Until yesterday, Harrison hated domestic animals. This is because, back when he was a little over a year old, he decided to pull our cat’s tail and paid the consequences for it. Cameron snapped back and bit Harrison, which scared the daylights out of him. He was too young then to understand that cats don’t like it when people pull their tails, but it’s been an important life lesson that we have referred back to many times:
“Now, Harrison, don’t pull your sister’s hair. It’s not kind.”
“Right Mommy, like that time I pulled Cammies’ tail and he bit me.”
“Yes, sort of like that.”
“Harrison, you must not bite Mommy to get her attention!”
“Oh yeah, because you didn’t pull my tail, so it’s not ok to bite.”
“Ok, yeah, whatever.”
I’m not saying he completely has it down, but he definitely remembers this to be one of his most traumatic life experiences to date, and although I am sad about the event in and of itself, I am happy he learned some kind of lesson.
After Cameron passed away about a year ago, we had our first talk about death. I was completely ill-prepared for it, because that cat had been my heart and soul for thirteen years, and I couldn’t really cope with his death myself, let alone explain it to my toddler. Luckily, Harrison had been way over the cat’s existence ever since the biting experience, so he didn’t ask many questions when Cameron died. Harrison knew we had taken Cameron to the animal hospital, and he didn’t come back home. So therefore, he thought that the animal hospital was heaven. I let that one slide because heaven is a REALLY hard thing to explain to a kid (If you don’t believe me, then you either do not have children or you have never had to try to explain afterlife to them. And if you did, I bet they asked you for a cracker in the middle of your excellently planned speech and you just gave up.) This is probably about the point in my life where I’m going to get a call from my godmother telling me that this is exactly why I need to take my children to church.
So now, you can imagine my surprise, nearly a year later, when Harrison bursts into tears in the car seat exclaiming that he misses Cameron and he wants him back. I don’t have ANY CLUE where this came from, but it took me an entire half hour to calm him down. I even tried telling him we could get a new cat soon and he sobbed, “I don’t want another kitty! I want Cameron!” Me too buddy, me too, but what kind of kid doesn’t want a NEW anything?
I was able to pacify him by telling him fond memories of Cameron, and showing pictures once we got back home. By the time he went to bed, he was happy that Cameron was in heaven, which is no longer the animal hospital but now the sky (“No, honey we won’t see him when we go on an airplane next month”-here we go again with the misconceptions…) where he eats tuna fish, drinks milk out of a fancy saucer, takes lots of naps and plays with balls of yarn. He is also excited about the prospect of a new cat.
Although I was eager to use this experience as a trick of persuasion to talk Justin into getting a new cat, I realize how big of a milestone it is for Harrison to recognize the absence of someone (yes, cats are someones too!) in his life and ask difficult questions about it. Maybe none of us are ready to fill that void with a new furry friend yet. Perhaps, for now, we should just celebrate the life of the one who filled our hearts for so many years.