I found the body right where they said it would be. It was in a plastic bag, untied, and surprisingly heavy. It was a bittersweet moment. I carried the bag into my yard, set it on the ground, and sat myself beside it to think.
Today was almost a rough day. There had been family in town that had needed to see the sites. There were two cranky, still sleepy boys, that weren’t excited about showing them. There was our cat, dead in the road, as we were leaving our driveway.
I stopped the car and ran over to the cat. The color and size were right. The location was exact. I ran images of the neighborhood cats through my mind to see if I might be mistaken. Out of the many cats that frequent the streets around our house, I could not place another that matched what lay before me.
My boys were sitting in the car, oblivious to death as it pertained to a pet, as it pertained to all of us. They wanted to know what I was doing, and I couldn’t tell them because I wasn’t sure. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t ready to have that conversation.
I went to the neighbor and explained what I had found and my reluctance to let my children watch me scoop a cherished member of the family off of the street. They agreed to do the deed for me, and promised to leave the cat in a bag where I could find it later.
So I did.
I sat on the ground, next to a dead cat in a plastic sack, and I stared at the place on our rooftop where she would sit and greet me each evening. She wasn’t there.
That was when I let myself feel some sadness, an emotion I had put aside to ensure the well-being of my boys. Their life will have sad enough moments without this one.
I started to rise when I saw it—a flash of blackness dart across the shadows of the coming night.
I froze, still sad, and still with a full bag. The spot on the roof remained empty. I watched long enough, then shook off my visions as a simple case of wishful thinking.
And then she was there. Our cat was on her mark, and she was safe despite her being tardy.
All of a sudden my night was a little different. Instead of stealing home early to prevent my wife and children from undue sadness, I was bringing unknown dead pets into our lives, and I was left holding the bag.
I realized that I didn’t have a plan for disposing of the cat when I thought it was a beloved pet, let alone this new stranger. Still, my neighbor had picked the cat off the street as a favor to me and my boys, and I had almost shed a tear on its behalf. Almost.
I stood there in the dark, coming so close to having done the right thing, and then I tied the bag tight in numerous knots and places. Then I threw the bag in our trashcan.
I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t bury it in the yard, the dogs would dig it up. I couldn’t go put it back on the street. That would have been very awkward, especially if I had been caught.
No, I threw it in the trash and symbolically threw a couple shovels of dirt upon it.
My boys will never know how close they came to sadness, but I’ll know exactly what it is that I will do for their happiness.
I’m okay with that.
This post originally ran at DadCentric—Not Your Mother’s DaddyBlog.
Photo courtesy of Whit Honea