The everybody’s dead edition

The Authenticity Experiment, the everybody’s dead edition.  It’s strange: now that the cat is dead all I want to do is call my mother and tell her when I haven’t felt the urge to call her in months. Tell her that the last two nights I’ve come home to an empty house—no tortoise shell cat sitting imperiously on the back left cushion of the couch and cussing at me for being out too long, too late, for choosing busyness over sitting in the low light and holding her.  There is no tiny baby kitty curled into her brown and beige heated cat bed on the wood floor between my king sized bed and the window, no cat in the heated bed, paw over her nose, one eye looking up at me, a plaintive request to please turn on the heat in the bedroom.  And no cat racing to the office at 7:25 a.m. waiting on the other heated cat bed for the morning scrum call to begin.

I want to call my mom and tell her all this.  Tell her the cat died and now that the last of her, by which I mean the last of my mother, is gone, a new grief—no, not quite grief, but emptines2016-11-17-18-53-10s—has taken hold of my heart.  It made me shave off all my hair today.  It made me go to two different parties tonight when perhaps I would have been just as happy to be at home.  In the office, on the red chair, no cat under my left hand, just me and the iPad crossword puzzle, me and a book, me and a guitar, me and much too much stillness.  Who knew that 5.5 pounds of fur could fill up 1267 square feet over three stories?

And maybe my mom is close.  Because I can almost feel her when I talk to her in my head.  It’s that palpable, her presence.  Maybe she’s close because I’m writing an essay about her in my head, an essay that the woman who is not my girlfriend suggested that I write to bridge Objects, Authenticity, and the third book.

Maybe she’s close because that’s what the dead do, they visit the living, especially when the living are, quite literally, on their knees begging for intercession.

I’ve been this way before.  You’ve been this way, too.  Hell, half the country is this way right now.  Stunned, a low ringing in the ears.  Quiet and not quite right.  Standing alone in the dark on the sidewalk, feeling the wind, suddenly so cold when last week it was 60 degrees, standing alone in the dark and listening to the last of the leaves on the ornamental cherry trees rattle their own death rattle and finding some comfort in the darkness and chill of the season.

“There is yet faith,” says T.S. Eliot.  “But the faith and the love are all in the waiting.”

We’re all waiting, aren’t we?  Wondering what will come next, wondering if we can take it.  I’ll tell you, we can.  It isn’t fun.  It isn’t easy.  But we can do this, even when we can’t call our mothers.

Tonight I had dinner with a woman whose mother died almost half her life ago.  This woman who is 20 years younger than I knows this emptiness and has gone on to build a beautiful life for herself with a man and two guinea pigs who love her.  That sounds funny, yeah?  But that’s what death does—it forces you to find the joy in small, strange spots—like two little guinea pigs with amazingly sharp claws who squeak with joy when you pick them up.  In the sound of November leaves skittering down the sidewalk. In way you can finally hear the voice of your mother inside your head.  In a heated cat bed, still plugged in, but empty save for a catnip mouse made from hemp cloth.

Eliot knew this.  He wrote those lines above during the Blitz.  If he can have faith when it seemed like the world was literally being bombed into oblivion, then so can I, so can you.  And we’ll get through this time together, as a community, with or without our animals and mothers. We’ll get through this, all of us, because we must. Although there might be spots of darkness on the horizon there is yet faith.





  1. Rebecca Cleary said:

    So touching and inspiring, Kate. I feel your loss and touch upon my own, as well as into the loss so many of us are feeling post-election. There is bittersweet here. To know loss to is to have been graced with presence, and that once-filled space is never totally empty after. We have our memories and that heart throb. And the dead do visit the living…. We go on. Thank you.

    November 19, 2016
  2. John Clary said:

    We must
    Thank you
    Love you

    November 19, 2016
  3. Caroline Gaudy said:

    Thanks for this, Kate. As you say, there are a lot of us, me included, with you in this. AND that doesn’t fill the sofa, so to speak. Sending hope of peace to you.

    November 19, 2016
  4. steve said:

    Indeed, there is yet faith, Mr Eliot, and I am learning patience.

    November 19, 2016
  5. Monica Welty said:

    First, I want to tell you that I am sorry that your cat and your mom’s cat died and left so much space unfilled. I am sorry that you can’t call your mother. That you can’t sit beside each other and mourn, together, this sweet little being you both loved so much. I am heartened that your mom is doing her best to be with you anyway. I’m also so very sorry that your mom died.

    Also first, I want to tell you that this is fucking brilliant. I have enjoyed your guest writers and I have enjoyed your ooshy-mooshy introductions of them so much AND I am so glad you are back (at least for now), and back with this particular gen. This gift you have given us in a few paragraphs. For all of this truth, I am so grateful.

    And finally, second, I want to tell you a story. Last night I was at the Landmark, my favorite local honky tonk. I spent a good part of my mourning years sidled up to that bar, drinking whiskey and pretending I knew how two step and waltz with old men and my best friend. When my son died and I was pretty sure my marriage was going to end but could barely acknowledge even the thought of it, my then husband and I went there with friends and I put on a smile for him and for them. With Herculean effort, I did my best impression of the old me, the “before” Monica. He and I danced and I smiled up at him and tried to pretend that we were okay, that I was okay, that everything was going to be okay, like I used to. And he bought it for that night, and my best friend bought it too, coming over to us and saying to him “Look at her! I haven’t seen that smile I LONG time.” Mission accomplished, I thought. And went back to the business of trying not to drown from my grief the very next day, or probably on the car ride home.
    But last night, about 2 years later, I was there with my girlfriend, who is the love of my dreams. She wore her red plaid, flannel snap front shirt and her black Frye boots. She gave me her bar stool when I came over, looked me in the eyes and kissed me intimately in a crowded, country bar. She pointed to the older man on the bar stool next to me and said “dirty old man” out of the side of her mouth, ‘not so much as a judgement but as a warning. Just then, my best friend joined us and she pointed at my love and she pointed at the dirty old man and said “hey! You guys match!”. Sure enough, red flannel on the old codger and red flannel on the middle aged lesbian. My love smiled at him, and from her southern roots, she said “that’s true. But I’m nowhere near as handsome as you, sir.” He laughed and said, ” young lady, you’re going to have to get your eyes checked.” He motioned for her to come over, they put their arms around each other and posed, smiling, for a picture in their matching shirts.
    His grown son then took my best friend in his arms and they did a little swing dance among the other dancing couples. The son’s wife didn’t care and my best friend’s boyfriend didn’t care. The old man and I listened to the twangy music and watched the dancers. My love sipped her drink and kissed my temple and as I watched and listened and fell more in love, I thought “we’re going to be okay.” And I meant it this time. And I meant We, the royal we, all of us and I never say or think such platitudes except in these moments of truth. Like you said, my friend and teacher, we’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. We’ve even been in worse places before. And those of us who survive, we dance and we make music and we sit together and we fall in love and we embrace strange fellows and we keep on, not despite our suffering and grief and loss and confusion, not even because of. We keep alive, we keep living, because that’s what we do, no matter what. We keep on with the spirits of those who haven’t come this far along with us on our journey through time and space with us in their untouchable presence.

    Your words of truth inspire. Your vulnerability strengthens. We are all less alone for them. Thanks.

    November 19, 2016
    • Karen Rawson said:

      The blog and the FB page of Kate: Where the comments are often as good a read as the original post. Thank you, Monica. I lost myself for a moment in the images and sounds, and I take to heart your message as well as Kate’s. We’ll be OK.

      November 22, 2016

Leave a Reply