Grayson Part II: It’s Never Just Black & White – There’s Sometimes A Gray Area

(Note to Universe on behalf of my Grayson: Screw You – He had his dot in this place)

Grayson: (A slow, alert, deliberate peering about the living room) …Mmmmwwrowrp … Mmmmwwrowrp … Mmmmwrowwww … Mmmmwrowwwrra …

Me: (sitting on the bed from around the corner) Who you talking to now dude?

Grayson: …Mmmmwwrow…

Me: Alright my friend

This was an oft repeated conversation (in various kind) Gray and I would have as he made his way around the apartment talking to himself, or maybe to imaginary cat friends, or maybe even to the cat ghosts only cats can see/sense as their ears fall flat, their eyes widen, their tails fatten and they take off in a mad sprint to any place other than the one they were just in, usually to a window looking like one of their cat ghosts just slapped them in the ass.

(Facebook: Tuesday morning, August 7th)

It was around one this morning when I heard what I thought was just Grayson hissing at Cricket, the blind cat I brought upstairs who just has this innate ability to end up wherever Grayson is, a comedy of sorts and moreso than Bella who knows to grab her spot on the table in the living room, above the Cricket circles fray (Cricket walks a lot of circles to find her place). Grayson has never warmed to Cricket, Bella less so, I’m sure the blind being a weirdness that they just don’t understand, but he at least minded her. Usually his hissing was followed by a running away and a being mad at me for such. No confrontation, or maybe a temporary one, quickly quelled. But this hissing wasn’t that, it was different. He was in distress and a few hours later he was gone. Just fucking gone. 

(After my 7a alarm – Gray waits patiently, as I navigate newly opened eyes, in his usual spot on the rug at the end of the bed)

Me: Good morning Gray. (to around the corner) Good morning Bella…and (getting closer as her hearing is also suspect) you too Cricket. You hungry dude?

(getting up and groggily grabbing, after a rub under Gray’s chin, the three empty bowls from last night’s dinner then walking into the kitchen and putting them into the sink to soak while, in turn, grabbing the three clean bowls from the strainer)

Me: (Gray slapping at my feet) …whoa, dude! Can ya not make my feet bleed already? I’m not even awake yet… (Gray changes to rubbing around my legs) …you’re a good boy.

This was the routine in the old apartment with Bella and Gray and now the same one in the new apartment I moved into last December with the only change being the additional “good morning” to Cricket who I brought upstairs here a few months ago. I will thank whatever providence is for landing me in this place, here in this apartment, that couldn’t possibly be any more perfect. It’s two huge, beautiful hardwood floor rooms above the garage of the house of my landlady, Celie, who has an animal shelter just down the hill. She, along with her daughter, Sam, run the shelter with a selflessness that absolutely astounds me and the house itself, here, is filled with a wonderful myriad of happy, individual fur and a lone feather, another Bella actually, just louder, more insistent. I came across Cricket when I took to feeding the cats downstairs some nights during the week shortly after I moved in. It feels good to help out and the reward of knowing every cat, every dog too, not just by name but by every singular quirk of personality is immeasurable and my general welcome home from too frustrating days lately, from all of this fur, cat and dog alike (thank you Cujo, Spuds, Blue, Eve, Pea, Chubs, Florida, Senta, Dutch, Sharky, Nick, Lumpy, Harry, Ghost, Honey Bob Tail “Boo”, Tom, Polly, Spanky, Stick, the nameless black & whites et al), is a calm and often a chaos that I cherish. But it was in the feedings that I came to know Cricket, blind Cricket in her spot in the sun room, who was usually much more interested in trying to climb my leg to my shoulder to stick her head behind my ear than she was in any night’s meal. So I eventually brought her upstairs so she could have a human. Bella and Gray have let it be known that they are not fans of this decision but, well, we’ll see.

(Facebook: Tuesday morning, August 7th…continued)

So I write here as it is all I have right now. At my blog later. Now I understand that posting here or other places is a form of comfort, It’s what I’m doing right now, it’s a place of community with friends who, hopefully, understand your pain. But I do know that there are some out there who don’t understand this pain, “he/she was just a pet so why does it hurt so much?” (Hell, I don’t even like the word pet as it implies some sort of ownership and we all know that that is just not the case – they have names and are our partners for their short time where they own US) but he was my friend, same as any other. That’s why this hurts as much as it does. He was my confidant, my foot slapper, my laughter at home, my window greeter, my welcome in the door. 

Me: (peering under) …Bella, c’mon now, you can come out from under the couch. We’re all in.

