William Shakespurr

He sits, staring at me with bright eyes and adoration. He rubs his head along my leg, sending shocks of pain that make it spasm to my brain. He curls against himself, pulling away. I look at him, trying to treasure the time that remains, knowing soon he will be somewhere else. Somewhen else. Still he will be my William. He lays his head down and I find myself crying again. This doesn’t help my body, to cry but it helps my soul. I close my eyes and I can see a golden light with hope for his future, and for mine imbedded into it.

He has lived with me for a year. He has endured for a year. This has not been a year full of joy for either of us but, the little moments still jump out. I met him in the Mall, where a city run shelter sits full of animals in glass houses. They all seemed so sad. William however responded, despite having just had surgery a half a hour before. He looked at me with his bright eyes, a greenish gold that has no real name but makes me think of Umbra, the other world and dreams. He made this little face that looked like a smile and shoved his pink nose at Sprite. She did not say a word, which was good as with every other cat she had cursed like a sailor, frightening the people that were trying to set us up with a new friend. She was not happy but, I knew he was the right cat.

He never yowled, meowed, or even hissed. He never complained or whimpered even for six months. It was my first month here, in my new home which I leave embedded in as much mystery as an open book truly can, when he first made sound. I remember, he and Sprite were playing, he more than she. She turned and licked his nose and he let out this squeaky meow. Like a rusted door, or a dying battery more than a meow. It resonated and frightened him. Sprite looked amused and smacked him with a paw, he meowed again, and then panicked running away from the spot. He meowed with every step and found he couldn’t escape the sound in his throat. This was the first moment I smiled after the abuse. For that I am always grateful to him, and always will be.

Still these little moments are nested in concerns and pain. It was apparent once a few days had passed that something was wrong with him. He couldn’t walk, instead he dragged himself with his claws in the carpet. He couldn’t jump but slithered up things usually falling. When he would go from room to room he would do it painfully, I could tell he was hurting, and often he bashed his head into walls He had fits, clawing at everything. Then the coughing started. Kennel Cough. Thankfully that is a treatable disease now, though I was unsure if it was. I spent the hours waiting to get him and Sprite to the vet and their medication, which could kill me, in a panicked daze. He was weighed that day, 17 pounds. I was glad he was an adult cat.

He was not an adult at all but a very large baby. I still say it sometimes, “Come here big baby.” He’ll climb into my lap, carefully as he can and lays there when I do. I like to roll him belly up, he makes a face with his eyes half closed, half crossed and his tongue hanging out. Sometimes he lets out a purr that is as squeaky as his meow. The vet said he had permanent brain damage and would, without serious care and guidance, never recover. They also told me he was at most three months old based on his tooth growth. I suspect their math was a bit off, maybe he was six months old, but likely just four or five.

I started to try to teach him things then. I had to teach him to eat, which consisted mostly of me shoving food in his mouth and triggering his swallow reflex. It took about a month for him to be able to eat on his own. Maybe being force fed so he didn’t starve made him dislike wet food but he rarely ever eats it now. That or he doesn’t want to have to get in Sprite’s way. She’ll smack him with her claws and send him running for cover.

He had to learn to walk. Instead of dragging himself I used the harness and some yarn to hold him up. Recreating a harness used in my physical therapy before they gave up on my ability to improve my balance. I never did, I just cannot balance the way others do. It took most of the last year for him to learn to walk. At first he couldn’t even retract his claws. He always had them out. It was like cuddling a switchblade. Still, he learned. He sometimes has trouble but he walks with his claws in.

Teaching him to jump was actually a lot of fun. The lazer pointer was a tool then. I used that to teach him to run too. He would scramble after it, in circles, to the left, then to the right, then the darned dot would move up the wall. After a week of staring at it mournfully, he stretched up, when that wasn’t enough he just stood there for the longest time. I remember the sigh he heaved, before walking away the first time. Still, after more time, he jumped. Now he even jumps on the bed. I’ll walk past, or go to lay down and there he is hopping up and down on my waterbed. Sometimes he will leap from the floor all the way to the top of the cabinets, OVER the refridgerator. You cannot tell he had to learn how.

