We lost Betty today.
Betty was a wonderful, cantankerous, glaring long-haired cat that Lucy has had since years before we met and of whom I was very fond. She was first and foremost a hunter. I initially became enamored with Betty over her behavior at Lucy’s place on 6th Street. Betty loved the outdoors; and while she did include cat food in her diet, she generally would only consent to come indoors for an interim snack. Dead of Winter or heat of Summer, Betty preferred to be outside at nearly all hours.
One of my favorite memories of Betty concerns the large glass door that opened onto Lucy’s back yard; Betty would often sit there on the outside and stare inside. Early on in our relationship (with Lucy or Betty, take your pick), I would open the door, thinking she was wanting in. She would turn and bolt away. I gradually learned that Betty only wanted to observe us caged creatures. She vastly preferred the wilds.
I don’t think I’ve ever lost an animal like we lost Betty. In the past, they’ve gotten hit, or ran away or some other form of, um, absentee death. We think Betty had a stroke or thrown clot. We came home to find her semi-crouched in the kitchen, occupying a single spot. This wasn’t exactly unusual behavior for Betty— one of my favorite eccentricities about this soft black cat was her habit of staking out some random spot — and then occupying it vehemently, sometimes for days. Frequently, you would just have to walk around her, depending on the spot. One time, the spot was my pillow, but that was one of the few times that she was unseated by me. Repeatedly, I must add.
This evening was clearly different and we took her immediately to the animal hospital; after some compassionate consultation from the Vet, I sat with Betty and stroked her soft furry black head while she was put to sleep.
I’ve cried a lot tonight over Betty because I loved her. I loved her absolute disdain for the trappings of comfort and domesticity. While she lived with humans, she never particularly deigned to be much other than a prowler. I respected that. Betty would come in, but mostly she was going out. She liked to be OUT, and as a token of respect, we will bury her somewhere out. In The Wilds.
I didn’t know we were going to lose Betty today. I keep thinking this. I don’t know why. I don’t think I could have changed it, I don’t feel guilty, I just puzzle in the crevices and chasms of grief and how it works.
I didn’t know this morning after a welcome few hours of sleep recovering from the Mountain Workshops.
I didn’t know during an unusually cheerful visit to KET.
I didn’t know during a delightful trip with Lucy to Winchester.
And I didn’t know while we crashed the pool at the Marriott. I didn’t know that such a wonderful day would end in tears. And it’s okay, really— It’ll be okay. I just didn’t know. I ‘m reminded that we cannot really predict or prepare for these things. I just want to be present when they happen. I think these are some of the most important times in Life.
Epilogue: Betty, I’m told, was properly called “Black Betty Bam-Ba-Lam,” after an old blues song. To this day, I’m not sure that I know it. But I knew Betty. We understood each other, and while she was a remarkable crank, she was also a delight to me and I will miss her, as will Lucy and the rest of our household.