We've also been busy being sad. Our cat Spanky is no longer with us.
Our history with Spanky started almost 14 years ago. We had been married a year, and I was surprised at how much I wanted to have a baby. We needed to wait several years for Chad to finish grad school and become gainfully employed. But friends all around us were getting pregnant and I was getting depressed. I needed something I could take out my maternal instincts on. We were living in Abilene and one day as I drove from our house to ACU, I saw a sign advertising free kittens. I stopped. They had one left. A white-and-orange, half-grown male. The family there had been calling him "Goober." He didn't like being put into my car, but I managed to get him home. We named him Spanky (after being inspired by a commercial for "The Little Rascals" movie) and he became our first baby.
We moved Spanky all over the place. From Abilene to College Station, then Bryan, then back to Abilene, then Baytown for six years before making the long ride in the moving truck with Chad to Arkansas two years ago. During those years, he cuddled with us, annoyed us, jumped in our laps, and waited patiently for us to finish eating our cereal so he could lap the milk out of the bottom of the bowl. He went through a phase in College Station and Bryan where he brought us stuff. All the time. Old socks and T-shirts. Huge, filthy towels that he struggled all the way up the street to carry in his mouth. He brought a Coca-Cola T-shirt that I washed and ended up wearing for several years. He even brought us a matching set of dish towels.
I finally did get pregnant in 1998, and I spent much of the pregnancy sick and either in bed or on the couch. Spanky would curl up next to my tummy and curiously paw at it when Julia would move around. He was sweet and patient with both kids -- especially Jenna, when she would yell in his face for no reason.
I always thought that when Spanky died, we would bury him in the backyard and have a little memorial that would help the girls have some closure. But it didn't happen that way. Last Wednesday night, I had a dream that we had another cat--a gray tabby--that disappeared. The next morning, Chad saw Spanky for the last time as he headed out to work. Spanky spends a lot of time outside when it's warm, so we didn't think much about him missing for a day or so. But as the week stretched into the weekend and the temperatures soared above 104, we started to worry. I put out signs, and called the Humane Society and animal control. No sign of him. In all of his 14 years, he never ran away. We think he went away somewhere to die alone.
Worst of all, we had to tell Julia when she came home from camp on Friday. She knew he had been missing and had been hoping and praying all week that he had come home. But we had to tell her he hadn't and that he probably never would. She cried on the way home and then she seemed calmed down enough to go to bed. Then she said her bedtime prayer.
When Julia was old enough to talk, she began saying this prayer every night: "Thank you for Mom, Dad, Spanky and everything I have." When Jenna was born, Julia added her to the list. She's been saying this prayer every night for most of her life. So Friday night, she launched into "Thank you for Mom, Dad, Jenna, Spa..." And that did it again. She cried and said how much she missed him - this cat who tried playing with her through my tummy before she was even born. This cat who gingerly sniffed her head the day we brought her home from the hospital. This cat who left his white hair all over her bedroom that I tearfully transferred to a Zip-Loc when we figured he wasn't coming home. His litter box is still in the garage. His food is still in the laundry room. The flower bed still has a bare spot where he used to stretch out beneath Julia's window.
So anyway, that's why I haven't posted lately.