Please allow me another short break from my usual post. My Dad (in-law) passed away this week at the age of 88. The saying “he was larger than life” is one way to sum up this incredible man. Since I have had no time (or inclination) to write a well-thought out blog post, I have decided to share a short creative non-fiction piece.
A few days after our beloved cat Gator died (two weeks ago yesterday), I was faced with a writing assignment about memories. We were asked to “Find an object…hold it in your hand, and, with your eyes closed, feel all its textures. Begin to write, using this tactile description to trigger memories, scenes, and metaphors.” Since thoughts of Gator were filling all the corners of my memory, the piece I wrote ended up being about him.
I am holding an ordinary white envelope. In it is a lock of fur. Taking a deep breath, I look within. The browns, greys and blacks are clinging together in the same rectangular shape that was shaved from his forearm. Stroking the fur, I flashback to when his fur felt warm, the heat of the sun giving the illusion of life, when none remained. The memories are still too vivid, reverberating in my head, clouding my thoughts, shooting splinters into my heart, releasing new rivulets of tears that travel well-worn grooves down my face.
I breathe deeply to soothe my pulverized heart, reach for the envelope, stroke the fur, and use my breath to release a different memory. The same soft suppleness, only this time Gator is pacing back and forth, rumbling his pleasure as the brush massages, scrubs, and polishes his fur to a silken splendor.
The memories start flashing one after another, too quickly for my mind to pull apart, but my heart welcoming wave after wave. One memory breaks free: the motion of my hand, starting between his ears, down the length of his spine, up to the tip of his tail, luxuriating in the feel of his soft sleekness, and the never-ending length of his tail as it slides between fingers and palm.
Another memory, solid as cement. I am smiling now, remembering how his fur felt snuggled into the crook of my neck. The look in his eyes just before he made a beeline for this favored spot; sometimes taking a detour across my chest, making a pit-stop on my larynx, paws digging in like thumbs, a small price to pay for full-throttle rumblings. After kneading, circling, and adjusting, he would snuggle in, pressed against my neck, whiskers tickling and breath warming, his rumbling purr amplified and echoing in my ear.
Closing my eyes, I can feel his weight leaning into me as I scrub the side of his face; the way he exposed his throat so I could scratch the tender spot underneath his chin; how easy it was to set off a symphony of purrs. I remember how his fur tickled my cheek as I laid my ear on his belly, so the vibrations reverberated and smoothed away the wrinkles of my day.
It now feels safe to go back to the final days. The day I heard. The day I spent laying beside him, filling my memory with the feel of his fur, the deep tenor of his purr, his warmth, the sound of his heartbeat, his smell, the scratch of his whiskers, the velvet of his paw; memorizing each and every detail of my beloved friend; loading my memory-tank to overflowing. The final stroke of fur. The last moments. Through choking tears, imagining a shimmering white light hovering above him, then leaving a trail of light through my heart before picking up speed and winding around and around and around our weeping willow, climbing to the top, then taking off, leaving a glistening trail of light in the sky.