Rita is Back

Ode to Bianca

Posted in Bad Days by ritaisback on December 12, 2009

I was at my sickest.  Barely able to move from the excruciating pain of RSD, I was getting out of a taxicab at my house, unable to drive from my local doctor’s appointment.  As I entered the house, she came out of nowhere and walked right in.  She was the scrawniest little kitten and I might not have even noticed her had it not been from the loud squeals of “meow” uttering from her mouth.  As I looked down, barely 100 pounds myself on that August day in 1994, my first thought was “Great.  Just what I need now.”  I already had a cat – and two young children to whom I could barely tend at that time.  Yet she was insistent.  This was going to be her home.

In agony, I scooped her up, fearful for what Patches, our hunter-gatherer might do to her.  Immediately I brought her upstairs and put her in my master bathroom and closed the door.  All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, but the incessant “meows” told me I had no choice.  I went into the kitchen and found a jar of baby food – turkey.  It was old, but I knew it would do the trick.  I grabbed it and went back to the bathroom, by now under guard by Patches on the other side.  She was desperate to get in, putting her paws and sharp claws under the door.  I scooted Patches away and entered the bathroom with the baby food and a shallow bowl of water.  Instantly, this tiny orange tabby ravenously licked the baby food off of my fingers as if it were the first food she had ever eaten.  As I sat on the floor feeding her, I just kept thinking “Great.  Just what I need right now.”  That’s when I named her Bianca.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps it was the first name that popped into my head, or maybe I knew that by naming her, she was now a permanent member of the family.  I got a low box, put a bit of cat litter into it and went back to the bathroom, carefully keeping Patches away and put the kitten in it.  Bianca was home.

As I crawled into bed to finally get some much-needed sleep, all I could hear was this loud voice from beyond the bathroom door.  This was coupled with Patches’ howling on the other side.  I fell asleep nonetheless.

When I awoke, I called my husband at work and told him the tale of Bianca’s appearance.  The first thing he said was “Great.  Just what we need right now.”  Knowing that there was no way Bianca was leaving, I gave him a short shopping list for her and asked him to make an appointment with the vet the next day.  He knew that it was going to be his responsibility to get her there, have her checked out and have her get her necessary shots and blood work.  One more responsibility was shouldered by a man whose shoulders were already overburdened at that time:  a sick wife, two young children, a job and all of his other roles that he assumed without complaint.

The girls arrived home and I immediately told them that we had a new member of the family.  As I made sure that Patches stayed away, the three of us crowded into the bathroom with Bianca.  Their excitement was not tempered by my explanation that Bianca had to be checked out by the vet to ensure that she posed no health risk to Patches.  They didn’t hear a word I said.  They had a new kitten and a bond was formed.  Bianca was here to stay.  Though I barely had enough strength that day, I tended to the children, Bianca and Patches as best I could, all the time thinking “Great, this is just what we need right now.”

Over the coming days, Bianca was finally introduced to Patches.  Patches took one look at her after four days of trying to break down that bathroom door.  We knew it had to be a slow introduction, so as I held Bianca in my lap, my husband opened the bathroom door.  Patches went over, sniffed the new baby and turned on her padded heels.  Her curiosity satisfied, it was time to let Bianca roam the house.  She was officially home.  Other than a barely detected heart murmur, she was healthy and took her place as second fiddle to the older Patches, who wanted nothing to do with her.

As kittens do, Bianca grew into a cat; a scrawny cat, yet one who meowed with the voice of someone twice her size.  As she explored the great outdoors, we could always tell when Bianca wanted to come in.  She told us so.  Each time she came in, she went immediately to her food bowl as if she hadn’t eaten in days.  Bianca had known hunger and had never forgotten it.

