Wednesday, 13 November 2013


It would have been John’s birthday today, 13th November.  He died almost 8 months ago, but to me it feels like only yesterday.  In that time I’ve gone through various stages – and not necessarily the ones labelled by psychologists.   A blogging friend in Chile said something that made sense, that I can consider myself to be over the worst when I can look back with nostalgia instead of pain.  I’m still wondering how long it will be before I stop feeling that I’ve been cast out to sea towards some unknown and distant shore. 
The legal issues when a person dies are only just being resolved now.  There were things of John’s I wanted to keep, and most of the rest were sent to good homes, but there were plenty I forgot about, and they have appeared around the house to surprise me and make my heart stop from time to time – brandy still in his brandy flask; his little stash of 50 pence pieces for the bridge toll; his favourite ginger jellies languishing at the bottom of a large jar; a box with his witty musical compositions; his metronome. 
Christmas is looming, and I wish I could disappear to a desert island till the new year, instead of avoiding invitations where I can, and sleepwalking through the ones I can’t.  I’m not lonely and have always been fine in my own company – it’s the absence of John himself; the absence of his devotion, nobility, generosity and loyalty that’s the problem.  I know that by shutting myself away I risk being forgotten about, but that will have to take care of itself when the time comes.

Another sadness hit me in August – one of our beloved companions, our 12 year old ginger cat Rusty had to be put to sleep.  Unbeknown to me he used to wander up the road – 10-15 houses away – and he had made friends with an old man who must have reminded him of John, and was there for him during the day when I wasn’t.  This man fed him, and as Rusty was diabetic, I was therefore getting his insulin wrong because I thought his appetite had slowed down.  In any case I was being very careful with the dosage.  Giving him too much insulin had resulted in a terrifying hypo during April when the vet only just managed to save him.  I hadn’t reckoned with this new unknown. 
One night he didn’t come in when I called him... and called him and called him till 1.30 a.m., and eventually gave up.  I wish I had done what John would have done, to walk up the road calling his name.  My neighbours discovered the following day that he had taken refuge in one of the old man’s thorny bushes when his hind quarters inexplicably ceased to function; unable to defend himself blowflies got to him and he was heard crying all night.  I would have heard him if I had not been too nervous to walk up the road in the dark.  I would not have been able to save his life, I know that, but oh I could have shortened his torment, poor little mite. 
Unaware of all this, I was anxious when I left for work the following morning and I asked my neighbours to look out for him.  They called me at work a few hours later when he was found, and we rushed him to the vet.  He explained gently to me that there was nothing further that could be done other than to numb his hind quarters and then put him to sleep.  I stroked him till I felt his life ebb away.
His ashes will go on John’s grave when I put red roses on it today.
Now it’s just his brother Banjo and me, and we’ve got closer than I ever thought a human and a cat could get.  I imagine he’s motivated by anxiety that his remaining meal ticket might get sick and go away too, but I also need him, and we comfort each other.  When I’m obviously sad he sits very close and rests one or both paws on my knee.  I’m so grateful he’s nervous of other people and is not the wandering type, which I think will help protect him from venturing into trouble as Rusty did.
Blogger friends know I love to write, and it’s a good distraction – I’m perfectly aware that this blog has been silent for too long, and I’m struggling to write a post which is turning out much longer than I expected and will probably have several parts.  I’ve no idea if the story of a remote village on the Indian frontier in Argentina in the mid nineteenth century will be of interest, but I hope some will find it so.  I’m sure that readers from the North American continent will find it follows a familiar pattern. 
I’d never make a good writer of history books – I need to be emotionally involved in what I’m telling you.  I want it to shock you as it shocked me, make you laugh and cry as I did.  Overall I suppose I’m trying to say “Argentina is a wonderful place; its heart and soul is not what you read in the newspapers.  Let me tell you about the extraordinary people who made this land.”  (And sometimes about the quirks of my own family).
To finish, I’d like to show you a scan of John’s last birthday card from me in November last year.  I had been nagging him about the idiocy of owning a mobile phone and never leaving it switched on.  Brought up during the war, the “Don’t-waste-the-battery” litany was hard to break.
Don’t give up on me – I’ll be writing about more cheerful subjects soon.  Meantime, don’t forget I’m still working at keeping my other blog going with daily brief entries – Eavesdroppings and Stories – just click on this link.


Joyful said...

Caroline, it is so good to see you again. I know that John will love to have the roses on his birthday and that he and Rusty will love to keep each other company again. It is so sad what happened to Rusty but I am glad he is out of his pain and suffering.

Banjo sounds like a real dear and reminds me a bit of my cat Princess who is also now in Cat Heaven. She used to lie beside me and put her paws on me when I wasn't well. Cats can be so loving when you get to know them.

Big hugs to you and I look forward to reading more from you in time.

Joyful in Vancouver

Alicia Seminara said...

I'm glad you're back and I feel for your loss. Besitos.

Theresa aka Tessie Rose said...

So good to see you pop up on my blog roll! You're in my thoughts. I hope it gets easier. Hugs!

Sara said...

It was good to see your post today as I've wondered how you are doing. Hoping that Banjo and you find some healing together. Our pets do bring us comfort.

Sandy said...

So strange. I was thinking about you yesterday. So sorry about Rusty. Will always be here to read your posts.

Electro-Kevin said...

Sorry to hear of your losses.

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