Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.
I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”
Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.
“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.
My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.
One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.
Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.
Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.
Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.
Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.
“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.
We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.
“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.
I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?
Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.
Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.
“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.
I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”
“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”
Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.
There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.
In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”
“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”
I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.
At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.
I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”
He and I people watch at airport gates.
Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.
“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”
The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”
Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.
And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.
Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…
Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.
Let there be peace on earth.
GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.