Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Kittens Growing Older

When do we reach the point where we take the pain of parting for granted?

Our neighbor’s cat had kittens a bit ago. This was a blessed event on par with the discovery of free energy or the news that cheeseburgers might actually be healthy for you, as far as the girls were concerned. It has been a long time since our resident alley-rabbits were kittens, and the idea that there were kittens mere yards from our door – kittens whose owner allowed, even encouraged, the girls to visit and play with them – well, that was just the most wonderful news this year.

They spent a great many afternoons over there since then, watching their eyes open, playing with them, giving them names, giving them new and better names, playing with them some more.

Yesterday it became clear that the kittens were now old enough to be given away. One was gone when they got there. Another left with a new owner while they were there.

We had a lot to do last night – fun things, it must be said – so the girls were kept fairly busy in the immediate aftermath of this revelation. But eventually we came home and got ready for bed, and the implications of it all sank in.

Lauren took it especially hard, and that is all I will say about that.

As a parent, there isn’t much you can do in a situation like that, not really. You can sympathize and agree that it’s hard to see them go. You can try to imagine what their lives will be like in the future but you have to admit that no, you’ll never know, not for sure, and you won’t ever see them again. You can say, “treasure them while they’re here,” because you know how short a time that is. But kids don’t understand that.

When you’re an adult, you’re used to this sort of thing. You know how fleeting it all is. Every moment zips on by without looking back. People drop into your life and drop back out of it. People and animals die. You treasure them while you can because you know how fast it goes, and really what else can you do?

And you know that it hurts. Of course it hurts. It’s supposed to hurt.

One of my favorite bits from Lawrence of Arabia is right up front, where one of his friends is trying to figure out how to snuff a candle with his fingertips and complains to T.E. Lawrence that he can’t figure out the trick. Lawrence casually reaches over and snuffs it. “But that hurts!” the first guy complains. “Of course it hurts,” says Lawrence. “But what’s the trick?” asks the first guy. “The trick is not minding that it hurts.”

When do we reach that point, as adults? Where we expect it and just endure it and don’t complain about the bitterness of it all, not even for something as minor as kittens moving on with their lives and leaving us behind?

We do reach that point, because we have to.

But sometimes I think we lose something in that process.

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