The following year, another new member joined our house:  a runt of a Bichon.  When the dog first came in, he looked like a little cotton ball.  Snowy white and also tiny, I wanted to name him Cujo.  My husband nixed that idea.  His name was going to be Theodore Oliver, or Teddy for short.  Teddy and Bianca became fast friends.  They had a common enemy, Patches, the queen of the domicile.  As Teddy grew, he and Bianca would groom each other on our bed each night.  First Bianca would put her paw over Teddy and lick him down as a mother cat would do for her baby.  When Bianca was done grooming Teddy, Teddy would throw his paw over Bianca and lick her clean.  We called these odd sessions “lick-fests.”  I now had the only dog around who would cough-up hairballs.

As the years went on and we all grew older, Bianca was always a sweetheart.  Her voice told us everything:  when she wanted to go out, come in, be fed or be stroked.  Her only demand was to be loved.  That was an easy demand to fulfill.  Life went on.

Only five weeks ago, my husband was so proud that he was able to catch BOTH cats for their annual check-ups.   He had out-witted them both for the first time and got them into their carriers.  He was so proud at how clever he was.  For once, it was easy.  Patches and Bianca were both checked by the vet.  The call that came next was not terribly unexpected, but I was told that Bianca’s heart murmer had worsened and that her white blood cells weren’t right.  Bianca was ill.  We were advised to have her gain 2 pounds, and to give her fresh turkey each day.  We cleverly disguised her medication in a ball of turkey.  Oh, how proud we were of ourselves.  Bianca was going to be fine if she took her medication, and we were going to make her better.

This past Thursday when I took the dog out and gave him his little piece of turkey, Bianca was not interested in turkey.  Usually, when Teddy went out, Bianca knew that was a call for fresh turkey and would meow until she got her share.  But not this past Thursday.  Something was different.  Bianca came for her share and when I handed it to her, she wouldn’t eat it.  Alarmed, I called my husband at work.  He was busy.  He didn’t have time to talk.  I knew it then.  As I got dressed to go to teach, Bianca was lying downstairs in her own waste.  I quickly cleaned it up, stroked her and told her I’d be back soon.  At work, I couldn’t focus.  My lesson plans went out the window.  My wonderful students got little from me, as my mind was on getting home to Bianca.  As I drove home, I was afraid to enter the house.  What would I find?  But there was Bianca.  Sleeping peacefully. 

When my husband got home from work, his mood was off.  He didn’t want to hear about the cat that we never needed in the first place.  We barely spoke.  Something was wrong in the home and we both knew it.  We side-stepped each other all evening and I finally gave in and went to bed.  When I awoke on Friday morning, there was Bianca, lying at the foot of our bed.  I went to stroke her.  And got no response.  Our beautiful, lovely Bianca was gone.  As I moaned and wept, my husband came into the room and took Bianca.  He gently placed her in her carrier for the last time.  He then got down on his knees to clean the spot where Bianca had chosen to breathe her last breath.  As I watched him cleaning the carpet, my wonderful, strong husband burst into tears.  We held each other and wept like babies.  Our elegant Bianca was gone.  What hurt us the most is that we realized, upon her death, Bianca was just what we had needed.  We had needed her all along.

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4 Responses

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  1. Kelvin Kao said, on December 13, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Bianca has had a good life. You, your husband, Bianca and Teddy are all fortunate to have one another in your lives. Maybe, Bianca knew that from the very start!

    • ritaisback said, on December 13, 2009 at 4:59 am

      Thank you so much for your support. Your comment touches my heart.

  2. Cath Lawson said, on December 17, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Oh Rita – I’m sorry to hear about Bianca. I howled like a baby when my cat died, just a few days before Jessica was born. I didn’t replace her, because Joshua is allergic.

    Like Bianca, Misty was a stray who came into my life just when I needed her. She turned up about 2 months before the thing happened which led to my PTSD. So, she was a great comfort when I was afraid to leave the house. She even slept in the bed beside me 🙂

  3. ritaisback said, on December 20, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Thank you, Cath for your compassion. We are still dealing with the aftermath of losing our beloved Bianca. Right now, we are trying to keep our priorities straight and focus on the most important things in our lives: our children. They, too, have taken it hard but their safety and feelings are paramount to our entire life structure. Life DOES go on. We grow from every experience along the way. 🙂

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