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Homecoming

by Julie Keon on September 20th, 2018

This is a story about love, grief and a cat.
We were like many couples who, in preparation of the possibility of parenthood, did a practise run by getting a pet together. Theoretically, if you can keep the animal alive and raise it well, you’re probably good to go when it comes to parenting. It’s like a trial period before you make the irreversible decision to have a baby together.
My husband, Tim, and I were still newlyweds when a career opportunity led us to the Ottawa area from Victoria. It was the winter of 2000 and we stayed with my sister and her husband for a few months until we moved into a damp, basement apartment out in the country in the late winter of 2001.

Bill and Snaggle Puss as kittens


My sister’s cat gave birth to a litter of kittens in the weeks before our big move and we took the plunge and claimed two of them for ourselves. Tim chose a ginger kitten and named him Bill (as in Bill the Cat) and I chose a Maine Coon-type of kitten and named her Snaggle Puss after my neighbour’s cat in Victoria. They were the sweetest sibling pair and we loved them immensely.
Fast forward a few months and our little kittens grew into young cats. Tim taught Snaggle Puss how to fetch and Bill would spend all of his time lounging near us or on us. In March of 2003, we bought our first home and five weeks later, we discovered that by December we would be parents of a human. As my belly grew, our “fur babies” took interest and Bill spent a lot of time lounging across my belly feeling the movements of our baby.
Then Meredith was born and well, things didn’t go as planned. We were gone most of the time for the first three months as Meredith recovered at the children’s hospital. By the time we brought her home, in February of 2004, we were surviving moment by moment.

At first things seemed okay…..


It was all we could handle because thinking any further ahead was too terrifying. Bill and Snaggle Puss observed the chaos and promptly made it clear that this screaming baby had to go. They couldn’t help but be stressed. It was an extremely stressful time. Our baby was medically fragile and severely irritable and no one was getting sleep. There was a lot of crying happening from all sides.
Bill expressed his disdain and anxiety at this new living situation by barfing. All. Of. The. Time. I would climb the stairs to fall into bed for a 3 hour chunk of sleep only to discover cat vomit on the bed with a perturbed looking feline standing beside it. His message was loud and clear and we were completely incapable of dealing with his demands. Our decision to let them go came swiftly out of sheer desperation. My Aunt Odel (also known as the Cat Whisperer) agreed to take them in and we felt happy knowing they were going to a good home.  Within the year, Snaggle Puss died from feline AIDS and Bill went to live with my cousin.
We got on with our new life.
A few months after letting our cats go, we moved again to be closer to our families. There was loss after loss in those early months. Our new baby required a tremendous amount of care and in order to make it all work, we let go over and over again~ our cats, our home, our expectations, our privacy, our dreams, our trust, our sense of order and calm, our control and we even came close to letting go of our marriage. That is one thing we held onto as though our lives depended on it.  When you are letting go of so much while in the middle of an emotional hurricane, there isn’t time or space to process all that is unfolding. You cope by being in a constant state of survival.
A new beginning in our new home in a new town was a turning point for us and eventually we created a new normal.

Our big boy, Tate.


It wasn’t until two years ago that we decided it was time to have another pet. Tate the cat joined our family as a little stray kitten and we remarked how much he looked like our Snaggle Puss. We had toyed with the idea of getting a companion cat for him but never followed through.
Fast forward to two days ago.
I got a call from my Aunt Odel and she shared that my cousin and his wife were needing to find a home for Bill. My cousin’s wife was severely allergic to him which only worsened with a recent pregnancy and now a new baby was in the home. I said “Yes!!” we would take him.
Yesterday, she arrived with Bill in her arms and in the moment it took for her to walk through the door, fifteen years fell away as I laid eyes on him for the first time since those early postpartum months. Bill is now the ripe old age of 17 ½ years. The moment I saw him, I broke into tears. We looked at one another and there seemed to be recognition. He is older and weathered but then, so are we. It hasn’t been an easy fifteen years for us and I know that Bill was well loved and cared for in the home of my cousin. I am grateful that he remained in his care and that when it was time for my cousin to let him go, he decided to send him “home” to us. That has been the only comfort for him knowing that Bill is going back to where he started.

Bill and Meredith reunite.


Bill is elderly and doesn’t have a lot of years left in him. He comes back to us at a time that we know that Meredith’s years are no longer in abundance. Her health will start to decline in the coming years due to complications of rapidly progressing scoliosis. These two, that shared space as babies, are now sharing space as they each travel the last years of their lives. If there was ever a story of life coming full circle, this is it.
It is the most unexpected occurrences that will gently nudge long buried emotions into the light. This cat’s presence has stirred old grief in me. I weep every time I look into his eyes. The last 24 hours have been highly emotional and he has been a patient, loving, wise feline to my emotions. I feel as though a time traveler plucked this living, breathing creature from our past and transported him to our present. It is an unexpected gift to have the opportunity to tend to old feelings around a time that was too painful to process.
Life can be incredibly serendipitous and the result can be magical. Bill is the epitome of a healing CATalyst.
Welcome home, Bill. We have missed you. The circle is complete.
 

Old Bill

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One Comment
  1. I’m bawling. What a strange and wonderful story. I can’t wait to kiss Bill’s old face again…it’s been a long time.

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