What’s gained from being angry at the dead? The dead cannot respond. They do not know what you feel. The anger and turmoil smolder within. Anger toward one you love and revere adds veins of disappointment and sadness to your image of them. Yet, there is no recourse. No conversation to be had with the dead to tell them how unfair a situation was. To tell them why you are angry and hurt. My words on a page are the best substitute.
If I wasn’t a parent, I might feel different. When you bring children into your life, you bring forth a series of questions, both asked and unasked. You raise the specter of your own childhood as you raise these babies from infancy, through adolescence, and into adulthood. In trying to care for my children, I faced my mom’s failings.
Poverty forces difficult decisions on people. If you have enough money, you may not worry about which family member gets to visit the dentist. Likewise, if you’re not scraping by, praying you can go the winter without the car or an appliance breaking, then your worry when a pet gets sick may just be about the pet. It won’t be about the lack of money to take care of the pet.
When our cat, Spooky, got sick, we didn’t have money to pay for insulin. Due to my mom’s arthritis, she wouldn’t have even been able to give Spooky his shots anyway. When our cat got sick, we didn’t have money to take him to the vet and have him euthanized.
Spooky was the cat we got when I was six-years-old. He was the cat we got as a kitten, after my dad died by suicide. We got Spooky after moving to a new city where no one knew us.
Ten years later, my mom asked my older brother and me to take Spooky to a friend’s farm and shoot him. Are children whose parents can pay their bills put in that situation? Or, can they afford the less traumatic goodbye? My anger toward my mother comes from the knowledge that I’ll never put my kids through that pain. I’ll never ask them to take their beloved pet out to a farm field on a rainy day. They will never experience the sounds of their cat crying from his cage and see the way the dirt turns to mud as they dig. My youngest daughter will not stare at the line of pine trees on the ridge, a windbreak for her tears as her pet is lowered into the hole. My oldest daughter will not hand a rifle to her friend, who asks for it, because the friend feels one should not have to kill their own pet. My girls won’t have to drop shovels of dirt onto the body of their cat and watch how the dirt sticks in the fur. They won’t feel the rain in their tears, eyes raw and voice ragged. Nor, will they proclaim to each other to never speak of this moment again.
I will never let my girls experience the trauma I did.
Did my mom know how shooting our cat would affect us? Did she think we were boys and it wasn’t a big deal? Was she so worried about the monetary cost that she couldn’t see the emotional cost? Looking back, I wish we asked the vet for help. Told him we couldn’t afford to have our pet put down. If that didn’t work, I wish my mom asked for help. However, her pride often got in the way of receiving help.
I wish I could see the teenaged boy I was and wrap my arms around him. To tell him you don’t deserve this. It’s not your fault. To tell him he’s loved. He’s loved. All I can see though is that teenage boy driving back in silence, wishing there was nothingness inside him as the clouds hung heavy with water.