Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gretchen is dead

I killed her.

I don't know that I killed her for sure, but it seems likely.

I came home from yesterday tired, tired in advance for the day ahead. I knew I couldn't go to bed, because I had to take my mom for a procedure that morning. So I went on the computer for a little bit. Then I decided to have a light breakfast - a cheese danish with butter. I went into the parlor to eat it and sit on the lift chair.

The lift chair is something we got back when my grandmother was with us. It's a recliner, but it has a motor that operates the recline function. It's primary purpose is to lift up, to stand the user up to get out of the chair more easily.

I decided I wanted to sit there, put my feet up, enjoy my danish, maybe watch some TV, maybe have a cat on my lap. I selected BlueBear. He didn't really want to go along with the plan, so he jumped off.

A few minutes later I had had enough. I used the control to lower the foot rest, first shooing away any cats in the area. Cats like to play under the chair, and that's a dangerous place to be when the motor is engaged.

Last night I needed to give Bowie and Rachel some eye drops. It was easy to find Bowie - she was curled up under my feet at he computer - but I couldn't find Rachel. Or Peaches. Or Gretchen. I looked around for a while, and then gave up. I had had only two hours of sleep in the previous thirty-four, and it was time for me to go to bed.

This morning I didn't see any of the kittens. Not right away, anyway. I found Bowie, but I was a little surprised that no one else came out when I set out food and milk.

Soon I solved part of the mystery. Rachel and Peaches had hidden themselves in the room with the computer, and had spent the night locked in there. BlueBear eventually showed himself, too. Everyone was accounted for but Gretchen.

She'll show up eventually, I thought. She's probably just annoyed at having not spent the night with her sister Rachel.

My mom expressed a concern tonight that she had not seen Gretchen all day.

I began a search. A logical search. Assumption: Gretchen is dead. Question: How could she have died?

Well, the answer is, lots of ways. I decided to start with the easiest to check first.

I went to the lift chair and put it in "lift" mode, so that it would raise the chair in such a way that it would tip the occupant forward, eventually lifting the chair several feet off the floor.

My mom watched as the chair rose. At first she saw nothing. But then - yes, a kitten. Gretchen. Cold. Stiff. Dead.

She looked like she was sleeping. Strangled or crushed, I do not know. I do not know for a fact that I killed her. Maybe - maybe seeing me on the chair stirred her curiosity, and she found a way to secrete herself in the chair after we had left for the day. Maybe she got herself tangled in the crossbars, strangled, and died, all while no one was around to hear her.


I see these kittens as a test, a test I have failed. The world wants to kill these kittens. Disease. Predators. Cars. The weather. Can I keep them alive?

For a while I thought I had failed on the first day, when Bowie disappeared. But she showed up, safe and sound. It was OK.

But now Gretchen is dead. Dead for sure. No coming back. No miraculous recovery. Dead.

I have failed. I have failed the universe. I have failed Socks, Gretchen's mother - I promised her, after she disappeared, that I would take care of her kittens. I have failed Gretchen, who I hope died quickly and without pain. I have failed Rachel, depriving her of a sister and best friend. I have failed all the other cats, depriving them of a playmate.

I have failed myself.

I will try not to fail again.

Tomorrow I may or may not have work. Regardless, tomorrow I must go outside, dig a tiny grave, and place the plastic-wrapped body of a kitten in it.

Goodbye, Gretchen.


piglet said...

Oh dear, dear, dear. Poor little kitty, poor Harold. Kitties can get in the darndest, deadliest places. When my husband was a teenager, he did a load of laundry, not realizing that a family kitten was hiding in the dryer.

These things happen, so try not to beat yourself up over it.

Hope the sun comes out soon for you.

MaryRuth said...

awww, man...I am really sad to hear about Gretchen. It is truly an accident and like the last poster said, you can't beat yourself up over it. Your other kitties need you.

hedera said...

Baloney, Harold. Pure baloney. You haven't failed the universe; you haven't even (particularly) failed Gretchen. You took her in, fed her, took her to the vet. If you hadn't done all that, she might easily have been dead by now anyhow. It was just her time.

You're working a schedule that would kill a regiment, and you aren't getting enough sleep, and you missed a cat in an invisible hiding place. You're doing the absolute best you can with those cats. Stop beating on yourself. The best we can is all any of us can do.