Life lessons usually include good and bad.
Our kitty cat has survived the weekend. We couldn't bring her home from the vet's today because we're still waiting on blood test results, but Insh'Allah we'll be able to pick her up tomorrow. That's the good news.
Unfortunately, the bad news is very bad. Our sweet little cat is suffering from hypertrophic myocardiopathy. There's no coming back from this one - her days are numbered.
So today we had to have ''The Talk'' with our 9-year-old daughter. Had to explain to her that her 2-year-old kitten doesn't have long to live. We have to think about putting her to sleep if the blood clots start to block circulation to her legs and cause her extreme pain. Kiddo's response: ''I never want to use the word 'sleep' again. There's nothing good about sleeping forever.''
This was only after Smilin' Vic had asked the vet if a heart transplant was a possibility. Because, frankly, and to my great shame, one of the perks of being an expat in the Middle East is that if push comes to shove you do have enough disposable income for such seemingly inane things. Even though the logic in us tells us to thank God our daughter is healthy and well, even though we know there are millions of starving and pained children in the world suffering atrocities, even though at this very moment someone is losing a loved one. We know all these things; but for today this is the one thing we actually thought we might control and realised we couldn't, so we're allowing ourselves the indulgence of total meltdown and irrational thinking.
Thank you very much.
Smilin' Vic and I had to talk about how we would dispose of her body. Sounds cold, and perhaps silly to some, I know, but we both can't stand the thought of having her flung into a dumpster or buried way out in the barren sandy wasteland. We want to be prepared beforehand. So we're coming up with all these wacky scenarios, Googling things like ''how to cremate your pet at home'' and such. Then finding out that cremation is illegal in Qatar. Even though apparently the local hospital authority will cremate your pet. So we're wondering if we can officially request an illegal service.
We've thought about burying her in a really big flower pot. Again, I know it sounds foolish, but we know if we bury her in the garden here, we might be moving 6 months down the road. We figure we could always bring the flower pot.
If you've gotten this far and are now wondering if I'm truly insane, don't worry: I've beat you to it. I read this post and realise just how finely tethered we are to sanity here in the desert. We cling to tiny bits of reality as we once knew it.
Like unwrapping a little kitten under the Christmas tree and hearing your 7-year-old squeal in delight at her first ever pet. Like seeing that kitten brave the stairs for the first time, then come tumbling back down in a big ball of fluff.
Like a kitten greeting you at the door every day when you come home. Sitting on her perch at the front window and watching you as drive off to work every morning. Getting tangled in the Christmas lights. Chewing on your i-pad cord. Purring next to you as you watch T.V.
Like filling up the cat's food and water bowls every day. Cleaning out the kitty litter. Keeping the screen door closed so the cat doesn't get out.
Like kissing our daughter to sleep every night with her little kitten snuggled right next to her.
Those are the little ordinary moments that keep us sane. And the thought of losing that familiarity - that ritual - is tough.
It would be tough anywhere. But for an expat, you appreciate the little rituals just that tiny little bit more.
Tomorrow, we'll be picking up our kitty cat from the vet's. We're all determined to make the most of the moments we have left with her. We've had the big talk, we've shed a few tears over the weekend. We've talked about how the bad moments remind you of how important it is to appreciate the good. As a family, we're determined to make these last moments count for our kitty and for us.
The loss of a pet is hard on anyone. But for an expat, there's an added feeling of despair. Once again we realise how very transient our whole existence is. Furniture, cars, clothes and most belongings become irrelevant to most expats. But most of us have a few things that keep us connected to that feeling of home: photos, mementos from home (like Christmas decorations and favourite blankets), Skype, and pets. Losing any one of these is like losing a part of you.
We're trying desperately to keep cool through all this, to pull on our big dude underwear and suck it up. Smilin' Vic and me, we're keeping it together on the surface. We're staying strong for Kiddo, who's always told us her kitty was the sister she never had. We're trying to keep cool. Trying to avoid becoming untethered.
Silly. I know it.
Kiddo to me tonight: ''When you have something special, you should love it as much and as long as you can.''
How right she is. Enjoy the moments. However fleeting they may be.