Bella: (wide eyed stare)

Me: Ok girlfriend. What about you Gray? (as I watch him nose out every corner and every window of the place, happily murmuring to himself along the way)

The move to my two big rooms above this garage had gone as expected. It was long, Bella was hiding, hating being taken from her comfort zone and Grayson was nosing, checking the lay of the land. The first thing I did, after getting somewhat settled, was to lay out some crunchy paper on an ugly green rug I had bought at Odd Lot. Apparently cheap comes in ugly green, but cheap is cheap and it was a rug, a reminder of the carpeting we left in the old apartment (the first and only in house feel he had ever known) and the crunchy paper was an equal reminder. Gray had never before dealt with hardwood floors, the new slip slide that is hardwood floors at playtime, even the occasional slip slide head first into furniture. Oh, for the the video of some of those moments. So, ugly green rugs were a must. He ignored the crunchy paper at first for his early reconnaisance but later, that first night, with the assistance of a couple of stuffed mice, Grayson was back to building himself little crunchy paper forts and rolling around on his back to fight with me. Bella eventually too, made her way out from under the couch to start her own nosing. An ever on alert slow nosing mind you, but still nosing. We were in. The best part was to watch both of them discover all of their new windows, so many more windows here with so much more to see compared to the old view. A house cat’s paradise.

(Facebook: Tuesday morning, August 7th…continued)

The Doc at the hospital said he had a heart murmur, which I didn’t know of, maybe a blood clot did what blood clots do, but my Grayson is gone. The heartbreak (I’m a bit of a mess and incredibly angry) as with all your similars, is immense. This may sound self serving, but he was MY save. And I was/am proud of it. From a little stray gray left behind cat, to my robust playfully combative Grayson, unique in so many ways. I hope he knew, at the end, what a friend he was. It was only two years Gray which, of course, is just too short and not fucking fair. But, well, we know ‘fair” isn’t really in life’s vocabulary. 

Grayson? After beating the shit out of me on a regular basis when I first came upon you and until I convinced you that I was your guy and until you eventually nudged me to sleep under the covers on my arm? That’s my thought.

A belly rub for Bella, a chin rub or a slap at my hand with Gray, a shoulder pick up and close words into whichever ear may hear something for Cricket all followed with an “I’ll see ya when I get home”. I always have to say “I’ll see ya when I get home”. It’s a part of the regular that I can’t change. You know, that superstitious nature I think we all share. I got mine playing baseball as a kid. Reading of such of my ballplayer heroes. They all had them and they all worked right? Same t-shirt underneath my jersey from last week’s win, usually unwashed (don’t tell mom). Maybe the same socks, though usually washed as they were always very well game worn and stinky (mom knew). Same underwear…(no, Mom was patient but…). We are all loathe to change our routines as, well, whatever that routine is, it’s routine right? It gets repeated, which means it works right? We came home alive again today to the comfort of our usual is courtesy of this routine right? Well it is until it isn’t.

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th)

So I must tell you all that the support, the condolences, the sharing of similar heartbreak (and preceding joy), the reminder of the good that Gray had with Bella and I over the last two years that he wouldn’t have had otherwise has been beyond overwhelming and brought, at least, a lighter tear to my eyes, a thankful tear in this moment. I spent the day yesterday, after first posting of the loss of my Grayson, just sitting in silence starting at 3am, crying, and then doing some more sitting, more crying and repeating. I read what I wrote about him a year and a half ago “Grayson” to remember the beginning (not that I really need the reminding of course but it’s nice to have words in front of me…I’m pretty fond of them). I watched Bella check his spots for her missing friend and it broke my heart again. In my sitting I angered at fate, the whatever Gods, the simple painful/beautiful circumstance that is life and wondered why the need to take him? He was only 4. So full of life and so happy with what those three entities had brought him in the first place. 

Me: (to Gray on top of the fridge) So that’s a new spot huh?

Grayson: (laying splayed out staring intently at me…a playful paw at ready)

Me: …and it’s eye to eye. Well, cross eye to eye. I like it.

If you know cats you know they like high spots, I guess, maybe, to lord over us measley merely humans. I noted in the piece I wrote of Grayson a year or so ago “Grayson” when he was still an outside stray but was slowly coming to be accustomed to me, that he had a tree stump just behind the spot I would feed him in the mornings and then the evenings. It overlooked, down a short wooded hill, a lay of lawn next to a pond that sits in the middle of the apartment complex I, he and I, lived at. It was almost as if he were surveying his holdings as he sat there. It always seemed that there was a certain introspection on his part, as he sat, of perusing what was his, that he was taking stock, daily, on his tree stump, of HIS world, the one HE owned. He would eventually take an even taller spot on a cat tower in front of the screened sliding door of my third floor apartment that had the same view. For a land baron cat? What could be grander?

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th…continued)

I’ve had quite a few cats over the years but none of them were as joyous at living, at play, or even as joyous at anger. Almost human there with Gray. What I was so proud of with him was that he took that necessary fierceness he had when he was outside alone, fending for himself, took that anger defense and let it morph into a profound cat joy once he finally found a safe place to let it change – but to still hold onto the fierce. He took it and played tag, hiding around corners to swipe at my leg and run away, waiting for me to follow, I’m sure giggling the whole time in his big ol’ cross eyed noggin’. He forcibly convinced Bella that him chasing her and that them two eventually wrestling was a good thing and just a lotta goddamn fun. I’ve never had a cat stand on his hind legs with his fronts ready to play or fight like Gray. He attacked a thrown shoelace with the zealousness of somecat who was fighting a family battle after the shoelace said something about his momma. 

