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Getting run over in the circle of life and having to tell the kids about it

It was a cold winter's night. We decided to put the kids to bed, get cozy under a blanket, and watch a movie. The only thing left to resolve was which one of us would go out to rent the movie. I drew the short straw.

I drove my husband's car. Shortly, I noticed a foul smell, like a cat had urinated in his car ... a lot. Arriving at the store I opened the car door and breathed deeply, revived by the crisp air.

I rented the movie and hopped back in the car. Slipping the key into the ignition, I noticed a shopping bag on the passenger seat. Unable to resist, I opened the bag.

Ever heard the adage "curiosity killed the cat?" or "don't let the cat out of the bag?" Both were relevant. When I looked in the bag I gasped in horror at who was looking back.

There was Tom. Our cat. Dead.

Now, let's backtrack...

Our neighbor called asking if I had seen our cat. In mortal dread, I hid in the pantry hoping the children would not overhear. That's where my husband found me.

He squeezed in and we spoke in whispers. I explained that Tom was dead in the street and our offspring knew nothing of his demise. I made it clear that neither of us would tell them.

Our resident gravedigger, my betrothed, headed to get a shovel.

Back even farther...

Our other cat was killed on that same runway we call "our street." The children witnessed this and were deeply affected. We mourned the death of Freckles interminably. We remembered him in prayers, memorialized him, wore black, prayed the rosary, and petitioned the Pope for sainthood (we're not Catholic, but apparently Freckles was).

I refused, despite my husband's admonitions, to tell the children of Tom's passing.

And so...

We left Tom's bed on the porch and continued to feed him. The children would ask "do you think Tom's bed keeps him warm?" or say "Tom caught a mouse yesterday." Tales of Tom's prowess and bravery grew. Posthumously, he was becoming a legend, greater in death than in life.

Periodically the children would ask, "I wonder where Tom is?" I responded, "He's on the long hunt."

Eventually, things started falling apart. My oldest child asked pointed questions. He noticed me squirming and darting my eyes at the mention of Tom. The "long hunt" was losing credibility, and I knew my gig was almost up.

Knowing I couldn't endure the inevitable wailing over Tom, I devised a plan.

One morning, waiting for the bus, I turned the conversation to Tom. Strategically, I waited until I could hear the bus on our street. Then I said, "Tom's dead. He was hit by a car. Daddy buried him. Stray cats are eating his food. Get on the bus."

My husband was amused, horrified and relieved. The ruse was over just when he couldn't go on living the lie of the "long hunt."

As for the children, the grieving period was abbreviated compared to that for Freckles. We remembered Tom in prayers, but I was not required to sport the black veil.

Pondering why Tom went to the store with me? My husband used the shopping bag to disguise the body. He put it in the car to hide it from the kids. He put it on the passenger seat so he wouldn't forget to bury it the next morning (instead of next Spring).

It's the circle of life.



Web posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2004


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