Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tom Petty was wrong

It's not the waiting that's the hardest part--it's the letting go. Don't get me wrong, waiting sucks, but it's got nothing on the letting go.

So my baby is in preschool today. Because the people who run the preschool are smarter than, say, me, they are stagger-starting the kids, so D is there with 3 of his new classmates and they have both teachers all to themselves. I forced Daddymatic to take him in because I thought I might cry and/or throw up and thus become the preschool mommy version of the dad who faints while his wife gives birth, thus distracting everyone from, ah, the events at hand.

I lost another “baby” this weekend—a cat-baby. Well, actually, she was 11 years old, but still—losing one of my pre-child “kids” was tough. She was not a nice or affectionate kitty—she hid most of the time, never let me hold or snuggle her and needed an entire defensive special team to hold her down during vet visits. Over the past few years, she had lost the ability to clean herself well and had earned herself the undignified nickname “Smudge,” for reasons which, while probably obvious, are too gross to explain in further detail here. She had also decided that our new leather, as-yet-unpaid-for sofa was The Enemy and release a fair amount of Delta Force action on it. This, for us, was the last straw, because it demonstrated just how unhappy she had become to be living in a new place where the toddler’s increased volume and mobility were stressing her to her limits.

After looking around for a new home for her (you would be SHOCKED at the lack of interest people have in a neurotic, skid-mark-leaving, reclusive, furniture-destroying cat of advanced age and substance), a vet and a person from a local group of animal lovers and experts recommended I let her try living outside, since she was a 3-month-old outdoor feral cat when I got her, and that maybe her goal has always been to get back outside. So I put her in the shed out back with food, water, a litter box and her favorite smelly sleeping bag and left the door open a wee crack. For a day and a half, she didn’t move, didn’t explore, and probably didn’t eat or pee. I had all but decided to bring her back in on Monday and try to find another alternative when the dog next door started barking like CRAZY on Sunday night. I won’t go into details, but our girl—who had probably fallen from the fence—came out the loser in a fight with said dog. The ER vet gave her virtually no hope, and so I told her she was a good girl, explained to her how sorry I was and how much I loved her, and kissed her—for the first, and, ironically, the last time. I said goodbye, and she was gone by 1 AM.

I know it seems there is little to no segue between my loss of a pet and my child entering preschool, but they are both goodbyes in a fashion, and they are not easy. The hardest part of goodbyes is, as I said, the letting go, the knowledge that, as much as you want, you cannot be there forever for the ones you love. You can’t fix everything; you can’t stop life from happening. I have tried to tell myself that despite the terror and pain she endured for the last hour of her life, my cat was as happy as she was capable of being for the preceding 11 years, and now, at least, she’s not scared anymore. I have tried to tell myself that even if D does decide preschool sucks (which, at last check, he had not), the experience of meeting other kids and getting more stimulation than schlepping around the grocery store with me as well as getting a routine and developmentally-appropriate guidance is worth a little discomfort on his part and on my part. It’s not wise to not try new things because they’re scary—change is always scary. Sometimes the best you can do when things like this happen is to try and be a sort of spiritual midwife, to be there and hold someone’s hands when tough stuff comes and to hope that out of pain, something wonderful is trying to be born.