Saturday, May 8, 2010

Moving On. Or not.

There comes a time in the grieving process where you make a concious decision to move on with life. You scatter the ashes. You go back to work. You put away your loved one's possessions. You start over in a hundred different ways. Your brain begins to adjust to Life After. It doesn't happen at the same time for everyone, but eventually, it does happen.

I'm not there, yet. Not even close. My mind doesn't want to make the leap into this new reality of Life After Muffin. I keep looking around the family room, hoping against hope that I'll find her sunning in her usual spot by the sliding glass door. She's not there, of course. She never will be again. And that's the hardest adjustment of all: making your brain understand what your heart doesn't want to accept.

The thing that stabbed at me today was this: a while back, noticing that Muff was getting on in years and not jumping as well as she used to, I bought her a set of steps. I found a nice carpeted set in a Drs. Foster and Smith catalog. I put the steps at the foot of my bed, and Muff immediately figured out what they were for: so that she could continue to get up on the bed and snuggle with me at night. Which is exactly what she did.

For reasons I'll never know, Muff took some sort of dislike to the bedroom in the house I live in now. The set of steps moved with us, and again took their place at the foot of the bed, but Muff never used them. In the three years she lived here with me, I think Muffin spent one night on my bed. I always felt bad about that.

I tried to encourage her to join us at night. I'd pick her up and put her on the bed, but she'd just growl and jump off. I certainly wasn't going to force her to do something she clearly didn't want to do, so when I turned off the lights at night, four cats followed me into the bedroom, and one stayed behind in the family room. Her self-imposed isolation made me sad.

Trying to make up for her absence in bed, I'd occasionally take naps on the family room couch. Muff would invariably join me for a snuggle - something I deeply treasured. I could always feel her purring as she stretched out against my stomach, my hand resting on her shoulder as I drifted off. It was the sort of thing you spend a lifetime taking for granted, until the day comes when you're forced to realize that you should've been paying more attention at the time because it will never happen again.

It wasn't until today - some three weeks after Muffin's death - that I gave any thought to that carpeted set of steps. Looking them over, I wondered what I should do with them now. My mind drew a momentary blank. "I could probably find some room for them out in the shed," I thought. Only problem with that idea, though, is that I'm not ready to move those steps very far. It would be too much like admitting that Muffin's not coming back, that she really is gone forever.

How can I possibly admit that?

How am I supposed to just put those steps away like they're not needed anymore?

How I am supposed to accept this awful, unbearable truth?

I haven't. The tin containing her ashes is still on the kitchen table. Her catnip mice are still scattered about the floor. Those carpeted steps only made it as far as the dining room, residing now in front of the bay window, making it easier for the surviving cats to get up on the window seat for a snooze. I know that grief happens at its' own pace. I'm not in any hurry to adjust. To accept. To move on.

I'm just not there yet. I'm not ready for Life After Muffin.