To Rodgey, Two Years Later

by LaTisha Conto

To Rodgey, 6 months, 12 months, 17 months after you left me. 

As you can see, I have been wanting to write this letter to you for some time. I would sit down at the computer, and get out a few sentences and my eyes would fill with too much water to keep typing. 17 months was the magic number of months I guess before I could get through a sentence without hard, ugly crying. 

You know, Rodge, I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to write this at all because I was sure you would be haunting me by now. I have never wished so much in my life to be visited by a raggedy ghost cat with a snaggle tooth and matted fur. But so far, no signs of you. Actually, that’s not true.  You’re everywhere. I keep finding your hair and hugging it so tightly. Finding your hair makes me sob because I know eventually I won’t find it anymore. And I can’t be that person who saves her dead cat’s hair. Can I? Or wishes that her dead cat would come back to haunt her. Or screams out her dead cat’s name when she’s driving in the car because that Nick Cave song came on that her dead cat loved so much? 

I just reread that last paragraph. It’s 11 months since I wrote those words. I am not finding your hair anymore. I am still screaming out your name in odd moments, but I’m always alone and so I don’t think anybody knows. Until now I suppose. I suppose if somebody is reading this it’s because the title didn’t scare them off. Or maybe they didn’t know Rodgey was a cat (the best cat ever) and thought this about a break up? 

Lil Girl is missing you just as much as I am. She still hates humans, and won’t let me near her. It’s especially painful for me now not to be able to pet her, or comfort her. You were her only trusted friend in the world and you’re gone. And so she wanders around the house by herself, and hides under the bed by herself, and sleeps alone without your sweet paws wrapped around her. I worry about her. I worry I’m not doing the right thing for her. The trauma she experienced early in life has kept her from enjoying pets and cuddles from humans. That was always okay because I knew she had you. And now you’re gone. We play lazer sometimes but I have to be at least 10 feet away and I can’t make eye contact. She doesn’t really chase it so much as she flings her paw at it the way the hippos do looking for marbles in hungry hungry hippo. I’ve considered drugging her just so I can hold her in my arms and tell her I’m sorry she’s so scared of me and I love her and I would never do anything to harm her. And then I realize that drugging her would effectively make that a lie. And probably make me a creep also. If you can’t haunt me can you haunt her? She needs someone. 

Nadine? Nope. She isn’t interested in making friends. In fact, she and I are not on the best terms right now. I know I shouldn’t be angry with her, but truthfully, between you and I, I’m so mad at her right now. You don’t remember this because you were dying, but that day in the living room when they gave you that awful shot that sent you to sleep forever? Guess where asshole Nadine was? Trotting into the living room with her toy in her mouth. You weren’t even gone yet and she was practically dancing on your grave. And that moment when you tucked your head under my leg, did you know? Do you hate me? I just wanted to lay there with you forever. Burying you was perhaps the strangest decision of my life. When my dad passed it wasn’t even a hesitation to say ‘cremate him.’ And for some reason I couldn’t bare the thought of anybody taking your body away from me. Burning your body. I couldn’t be sure that the person handling your body wouldn’t set you down carelessly, or move your arms in a funny way making a joke to dull the stress of his job. I couldn’t be sure and so I allowed your grandma to prepare a grave next to Houston and Gizmo. While they prepared the grave I laid next to you. Wrapped in your favorite blanket, Nadine, ever the asshole, meowed at me demanding to play. I couldn’t decide if she was avoiding feelings or if she was in her feelings but those feelings were joyful. 

Nadine and I weren’t on speaking terms for weeks. She acted like nothing had changed. And to top it all off she didn’t even befriend Lil Girl. Instead she started to act like you. She wanted constant attention. She even started jumping on the counters, demanding treats, taking over. It makes me sad that I’m mad at her. I’m also a little mad at you. You were such an alpha that it changed her personality. I attributed her timidness to her natural personality, and it wasn’t until you left that I realized that she was timid because you were… you. I cried to Jason about how mad I was at her that in your last moments, when you needed me there, when you knew something was up, there she was – the asshole – running through the living room with a toy in her mouth. Like, ‘alright, let's move this along so I can play in peace.’ He reminded me that she was a victim of domestic violence. True. You abused her, and I made excuses for you. ‘Well, he loves her and she won’t give him the time of day.’ To hear that sentence out loud makes me cringe now. But, Jason reminded me, they are also animals. Even though you opened cupboards, and ate from my plate, and felt so much like a human, you were an animal. So, you did animal things and so I forgive you. 

That day that you died I laid next to your body for hours. Grandma was out back directing grandpa on how to properly dig your grave. It’s my fault you’re buried there now. In their backyard, next to Houston and Gizmo. On the day I couldn’t bare to let anybody take your body from me. I couldn’t bare the thought of anybody sticking you in some kind of oven to burn your flesh and melt your bones. And in this moment I truly understood grief. Death is not new to me, but grief is. 

