The late songwriter Townes Van Zandt once said there are only two kinds of music in the world: the blues, and “Zippety Doo Dah.” Because music helps me make sense of the world, I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Townes lately, particularly his song “Lungs,” which he wrote as he lay dying:
Won't you lend your lungs to me?
Mine are collapsing.
Plant my feet and bitterly breathe
Up the time that's passing.
Breath I'll take and breath I'll give,
And pray the day ain't poison.
I for one, and you for two,
Ain’t got the time for outside,
Just keep your injured looks to you,
We'll tell the world we tried.
Bailey died last Sunday.
We’re still stunned. We had been diligently feeding and medicating her five times a day, and planting her feet on the ground so she could exercise her hind legs. I had been tracking her progress in Excel, and all her vital signs had been showing improvement. I guess it just goes to show that there are some things a spreadsheet can’t help you understand.
When we visited Bailey in the kitty ICU, we told her that we had promised to be her “forever family,” and that we couldn’t keep our promise if she didn’t get better. Bailey didn’t listen to what we said, but that was never her style.
I vividly remember the first time I met Bailey, about the time I started dating Doreen. One rainy Saturday afternoon, Doreen and I had curled up on the rug to watch a movie, when the most beautiful seal point Himalayan I’d ever seen sauntered in. Bailey walked all over me, sniffed my crotch, and then curled up and took a nap in my lap.
That first meeting set the stage for our relationship: Bailey continued to walk all over me on a regular basis. A true princess, she was never satisfied with the beds and blankets we laid out for her, and she’d often climb onto a tall pile of warm blankets I had just washed and pulled from the dryer.
Before I knew her well, I bought her a present: a little plastic kitty toy, with multicolored fish and fake feathers. She took one look at it with utter disdain before she turned around and walked away: “I hope you didn’t buy that tacky – thing – for me.”
Bailey could be haughty and disdainful, but she was also very sweet, and very cool. Once, in a fit of frugality, I decided I could bathe Bailey myself instead of sending her to the salon every month, and I asked my cat-loving friend Ellen for advice. She didn’t have any advice to offer, but she did ask that I call her from the emergency room and let her know how it went.
It went well – Bailey loved getting a bath! She snuggled right up to the massaging showerhead, moving her head back and forth like Stevie Wonder, and she used up all the hot water in the house. Like I said, Bailey walked all over me on a regular basis.
There were so many ways Bailey wasn’t a typical cat. When she was younger and not quite as lazy, she would run down the stairs, meowing, whenever we came home. She loved going on car rides and looking out the window, and we were lucky to be able to take her on two cross-country road trips. On a lark, we smuggled her into Canada once – an international cat! I even took her hiking a few times, carrying her in a wool-lined Sherpa bag. Unlike Dempsey, who was oblivious to the bald eagles, beavers, and coyote we tried to show him, Bailey was pretty observant. Once, in Michigan’s upper peninsula, she spotted a black bear before I did.
Although Bailey was a quiet little kitty, the house seems even quieter without her. On Wednesday night, after Boston had gone home and Dempsey was in the hospital for his neuter surgery, we decided we should put away Bailey’s things. I finally unplugged her Drinkwell fountain, and watched as the motor wound down, the trickle of water slowing to a drip, before it finally stopped and was still. It was an awful night, with none of our “kids” in the house.
Bailey, we love you and we miss you. You’ll be our “forever” cat in our hearts.