As I write this, it is August 4th, in 2016. A Thursday. In 1998, it was a Tuesday. That was the day my two beloved children were born.
I wasn't there when it happened, I was at my grandmother's, helping with chores and staying overnight the night before. Mom called me there and said that our mother cat had her kittens sometime in the night. I rushed home to see them, and to name them.
They were beautiful kittens, Josh all white, inherited from his father, with his mother's beautiful green gold eyes. Jacen inherited his mother's tabby patterns, but the Siamese coloration and blue eyes from somewhere in his father's line.
At first, Jacen was my special baby and Josh had bonded with my mother. Jacen was snuggly where Josh preferred to simply sit nearby. Jacen loved my lap, loved sleeping in the space behind my knees in bed, loved to be held and carried around, never let me into the bathroom without him to protect me (and try to sit on my lap while I was on the toilet, very awkward), would frequently try to take me from my computer so he could have my lap. I wish, in retrospect, that I had paid more attention to him. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.
My favorite memories of Jacen were the days I'd come home from college or from my roommate's home in Lincoln to visit my parents and brother over a weekend. I'd call out "I'm home!" and before anyone replied, Jacen was already there, stretching himself up to his full length to grab at me and demand to be picked up. Every time.
Then I went to Texas and he never fully forgave me for abandoning him for three years like that. He never greeted me a the door again. But very quickly he became my snuggle bug again, demanding my attention and curling up on my lap. It took some doing, but we found an arrangement that let him curl up and sleep on my lap while I still could use my computer to keep in contact with friends I had no hope of seeing in person.
In March of 2012, we finally were able to move out of my parents' basement and into an apartment of our own with my high school friend from Junior year onwards, who brought in his own cat, Tama.
In May of 2012, Jacen became sick. He became unresponsive, swayed on his feet, eyes unfocused in pain. We rushed him to the vet. (All-Feline Hospital, I highly recommend them if you have cats.) He stayed overnight. The next morning, I got a call saying he had acute Stage IV kidney failure. With proper water treatments, he could make it another year, but if he didn't eat and drink, he wouldn't make it more than a few days.
I went to visit him, and told him he had to drink if he wanted to come home with Mama. The first thing he did was get up and start drinking. I told him not to forget eating, and he left the water bowl for the food bowl.
He came home the next day, and for the next three days, we gave him water treatments, an IV of water in his scruff to try to force his kidneys to function.
He didn't make it past that. Less than a week after his diagnosis, he went downhill and we were forced to take him in to be put to sleep. That was May 10th, two days before my twenty-eighth birthday.
After that, Josh became depressed, despondent. While I'd lost my special pretty baby, he'd lost his brother and best friend. He stopped eating as much, cried more, laid down and stared off into space more. I worried I'd lose him, too. He was all I had left, and I think he realized I was all he had left of his family and came back around, starting to eat again and sleeping near me at all times.
Josh became my best friend, my handsome man. He could almost always be found sitting next to me on my loveseat where I had my computer set up. He didn't really snuggle, that wasn't his way, but he stayed by me. He even tolerated it when a year later, I picked up our Loki from the Capital Humane Society. He'd let Loki sit by him on the loveseat, though there wasn't much room on it for two big cats and a big human. But we managed.
In March of 2014, we moved to a house at my mother-in-law's request and with her assistance to make it easier on my wife, who had been diagnosed with Stage IV terminal breast cancer. No more two flights of stairs that were taking their toll on her, just a nice, one story house with a finished basement that we gave full control over to our roommate.
It was around this time that Josh, possibly fed up with constant upheaval, became a snuggle cat. He'd sit next to me on the love seat and press his face against my leg, sometimes moving so far as to rest his head on my knee and wrap his paw around my leg like I was his favorite stuffed toy.
He became my best friend, always there, always snuggling me, so rarely anywhere else.
Then my thirty-first birthday came around, and on that day, Josh had been snuggling me on the love-seat and abruptly jumped off, gagging, but not with the usual retching sound, but with pained cries, that ended with the most horrible sound I have ever heard a cat make, a screech so full of pain that I panicked, cried, called the vet. They said bring him in.
Later that day, I found out he had congestive heart failure. A disease that could be made chronic in humans and dogs, but not in cats. In cats, it was a death sentence with an average lifespan after diagnosis of six months.
I don't celebrate my birthday anymore, for the record.
We took care of him, gave him medicines in injection form, because pills and liquids were so traumatizing for him that they defeated the purpose. At one point, he became too dehydrated from the diuretic and back to the hospital he went for an overnight IV to try to save his life.
He started hiding in a corner in the basement after that, and I thought for sure he'd found his place to die. He stuck around, though, only coming out for food, water, or the box.
Then our landlady decided- against the terms of our lease -to kick us out so she could give the house to her daughter and grandson. I wish a great many horrible things on them, but my main concern in it was if Josh could handle the stress of another move with his heart going bad.
The move turned out good for him, as he started going up and down the stairs we had from first floor to second floor. He picked out the landing between the main stairs and the last four going from second floor down to the dining area as his place to sleep, where he could see the front door and the living area, as well as when we were up and about upstairs. I put down his bed that we'd gotten for Jacen, and tucked his favorite blanket up on it, and none of the other cats dared use it. He'd constantly bug me for clean water, even if I'd just cleaned it an hour ago. We set up a third catbox by the front door, and he'd leave us 'presents' on the floor in the morning.
For the first time in a lot of years, I could clean up a cat mess without puking. It was for Josh, I could and would do anything for my best friend. It was the least I could do to help him.
For awhile, he still wandered around, but by October, he'd made a permanent place for him in his bed, and I'd sit by him on the hardwood floor with my phone, watching videos while petting him, just like we had done with my computer before his illness.
Looking back, I wish I'd spent more time with him, and that's a regret I'll carry to the grave.
Come November, we noticed him swaying a lot. We took him in. High blood pressure. New medicine. We were running a gofundme to cover his costs so I wasn't forced to put him down before he was ready.
December came. No change in his swaying. Took him in again. His iron levels were so low, that there were only two choices left- an expensive treatment that I had no way of affording, even with a gofundme, or to let him go until he chose when it was time to go, and bring him in for one last time.
I had no choice but to take him home and watch him decline.
I woke up one morning to find him hiding in the downstairs bathroom, a little guest bathroom just off the kitchen. He'd defecated back there and was laying about a foot from it. I cleaned up after it, but I knew that time was down to a day at best. We moved his food and water to less than three feet from him. He couldn't make it. The next morning, no sign of improvement.
I knew it was time.
Josh never liked being held. He's protest and squirm and run away and groom indignantly. But that morning, when I picked him up and wrapped him in his favorite blanket, he didn't protest. He laid quietly in my arms on the way to the vet.
That was the last morning I ever got to see my best friend.
That was December 16th, 2015. It's slowly creeping up on a year and it's still a raw and aching wound. I cry daily for him. I apologize for not being able to help him more. I beg him to come back. I know he is safe, in Bastet's court, for I had dedicated both he and Jacen to her when they were born. I know he's with his brother again. He's back with his best friend.
Annelle: Miss M'Lynn, it should make you feel a lot better that Shelby is with her King.
M'Lynn: Yes, Annelle, I guess it should.
Annelle: Then we should all be rejoicing.
M'Lynn: Well you go on ahead! I'm sorry if I don't feel like it! I guess I'm a little selfish. I'd rather have her here.