Felix and I
When Words Aren’t Needed
Is there even a way to truly describe love with only words? Is there a quote, or a paragraph or a verse that’s ever truly captured what love rightly is? Is it possible? The depth, the passion, the infinite grasp and the intensity of love is something I have never been able to explain with writing.
Oh, but how we’ve all felt it. We know its intensity and how it impacts our minds, bodies and souls. It’s revolutionary. It is the single greatest and most crucial element and component in the entirety of the Universe.
My mother died on Mother’s Day in 2015. I was in a state of grief and trauma that, like love, was also absolutely indescribable and hard to illustrate.
As a writer, I’ve tried multiple times to capture those feelings on paper. Grief and love, the two most profound experiences in every human’s lifetime. I’ve written countless stories and articles involving grief and the loss of a parent, but now they have fallen away to the bottom of my Microsoft Word folder because I could never marry the exact right words together. I never found that verbal formula. That missing link of words that could ensnare those emotions like a prize waiting to be given to the world.
When my mom died, I felt so companionless and surreal and unwieldy. I needed my friends and family more than ever before. But, despite all the hugs and the well-wishes, it wasn’t enough. The desolation was staggering. Oh, and the nights- the nights were the absolute worst. The profound quiet, the sharp painful memories, the literal pain in my stomach.
In my state of grief, I suddenly and fiercely wanted a kitten. I was raised with animals but hadn’t had my own in several years. I wanted to find someone or something that I could connect to and cry with and not be this emotional blubbering nuisance to my loved ones.
I searched for kittens for days online. Endless pictures and profiles and they all just started bleeding into one another. Not one kitten stood out. I was on Craigslist and Petfinder and every local shelter or humane society’s webpages.
But, I was absolutely determined that when I saw the right one, I would just know.
Then one day I came upon a photo of a young Tabby. He had black tuffs on his ears and almost large anime-styled green eyes. He looked so goofy and sweet and it rapidly hit me hard- I absolutely had to have him.
His name was “Ernie”, which was given to him by the shelter. My unyielding loss and pain almost became feverish as I urgently got in my car and drove straight to the humane shelter. I remember I was shaking and in this state of tunnel vision. When I parked, I had to keep myself from literally running inside.
I had just spent a week at my mother’s house obsessively cleaning it for days. You do strange things like that when you’re in shock and grieving. I remember finding piles upon piles of empty vodka bottles that my mother had hidden away like a squirrel burying treasure for the winter. She died from her disease….alcohol and opiate addiction.
I was absolutely exhausted as I opened the glass door and looked around for the cat section. I remember an employee saying something to me, but with the daze I was in, I couldn’t hear nor respond.
I walked to a window and saw a small room with about twenty or more kittens running and climbing and piling all over each other and on one of the volunteers. I quickly came around and opened the door. It was complete chaos. Once I saw them in all their cute glory, I could feel myself wanting to just fall over and sob. But, I held it in and my throat felt as though someone were tightly gripping it. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
In the midst of the anarchy of the furry crowd, I was trying to spot Ernie. The woman in there spoke to me, but I could not respond. I just stared into the fuzzy and blurry haze of kittens. Not a single one even noticed I came in. They were too busy tumbling and rumbling and enjoying their playtime out of their kennels.
A single tear formed. I quickly wiped it away, but as I did, a single black and brown blur came pouncing over the pile of kittens and ran right up to me. He looked up into my eyes, meowed the tiniest of meows, and started climbing up my jeans.
I looked into his striped and green-eyed face, realized it was Ernie, and I finally started sobbing. Ernie, after all, had chosen me.
I grabbed him up as quick as could be and nuzzled him into my neck and headed straight for the counter
“I want him. I want Ernie. How do I adopt him?” , I said panicky, red-faced and trembling.
The poor employee just stood and stared for a moment. I’m sure he was completely confused as to the state of my mind.
“We can set the adoption up for you now. Do you rent or own?” , he asked.
I immediately froze. I was renting and I just realized that they would need a letter from my landlord stating that pets were allowed. I wasn’t even on the lease. I was terrified.
What if I couldn’t take him home today? What if someone else gets him first? The thoughts of losing him set my emotions completely loose.
I told the now sheepish young man that I rented but didn’t have a letter. I then proceeded to hysterically start sobbing. I just couldn’t control it.
“I’m not on the lease, but I need him. You don’t understand. My mother just died. I can’t. I can’t walk away from here without him”.
I held Ernie firm and slightly rocked back and forth as if somehow comforting us both. The employee looked almost as sad as I did now.
“Well, in order to do the adoption we will need a letter from your landlord.”
Suddenly I blurted out “My mom’s! My mom’s house. Can I use her address? Please. Please, I have to have him. I’ll live there. I’ll move there if I can have him.”
God, I knew I looked and sounded completely crazy. But, I couldn’t let Ernie go. Here I thought I picked him, but he picked me. He somehow knew I was there for him. It was fate and I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me in my hysterical emotional state that he was not mine.
Suddenly the employee’s eyes started to welt as he watched me hyperventilating and holding on to that kitten for dear life. When I met his eyes, he said “Okay, we aren’t really allowed to do this. But I’ll use your mom’s address. I’m so sorry. I’ll make sure you can take him home today.”
I closed my eyes and exhaled what felt like a breath that I’d been holding in for a week straight.
Around ten minutes later, I had my cardboard carrier in my hand and was walking out the door. I opened up the box in my car and he looked up and over at me and chirped. The rest of the way home he slept in my lap.
I felt immediate peace. I stroked his little tuffs and his striped soft fur. I told him his name was “Felix” now and that I’d never ever let him go.
It’s now been six years. He’s been my soul friend along my journey of healing. In those six years- I got married, lost my uncle and spiritual mentor suddenly to throat cancer and my father’s best friends who were also like uncles to me. I lost friends and my grandmother. I’ve learned a lot about grief since 2015, but still have yet to be able to verbally define it.
Felix is a big boy now. He’s huge. Not in a fat way, he’s just bigger than most cats. He talks too much and has a wild streak in him. He’s too smart for his own good. He loves to ride on my stepchildren’s shoulders and drags stuffed animals twice his size around the house. We tease and say that his “meower” is broken because even though he’s a big guy, he still meows like he’s a kitten.
Every time I cry now…..no matter how quietly or softly, he somehow always instinctively knows and finds his way to me and lays down by my side to make sure he’s there when I need him most.
Felix and I will never have the words to tell one another exactly how much we love each other…….and we will never need to.
-For Felix Francis Thompson