2017 was tough. Even setting aside the obvious travesty of Trump’s presidency, the past twelve months have battered me. My closest friend was killed in a freak sledding accident. My family’s cat of nearly twenty years died of renal failure. My parents, married for 30+ years, separated. My health suffered after months of working 100 hours a week; I developed a crippling viral pneumonia that left me wan and exhausted. The sable talons of depression have sunk into my flesh once again. And yet, I’m here. Bruised, thin, quieter. Wiser, kinder, more empathetic, more spontaneous, more appreciative of life’s precious tenuousness. On net, a more complete person, but the transaction has been hell. 2017, I won’t miss you.
Our family cat Russell died this week. He was eighteen years old.
My brother and I adopted Rus from a city animal shelter in the aftermath of the May 3rd 1999 tornado in Oklahoma City. At the time, we were 9 and 12 years old, respectively. Russ was three weeks old. Over the ensuing two decades, we three boys grew up together.
When we adopted him, Rus weighed less than a pound and didn’t know how to drink water from a bowl. My brother and I took turns dipping our fingers in water and letting Rus lick the drops. For the remainder of his life, he “drank” by putting his paws in the water bowl and then licking them dry. We build giant Lego houses for him in our bedroom. We dressed him up as the Pope for one Halloween. He was the reliable constant during our turbulent adolescent years. He was fearless, intelligent, and fiercely loyal to his two boys. He once chased a neighborhood kid into a bathroom because the kid had pantomimed punching my brother. He slept in our beds at night, keeping some sort of internal schedule by which he rotated between my brother and me. His favorite toys were rabbit foot tchotchkes. We trained him to walk on a leash, and he loved going for long explorations outside. He was the third son of our family. We nicknamed him “Tubbs.”
By the time I was in medical school, Rus had developed diabetes. Because he was otherwise healthy, we chose to treat him with insulin, and he thrived for another four wonderful years. This week, the inexorable hand of age caught up with him, and he passed peacefully of kidney failure. He fell asleep for the last time on his favorite blanket: a red Christmas tree skirt with white fringe.
It is hard to believe that you’re not here anymore, Russell; you were a constant for so many years. I know you loved us as much as we loved you. Thank you for everything.
I’ll miss you, Tubbs.