Me: (laughing an all out wholehearted laugh at the sight of the first time I tossed one end of a shoelace at him) …Dude?! You’re not supposed to run AWAY from it!!

He had gotten wide eyed, reared back like a little bucking bronco cat, and took off right out the room! And he was back two seconds later, eyes still wide. He would continue to do this with any cat play. Throw a mouse at him? He ran like I tossed a grenade but he would return with a fervor that just screamed, like a kid, do it again!! …and again…please again!

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th…continued)

But Gray, and this has been gnawing at me, I have to apologize for being lax in my play duties of late, there is no excuse so I won’t offer one. There just is no excuse. The occasional thrown mouse or catnip toy, the occasional hind leg stand patty-cake, the occasional attempt to grab your belly while you fought me off wasn’t enough. All you ever asked was for play and a warm arm at night in the cold winter months. I dropped the ball on the former lately. I didn’t break out your nemesis shoelace enough, give you more chances to really teach it a lesson about keeping a civil tongue. And I even reminded myself of this just last week. I started to take you for granted. For this I am truly sorry Gray.

Me: (to Grayson under the futon in my “office” of the old apartment) …Dude, you alright?

Grayson: (just a look, but a heavy, difficult look, with labored breath…a hard look at me right in the eye)

Me: …no you’re not alright.

I had finally gotten a couple of bucks together to take him to the shelter for a blood test and a checkup, to make sure that he had no cat issues that he could pass to my Bella. When I found out he had been given a clean bill of health I danced a little happy cat guy dance. Don’t ask. He was now free to the apartment and I could finally get rid of that cage at the top of the stairs that I had had bought to get him in from the cold, to help ease him into our home pre-blood test but that I had come to loathe in his defense. After the bringing him back from the shelter though, he soon started to sound chesty, had that labored breathing. Seems he had brought something back from the shelter with him. So much for just needing a couple of dollars for just the blood test huh? And I had to take Bella in soon thereafter for the same. But he had given me that hard “I’m depending on you now” look in the eye.

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th…continued)

A good friend and neighbor who knew and loved Gray well from the apartment where he and I came about each other, Tara Patterson noted, looking at some recent pictures I just sent her of him, that when he was outside, alone and angry his eyes seemed to only display pain. But these pictures, from his life here, his eyes? Nothing but comfort. Joy.

Me: Goodnight Bella (with a belly rub cat stretch and an attempt, on my part, of a kiss on the forehead. Seven years and it’s still like a game to try and sneak one in) … goodnight Cricket (a pickup so she can put her head behind my ear) … goodnight Gray (on the fridge with a welcome kiss on HIS forehead…at least this night without a Grayson swipe) … love ya dude.

This was pretty much the nightly ritual here, (depending on the swipe or not to swipe) just like the morning daily ritual, that almost, again, was/is a superstitious need to keep things the same. So you can wake to that morning ritual right? So you can somehow keep everyone and everything on track right?  Like I said earlier though, that can change, no superstition or faith in such can stop that change. No non-swipe kisses on the forehead on top of the fridge this night will stop the universe from proving you wrong.

It just is.

But can you tell the Universe you’re good? It was two amazing years with an amazing furbound being who did more for me than anyone, let alone me at the start, could imagine. And I thought I was just trying to do that for HIM.

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th…continued)

I’m going to post again the picture of he and his friend Bella. Bella on the table, he on the floor. Though it is obviously just a perfectly timed picture of him mid-yawn I want you to zoom in on him and imagine, instead, that he has just been the told the greatest, funniest fucking joke in the history of Cat. That was my boy. 

Me: (at another time) …Oh, you think that’s funny huh? (as he runs away, surely Grayson giggling) …Great, now I need another bandaid … (to self) …He He He…

(Facebook: Wednesday evening, August 8th…finish)

Thank you all, you crazy cat people, you crazy dog people, you crazy feather people and all you crazy whatever peoples in between, you crazy fucking human humans and Cheers to the joy of our beloved fur. We are no more than how we treat them, respect them, love them, call them friend. We all know the inevitable, profound sadness but revel, instead, in all the life and sharing that leads up to it. Miss you Gray. So miss you.

Oh, by the way Universe? That whole “can you tell the Universe you’re good” thing I was talking of earlier? Fuck it. Taking Grayson wasn’t necessary.

Love ya Gray, my dearest of friends.

4 thoughts on “Grayson Part II: It’s Never Just Black & White – There’s Sometimes A Gray Area

  1. Steve your words are heartbreakingly eloquent. Through your pain you are giving a beautiful voice to animal lovers …and hopefully reaching – creating new friends who will love these little fur souls as much as we do. Each one is so unique and special. Keep your heart open. ❤️��


  2. (thought I had repsonded to this earlier but it apparently didn't take…anyway)Wow! I never get comments here at my blog but thank you Laura Lee. Giving them a voice is part of the gig, an obligation, it's what we sign up for when w agree to add a being to our homes, to our lives. When we agree to a new friend. Maybe someone, somewhere will see this post and remember as much. Thank you again…it may hurt right now but my heart is always open.


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