Related words, but not the same thing. In one final tribute to the departed Sterling, a rumination on the difference.
There’s knowing, and then there’s realizing.
Just as the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug, the difference between knowing and realizing is on that level. Supposedly Mark Twain was the first to make that observation regarding words. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. He usually gets the blame either way. It’s not fair, but then life isn’t fair, so I’ll blame him too.
I have to blame someone right now. For something. Doesn’t much matter what.
Knowing is the easy part. It’s all right in front of you. Your cat is sick; you know that. Your cat has an inoperable tumor, and you know that too. The steroids worked for a while, made his breathing easier, made him more comfortable, but wouldn’t fix the problem, and you knew that as well. There would come a point when the pills wouldn’t work anymore, and that a certain day would come. And it did.
Off to the vet because you’re out of options. The cat is suffering. You know it’s the right thing to do. Not easy, not pleasant, but right.
The cat has a name, by the way, and it’s Sterling. He’s gray with a little bit of white, like his brother. We named them Sterling and Sheffield because their coats reminded us of bands of steel. Together they were “Da Boyz.” Mighty hunters, even though Sheffield has delicate teeth and Sterling a congenital enlarged heart. Or maybe just a big heart. He was a sweetie.
We met them at the Mississippi Animal Rescue League. We hadn’t bonded with any of the other cats on display, and the lady said they had a pair of brothers that came in together. About ten months old, they reckoned. One or both climbed immediately into Carol’s lap. I think they may have drooled a little, and they both came home with us.
We knew then as we know now that cats have a certain range of lifespan, and that’s it. May be shorter, may be longer. But not forever, but you don’t think about that, you don’t realize that. It’s just one of those knowing things.
Like the hard decisions you know you’ll have to make. Sooner or later, it’s coming. And then it does, and you go to the vet, and you pet him one last time and you do not leave him, even for the needle. You say he’s a good boy and a brave boy and you’re telling yourself those things, because he doesn’t know, but you do.
Then you bring him home, and you bury him. And you know he’s gone because you dug the hole yourself and put him in it because it was the very last thing you could do for him.
Then it’s later. Sometime later. A day, a week, doesn’t matter how long. You’re doing dishes, mind wandering as it’s prone to do. You wash one kitty bowl, and then you automatically look for the other because they’re brothers, and there’s always two…
And then you realize.