I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Monday, July 25, 2011

FB Note from March 10, 2011: Goodbye Tex: Grief Revisited

This is the final post in my series of Facebook "notes" I am transferring to my blog. If you are interested in seeing them all, click the "Facebook" label. I am mostly doing this so I will have all this information in one place. I may get up the energy later to post some of the comments to this post that included stories about Tex (again this is mostly for my own kids in the future.) Next week I have thoughts and plans for new education posts, so stay tuned!

Warning: This is a long note written mostly so I won't forget the stories to tell my kids, but I thought a few of you who were part of this history might enjoy it. I have been thinking about Tex and his life the last few days because I knew the end was near. I want to write this down while I have the motivation. Don't feel like you have to read it at all or skip straight to the end to read some of my views on grief.

All my life I have been an animal lover. My dad (who has many other wonderful qualities) doesn't quite share those sentiments, so I only had a few brief interludes with pets in childhood, and "my" dog at my grandpa's house four hours away. When a pet fell into my lap in my young adulthood, I jumped at it (and have been collecting critters ever since).

In June (or was it July?) of 1996 I took a trip to see my good friend in rural east Texas. While there we found a stray calico cat with five tiny kittens living in their only-used-for-storage old barn. The solution was obvious. My friend took her pick then I had mine. We found homes for the rest of the kittens and the momma cat. I drove the 5 hours home with a little orange and white ball of fluff snuggled on my lap. The whole way home I was busy thinking of names. I favored math names like Euclid or Isosceles (the cat had a triangle of orange around his nose.) Once home I sprung my pet on my parents. I was living with them after college while I was teaching high school math. My dad said he should be called Tex. My mom and I agreed that my best chance to keep my happy home and my kitten was to use dad's name for him, so Tex he was.

Tex was a lively funny kitten. Everyone should have a kitten at least once in their life. There is nothing like it. I gave Tex a stuffed armadillo that was bigger than himself. He loved Mr. Armadillo. Tex would chase me around and play. He would go outside and climb trees. My brother, who was also living at home at the time, loved playing rough and teasing Tex. I think Tex enjoyed it, too. Tex treated each member of the family differently. He especially loved my mom, and, right up until almost the end, if she came over he would assume she came over to see him and demand to be petted.

Tex was with me for almost 15 years and through 8 moves. He was the constant while I brought one big person and 3 little ones into our lives and while 7 other pets entered our lives and 5 of those pets left. He has been with me for over one third of my whole life and 80% of my adult life. He was mine while I was a single career-woman. He was with me when I got my first apartment alone (and got a snake Tangle). He was there through my engagement and marriage (without the snake--Michael liked Tex, but said the snake had to go). He moved out East and then back to the plains with my husband and I, although he HATED riding in the car. He coped with a new dog Ranger and a new kitten Ollie out east. He grew to love Ollie (as did Ranger and the rest of us), and a year or two later grieved Ollie's untimely death, sadly searching the house for his friend. When we finally had to give Ranger away a couple years later, Tex rejoiced and became the proud lord of his domain that he had been before the hated dog arrived. Soon we got him another cat friend, Tripod. Shortly after Tripod came home, Michael died. Tex was always there for me to pet and talk to and cry with. A few years later when we moved to the house we are in now, we got a dog Thunder. Thunder had fun chasing the cats until they discovered that they could bully him (thanks to a stray who claimed our home and who was the best cat with the kids...we miss you, too, Oreo). A couple of years ago I made a promise to Tex, not to bring any more pets into our lives until he was gone. It had just gotten too stressful for him. He was turning into an old cat, a grumpy old man with the other pets (but oddly friendlier with his family). He never really liked Oreo and thought Thunder was the cause of all evil. (And in case you are counting pets, there was also LOTL's baby turtle Red-Ear a few years ago, who died an unfortunate death, but Tex didn't really interact with him beyond the occasional sniff.)

