Memory is a funny thing. It is rather different than memories, plural. The former helps us recall the latter. It is not for nothing that Lord Tweedsmuir, one of our governors-general, better known as the author John Buchan, titled his memoirs Memory Hold-the-Door. The capacity to recollect actions, images, smells, sounds, feelings, is a great and powerful force, and serves emotion much more often, it seems, than it does reason.
Memory contorts time; it compresses and extends it, like what scientists theorise a black hole does. What was yesterday becomes last week, and what occurred a year ago happened just now.
I have been thinking of my late friend Tungsten quite a bit lately. It hasn’t been even five months since she died, yet in some instances, it feels as if she just turned the corner of the corridor and passed out of my sight. Other times, she seems to have been gone half my life.
I don’t think about her all the time. That is memory’s way; we live our lives and do what we do to get through our days. Sometimes those days are exciting and rich, sometimes they are boring and tiresome. But memory usually keeps us from dwelling on the past, whether it is happy or sad. Tungsten comes back to me therefore now and then, here and there.
I was making some toast last night, as is a habit, to keep my stomach from growling when I go to bed. Tungsten would see me preparing my snack and come over and join me. Latterly, she would be in her cat-bed, notice my activity, step down to the floor, stretch and walk over. She walked not hesitantly, as if hoping for a piece of toast; not hurriedly, as if she had to arrive before it was eaten, but matter-of-factly. “Oh, it’s toast-time, is it? Splendid. I am a bit peckish.” She would sit a few feet away from me and give a great meow, a yell, really. She could hurt your ears with the strength of her voice. Surprising, coming from one so minute. That would get my attention. Then she would speak the tiniest of cries, pitiful, suppliant. She didn’t fool me. She wasn’t begging. She was reminding. She would get her little bit of buttered toast. When she was healthy, or relatively so, she would then lie on my lap. In the months before her death, she would get down and stroll back to her bed. Either way, she had her treat.
That recollection came back strongly last night, but there have been others over the days. How Tungsten would sometimes prefer to crawl onto my shoulders instead of being held. She would lie there and push her head against my face; the only time she would give me head-bumps. I would boost her up, with my hand under her bum, rather than have her claws find a hold in my skin.
Then I think of the only times that Tungsten showed fear, which was when she had to go to the veterinary. She would press as close as she could against me, actually curving her little body around my abdomen as I stood at the examining table with her. Her faith that I could protect her against anything was deep, if ultimately misplaced.
When I go to bed at night, I recall Tungsten sleeping literally in my hand, curling herself up. If she thought I was moving my hand away from her, she would seize it in one of her paws and keep hold of it, even while she slept.
The orange one would follow me at times, into one room, then into another, and then a third. But her pace was usually so sedate that I would come out of the first room as she was still coming in. Then I would leave the second as she was entering that one. In each case, she would simply turn around, untroubled.
Lastly, a memory occasioned not by touch or sight or sound, but by smell: the scent of Tungsten’s fur. It was always very clean and smelled not of any shampoo, yet as though it was always freshly washed. I had remarked on that fact more than once to people during the tiny terror’s lifetime, and marvelled at how spit alone could keep a coat so clean. I hastened to assure people to whom I related this that I, myself, used soap and hot water.
So memory teases us with the presence of those who are absent. Usually, we give no permission for these images and sights, these noises and calls from our past; they come regardless. The door that memory opens and shuts rarely has a lock, and if it does, it is not we who keep the key. All we can do is hope that those who enter through the door come as friends.
it can be so hard when those memories sneak up on you....but we hope the happy ones bring you some joyReplyDelete
They are all melancholy, I'm afraid, because she's gone.Delete
That was a lovely post, beautifully written. Thinking of you and sending purrs and peace, as you remember your beloved Tungsten.ReplyDelete
Thank you. You know as well as anyone how hard it can be to lose one of these little friends.Delete
John...this post is amazing, well written, from the heart, and while I didn't start following your blog until just a few months ago, I appreciate your sharing this and feel as if I know Tungsten all the more. I am serious when I say, you SHOULD put your writings to print; either paper or Kindle, for those who dont follow your blog..... to enjoy. LauraReplyDelete
Thank you for your comments. I do enjoy writing, and am grateful that Tungsten is known through what I publish here. It would indeed be a wonderful thing to earn a living by writing, but I am content to let people know of the wonderful beasts with whom I live.Delete
What a beautiful post. Memories of our loved ones come upon is so suddenly. Thank you for writing about dear Tungsten. I love the "Christmas" photo. From Eileen and JessicaReplyDelete
I'm glad she co-operated for that Christmas picture. It was my last Yuletide photo of her, and was used on my Christmas card.Delete
This post brought tears to my eyes.it doesn't seem like it has been 5 months, time goes by too quickly! Loved reading your memories of Tungsten & how they just slip into your thoughts. These are beautiful memories that you shared with us and I thank you.ReplyDelete
I love sharing my memories of Tungsten. She deserves her own book.Delete
Wonderful post and such sweet memories of your lovely Tungsten. You truly have a gift for writing.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your compliment. My writing merely reflects the subject.Delete
Memory is such a wonderful thing. Memories lie dormant in your mind and then something suddenly pushes them to the forefront. I had only yesterday said the same thing in a comment. May all your memories of your beloved Tungsten be happy ones.ReplyDelete
Tungsten comes to me in good memories and bad. I'll take them all.Delete
if you would be interested in doing a Mousebreath interview, please let me know. It's an online digital magazine all about cats. Every Friday Jan with the Funny Farmer Felines, writes up an "interview" with cats from around the blogsphere. Interview questions are based on the cat's point of view.
Jan will email you a set of questions, typically 7 or 8, you can answer using all the cats voices or choose one in particular; it's free of charge and there's no set time limit on getting back to her with your answers; except that of reasonable time frame
You may be pressed for time or not interested and I understand, but I think it would be great fun to see your crew featured.
I'm including a link to the magazine for your perusal
Enjoy your day !
Very touching and heartfelt post about memory.ReplyDelete
I've been taken back through a lot of memories these last two weeks.
Some are seared deep. I've yet to totally understand but my guess is that "BAD" ones must have been an important way to keep us and all of our ancestors safe that is why we remember with a lot more clarity.
I love how you express your thoughts and share Tungsten with us, still.
The bad ones come with the good, I'm afraid. I remember it all, just not all at once.Delete
What a lovely girl. Just yesterday Jan thought as she passed out breakfast to us kitties, "They're all here (in kitchen) but one." And then she remembered Cameron has been gone since March. Yes, memory is strange.ReplyDelete
Periodically, I will hear a sound that will be just like a sound Tungsten made and I will turn to look at her, but she's not there. She never will be again.Delete
It would be fine if you did think of her all the time. She was a big part of your life and is and will always be a big part of you. The memories are comforting and can bring us joy when we're in dire need of it. I've been Mum to many cats, some for long periods and some for only a few months ( terminally ill kitties that needed a home so they didn't die in a shelter). I think of each of them still when I see a special toy or a favourite type of blanket or just about anything. I don't dwell in the past but I refuse to leave my friends, my happy memories behind. To do that would be to deny a part of me.ReplyDelete
Tungsten has the most amazing eyes. She looks like she's looking right into your soul.
She certainly saw into mine.Delete
Oh John, your post is so true and so poignant. It is amazing the little things that mean so much isn't it....Oskar has been gone 6 years now, but it is amazing how often I am drawn back to him by the 'little" things.ReplyDelete