When I was 5 years old, we got a cat. It wasn’t the family’s first cat, but it’s the first one I remember. She was a black tortoise shell named Midnight, but my Dad insisted on re-naming her. It was a fair trade for agreeing to let us have the cat, after all.
He named her Ataturk. Ataturk ElCordoba.
Hey, she never seemed to mind, and it was original. I never came across another pet with the same name, unlike the dozens of Spots and Fidos, or even all the Maxs.
She died when I was 20. That’s a nice long life for a cat; she had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of years before, so it was no surprise. And by the time she was gone, I had moved to Utah to finish school…so I never really got to say goodbye.
But last night, there she was in one of my dreams. No, I wasn’t a kid in this dream. I was my almost 44 years old self, talking to a 39 year old Ataturk. That she was there and alive in the dream didn’t seem the least bit odd. Nor did the fact that in this dream she was roughly the size of a Golden Retriever. Other things in the dream that were out of place—people from old neighborhoods, a birthday party, alligators, and Max—seemed perfectly normal, too.
She walked out of a room, and I didn’t seem the least bit surprised to see her there. Ataturk was her normal self: she sat between me and the Spouse Thingy, as she would do when any male other than my dad were near me. She glared at everyone else. She ate an alligator, something that she probably would have tried at some point, if she could have. After all, this is the cat who once, when she managed to sneak outside, was found chasing a German Shepherd. She clawed at the couch, shredding it to pieces.
The only odd thing was that she seemed to like, and approve of, Max.
I got the chance to pet her, let her rub against me, and then she was gone. I woke up, and she was gone.
Again, I didn’t get to say goodbye.
It makes me wonder…are we always supposed to get to say goodbye? One thing that always stuck with me reading Tuesdays With Morrie was the idea death ends a life, not a relationship.
So maybe saying goodbye isn’t all that important, not as important as keeping the string that ties two people—or beings, as the case may be—together intact is.