Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging a Hole, Part 2

I regretfully report a recent death in our family: Grover, one of our three cats, was hit by a car and died earlier this month.

Honestly, I was surprised he had ventured down to the road. We live on a hill, with a driveway 1/4 mile long separating us from the street. We're surrounded by woods and fields with all the mice, voles, birds, rabbits, and chipmunks a superlative hunter like Grover could ask for. I never thought we would lose a pet this way.

The kids, as you might imagine, had varying responses to this tragedy. Erika was devastated. The others thought it was a blast decorating the simple coffin Andy made out of wood from Home Depot. I couldn't help but find a morbid sort of amusement in the way Gretchen danced around all evening exclaiming, "I want to put Grover in the box! I want to put Grover in the box NOW!"

It's not that surprising, really. Not only are most of the kids in the house way too young to have any understanding of death, but death has become completely run-of-the mill to them. We're all used to stepping over the decapitated rodents our cats routinely leave on the doormat. Even the preschoolers understand that one animal's gruesome end is another animal's gift to his beloved owners. I often wonder whether this comfort with death will make them less fearful of it as they grow older. I have vivid memories of lying awake in the dark when I was about 12 years old, feeling the crushing silence of the night and trying to imagine what it was like to be dead. Frankly, I'm still terrified.

Still, our wildly ranging attitudes toward death didn't prevent us from orchestrating a very moving funeral for Grover. Andy and Matty took turns digging a large hole, and once the coffin was placed inside we all threw in handfuls of dirt, which is Jewish tradition. Then we took turns telling our favorite stories about Grover. I reminded the kids that Andy and I got Grover before any of them were born. Our friends' son found him as a kitten mangled in their fence ten years ago, and I, pregnant with my first baby and raging with maternal hormones, couldn't say no when they asked us to take him in. I used to joke that Grover was the most expensive free cat in history, since it cost us about a thousand dollars in vet bills to fix his injuries. Although the vet offered to amputate Grover's broken leg, and promised us the cat would adjust, we couldn't do it, and so we ponied up the money for the surgery, and the pins in his leg, and the cast. He was so pathetic, this tiny kitten with this enormous white cast on his leg. When it came off, he was completely healed, and grew into one big, tough tomcat - but not so tough he didn't enjoy a good snuggle.

Grover, we will miss you.

1 comment:

Jim V. said...

My Eulogy:

Andy and I were waiting in line at the Rib Crib on Germantown Avenue, looking at a poster with pictures of the U.S. presidents. I can't recall how old the picture was, but I recall that while we were up to Clinton at that point, he most recent president on the poster was Jimmy Carter.

I remarked that Grover Cleveland was a good presidential name, and it was a shame that no one named their child Grover any more. Not one minute later, we learned that Grover Washington Jr., the Jazz Musician, was in the line in front of us. While I don't generally believe in omens, this one was too strong, so I made it my mission that Amy and Andy name their first child Grover.

One of my more endearing tactics was to sign up for several catalogs lists (only decent stores...I recall Pottery Barn) using the name Grover. It doesn't take a lot of imagination that, thanks to the wonders of direct mail, those three or so catalogs morphed into dozens.

I understand Grover was so named, because...he was already getting mail.

I'll confess that I didn't know Grover that well, but I'll remember him fondly as the cat of parents who know how to embrace a joke.