He is not apparently smart as a cat, but, if you were locked in an apartment in 100+ degrees with only the water you could get from the toilet and the sink you would have brain damage too. He sometimes gets overwhelmed by light, sound, and motion. I do too. When he panics I have learned the best thing is to ignore him if I cannot touch him for fear of the claws. If I can touch him, I pull him close, pull a blanket over him and hold him until he is calm. Sometimes I wish someone had done that with me when i was younger but, I do not know if it would have worked.

He dislikes rock and roll but loves Show Tunes. If I  have to leave him alone, I find he makes less of a mess of the apartment if I can leave some music playing. So far he doesn’t like Evita but seems to adore cats. Still, Porgy and Bess is the one that he responds to the most. My William is a fighter, with a bit of an artist. I am not sure I could trust him with small children. Sometimes if I pet him he will bite and claw. The reaction does not fit the “crime”. I think with his size he could hurt someone. William is now somewhere over a year old and is about 27 pounds. He has doubled in size, and then almost a half more was added on. His paw when resting on my wrist hides it. When he then stretches his paw out my palm vanishes. I cannot have him in my lap as much now, and when I do I come away with bruises from his weight. This cannot go on.

He knows when the lights go out that you lay down and go quiet. He knows that but if the sun is up and I must rest or if he is being naughty, which is often, he will pounce and claw my feet. I already can barely walk, a tiny scratch puts me out of the running, and all I can do is lay there waiting for someone to come and help me balance. I live alone. This cannot go on. He needs somewhere he can be inside, free of dogs, children, and adults who are heavy handed. He needs somewhere that he gets a lot of play, is rarely alone, and is either the only cat or is with a cat that is able to fight back. He bites Sprite’s ears and her ears are pretty bad right now, because I cannot make him stop. He needs somewhere that there is quiet, love, and excitement. I no longer can do all he needs.

William cannot be an out door cat. He has been out a few times, and will sometimes steal a ride with me on the Scooter when I go out. He is fearless. When he escaped on his own he tried chasing cars. He caught one, but luckily it was parked. It sounds a bit humorous but, though he is a very large cat he is so much more fragile than most. His ribs never quite healed. Most of his body has been broken or damaged. He had a broken tail, which you can only feel if he lets you touch it, he had broken ribs, a fractured skull, and often he is in pain. I suspect this relates to his sometimes violent reactions to touch and care.

I think he wouldbe happier with another cat present but he is too afraid of dogs. He was willing to take on a dog that is as tall as I am when I am sitting, (three or four feet) just to keep the dog away from his people, just to protect himself and the only space he had left at the time. He needs to be somewhere that he will not be locked up a lot. No carriers except with the vet, no being penned in the bathroom for hours at a time at least once a week. Somewhere that he can roam  but be safe. Somewhere he can be held and give chase. Somewhere that William can be.

No longer does this home fit his needs. He has literally out grown me. He was considered a feral by the Vet, a vicious little cat that was broken. Now he is a loving cat that wants to please. He has the most darling smile, bright eyes, and when I cry all he does is lay with me trying to make the tears stop. He once tried licking them away but I said ouch, and he stopped. He understands enough of what is going on to be a very good cat for someone able enough to accomodate his needs.

William helped me too, it was not a one way journey. I know I can handle training an animal if I have the energy. I know I can still connect with an animal that seems to others to be lost. I still have my gift of being the friend of feral cats. I also know he is the last of the ferals that I can tame. He is the last of them I can show the world where we worship them. i will not miss his deciding to wake me up to kill my feet but I will miss his bright curiousity. I will miss his warmth when I was cold and had no way to stay warm except to cling to the two furry bodies at hand.

