I have a cat named Dorian Gray. I didn’t get Dorian because I wanted a pet. I got Dorian because we live close to an open field, and I am afraid of mice. Dorian was a very effective deterrent. The mice stayed in their field, and Dorian attached himself to my husband, Bill. They would take naps together, watch football together, and look out his window together. I believe they were watching birds. He was Bill’s cat.
On the morning of August second, 2009, I was in the kitchen making coffee, when I felt an uncontrollable urge to leave the house. Bill was in his room, skeletal and frail with pancreatic cancer and the aftereffects of chemotherapy, unable to speak, unable to eat or drink. I hadn’t left his side in weeks. I hardly left his room to eat, or sleep. But this morning, it seemed as if I couldn’t make the coffee fast enough, get out of the house fast enough. Something was pushing me. I went into his room, bent over him, and said, “I’m going out for a while, Billy, but I’ll be back. And I’ll love you forever.” Why I added that, I don’t know. I kissed his forehead, grabbed my cup of coffee, and left him in the care of his sons, Patrick and Sean. My daughter Niki and I headed for the river, which is just at the end of our little lane. I hadn’t been outside for a long time. It was a beautiful day. We sat down at the river’s edge. Almost immediately, a mother duck and four ducklings came out of the water and came straight at us, not stopping till they were at our feet. “Don’t move,” I whispered to Niki. “She’ll nip you, with those babies around.” They nestled into the warm sand, hemming us in. We were all very still for a few minutes, and then, quite suddenly, the mother got up and waddled back into the water, her babies following. We were free to leave. When we entered the house, Patrick and Sean were standing in the living room, waiting for us. One look at their faces, and I knew. Bill had needed me to be away, so that he could let go. I couldn’t leave him on my own. Something kind and loving helped us both to let go.
Dorian is my cat now. He is a free roamer. I lost the battle of trying to keep him inside a long time ago. Most nights, unless it is raining, or very cold, I have to let him go, and every morning, I look for him at the back door, always a little afraid, always asking myself, “Is this the day he won’t come back?” He is a little older now, and has taken to lying on my chest, the place where the pain will be when he, too, is gone.
I still go down to the river and sit. I feel Bill there. And sometimes, Dorian sleeps in his window.