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November 6, 2013 / kristicolleen

Sebastian, 1994-2013

Dear Sebastian:

You died yesterday.

It doesn’t seem real.

Almost 20 years ago, you were born in my bed (with me in it), and yesterday I held you and kissed your head as you took your last breath.

You were my baby, my best friend, my partner, and so much more.

My life was changed forever when I was 10 years old and you were born. It has been changed again now that you’re gone.

You taught me so much as we grew up together.

You taught me how to love. You taught me how to be responsible. You taught me how to not only take care of you, but how to take care of myself.

You saved my life.

All those times when things just seemed so hard, and so bleak, and I didn’t want to go on anymore, you gave me a reason to keep trying. I can’t count how many times I told myself “As long as Bastian’s still alive, I have to be, too”.

I was told many times over the years that I should give you up, that things would be so much easier if I didn’t have you, and I refused. I was insulted at the suggestion. I wanted to ask them if they’d give up their children if life became difficult. You didn’t make my life harder, you made it better.

We’ve been through so much, you and I. 20 years makes for a lot of memories. Some of them were bad, but a lot of them were good, and I wouldn’t trade any of them.

All those times when we were both scared of Dad, because he was going to hurt one or both of us, and we hid under my bed. And then I got too big to hide under the bed, so we hid together in my closet. When we became adults and we were scared of other things, we’d hide together under blankets (and occasionally in the closet, too).

All the times you’d come with me for walks, and the neighbours would always stop and exclaim how strange it was that you followed me around like a dog. You’d even follow me to work until I realized it was too dangerous and you were too important to me to risk having you get hurt, and you became an indoor cat permanently. That wasn’t before you had brought me many “presents” in the form of half-dead and sometimes completely-alive animals, though. The live snake in 2003 was a personal favourite of mine. The time in the late 90s when you left a live squirrel in my brother’s room was also a crowd-pleaser.

You went missing once, for 4 days. You had followed me on a walk again, and this time a dog ran out of a yard and chased you. I was terrified that I had lost you, and my friends, family, and I searched night and day, calling your name. Then you showed up while we were eating dinner and you almost seemed insulted that we were just sitting around and not looking for you. I don’t know where you went, but you never went there again.

You were there when I started junior high and had my first boyfriend. You were there in high school when I had my first serious boyfriend. You were there when I was 17 and I had finally had enough of the abuse at home and we ran away to live with said-boyfriend. You were there when I met Matt. You moved in with Matt before I did, thanks to an infestation of fleas in that horrible dump of an apartment we lived in in Abbotsford. You were there when I married Matt, and weren’t too happy we didn’t take you on our honeymoon. I worried about you the whole time we were gone, though. In fact, I worried about you for 20 years.

You were there when Matt left us. You stayed by my side as I cried more than I had ever cried, and I’m sure your fur stayed wet for at least 3 weeks.

You were there for all the guys I dated, including Mr. FancyPants, who didn’t like cats, and you chose whenever he came over to decide you weren’t scared of men anymore and made sure to get his trousers and fancy suits covered in your hair. Thank you for that.

You were there when I finally fell in real love for the first and only time (other than with you), and you fell in love with him, too. When I was away for 10 days, and you went to stay with him, he understood that when we Skyped, it was only because I wanted to Skype with you. You were also there when he broke my heart. Both times.

You also got to travel a lot. Like the time we flew from Prince Rupert to Vancouver (and back), and on the way down, I put you in the cargo hold and felt guilty about it for our entire trip. On the way back, I asked if I could take you as my carry-on, and they told me your carrier was too big, but then they gave you your own seat, free-of-charge. The flight attendants were so smitten with you that they kept bringing you coffee creamers to drink the entire flight.

Or when we drove across Canada from Chilliwack to Moncton, and I mistakenly thought you’d stay in your carrier the entire time. You lasted about 10 minutes before I felt so guilty I had to let you out, and you spent the rest of the week sitting on my lap, looking out the window, or happily sleeping on my teddy bear in the backseat. When we ran out of gas in the middle of the night outside Regina, and it was freezing (it was March, after all), you kept me warm until a gas station opened up.

I’ve never known a cat who craved attention as much as you. If you weren’t in my lap, or snuggled in my arms, you had to keep me within reach at almost all times. There were even times when I knew you were hungry and had to make the tough decision between food or being near me. Most of the times I’d just take pity on you and go stand by you while you ate.

