Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Joy and sorrow

I don’t talk about it on this blog much, but I foster kittens. It’s a thing I do because I can’t work. I take on the very young ones—the ones whose mothers died or abandoned them before they were weaned. I’ve taken litters that are mere days old. More frequently, they’re between one and three weeks old when I get them. For the most part, it’s an incredibly rewarding endeavor. The kittens I foster—the ones that survive, anyway—are sweet, adorable, loving, snuggly kitties and a joy to their new parents. But even though I love the work, it isn’t without its cost.

My very first litter of kittens was two babies, five days old: Ash and Ember. Their eyes weren’t even open, and they needed feedings every two hours. I was a nervous wreck. I was sure I was messing things up, and they would immediately die. Contrary to my fears, they were growing up into healthy, happy kittens, until about the three-week point.

One morning, Ash looked severely under the weather. She had saliva around her mouth and her coat was lank. I immediately brought her to the vets at the Humane Society. It turned out that she had fluid in her lungs, and probably had since birth, but she was small enough that it wasn’t affecting her very much before that point. She had to be euthanized.

That was my first experience with kitten death.

I don’t even know how many litters of kittens I’ve had since then. I’ve lost count. I’ve had a few litters with no deaths at all, and one litter that all died. Another litter of five: four of them died and the last had a terrible infection that left his two left legs crippled for life. (We ended up adopting him, because we had bonded with him far too much during his tribulations to let him go.) And just Tuesday, one of my litter of three had to be put down for a congenital heart defect that had stunted her growth and reduced her to, basically, an ornament.

It doesn’t get easier.

I’m not a religious person; I am, in fact, a spiritual atheist. But when I think about a tiny being of love and mischief lasting for only a few weeks on this earth, the only thing that gives me any comfort is the hope that its soul can go back up to the kitten-cloud, and hopefully get a better set of hardware the next time around. Or, alternatively, that the ghosts of kittens past are all still hanging out at my house, playing together.

It’s monstrously unfair that a kitten would just end.

Anyway. It doesn’t get easier when kittens die. But the grief doesn’t last quite as long as it used to. If we’re looking at the bright side, dealing with kitten death actually makes other parts easier. Giving them back to the Humane Society for adoption is one of the most painful things I ever do, every damn time. But it’s really good knowing that they’re not dead, that someone is loving them even more than I did.

Grief is confusing and hard and terrible. It’s easy to be disgusted with myself for feeling so horrible about such a small thing. I’ve known people who have lost people or pets with whom they have a much more profound relationship than I had with a kitten I’ve had for a few weeks. But the fact that it could be worse doesn’t mean it’s not exactly as bad as it is, to me, at that moment. You have to make room for grief, because it’s squeezing in whether you do or not and if you refuse to stretch, it’ll make you explode. So I cry for my kittens, and I try not to hate myself for the fact that I’m not sure I remember all of them anymore, and that I’ve stopped grieving for most of them by now. It is what it is.

Anyway. Wanted to share, and to keep this blog going, though I’ve tapered off a lot in recent months.

* * *

As far as writing goes, I haven’t made a lot of progress on Cassidy. I have, however, been taking a class about writing noir fiction, and that’s been very fun. My goal is to make a lot of progress on Cassidy in the latter half of November and through December: I hope to finish my current draft in that time, but I don’t want to hurry it. But I’ll do my best to write every day and blog about it.

Until next time.


Piscesmama + One said...

Doesn't matter how small and insignificant the life is.. (we all are insignificant in the bigger picture, I suppose), as long as you give it some of your love, it becomes a part of you and therefore a part of you dies when it dies. Fostering animals, kids, plants ANYTHING that you help grow.. is amazing and you are amazing for doing it. I love you! This was awesome to read. I haven't been writing at all. I miss you!

Elly Conley said...

Thank you Hanna! I had just managed to stop crying, ffs. *sniff gurgle*
I love you too, and miss you all the time! Love to LB for me!