But my story, our story goes back even further. It was 1999 when we met and at a hair salon of all places. She invited me back to her home which was warm and big, in comparison to places I’d lived prior to our meeting.
We shared the house with another roommate, but his job required him to be gone a lot so I bonded with her immediately. She worked too and her hours were crazy. I basically stayed home and handled my rsponsibility there but it could be lonely. We never said anything to each other, but it was understood that we missed each other. I couldn’t wait for her to walk in the door. Every time I heard of the garage door opening, the sound ended the loneliness and signaled the beginning of our time together. We always greeted each other the same way, no matter if she’d been gone for ten minutes or ten hours.
There were long talks, but I admit I was a much better listener. We could sit together in the living room for hours. Sometimes, we sat in comfortable silence, sometimes the TV would be on, other times just music would play. She liked soft jazz, which was never a genre of music I liked, but it made her happy, so I never said anything about it. Friends make those little sacrifices for each other. Sometimes, she’d make dinner for me and sometimes I’d handle dinner plans, and usually it was, for a lack of a better term, ‘take out’. And while we didn’t always have the same taste in cuisine, she was always appreciative of my efforts to prepare a meal for her.
There were issues with our third roommate. That was a very bad time. There were things about him that broke her heart, so she decided to move out and asked if I’d come with her. I did.
We moved into to an apartment, which was smaller than the house we’d lived in but I didn’t mind. The lack of space didn’t change our routine much, the conversations comtinued as did the long, comfortable silences. She didn’t work for a while and that saddened and scared her, but I was selfishly glad she stayed home. We had fun. We played games and she taught me some special tricks. That was a tough time in all, but we were closer than ever before. She finally got a job and our previous routine returned. We’d say goodbye in the morning and we were both so happy when she’d come home at night.
Then one day, about five years ago, she got a bunch of phone calls one afternoon. I remember her being both excited and fearful at the same time, She explained that some major life changes were in store and one them involved moving again. Her mother, like we all were, was getting older and it was starting to affect her life. I remember hearing that term ‘affecting her life’. My roommate had had a nasty car accident several years before we met and I knew she had good days and bad days because of her injuries. Her pain had gotten worse as the years progressed. Even I’d gotten older and was moving slower.
So , we moved from this big city where we’d spent 12 years together, to a smaller town with pretty hills around it. It was nice and clean and was so different; quiet less hectic. We moved into a new house and which we had fun decorating. She didn’t work, but spent time with her mother and but when she’d come home, just like before, I’d greet her at the door. I knew that no matter where we lived, no matter where we’d call home in the future, I would always wait for her when she’d come through that door.
We lived in the house for a year before I began to feel strange. .My usually voracious appetite eased to exist and I found myself sleeping more and moving less, mainly because I hurt all over. I had all these aches and pains which were hard to explain. I was trying to keep her from knowing I was having problems, since she was concerned about her mother, I didn’t want to add to her worries, but the aches and pains were too much to bear and I started losing a lot of weight in a very short time. Of course she noticed and of course, she insisted I needed to see a doctor. I didn’t want to go but I didn’t have the strength to resist.
I knew what to expect from the man in the white coat. He’d prod and poke around and invariably, a big needle would be involved, either injecting something in me, or taking something out of me. I needed a blood test , he said . As we we’re leaving, the doctor whispered something to my roomate. Her eyes welled up with tears. He put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder and said he’d call with the tests results.
He gave me some medicine which made me feel a bit better, but I was still tired and weak. The doctor finally called, maybe that afternoon…maybe two days later, I don’t remember, but he told us that I was in late stage kidney failure and the prognosis wasn’t good. I didn’t have much time left and my roommate and I discussed what few options we had. Were both so sad, because neither felt like much of an option at all. We spent the next several days together, talking very little. She let me keep my head in her lap. Her touch was constant. She cried. I cried too in my own way, but fortunately for me, the medicine I was given made me even sleepier than usual. That made the next few days kind of hazy. I don’t remember much, except for that last night.
She had told me earlier that evening, that we had a very important errand to run the next day. There was sonething different in tone of her voice. It was sad , soft and gentle.. She gave me another pill and I went to sleep.
But I woke up later that night feeling worse than I’d ever felt before and I was so thirsty. I gathered every ounce of strength I had left to get out of bed to get some water. I was only able to take a few steps then I collapsed and couldn’t get back up. I could barely move and it was hard to breathe. I wanted desperately to call out to my friend, but I couldn’t make a sound.
I remember my brain being fuzzy but somehow, I was clear about one thing. I wanted her to wake up and come get me. And you know what? In the midst of all the pain and confusion, I realized I had one final lesson to learn: that running deep in the bonds of unconditional love that flows between true friends, miracles can happen. For a reason that could only be deemed as divine, she woke up and called out for me. I was trying to tell her I was lying helpless on the cold kitchen floor, but I couldn’t make a sound. She walked in and found me, scooped me up her those arms I’d come to know as home and took me back to bed. She was crying in these massive sobs that scared me, but I sonehow understood what they meant. I looked up at her and our eyes met and she said in between sobs, “God, please take her now, don’t let her suffer any longer!”
I took a few labored breaths and then I went away,. There was brief blackness, but then I woke up again. In some ways I left and in another way, I stayed. It’s hard to explain, but suddenly there was no more pain, I felt spunky, very much alive but in such a different way. I was trying to make her understand that everything was better, but I couldn’t connect with her. She was holding me, crying, apologizing for not being there enough, moving around so many times. She told me how much she loved me….and then she stopped crying, coming to terms to what had happened. She laid me down on the bed and made some telephone calls.
I remember her saying, “Yes okay, thanks. I can…uh….I can come right now.”
She hung up the phone and stood over me. She gently closed my eyes for the last time, wrapped me in amy favorite blanket and carried me out to her car. She kissed my face before telling me we had one last place she had to take me.. But I didn’t want to go, I chose to stay at the place I loved, with her smell that permeated everywhere, I wanted to be with my toys, my treats…I wanted to stay home. I wanted to stay with her.
But I knew I couldn’t stay.
I’m not sure how I knew, but I understood I’d be moving again, to another place, but this time it would be far, far away and she wouldn’t be allowed to come with me. But I knew I’d see her again.
And I knew that the love we shared was still strong and would still be just as vast and wondrous when it would be time for her to join me. And I knew I’d be there to wait for her to come through this very special door, one more time.
She named me Charlotte and I was a Calico colored Norwegian Forest cat who died on this day three years ago . I was 14 and I was loved very, very much.