The Lies I Tell My Child

There comes that moment in every parent’s experience when you find yourself in one of those situations, the moment a falsehood seems a better choice than brutal honesty. Sometimes the prevarication is small. Once I instructed my son to say a polite nicety about a friend’s culinary efforts…not every person is destined for artistic greatness, right? Then there was the time I told him the sharp words delivered by an elderly relative were the result of aches and pains rather that the blatant truth which is that the old biddy just has a nasty disposition.

Today was not one of those times – it was harder.

Our feral three-legged kitty.

Kitty #1 disappeared weeks ago.

I recall the night. Her feral howls woke me from sleep several hours before sunrise. Whatever foe she faced had provoked every fighting instinct carried in her DNA.

She’d never been a snuggly kitty and her life began with rough circumstances. We first saw her as a gangly kitten, half-starved and living in a storm drain. We set out food and tried to lure her into the yard without success. A couple of months later I noticed she limped, favoring a rear leg. We set out a cat trap in hopes of capturing her for a visit to the vet. Instead, she disappeared for a few weeks. The next time I saw her she was missing her right back leg.

Some time later she moved into our backyard and stayed.

We cut a hole in the garage door and she took up residence. It was an uneasy truce. As much as she liked the food and shelter we provided, she could never bring herself to trust us. She was a tough feline with honed instincts. Even with only three legs she was fast and she was fierce. She pummeled any other cat, raccoon, possum, or chicken that got in her way. When we relocated to the Northwest I caught her in a towel and plopped her in a carrier. She uttered not a single sound during the twelve-hour drive. I suspected she might never come near us again but she did, even venturing inside for brief visits in especially cold weather. I never touched her again, although in the last few years she would sit with me outside in the sun, staying always just out of reach, occasionally rumbling out a purr.

Our six-toed kitty.

A coyote took her that night.

I know that’s the way of the natural world but I feel sad that after nine years of surviving unimaginable odds, she became prey. I explained this event to our son, inasmuch as five-year olds comprehend “gone forever” but he doesn’t really grasp the reality.

Today he noticed Kitty #2 was not waiting in her usual place on the front porch.

In truth, she disappeared a week ago but he’s been too busy playing and being excited about returning to school to notice. This was the kitty who came with our house. The former owners moved across country and didn’t want to take her on such a long journey. We agreed to adopt her as part of the deal and she lived here for fifteen years. This was her home, her safe place, and it pains me to think she too was preyed upon.

So when my child asked me where kitty might have gone, I lied. A big fat whopping hopeful lie that our six-toed kitty missed our three-legged kitty so much…she set out to find her so neither of them would be alone. He still looks hopefully at the treeline in the morning, wanting to see his kitties tumble out of the ferns, hungry for breakfast.

 That’s one childhood dream I just can’t discourage. He’ll learn about loss soon enough.

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  1. #1 by patriciasands on September 8, 2012 - 10:19 am

    There are times when a mother senses the truth needs to be bent ever so gently and, who knows, perhaps you are right. Perhaps the two cats are sharing some soulful space. I like that idea. Loss is such a sad part of life and it’s a reality we wish we could forever shield from our children.

    • #2 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on September 13, 2012 - 9:38 am

      I never appreciated how many challenges there are to daily events until I became a parent. Everything takes on the potential to be a teaching moment, learning moment, or just a hug-and-cry moment. I’d like to think our kitties are together somewhere and we’re going to work at keeping that thought for as long as possible.

  2. #3 by Virginia on September 9, 2012 - 5:20 am

    Kids have plenty of time to learn about loss….let them have their innocence for as long as they can. You did a good thing 🙂

    • #4 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on September 13, 2012 - 9:39 am

      Thanks Virginia, for visiting and leaving a comment. I agree, the innocence is chipped away quick enough, too quick it feels like more often than not. =)

  3. #5 by Cora Ramos on September 14, 2012 - 4:57 pm

    Very touching–I feel for the lonely isolation and independence of that cat. Love your writing, Leslie.
    I’m not on Triberr any more and have missed your posts–hope you will check out WANA Tribe and join (all kinds of writer groups supporting one another):

    • #6 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on September 17, 2012 - 7:46 am

      Thanks for visiting, Cora-

      Our kitties are greatly missed. Although the one was sweet and cuddly, it’s the feral girl I miss the most because she was just so fierce and independent. =(

      I’ve noticed a number of folks have dropped off Triberr. I understand, the clutter of sharing posts (and oversharing, considering some folks are in multiple groups) is bothersome. I do enjoy being able to follow people’s posts when I visit to approve because I just pretty much ignore my RSS readers. I’ve been involved with WANA too, was part of the WANA711 class and while I enjoyed much of the interaction, the WANA group is also cluttered and clique-ish. I guess that’s a part of social organization, the part I don’t care for…but we each have to find the right combination of factors that works for us as individuals. =)

  4. #7 by Susie on September 20, 2012 - 2:53 pm

    For all the history of grief
    An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

    Better a new adventure in a different land, I think. The hard truths come soon enough.

    • #8 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on September 22, 2012 - 7:57 am

      Thanks, Susie. =)

      I like the better adventure in another land. Already the kitties have become part of our bedtime stories as they have adventures in far away places.

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