Untitiled

It was not my intent; I hadn’t planned it. If I had known, I would never have done it.

A few months ago, I cut the baby right out of my child. With one fell swoop of the electric razor across his scalp, layer by layer, my baby landed in light downy tufts around wee pink feet. Blond curls and tats falling one atop the other in soft piles. Piles of my baby!

This may sound dramatic, but anyone who has ever done this will surely understand. It was all done in the name of efficiency. My four-year-old son’s hair seemed out of control. It was long and unruly and I struggled daily to keep his bangs out of his eyes. I tried and tried to comb the rooster tail out of the back of his head – something I was never able to do without a fight and a few tears. Surely by giving him a nice, neat trim, I was making a bad situation better.

On a whim one evening, I stood him up in the empty tub and with my husband’s electric razor, I buzzed the long locks off.

Initially, I was quite proud. Despite being shorter than intended, with different attachments to the razor I was able to style his new hair into a little buzz-cut. We all gathered in the bathroom and marveled at what we saw, as if looking at him for the first time. And in fact, we were.

With the loss of that hair there emerged a new child; an older child. A child that seemed wiser, more capable and more defiant. As if on cue, the clothes in his drawer no longer seemed to fit. His pant legs were not long enough, his winter boots were now too tight, sleeves too short….

His blondness was gone as well; his hair taking on a more brownish tone. I had identified him as blond for so long, and now it was gone.

calhair
Cal, before the cut.
In some cultures, the hair is considered to have a soul of its own, and when the hair is cut there is a ceremony performed. A burial. It’s a funeral and they are burying an important part of themselves. Mourning and cutting are closely related in many cultures. I was struck by this memory a few days ago when I became aware of the transformation in my son. By cutting away his long hair, I managed to (unceremoniously) bury a part of him. And I was mourning the loss of my baby!

Fortunately, I have a piece of his hair that I kept. A small lock of sunshine curled into a cloth. This burial will be a different one.  It will be buried away in my cabinet and every now and again I will come upon it. That piece of his early blondness will flood me with memories of the baby in him.

I will show it to him when he is older and we will wonder at it together. “You used to be blond,” I will say.

Then, I will bury it away again until I need a little sunshine.

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Playing god

This was written this past April. Patsy died peacefully and was buried in a spot that I can see from the back window of my house. It was raining heavily when we put her in the ground. Her grave is topped with wild lilies and fieldstones. I learned yesterday that tombstones in cemeteries all face the east. While her pile of stones doesn’t find preference in any particular direction, the morning sun does shine on them, and Patsy loved her morning sunshine.

This morning I will be taking my 17-year-old cat to the vet to have her put down. She is not in pain, still has her eyesight and hearing, and is still eating. She can jump up to the windowsills and down again, but there is no doubt she is struggling.

Her moments of meowing loudly in distressed confusion combined with some incontinence issues has led me make the decision to put her down. Better now than later, I muse. Why wait until she is sick or in pain? What am I waiting for anyway?

Today, it has become startlingly clear to me why I’ve been waiting.

It was a lifetime ago that my younger self and my charming boyfriend (now my husband) found her one night, a wee kitten, crying underneath his 1966 Chevelle. It was late, after midnight actually, and while he coaxed her out from under his parked car, I had already named her Patsy – after Patsy Cline and her famous song “Walking after Midnight.”

My boyfriend and I had just started living together and in the foolish way that younger couples in love are, we agreed to take Patsy in and love her together. In a way, she was our first child and in that instant, our family was born.

Patsy in her early days as a frisky kitten
Patsy in her early days as a frisky kitten
From the moment she came into our lives that summer night so long ago, she’s been with us through thick and thin. From our small town apartment, to our big apartment in the city. From our childless days of freedom and languid weekend mornings sleeping in, to the birth of our first “human” child and the chaos that ensued. From the city apartment to our first home, then the arrival of another baby, then another move, and another baby, and another move….

Through all these major changes and milestones in my life, there she was: Ever-waiting to love me whenever I had a moment to spare.

Years have passed. That silly young girl in love, that first time mother, that young woman juggling her career and her home life; she’s gone, too. And I can’t help but feel I will be burying that piece of me beside her today.

As I face the harsh reality of my own ageing, of the vulgarity of time that seems to be stacking up behind me; of elderly parents and loved ones I will lose someday balanced on the brink of my horizon, and all the loss that time brings, I am afraid of losing her, my old cat. I am afraid.

But today, all I can do is honour her. She is a symbol of a time in my life that may be gone, but that is monumental nonetheless.  I won’t leave her side when the end comes, and I’ll thank her for being my constant companion all these years. I will bring her home with me and bury her here on our country property, somewhere special. I will plant flowers and pile stones. I’ll find peace, knowing she was loved and never suffered. And as the years go by I will remember her, and in doing so, pay homage to my ghosts.