When I went to the bathroom, you were there. When I took a bath, you were there (and never noticed your tail dangling in the water). When I cooked dinner, you were always underfoot. When I slept, you wanted to be there, but most nights I had to lock you in your own room so I could sleep, otherwise you’d just poke me all night and wonder why I wasn’t waking up and snuggling you.

You were my happy place; my safe place. My most favourite thing in the world was to kiss your forehead, to press my nose into your fur, and inhale. I can’t describe what you smelled like, but it was always comforting to me, and the way you held still and pushed into me told me it was comforting to you, too. That was what we were doing when you died. We were both in our safe place in that moment, and I will never forget that.

Everyone who knew you loved you. You were special. You not only touched my life, but you touched others, too. As Andrew said yesterday, you’ve now left an opening for Best Cat in the World, and it’s going to be a really hard position to fill. It will never be filled for me. The position should be retired, like a hockey player’s number, because nobody is ever going to come close.

You were everything to me. I wanted you to live forever. I knew you couldn’t, but that didn’t keep the small part of me that thinks we might one day be able to time travel from hoping it was possible.

Last year we moved to Halifax. We fell in love with this city, and it felt like we had finally found our place in this world, with people who loved us. I was looking forward to finally feeling comfortable and safe with you. Now I have to do it alone. I don’t know if I can.

For years, we’ve had a routine where every day when I got home from work, we’d lay on the couch or bed for at least 30 minutes, and do nothing but cuddle. I’d change out of my work clothes so you could lay on my chest and they wouldn’t get covered in hair and drool. When I got home today, I didn’t have to change. I didn’t lay down on the couch or bed. Instead, I fell on my knees on the living room floor and I cried. I sat there and I expected to feel your wet nose in my armpit, but you didn’t come. You won’t ever again.

We both grew up learning that we couldn’t trust anyone but each other. You were scared of everyone until you got to know them, and I always expected everyone was going to hurt me. In the past few years, you’ve changed, and you’ve started warming up to people, trusting them, and you’ve helped me start to trust them, too. We were just getting started, and now you’re gone. Who will I trust not to hurt me now?

You were my constant. We’ve been abandoned by so many people, and through it all, we stayed together. You kept me from truly feeling alone in this world, and now I’m scared. I don’t know what to do by myself. I need you here to make me feel okay.

But you had a long life. You were loved. So much. More than anything. You gave me so much, and I will forever be grateful for that. You were sick, and it was time for you to go. I couldn’t have asked for more than what I had with you, because it was perfect, and nothing can beat that.

Thank you for being brave for me. Thank you for helping me be strong.

I am hurting more than I have ever hurt my entire life, but I wouldn’t give it up, because I know it means you’re not hurting anymore. I did so much for you, because it’s the only way I could ever repay all that you did for me.

The term “best friend” doesn’t seem adequate to describe what you were to me. You were so much more than that, and I may be good with words, but describing my feelings for you seems impossible.

I love you.

We’re going to bury you someplace beautiful, beneath a magnolia tree that looks amazing in the Spring, and you’ll be near the people I love, and I’ll be able to come visit your grave whenever I want. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

I miss you so much already, and I still can’t believe you’re gone. Just yesterday I woke up with you licking my face. Now I’m afraid to turn on the lights because I know I’ll see the empty space on the bed where the only thing left to remind me of you is a clump of your hair. I’m not ready to see that yet. If I keep the lights out, it doesn’t hurt as much.

I have so much more I want to say to you. You knew all my secrets, my fears, my pains, my loves. I told you everything, and now I have nobody to talk to. When I was sad, you’d comfort me, and now you’re not here to do that, and I’m the saddest I’ve ever been.

But don’t feel bad. We had so much time together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for keeping me going.

Thank you for everything.

I miss you.

I love you.

This was the last photo I took of us. It was taken yesterday before we left for the vet. There was one taken later, but I'm not ready to see that yet.

This was the last photo I took of us. It was taken yesterday before we left for the vet. There was one taken later, but I’m not ready to see that yet.

April 3, 2013 / kristicolleen

Undomesticated.

I am the least domestic person I know. In fact, I’m probably the least domestic person YOU know. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t know if it’s from a lack of proper upbringing, short attention span, or complete and utter impatience, but I am a disaster in the kitchen.

I think the problem first manifested back in the 8th grade when I almost lit my school on fire.

Yeah, you read that correctly.

