Saturday, September 04, 2010

Again, already.

This morning, I had to meet my mom at the Cat Hospital. My sweet baby Nala, who is 16 now, was going into kidney failure. Given her age, the only real option was to put her to sleep. For the second time in 6 weeks, I watched a cat who I loved die.

We got her because in my freshman year of high school, I caught chicken pox from my brother. I missed a week of school right before Christmas break. I am horrible at math, but fantastic at standardized tests. As a result, I was wrongfully placed in Algebra I Honors. I struggled enough as it was, and then missing a week right before exams did me in. My homeroom teacher was my algebra teacher. I asked her for help, and she said, in her thick, unattractive Alabama accent, "You're an honors student. You can figure it out."

This lead to me get further and further behind. The Klumpp refused to help me. As a result, I failed Algebra I and had to go to summer school. In summer school, I had a great teacher. I understood almost everything and made straight As and Bs. The next year was geometry, and I made Bs and Cs with an okay teacher. But when I got to Algebra II, I had another amazing teacher and never got below a B. Senior year I took an extra English instead of math, because I was only required to take three years of math.

Anyway, the idea of summer school was mortifying. Only stupid people went to summer school. I wasn't stupid. I was not going to go to Rummel to take math classes in the summer. No way. Boys school? No thanks. Math? No thanks. Stupid people? No way.

Well, I was now one of them. Stupid.

To get me through it, my parents promised me that I could have anything I wanted. Figuring I could call their bluff, I asked for the one thing that I wanted that I was never supposed to have: a cat.

To my surprise and extreme glee, they said okay. I had to wait until after passing summer school, then until we returned from our trip to visit my relatives in Philadelphia.

We went to the SPCA and were led into a room full of cats. Cats of every color, size, and age. We found scared cats, ugly cats, pretty cats, friendly cats, and one who climbed onto peoples' backs when they bent over to pet other cats. Suddenly, there was my mom with a little grey stripey cat with a white belly. She had a pink nose with a small black dot right above it, a lioness face, and had chosen my mom. As she said, "She chose us. I couldn't turn her away." We brought her home, had her spayed, treated her ear mites, and fell in love. On that first night, she found her way into my bed. I couldn't believe it. I had a cat, and she loved me.

1994 was the summer that "The Lion King" came out. While in Philadelphia, my little cousins Crissy and Steffi wanted to see it, and we went with them. When we got my little girl cat, the only name that seemed to fit her was "Nala." Like the lioness in the movie.

When I had half days at school, she was what got me through being home alone. She was a moody little thing who snubbed my dad, loved me, and loved my mom. In 1997, when I went off to college, it was so hard on me. I missed her so much. If I had a rough day at school, or work, I couldn't hug her. It was all I wanted.

She hated Mark. She would growl at him, hiss at him...and when I brought Lily home between graduation and marriage, she hated her, too. Lily just wanted to play. When Nala was angry at Mark, Lily was there for him. But Nala always loved me.

In April of 2002, we were married. I had made the difficult decision to leave Nala with my parents. It was the only home she'd ever known, she and Lily didn't really get along, and my mom had taken care of her while I was in college. They bonded. No way could I tear her from her only home and the woman she loved more than me. It was hard, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

She'd been slowing down over the years. Had arthritis. She was as cranky as ever, but she would still allow me to hold her and love her. She was a creature of habit, sitting with my mom while she washed her hair each morning, drinking the water dripping from the faucet when mom was done. Waking my mom up every morning, curling up in bed with her.

Last night, my parents noticed she was twitching a bit. This morning, she didn't come in to wake my mom up. She wasn't eating or drinking. Mom brought her to the vet and found out that she was in kidney failure. Her numbers were off the chart, one kidney was enlarged, the other shrunken. She wasn't going to last long. They could treat her, but at 16, it wouldn't really be fair to her.

I'll miss her. I already do.

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