Tex has always been there for the kids. He never liked the kids particularly; he knew about kids and would usually run and hide when we had guest kids, but he was very protective of His kids. If Little Pud cried, it was obviously someones fault, and in the last 5 years, that someone was Thunder. Poor Thunder has taken the brunt of Tex's wrath hundreds of times. Fortunately for Thunder, Tex was front-claw declawed. As much as he would hide from child-guests, Tex loved adult guests, usually coming out and asking to be petted. Everyone thought he was "friendly" in spite of his overall grouchy disposition with the family. (I say that with love, I loved my grouchy cat, even though he would bite to tell me he was "done" being petted, and he actually got overall friendlier as he aged.)

Tex was the smartest cat I have ever personally known. He was an indoor-outdoor cat, but was all about his own comfort, so was only outdoors when the weather was great--not too hot or two cold and certainly not if it was rainy. He spend two or three days last week basking in the springtime sun in our front yard [remember this was originally written in March...last week in real time was HOT.] I never worried about him (well, at least not after the first year or two). He always knew exactly where he was and what to do and where I was and where home was and to get out of the way of cars. (I never let him outside in a couple of our houses/apartments that were in too busy areas, but anywhere that it was a possibility he got to go out and he LOVED it.) He also protected the front yard from strange dogs. Often he would chase off the neighbor's schnauzer and occasionally bigger stray dogs. He didn't realize that he was smaller than all of the dogs he chased away or that traditionally the dogs chase the cats. If I was outside gardening or playing with the kids, he would follow me around, jumping the fence if he needed to (although preferring to wait for the gate to be opened for him as he aged, which we usually did for him.) If we were next door at my parent's house he would wait on their porch (or sometimes go in to visit them, since even dad liked Tex by this time.)

One thing he did NOT do was catch mice, that is until Dec. 5, 2010 (yes, just 3 months ago!) I posted this status after Tex caught his first mouse:

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but apparently cats don't follow this rule. My 14 1/2 year old cat Tex, who I have had since he was tiny tiny, caught his first mouse yesterday! I have noticed him watching Tripod, the good mouser, lately. I was truly amazed (a little grossed out, but amazed.)

December 6, 2010 at 1:01pm

Tex died March 10 in the wee hours of the morning. We had all said our goodbyes and cried lots of tears (well, the boys didn't cry, but Little Pud and I did.) Today we will have a brief service for Tex, cry some more tears, and tell some stories about him.

I have some views about grief, and one of them is that losing a pet is one way children can learn about death and how to grieve. In an ideal world, children would experience death first through pets, then the loss of very elderly neighbors or distant family members--and we as parents would take these opportunities to help them understand the value of life, how human life is different from animal life (as precious as the animals are to us), and how to grieve, so they will be more prepared for the bigger losses later in life. Obviously we don't live in an ideal world. My own children's first loss was their father--or in Super T's case, his whole birth family. Many children are never taught how to grieve or encouraged to grieve and may only witness death on tv (in a very removed environment where the actor is not really dead, giving death an unreal quality.) Yesterday (as we knew this was coming) and today I have encouraged each of the kids to express their grief their own way. Little Pud tends to wail and be dramatic, LOTL is quieter and thoughtful. Both are okay. Super T doesn't really understand and never paid much attention to Tex at all (although he loves Tripod.) Losing a pet, although so so sad, is not the same as losing a person. It is however, losing a big part of your life, and the grief process is similar. Tex will be sorely missed, but I am happy for the good memories I have and the almost 15 years we had together.

1 comment:

My boys said...

I had to read it again on the blog... Who would have ever seen what our stories would be the day Tex and Murray came into them. The one thing I can say now that I am all melancholy is that I for one am glad that you were my friend on that day in 1996 and that you still are today in 2011. The journey has not always been smooth for either of us but the comfort of your friendship has provided more than I am worthy of!

Love you and the 3 sets of sweet cheeks you stay with!