I was in home economics class, and after very likely creating a barely passable something-or-other, I untied my apron and tossed it in what I felt was the general direction of the large wooden box that held the other aprons. However, that box was next to a stove. A stove that I had left on. Because of my grace and wonderful aim, the apron landed partly in the box, and partly on the hot element.

Now, I’m sure you can imagine how much grease would have accumulated on an apron that had been used by countless 8th graders and probably hadn’t been washed since the school opened. It wasn’t very long until the apron caught fire. That would have only been a minor issue, except for the fact that the apron was touching the other aprons in the box. Thankfully, due to some quick thinkers and classmates with obviously faster reflexes than I, the fire was extinguished before any real damage could be done. Strangely, I also passed the class. That may only have been because nobody actually wanted me to have to do it again, though. Which was fairly smart, because the next year I switched schools, and in another home economics class I dropped some cookie dough on an oven element and THAT caught fire, too.

I didn’t do much cooking at home. Whenever we had large meals that required everyone to pitch in, my responsibility was usually stirring things. However, due to the fact that standing over a stove and stirring things over and over is completely boring, I really wasn’t good at that job, either.

When I moved out of my parents house and had to start fending for myself, I realized how unprepared I was to do so. The only thing I was any good at was spaghetti, and even then I only knew how to make enough for 7 people. My boyfriend and I ate a lot of frozen spaghetti in those days.

Over the years I have learned how to cook, but I’m not good at it, and I don’t like doing it. I try to avoid doing it as often as possible. When I do make myself a meal, I make enough so that I will have leftovers for as long as possible. This is partly intentional, and partly because I still haven’t grasped the whole “cooking for one person” concept.

When I moved to the east coast on my own in 2009, it was my first time really being alone, single, and having nobody to rely on. I told myself that it was time I start acting like an adult and learn some proper domestic skills. So, I went and purchased my first set of pots and pans.

I was so proud of myself. Such a small thing, but a big step for me. I browsed websites and cookbooks, looking for recipes that didn’t seem too difficult and that even I couldn’t screw up. I was excited to make a meal using my brand new saucepan.

So, I decided to make pasta. Simple, right? Pretty hard to screw up? Wrong.

I did what I was supposed to do. I put brought the water to a boil, added the proper amount of pasta, stirred it a bit, and then replaced the lid, fully intending to stir it every so often to keep it from sticking. Then I walked away. I sat down in front of the computer. I turned on the TV. I forgot about the pasta. I only remembered it when the smoke detector went off and smoke started emerging from the kitchen.

Suddenly, it was chaos. As the smoke detector screamed at me, I grabbed the pan off the stove, where the water had boiled completely dry and the pasta had burnt beyond recognition, and I moved it to a cold element. I grabbed a tea towel to wave at the smoke detector, but it wouldn’t shut up. In a panic, I grabbed the frying pan I had been planning to cook chicken with and I swung at the ceiling. On the second swing I connected, and the smoke detector went flying across the room. It was perhaps an overly dramatic maneuver, but it worked. The beeping stopped. I returned to the kitchen to survey the damage and discovered that my brand new saucepan had turned black. It was completely unusable. I tried to scrape out the burnt pasta, but it was no use. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that after using it once, I had to throw my new pan in the dumpster. So, I tweeted about it, of course. Hey, someone should get a laugh out of it.

Since then I have melted the plastic bottom of a tea kettle into a stove element, not once, but TWICE (the second time was just yesterday, and clearly I have an issue with stove elements), I have cut myself multiple times while doing something as simple as cutting a bagel (I happen to have a phobia of knives and now only buy pre-cut bagels and buns), and I don’t think I could tell you how many things I have exploded in the microwave (note to my friends: don’t leave me in charge of the popcorn).

I have to reiterate that it’s not that I don’t know HOW to cook, it’s that I don’t like to. I get bored. My mind wanders. Hell, I wander. I start doing something else more interesting and disaster ensues. I need supervision. I need timers. I need a way to make cooking fun so I actually want to spend time in the kitchen.

I’ve been lucky so far, but I fear that someday I’m going to set something on fire and not be able to put it out. Or I’m going to cut off a part of my body that I actually need. Or I’m going to starve to death.

I do, however, make fantastic cookies. It’s true. I can give you a list of references, if you like. Or, if you come over, I’ll bake you some.

But if you do, bring a fire extinguisher, okay?

You know, just in case.