I still haven't figured out how to tell people.
"Last Friday we had to make the decision," or, "We took her to the vet, and it was time."
We had to put her to sleep.
We lost her.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted a cat. My mom didn't like the hair, so we had poodles instead - but I coveted creatures of the feline persuasion. I collected All Things Cat: stuffed, ceramic, sticky - anything I could get my hands on. Finally, in 1997, having recently graduated and started my first Real Job, I decided it was time to adopt a kitty. My then-boyfriend Greg had friends outside Ottawa (where we lived at the time) whose cat had recently had kittens, and he arranged for me to have one. I didn't care if I got male or female - I just wanted the orange one. On the eve of Mother's Day at around 8 p.m., I drove out to the McDonald's on Carling Ave. to meet a man with a cardboard box in the trunk of his car containing a tiny orange kitten who fit in the palm of my hand. She came with a can of cat food and a note telling me that her birthday was April 1 and that they'd been calling her "Morris." As we'd recently visited Graceland, Greg & I decided on the name Memphis.
She was also known at various times as Mempher, Memipher, Memiflower, Memphy, Furball, The Furb, FOP (Furry Orange Pussy), Orangey (her bad-cat alter ego), Beast, Beastie, La Beast, Little Girl, Punk, Punker, Monster, Adventure Kitty (when she discovered our fenceless backyard in Brooklyn), as well as myriad variations on "Kitty LaRoux" (see: Purry LaRoux, Pesky LaRoux, and, in the later stages of her abdominal cancer, Lumpy LaRoux). She was deemed the "Softest Cat in the World" on more than one occasion.
When I first brought her home, no more than a tuft of a kitty, she tried to nurse from the inside of my elbow. She traveled with me back and forth from Ottawa to Waterloo, usually sleeping in her litter box for most of the drive. When we moved to California, she ate the pansies I planted on the deck. On one visit to Waterloo, I found her on Sunny's kitchen floor, rolling around hedonistically in a bundle of catnip that had been drying on the back of a chair.
Memphis co-opted many a lap of unsuspecting guests. She woke me at ridiculous hours. She once left a dead mouse in Ken's shoe. She was even Pet of the Week.
For the past year or so, Memphis greeted me almost every single time I walked through the front door. Ken said she'd even go downstairs when she heard my voice outside, and on more than one occasion reported that she waited on the stairs at about the time I'd get home from work. Even if she was ensconced on his lap, as soon as my hand touched the door knob, she came.
Since she's gone, there are physical gaps, like the spot where we used to keep a glass of water for her on the coffee table, and the nook in the kitchen where we kept her food bowl. I have weird brain gaps, like when I think about cleaning the litter or opening the curtain so she'll have that afternoon patch of sun. And then there are emotional gaps: Holding her, petting her, and talking to her were as much a part of my life as waking up in the morning, and oh-so-very happy-making. Having her curled up on my lap was massively comforting.
I loved her madly, and I miss her so, so much.