Death is shipping my dead father’s remains to my brother and not stressing out when the post office lost him. I even laughed about it. Death is getting on the phone and making arrangements. Showing up to the coroner’s and laughing to yourself when they have Cosmo and Glamour on the coffee table in the waiting room. Death is cracking jokes to numb yourself from the pain. Grief is not getting off the floor for hours after you were finally buried in the backyard. Grief is swaddling you in your favorite blanket so you wouldn’t be cold. Grief is the tears that lay just under the surface at all times in my eyes since you’ve left. Grief is the inability to joke. It is impossible, because the sadness is too palpable. Death is easy. I can do that with the best of them. I’m not so great at this grief thing. 

People don’t know how to treat me so they ask me when I’ll get another cat. These people mean well but they don’t really get it. You and Nadine and lil girl taught me all about loving. You made me feel special, and needed. You are my family. If I had lost a child nobody would have thought to broach the topic of when I’ll replace it. And yet, it was one of the most popular questions. How in the world would I go about replacing you? All my love and grief makes me feel guilty. 

These days I’m feeling like a mother whose lost a child and is suddenly disinterested in her other children. I’m preparing meals, and even playing with Nadine, but my heart isn’t in it and that makes me sad. When I play with her I am thinking about you. She’s the happiest she’s been in a long time and I can’t be mad at her but still. She hasn’t befriended Lil Girl. We’re a mess without you Rodgey. Three girls just trying to figure out this new relationship. In a lot of ways you were the glue to our group. You loved Lil Girl and now I am unsure about where she gets that from. Nadine and I enjoyed a special relationship because of you. She always came to tell on you and this is when we had special moments of affection. I think she needed you to make her seem like less of an asshole. And now that you’re gone all I see is her selfishness, and manipulation. Though Jason says I’m probably reading way too much into her behavior and she’s probably just thinking about taking a nap when it looks like she’s plotting my demise. He’s probably right. He’s right. 

I didn’t think I would be able to write about you. I tried at 6 months and it killed me. But here I am facing 365 days without you forcing myself to write to you. Something has happened – 

And now I am picking this up a full year after I wrote thatlast sentence. I couldn’t even finish the sentence because it made me sad. Jason gave me a gift for my birthday last year, and that gift’s name is Turk. We call him Turky for short. He’s the sweetest, Rodgey, but also not the sweetest. He is just like you in so many ways. And just like Cohen in so many ways. So it’ like you and Cohen had a son, and that makes me so fucking happy. And sad. Because I see you in his eyes when he’s up to something. And when he gets into the cupboards I want to sob. And when he crawls up on my chest for love I remember how much you loved to do that and I am sad and happy all at the same time. (I’m pretty sure that is a Taylor Swift lyric and I apologize for ruining this by bringing up her – I know how much you loathed her music.) I still put Nick Cave on in the car and listen to your song. And of course I cry. 

Nadine hates Turk. But also loves him. Sound familiar? She’s back to being pissed about everything and unimpressed by everyone. Turk chases her around and I am back to feeling sad that Nadine is the victim of DV and I don’t know what to do about it. 

Jason is home now and it makes me sad that you never met. You and Jason would be such good buddies. Like he and Turk are. Turk is also buddies with Lil Girl. This makes me so happy. I know you would want that for her. They cuddle, and he’s too aggressive, and Jason has to say ‘be nice’ and then he gives us those Rodgey eyes and he’s nicer. For a moment. Then he’s back to his – your – ways. I love it. And I hate it. 

We’ve moved twice since you passed and I’m not finding Rodgey hair as much, but I still find it from time to time in your carrier, or old toys. I still bring you up all the time and I’m sure people are sick of hearing about you and you know I don’t care. I’m grieving. I’m still grieving. I’m grieving because I truly loved and still love you. That’s amazing. And it’s awful. 

I hope there is lots of sunshine, grass, and chicken wherever your spirit is these days. Your girls are still a mess, but we’re doing better and better each day. Nadine actually really loves Jason. I know, right? And Lil Girl loves her Turky, though never as much as she loves her Rodgey. 

I can’t believe it’s been two years. I love you Rodgey. I miss you every moment. I am so thankful that I was a part of your life. I am truly a better human and you couldn't have been a better cat. Although, Nadine would like an addendum to that statement. I have, at her request added the ways SHE feels like you couldhave been a better cat below: 

1.    More baths

2.    Less meowing

3.    Cleaner litter box habits 

4.    Less chasing and wrestling

5.    Stayed with us. Forever. 

 We love you Rodgey. We all (even Nadine) miss you everyday. And twice as much on Caturdays. Rest in Paradise sweet Rodgey.