A Visitation [Updated]

August 14, 2009 at 2:46 pm (By Amba) (, , , )

In one of my involuntary micro-naps during sleep-deprived work (during which I can type a long one-letter string or paragraph into a footnote — I call them “sleepos” — and am in some danger of falling face first into, or drooling on, the keyboard), I saw Max, plump, shiny, groomed to youthful perfection, leap in a light arc under the dining room table and pounce on something.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Max’s earthly part was buried by friends today on their land.  You see him here with Dusky, whose body has actually been in my freezer ever since he died in March 2008.  (Notice that I handled it — or not — almost exactly the same way.  How comically consistent we are.)


This sounds grotesque and ridiculous till you get that it’s an arrested vestige of our former life (and maybe even then).  Jacques, having been a prisoner in a very cold place, and buried corpses of his friends stacked in the snow till springtime when the permafrost melted (even as I write that I know I can’t begin to imagine it), could not bear the thought of his “kittens” (as he calls them lifelong) being buried in cold ground.  He knew perfectly well that when they were dead they wouldn’t feel it, but he would.  So I had to take them down to our family’s house in Florida and bury them there, three feet deep in the sand.  Ironically, in order to preserve their bodies until I could get down there, I had to freeze them.  I guess that was okay because it was necessary and only temporary:  the end justified the means, or something.  We had many cats over the years (my first e-mail address ever was manicatz@aol.com), and I dug many deep holes and buried many cats around that house in Florida where my parents now live.  Someday a hurricane may exhume a mysterious trove of feline skeletons, scoured to a polish by Florida’s busy subterranean life.

When Dusky died, I reflexively put his body in the freezer, even though I knew that Jacques would soon mostly forget and would not be able to sustain a wish or plan about Dusky’s body.  I knew I could bury the body near here, or have it cremated, or whatever I saw fit, but I froze, unable to quite let go of my end of our bargain, even though the other end was slack and it was no longer practical for me to do things the old way even in J’s honor.  This paralysis was probably a typical expression of ambiguous loss.

So today I asked our friends to bury the two cats together, and explained that we weren’t going to be there because I didn’t want to break the news to J that Dusky had spent a year and a half in the freezer, even though his comprehension would probably have been slow and incomplete and his upset fleeting.

They looked like yang and yin.  They looked way too touchable and vulnerable until our friends threw flowers on them.


The family in happier times


  1. Ennui said,

    After Cato died I’d see him in flashes of white out of the corner of my eye for months. One morning about two weeks after he died, the next door neighbor cat bolted into the house as I was leaving for work. I tried to shoo him out but he moved methodically through the house, checking every room. I have no idea if he was actually looking for Cato, but it made for a poignant moment. The little guys pack a wallop.

  2. Ron said,

    “Sleepos” — The SnoozeMaker! (like Mentos…)

  3. amba12 said,

    With me it’s flashes of orange. I could’ve sworn I saw Max curled up sleeping beside me, but when I looked, it was a plastic bag.

  4. Melinda said,

    My gray cat and orange cat often assume that position when they’re asleep.

    You flew down to Florida with frozen cats in your luggage? How did you pack them so that they didn’t defrost on the way down?

  5. amba12 said,

    I’m sure they defrosted some, but from NY to Florida you’re only in transit a total of 4 or 5 hours, including getting to and from airports. That’s one of the problems from here: there are no direct flights to Fort Myers from RDU. You have to change somewhere and it takes the better part of a day to get down there.

    I used to worry more, when I had them in a carry-on-sized bag, what the security people would think when they looked at the x-ray. I remember at least one gasping but not saying anything to me. Of course, that was before 9/11. Now I could get tasered.

  6. Rick said,

    “Society is judged by the way they care for the animals”


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