It was, for example, dialing the number of my vet’s office and giving my name to the receptionist, scarcely able to choke out what I must afterwards. Hoping she would know.
“It’s okay,” she said.
It was setting the time for an hour before closing, when fewer clients would be around. Watching the hours go by, slowly and not slowly, each one carrying me to that place. It was the moment of panic when I wanted to run out my bedroom door, begging some family member to do this for me, because I could not, I could not.
It was refusing the offers of help, even so.
It was leaving my hand on the back of her neck all the way to the vet, talking to her though she had been completely deaf for who knows how long, telling her the sun was shining, even though my sun roof and windows were open for her to feel it.
It was leaving my sunglasses on in the waiting room and turning my back to the receptionist, hoping she would see on her computer the reason I was there and wouldn’t need to say it out loud.
It was following a staff member to a room where we could be alone for a time, still keeping my sunglasses on and thinking, Please don’t let it be too long. I don’t know how long I can stand this.
I don’t want to cry in front of you.
It was being grateful there was no metal table. I didn’t want her to lie on a metal table, and I had brought a fleece coverlet that she’d napped on many times. But there was no table at all in this room, and I wondered if we would go to another.
It was minutes ticking by but I hadn’t worn a watch; being almost afraid, after a certain amount of time, that they had forgotten me. I took off my sunglasses at last when a staff member came in to discuss “aftercare” and payment.
No, I remember thinking, I don’t want to discuss that! I will not be able to discuss that. Please, just get it over with quickly and let me go.
It was signing paperwork. Swiping my credit card and feeling rather surreal that I actually had to do this now, because 19 years ago they simply sent me a bill, a month after the deed was done, after they sent me a sympathy card with a copy of “The Rainbow Bridge.”
It was waiting, yet again, until the staff member and a vet came in, a vet I couldn’t remember although he remarked that he “hadn’t seen her for a while,” and looked into her carrier to pet her. And while I had achieved a measure of calm at this point, as soon as he very gently inquired as to “what’s going on,” I started to break up again, and the old fear was back, that I would not be able to contain it.
I have always hated crying in front of people.
But somehow I did, just enough to explain that the previous night she’d had a seizure, and . . . all the rest we’d noticed in the past few months.
And he explained what they would do, and that I could stay for part of the process, or all of it, or none of it.
It was worrying that when they took her away, even though she had been confused for the past few months, even though she was securely wrapped in the fleece coverlet on which she had napped many times, that she would be afraid in this strange place. I did not want her to be afraid.
It was the staff member looking in at one point to tell me that her veins were “so tiny” that they were having trouble finding one.
It was looking at a copy of People magazine, though I have no idea now what I read. It was the door opening at last as they brought her in, wrapped in her fleece blanket, and putting the magazine down because this was it.
“She’s so sleepy,”
said the assistant, laying her down between the two of us, so gently.
“That was quick,” I said, petting Chloe’s head.
It was the vet asking if I wanted a little more time with her, me shaking my own head because I could not bear any more waiting.
It was gazing steadily at the closed door in order not to witness the last, stroking her head and neck as the assistant stroked her back. Neither of us stopped stroking until the vet took up his stethescope, until she was gone.
It was the shaky breath, the valiant attempt to steady myself so that I could at least say, “I think I’d better go now too.” The assistant picking her up, so carefully, as if she were only asleep and might wake, handing me the carrier on which I was complimented nearly every time I came to their office, the one I bought at a cat show.
It was finding my car wet from the rain which had been falling through my open windows and sun roof because the sun was shining when I came in and I didn’t think I would be there that long, even though it was the rainy season in Florida.
It was, at last, a semblance of relief, then later, the odd sense of bewilderment that follows a loss. The automatic turning of the head towards the room where her litter box was, the corner of the bathroom where her water mug sat, remembering that I would no longer need to empty the one or refill the other.
It was the tears at unexpected as well as expected times, wondering whether to wash the blanket she died on even though it was clean, driving by the vet on my way somewhere else and wondering if I’d ever look at the building the same way again.
It was searching the Internet for what leaders in my faith said about animals in heaven.
It was reminding myself, and being reminded, that she had a good, long life, that “to everything there is a season,” including death, without it making a bit of difference. Realizing that sometimes there is no epiphany, no rainbow, no mile marker of maturity that says I faced this, I did it, all by myself.
That sometimes it’s not much more than just a very bad day.