When I was eleven, I had a tabby cat I loved dearly. When we moved, I had to start school late and to make it worse I had to take the fifth grade for a second time due to all of our moving. I was worried I’d never have any friends. But one thing cheered me, I had a little cat to sleep with me and sometimes she even put her paws up next to my cheek. I went to school for two months before we had to move again.
On this moving day, my cat couldn’t find her litter box because it was lost in the hurry of moving before the landlord got there. My dad hated cat messes and he went into a rage and rubbed the cat’s face in her poop. She scratched him so he threw her against the brick fireplace wall. The cat yowled in pain and ran out the open door. With tears streaming down my face and scared to say very much lest my father belt me, I went outside and called for my cat for the next two hours, but she never came back. My parents packed the car and left while I crooked my head out the back window to look for any signs of my precious kitty while we drove away, but I never saw her again.
For adults on the run, one cat was a just a small loss, but for an eleven year old girl who had very few friends, it was devastating. This happened in winter and a few flakes of snow fell while we left. I cried and cried because I was worried about my kitty, I knew she was hurt and I feared she might die or starve.
This was one of the most traumatic moments of my life, but when you live in a family that’s on the run and hiding, there’s no time to discuss how you feel, so you just stuff it—usually with food. I cried and cried and my mom gave me some peanut M and Ms (my future drug of abuse.) I was holding a large table lamp, but my body had to move so I started to rock back and forth in the car. That’s when my mom turned around and said, “Stop that, what are you? Retarded?” I tried to sit still, but like much of my childhood, I couldn’t stop rocking due to the things that happened.
For almost forty years after I lost that tabby cat, I’ve always had a cat, but never a tabby. When we went to the humane society to get a cat three years ago, my husband insisted on a half Maine Coon tabby kitten. I didn’t want her. I thought she was ugly, but he really liked her, so I agreed to take the little sprite and figured it would be his cat since we already had a black cat I loved dearly.
Can you imagine? I thought she was ugly? But only for five minutes, because I am a cat lover after all. Oh my word! She has stolen my heart like no cat I’ve ever had before! She sticks with me all day and all night long. Sleeps beside me with her paws around my arm and her face next to mine. She is the only cat who has ever slept as close to me with her paws on my cheek like that little tabby forty years ago. She sits at my feet while I write or wash dishes or paint. She is the most affectionate, smart and crazy cat I’ve ever had. Here is a painting I made of her.
One day I said to my husband, “I wonder why I’ve never liked a tabby cat before, then all of the pain came back to me. Once again, I felt like that helpless eleven year old girl watching her father throw her pet and friend against the brick wall. Then I remembered all the shame that came when I was discouraged from talking or mourning about it. I literally started to rock back and forth just like I did as a child when I remembered this loss.
To be fair, my dad is an old man now who has been known to make a hot water bottle for a stray cat on a cold winter night. But this blog is not about him, it is about me and my healing from the past. If my parents were healthy, they would recognize it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize to your grown children so you can have an authentic relationship with them.
When we are traumatized we either remember it very well or we block it out. I have always remembered this happened, but I tried to forget the details. And one way I dealt with it was to never have another tabby cat. This way I could forget about my painful loss as a child. My plan to avoid dark tabbys was mostly subconscious, but deep down inside my heart I think I always knew. How can we make up such losses that seem to follow us like dark riders for the rest of our lives?
Today I was reading a new book titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. The author Shannon Thomas is a Christian therapist who has written the best book I have ever read on healing from narcissistic abuse. This emotional moment came up for me today because I was reading through the healing part of her book where Shannon explains how we can find ways to give ourselves some of what we’ve lost.
We’ll never get our missing childhoods back, but we can find some restoration in things that have meaning for us. For me, this started when I got this tabby cat. And even as I read Shannon’s book, I realized my Father in heaven was working to restore this broken piece of my heart. My husband picked out this kitten five months before I realized what narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve always felt like that knowledge was a gift from God and now I realize God was even leading in which cat my husband chose for me.
What sort of losses have you suffered?
How are you finding ways to bring restoration back into your life?