I will miss his discovery of things. Every day he rediscovers everything, and when you are so depressed that life is unbearable, that can still be enchanting. I still am fighting my depression but he has given me something that is precious. For a long time he and Sprite were my reason to live. I knew when I chose to keep him after his diagnoisis as a cat with a disability I was choosing something hard. I actually called the shelter and told them what was up and the only reason I kept William was their response angered me. It struck a nerve. I remember that conversation clearly, “Oh bring him back in, we’ll put him down and you can bring some other cat home.” His disability meant he had to die. It meant surely he was unlovable. The contract I signed upon adoption gave me thirty days to keep him or return him. If I kept him I was obligated, required, and bound to report any medical challenges, his death, or if he ran away. I was obligated to keep him. I was obligated by them. My disability is always going to be new to me, it feels new every day. That nanosecond before the world and pain crush me, before I am aware of my body when I wake, i am not aware of my disability. I just am. I face the shock of being physically broken daily. William recovered. I will not.

I kept him, because if I let them kill William, I was approving killing myself. I felt it in my soul. If I let them murder this cat because he needed more, was I not reenforcing the idea that disability is a death sentence? I know that I cannot keep him now. His increased ability has let me set him free. William has recovered so much ability, that most people will never see him as anything other than a very large cat. He no longer makes the carpet crackle when he walks, he has gone months without any fits, he meows, he plays. William has something special. William is forever a kitten. His body will grow up, grow old, but his mind will forever remain that of a kitten. H e will forever want to play and pounce. He will forever run after sunbeams. He will forever be young. In this way he is essentially immortal. Until the day that this cat dies, which could be decades from now, he will be innocent.

I have struggled with the decision of rehoming William for months. Never once did I decide it was time. It took serious injury for me to realize it is time. His weight dislocated three ribs, I had to go to the ER twice in one week. I am adapting to the changes in my body but I cannot hold him anymore. I am putting my health and my life at risk by trying. He no longer needs me. He wants me. He loves me. He leaves his mouse toy for me daily. I wake up with whichever mouse was handy when he decided to sleep on my pillow. When I started to fall ill a few weeks ago he started following me and trying his best to mimic Sprite’s awesome healing talents. Still, I dislocated ribs. I am covered in bruises and scratches from accidents. I am too fragile for this cat.

Wherever he goes, he will have a few things that go with him. There are toys that must go, his mousey that is so ratty that it looks like trash but if you throw it away he will find it and spread garbage over your entire home (yes, I will send you the most hideous cat toy in the world), his cat furniture which is collabsible and colorful, his crinkle tunnel, and his fluffy stuff on a stick. Those go with William. Sprite has her special toys which she hid from him, and of course those stay. If you take this cat  home with you, you recieve the greatest gift that any child or animal can give as well. Love. I cannot say it is love without comprimise, I can tell you that if you hurt him he will hurt you. I also can tell you that this cat has protected me from criminals. He is just as good as a guard dog, if the person scares him. You will get the little moments too. You may be working on a project, or watching the evening news and you glance at him and he is fast asleep sucking his paw. I dare you to tell me that such an adorable sight wouldn’t sway your heart a bit. You get a walking, purring, snuggling hallmark card.

I will miss William. I will miss even the bad times, the hard times, and yet I cannot cry more than a few tears when I imagine his future. I see him in a home with a large living room, his toys scattered about. Someone playing with him. I see him running, and yes this imaginary world is possible. After all, that is what love is. For him, love is play, mice toys, and playing fetch.

Spiderweb has no Spider

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. I have brain damage in my fine little skull, all from untreated concussions, working through the pain, toughing it out and yet, I am never certain what issues spring from what challenges. Since I have autism and brain damage, as well as visual and hearing ailments, what causes what?

Too, when I sit out in the sun for five minutes and note my pustules later, reacting to the presence of the very thing that makes food grow and light fill our world, I have to guess, is this exact blister from Hidradenitis Supprativa, a side effect of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an actual pimple, sun poiosning as my mother calls it or is it still something else.

Then, with the issues with walking. It could be a side effect of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the Spinal Cord Injury, or just a minor pelvic dislocation, but is it something else? Did falling through that chair do more damage elsewhere that no one can see?

