A sad event presented an opportunity to have a conversation I have dreaded having with Joanna Leigh. She will be only six in a month, but you can hardly ignore such a prompt. Maybe six years old is the right time regardless; I don't know. All I've known is that she must begin to understand getting old, getting ill, dying, grieving, and moving on.
Our eleven-year-old all white, blue-eyed cat, Patty Cake, became noticeably ill about two weeks ago. She didn't have fever, which alerted me. But I thought she had just been eating lizards again, those creatures being about all she could catch. Slowly she began to quit eating. I continued to touch for fever. None. I tempted her with salmon and all kinds of goodies. Finally last week she quit eating altogether. I poked and prodded around her belly, legs, and back to see if she'd flinch. She didn't. The signs were bad. So early the next morning I took her to the vet; we agreed that blood work was in order.
Patty spent a lot of time in the sun on the patio.
And on the heat vent.
Sure enough, her white blood count was astronomical. My stomach flipped, and I knew. The vet suspected cancer, likely leukemia, and she would only waste away. I spent thirty or forty minutes with her; I finally said goodbye and gave her to the vet. We buried her with all the other cats near the greenhouse: BartholoMew (Barthy), Slash, Tammy, and Prissy (the only mean cat I've ever had). I waited until Saturday morning to tell Joanna Leigh that we did not have Patty anymore. She burst into tears. So, I did, too.
Why expand this conversation wider than the event itself? I worry everyday about the reality of my (and my husband's) age and how it likely affect her. I am 70 this year. If I live another decade, she will be only 16. I worry.
More than that, I worry about not living another decade.
We sat on the patio. She asked many questions, primarily, "Why did Patty have to die?"
"Sometimes when you get old, you get sick and can't get better. You have to remember that everything dies."
"Like all those trees out there?"
"Yes, but trees live a long time," I replied.
"Where is Patty?" she asked.
We buried her over by the greenhouse where all our other cats have been buried."
We went to see the burial site.
"But is she in heaven?"
"Yes, pet heaven. That's kind of next door to regular Heaven."
"Yes, but where is it?"
Oh, golly. Quick, think. "It's up there out in the Universe with the stars. Maybe if you see a twinkling star, it might be Patty."
She pondered. Then her eyes lit up. "You mean Patty is a constellation?!"
Last night she didn't go to sleep easily. She came into my study and said, "Can we go outside and see Patty?"
I thought she meant the burial site at first. Then I realized. "Not tonight. It's cloudy and raining. We'll have to wait until another night."
So, we will go outside and search for the Constellation Patty.
This seems like a good time to mention one of my very favorite apps, Star Walk; there's a version for the iPad and the iPhone. We will use it to find the Constellation Patty. If you like stars and all the other things in the sky (including pet Heaven) like comets, the International Space Station, and Web sites like www.spaceweather.com, you'll love Star Walk. As PC Magazine says, it's like having a home Planetarium. It has a gallery of images, calendar, compass calibration, constellation information, and on and on and on. A YouTube video will entice you to go to the iTunes store to get it.
When you find a constellation or area you want more information on, you get it. You don't need an Internet hook-up; it uses GPS technology.
I just wonder if it will let me add the Constellation Patty when we find it.