“Why do animals die?”
“What happens to everyone when they die?”
“Will the earth die?”
“Do trees grow back if the earth dies?”
I’ve been fielding some big existential questions from Miss 6 this week – up there with the creation questions she started asking when she was four. (“If people are born from a mummy’s belly, how was the first mummy born? Who was her mummy? And who was her mummy’s mummy? And her mummy’s mummy’s mummy? ” etc.)
We lost our beautiful Happy Cat last week and it has been a roller-coaster ride of emotional and existential enquiries that just as quickly segue into “Could we get a bush turkey as a new pet? and What's for dinner?”
Life with kids.
The last time I lost a pet I was a child myself. I remember the sadness and confusion and all those "why?” questions that ran through my own child-mind. I remember the tears that rolled down my dad’s cheeks as he broke the news to me that Gingie was gone forever.
I have now birthed three children, own a house, have a career, do all kinds of “grown-up” things, but I still carry that sense of "when I grow up”... This week, with the passing of Happy Cat, it feels like it’s clicked: I am actually the grown-up now. No longer the child, I am the parent guiding my own children through the grief of losing a childhood pet. Wow.
Except I wasn’t guiding them when it happened…I was the absent parent instead last week. In a twist of timing I’d been summoned to Brisbane for training for a new role with the paper and was woken in the hotel room the first morning by Alex’s phone call with the news that Haps had died overnight.
I start calculating in my mind how long it would take me to drive back home, bury the cat, comfort the girls, then drive back up for work the same day… it wasn’t going to happen, of course. It doesn’t work like that. The training could not be cancelled or postponed without major dramas for everyone and I had to accept that this major event in my girls' young lives was unfolding while I was miles away. Mother-guilt overload.
It has been nearly a week now and I keep expecting to see Haps lounging around in his favourite part of the garden. I miss him. He was such a presence in our lives for so long. He was the companion of Ella’s childhood and he survived the toddlerhood of two more children – always with a patience and gentleness that I was grateful for. He was such a good cat. And, I can say in all honesty, he lived a good long cat life. Doesn't stop it from being sad though...
So here I am, saying hello to this space again. I only just felt like I’d got the blogging mojo back after the upheavals of 2012, but last week was so full-on, the words did not flow. Or the photos – I’ve totally missed my 7/52 entry of the girls’ portraits. There just wasn’t the energy for it.
I’ll finish this post instead with a portrait from a different time, although for me it feels as if I took this just last week… One of my all-time favourite photos of Ella and Happy Cat, when they were both kittens.
Ella was just shy of her fourth birthday in this picture. She’s now 16. How did she get to be 16? How did the time go past so quickly? How did I get to be grown-up?
Seems I have a few big questions of my own… It’s been that kind of week.