Multiple disabilities are a huge challenge. When i thought I had a single disability, I had unanswered questions. When I thought I had two, I thought the world was ending. Then with three, it all began to feel alright, but with four I was once more mourning, and with five I became angry. With six, I felt as if i should just die. With seven, I just stopped caring about how many I had, and began to fight to thrive. With eight, I found it status quo, with Nine, Ten, Eleven, I began to count it all over again.

I am a spider’s web, everything is connect, everything has always been here it just has a label. The labels are flies, sticking in my webiness, wiggling and shaking things up. So far, the labels have done very little to better my life. Usually they complicate it. If I tell a doctor about more than one disability, they usually give up on me. What right does that give them to deny me a quality of life?

I want to see, I want to hear, I want to live in a world without fear, I want to dance, I want to be just me, yet me is not without disability. I no longer believe in a cure for any of my ailments, except the spinal cord injury. I do not want them. I fear the changes to personality that treatment could’ve brought. Sure, I might not have had it as hard as I have. I might have had more than just a single man to teach me how to be a person. I might have had friends.

Or I might have been worse off. I get tired of able bodied people, those in denial of disability, or those who think we are all cookie cutter identical creatures telling me what works for their disabilities.

I have tried experimental treatments, mostly for my PTSD and they made it worse every time. EMDR, I have no idea what the letters mean but I remember the treatment. It worked for every other patient, so I was just a failure for not becoming magically better. Penicillin allergy even has an example, a doctor wanting to see just how allergic I was, because of course it costs more money to have another medication and money has more value than the patient.

When I was younger, long before my autism diagnosis I had an Occupational Therapist funded by the school. She did teach some neat things, we worked on my fine motor skills, which still suffer, and made earrings. We did all types of activities, molding things in clay, dancing. This was what I did for recess, another bit of isolation granted by my abnormalities. I was lonely, until this program came forth however. There I met the other kids who were a little like me. This woman decided to have my mother take a rubber brush to rub all over me, to try and desensitize me to the world. She did not ask me, she just called my mother in and during school one day she grabbed my arm, while talking to my mother and began to scrub my flesh.

This worked on the other children, so it had to work on me. I started screaming. It felt as if she was pealing off my skin, I screamed, and screamed. She told me to shut up, it would all get better. My mother took the brush out of her hands and asked why she would do that, when I was sobbing. I don’t know the end result of the conversation, but we took that brush home. It was just like the ones sold to wash dishes with, and that is what my mother did with it. I think she chose to lie to this therapist. I do not remember because I went into my head, flashing back to times when my father did try and peal away my flesh.

The sensory overload pains me to ever remember, it wasn’t just a sensory overload it was a flash back and a denial of my right to unique treatment. I never accepted the treatment of this OT again, I went, but I became surly because she wanted me to be like the others. She wanted to scrub me, until I just didn’t care. It did not matter to her that it hurt. I still have nightmares from her scrubbing.

I wish I could say it never happened again, but, she would scrub me herself, at times using this as a punishment. Too often the medical community does this, forgetting that each body has a unique chemistry, each brain a unique perspective. Now I fire doctors who do not listen, they get one shot and that is it with me. I have to be harsh like that to survive.

My cat William, the one with brain damage, has a similar problem. Touching his paws hurts him. He has dangerously sharp claws, cutting me when he doesn’t mean to, but to trim them means to cause him that same sort of pain. I figured this out after I had used our PetoFiler nail trimmer on him, it vibrates, rotates and basically sands down the nails. Sprite loves it. William was in pain for days and I barely tipped the claws off.

Each method for a traditional manicure fails him, I have yet to find out how to protect us both, but knowing what it is like to be tortured by someone thinking they know what is best, I back off. I would rather have cuts than send him into a world of pain. If you are a doctor, reading this, try and remember your patient might feel pain differently than you do. Sometimes I have to go naked because the pain from cloth rubbing against my flesh is as potent as that scrubbing brush.

It was yellow, it was multi-textured, and it is one of my worst nightmares. Those moments are on par with time spent in the care of a diagnosed psychopath. Do not traumatize your patients by thinking you know it all, or that every treatment should work for them. Humanity is full of individual people, not a bunch of identical organisms.

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