Szyperski: Sebastian the GreatWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One August morning more than 10 years ago I woke up to find our two cats nestled up against my belly, one on each side. Considering they had never done such a thing before, I had a strong feeling that they knew something I didn’t. The two feline friends we had come to love almost like children seemed to be subtly letting me know that our first child of the non-furry variety was less than nine months away. They were right.
Having our cats be the ones to unveil our parenthood was quite fitting, for it was Sasha and Sebastian who first introduced us to the world of household chaos and sibling conflict. Sasha, our black shorthair, embodied everything we imagined our future family life to be — a calm, warm and loving slice of heaven on Earth. Sebastian, our orange longhair, then came along as the living expression of everything our future family life actually would be — an unpredictable journey of sneak attacks and random yelping.
Sebastian, the adorable kitten we adopted to ward off the loneliness we assumed Sasha was experiencing during our long work days, instead terrorized her relentlessly from day one. The fast friend we had imagined for Sasha quickly became a fast fiend and we couldn’t help but wonder if we had made a big mistake.
Sebastian’s reign of terror during the early years even spilled over onto us. Many, many a night we would wake up with the cutest, most playful little orange kitten clamped forcefully down upon at least one of our unsuspecting toes. The brutal middle-of-the-night, sorry-I-mistook-your-feet-for-mice-again wake-up calls were actually good practice for the curious, who-needs-sleep children we were destined to have soon after.
Throughout the years, we came to know all of Sebastian’s idiosyncrasies. His obsessive-compulsive nature constantly manifested itself in new and interesting ways, from avoiding his food dish unless not a speck of white was showing at the bottom to licking his fur cleaner than we kept anything else in our entire house. He could wildly jump higher than our shoulders during playtime and then lovingly curl up in our lap when he sensed that we needed him most. Whether good or bad, we learned to accept him for what he was and came to realize that his presence in our family was always a perfect gift and never a mistake.
I can’t believe he’s gone.
As the thought occasionally crossed my mind that Sasha may not have too many years left in her, I never considered that our younger, full-of-life Sebastian might go first. Even when he began to slow down and look a little thinner, I just didn’t think of it as a prelude to an ending. I wasn’t ready to lose him.
In less than a week, Sebastian went from his normal self, welcoming guests at the front door, to huddled under a table with a frail frame and a face I barely recognized. When our vet confirmed that things didn’t look good, we took our three children in to be with him as a family one last time. Mike and I then went back alone the next day to accept the inevitable. As we tearfully held him on his last day, I couldn’t help but recall holding him as a new kitten at his very first vet appointment, never imagining a day 12 years later when we would sit and be with him as he took his very last breaths.
The week before his end, my 3-year-old had walked up to me out of the blue without explanation and said, “Sebastian’s gonna die.” Assuming she had picked something up from a random TV show, I reacted somewhat angrily and quickly explained that we don’t say things like that. He wasn’t sick, we didn’t consider him old and she really wasn’t all that involved with him, so I couldn’t imagine why she would ever utter such a thing.
I didn’t reflect upon her declaration until the day after Sebastian was gone. Could she have known it was time for him to leave our world just as Sebastian had known it was time for her brother to enter it? Whatever the exact meaning, I can’t help but think at moments like this that there is some sort of framework and purpose to it all. When I stare at his still-fur-covered chair, hardly able to handle no longer seeing him in it, I find solace in the fact that he may be out there somewhere prancing around with the ease of a kitten and playfully terrorizing parts of the universe we have yet to reveal.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.
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