Learning To Love Again

Memoir, Photography

After losing my beloved Odin to kidney failure a few years ago, I thought I would never be able to have another cat again. The story of that love and that loss is best shared another time, when I’m ready to sit with the grief and let all the memories and emotions wash over me and form the proper words.

Today is a different story; a new beginning.

The absence of animal energy in my home was rivaling the aching in my heart in the void left behind when Odin died. Something stirred inside of me, and I knew it was time – I was ready to love again.

Last week I went to the shelter at our local Humane Society. There I met a small and slender Russian Blue with whom I felt an instant connection. This is what I wrote to capture the sensations and impressions from our interaction:

Curious and cautious.
Comfortable enough to be
Large liquid eyes
Taking me all in.
Curves and contours.
Smoky gray,
Downy soft.
Stretching in permission and pleasure
As I stroked and scratched
Jaw, chin, head, back, belly.
Quiet and calm.
Soon we will belong to each other.

I called my partner, told him that I think this was it; that it felt right, and sent him this picture from the meeting room:

Go for it, he told me. Do it. So I did. I chose love. I chose LETO.

(Originally named Leo by the shelter, but I added the “t” in honor of the God Emperor of Dune.)

After the processing and paperwork, I discovered that Leto was born on my partner’s birthday this year… and that sealed it for me. We were meant to be.

I brought him home and surprised my daughter with this unexpected addition to our family. She was overjoyed, my partner was delighted, and I could feel myself thawing; slowly opening up to this new relationship.

Leto is a darling little boy – pouncey, playful, cuddly, curious, squeaky, sweet, lazy, loving – a quintessential kitten.

I’m making an effort to focus on what makes Leto unique, and not just comparing him to Odin. Although the other day when he started biting my book, leaving tiny toothmarks on the page, I couldn’t help but fondly recall the similar ways that Odin would demand my attention.

I used to worry that I would somehow be dishonoring Odin’s legacy and the love we shared if I adopted another cat. He was prideful and possessive, so I feared that moving on would be an affront to his spirit. I also worry that creating new memories would make the old ones fade and dissolve, like I’d be losing Odin in another way, until all that remains are photographs but without substance to their story.

But I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I don’t want to be a prisoner to my grief. I want to love again, to be loved again, even though I know that to love is to lose; that pain is inextricably woven in the tapestry of connection, braided with joy and gratitude.

So here I am, once again sharing my heart and home with a miraculous creature who brings wonder, delight, humor, affection, and inspiration to my life.

I’m learning to love again.

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