Page Fifty-eight

Katschi. It’s a very long time ago she died: 31 years ago today. She was another homeless or lost lonely one that I took in, back in the previous century, in 1971. I was eighteen, and she was no more than two, I think. In the beginning I named her Kätzchen, even though she was not a kitten, but a grown cat. I don’t remember how long that was her name, only that at some point I changed it to Katschi. This was much easier for family members and vets to pronounce, and easier for vet techs to spell. Most people, in fact, wouldn’t even try to pronounce Kätzchen. They’d just say: that grey cat.

My boyfriend and I had gone to the Shaw’s market in the evening for something or other, and there she was, hanging  at the corner of the building. As people walked near her to enter the store, she would duck backwards into the darkness. Except when came along (animals have such great subliminal skills; they always knowwho the animal person is). When my boyfriend and I approached, out came Katschi with no fear at all, talking loudly, accepting my touch, rubbing against me. All I talked about in the store was the cat, and that if it was still out there when we finished, I was going to take it. I think I even got some cat food in the store.

Of course she was still there when we came out. And that was it. Off into the car with us, and she was mine until she died. This death happened way too soon, after only eight years. Things went wrong in her body that at that time could not be fixed.

One of things that could be fixed, after a fashion, was the devastation of glaucoma. It had been misdiagnosed as a chronic eye infection for over a year (treated with antibiotics), so that by the time I tried a different vet, the damage already done was great. This was in 77 or 78. She was totally blind in her right eye, which had filled with fluid to almost twice its normal size, and there was 20 or 30% sight loss in the left. This was a new type of cat crisis for me, and I have Asperger’s, and unfamiliar things send me into great anxiety. The vet suggested removal of the eye, which horrified me at first hearing, but he would send to me an animal eye specialist so that I could discuss other options.

Eyes. Eyes and horrible things that happen to them make me very squeamish in general, and especially in someone I love. And eyes were a favorite thing of Katschi’s, that is to say, my eyes. On how many mornings over eight years, when she decided she wanted me to get up, would she sit on my chest and scrape my eyelids open with her coarse cat tongue?  A great many. And now she had lost more than half of her eyesight, when I’d been faithfully taking her to a vet every time she got discharge, and faithfully applying antibiotics. And all my efforts had resulted in this loss of vision over a misdiagnosis. Resulted in the words: “The eye should be removed.”

We went to the specialist. He confirmed the diagnosis and the damage. He showed me fake eyes in the palm of his hand, and he showed me photos of animals with these eyes in their heads. Either way, the fake eyes looked spooky to me, and so unnatural. He knew I was willing to go into debt for this procedure if it was good for Katschi, but he also knew I wasn’t as deep in the pockets as a lot of his other clients. He told me that the eyes were purely cosmetic, that they were bought by people with money and purebred animals, people who didn’t want to look at a face with only one eye. He said there was absolutely no medical reason to have a fake eye. And if you just get an eye removal, your own vet can do that just as proficiently as I can, and he’ll charge less.

Back at home, I took a few days to think. In the end I decided on the cheaper way out, not because of money, but because of the spookiness of the fake eyes. The surgery was done, and it looked pretty awful until the swelling went down and the stitches were out and the fur started growing back. And then it looked just fine. As if she simply chose to keep that eye closed. And she was so much happier, because she no longer had this swollen, paining eye that she couldn’t protect with her lids. The remaining eye was treated to arrest the glaucoma, and she lost no more vision. Everything turned out peachy for Katschi that time.

But in late 1979 we weren’t so lucky, though at first it seemed we would be. Katschi had gone off her feed and some other symptoms for about a month, so back to the same doctor she went. A tumor on her spleen. More surgery. A phone call from the vet after the surgery made me joyful: the tumor was benign and was removed with the spleen, and she would be good as new. When I brought her home, she was fine for one day. Eating, moving around, etc.

But the next day was the end. She vomited every morsel of food she ate. She looked unhappy in the extreme. She didn’t want to do anything. It was a Sunday and the vet was closed, but he was at home and said he’d see her. Grossly enlarged liver. Nothing to be done. Why? He said that sometimes the strain on the body of carrying even a benign tumor can bring on an organ failure, or even the anesthetic itself. He said he couldn’t have predicted it, as it’s very random. He said he was sorry, that she’d seemed to him like she was going to do well. Nothing now but the lethal injection.

And so went my grouchy, demanding, loving, independent, one-person Katschi, who had no interest in any human but me and was only interested in scratching the rest of the family. So she went, on the 16th of December, 1979.

Twenty-four years later, December 16th reared its random head again. On that date in 2003, my nineteen-year-old nephew died in a vehicle crash where he was serving in Iraq. He was the driver, the rest of his unit was in the truck with him, but only he was killed. The accident was not his fault, or so said his unit-mates and his superiors, and I believe them. If Nathan was anything, he was responsible. It’s happened more than once in my life that a certain date ends up representing more than one death. I was informed of my nephew’s death, in an oblique way, on December 17th by a cop standing at the door. Ever after that, I could not stand to look at that cop. Shoot the messenger. But that’s the way it is. He brought the news, and seeing him triggered a moment of trauma.

To remember you today, Katschi and Nathan, and remember what might have been, if it weren’t for the damnable randomness of living.  And the damnable randomness of dying too young.


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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2011-2012 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. meow, Kitty

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