me see through my blinding and unbearable sadness over his leaving me, but still leaving me gifts.
I had to tell BBFITW that Leroy died. He’s the one who brought me and Leroy together, and although he still lives in San Francisco and hasn’t lived with Leroy in a number of years, he loves him the most, like me. BBFITW told me a few days later that he told a friend of his about Leroy, and his friend made a sizeable donation to the SF-SPCA in Leroy’s name. He, and Leroy I am sure, hoped that brought me comfort and it did, so much. Last Sunday I got an email from a childhood friend “jennIFER” (who’s now a Facebook friend, of course) that said, “I’m so sorry about Leroy. He was a great kitty. All of my nurses loved him and were sad to see him go. Our thoughts are with you”. It turns out that jennIFER works at Angell Memorial as the manager of inpatient services and of the nursing staff for emergency and critical care. She took care of Leroy while he was in Critical Care during his last few days! I am sure that Leroy had arranged that, too – made sure I knew that he had loving care right up until the end – let me know he was never alone. My regular neighborhood vets who took care of Leroy initially and then sent him to the ER sent me a lovely sympathy card. They both, as well as jennIFER, said that Leroy was a sweet kitty and is watching over me, which I knew, but it is comforting to hear it again from professional animal doctors! Leroy had a paw or two in that as well, I am sure. So many of my friends that know about Leroy said that they would hold their kitties closer and tell them how much they are loved. Leroy made sure my friends’ cats got an extra hug.
Maybe the most tender gift of providence Leroy gave me was a sort of introduction, if you will, to my new sponsor “Lily”. I think he chose Lily and waited for me to ask her to sponsor me because he knew we’d have an immediate bond. She lost her precious cat a couple of months ago, and Leroy knew that Lily would understand on a cellular level the depth of my sadness, because she knows on a cellular level how deeply someone can love her cat, how deeply someone can just Love, and now perhaps, specifically, teach me how someone can carry on with their lives and be happy after losing such a huge Love… because I am having a desperately hard time believing that’s possible. I cannot stop crying. I miss him so much.
On a happier note, I have been talking a lot about Leroy in meetings and I’ve been being cradled with sympathy. Of friends in CK who grieve, even after years, for their loved pets, those friends have become good friends, good friends have become close friends, close friends have become dear friends, dear friends have become irreplaceable and they’ll never get rid of me now! Leroy had a paw or two in that, too, I am sure. It is comforting and fun to think that all our cats and dogs, who were/are loved as much as my sweet baby, found each other and are playing with each other on The Rainbow Bridge. Ha! I couldn’t resist! But really, I said that my idea of Heaven is being covered in playful grey-haired kitten fuzziness. Maybe our adored and departed pets’ idea of Heaven is being covered in playful colorful recovering alcoholics… recovering alcoholics who are happy and have so much Love to give and receive.
They say a very long time on Earth is just a blink of an eye in Heaven. You’ll see me, Penny, and Oliver soon, my squishy bunny, and we can’t wait.
We love you, Leroy. So much.