I spent the next few minutes looking at pictures on my phone. Things like Facebook and Timehop are wonderful for good memories but extra-painful for others. Having said goodbye to my dad only 48 hours earlier, it felt stupid to cry about a cat. I scrunched up my face and reminded myself of the suffering happening all around me: wives losing husbands, children losing fathers, financial disaster.
I have a bad habit of comparative grieving. Looking at the grief of others and trying to minimize my own in comparison. "I had my dad for 39 years," I'll think. "We knew it was coming," I'll remind myself. And then I put my own sadness on some sliding scale of grief where my own feels like it should be less than others. And then I feel guilty when I can't make it stay there.
So this is how I started my morning -- the last morning with my mom -- by sobbing quietly into my pillow and telling myself, "It's just a damn cat."
Maybe they were the tears I'd been holding back for my dad, coming out sideways. Maybe they were tears for so many friends I cannot help right now. Maybe they were about missing dinner with my little buddy, Elliott, turning 7 today. Maybe they were just the by-product of exhaustion and too much quiet.
Or maybe they were tears over a goddamned cat. The orneriest, most badass kitty cat I've ever known. No water glass was ever safe from her. No alarm clock ever more reliable. No animal ever to be tolerated. No flip flop ever unchewed. She was grumpy and beautiful and quirky and destructive, but she was mine.
There's something to be said for the first animal you ever own on your own. Or if it's a cat, the first cat to ever own you. She was with me for 15 years. I've never known a home here in Fort Worth without her. I had never started a school year without her waking me up, knocking things off the nightstand or chewing on my ponytail. And I haven't gone a day this whole year without looking for her when I walk in the door.
It's easy to say she was just a damn cat, but in truth, she was so much more. She was my damn cat.
Or, rather, I was her damn person.