Dear Wilson

February 5, 2022

Dear Wilson,

I want to tell you a story about your name. It was many years before you were born in Seattle. I was a high school student, and one of my favorite things to do is watch movies. I'd go to the Hollywood video and rent movies and watch them with my mom. On this particular day, we grabbed the new Tom Hanks movie called Castaway—a survival drama film about a man who is on an island by himself. There's a scene in the movie where Hanks takes a volleyball and begins making a face on it. He did it to make a friend to keep him sane and battle loneliness on the remote island. He named the volleyball Wilson, based on the name of the manufacturer of the balls. I remember telling Mom, "Wouldn't Wilson be a cool name for a cat?" It's not a surprise since we had a cat named Billy, whose namesake came from one of the soldiers from the movie predator. From the moment I even got you, I knew you'd be Wilson—the friend who would save people from loneliness and isolation.

It'd be several years later during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college that I'd finally meet you. Unlike most of my friends, I stayed at school during the summer instead of going home. I enrolled in summer art classes and worked at the University. In the same building, my friend Katie worked across the hall. We lived in the same dorm freshman year and both stayed during the summer. She introduced me to her coworker Leslie, someone I would become good friends with. The topic of cats came up and Leslie mentioned how her sister's cat, Dot (your mother) had kittens. She asked if I was interested in bringing one home and I said yes. Though I'd never seen you before, I already had a name picked out...Wilson.

Photo of Wilson and his family (he's the one on the left)

I was told you were the runt of the litter. I would hear stories of you getting pushed away by your siblings when it was time to eat, which probably described your eating habits throughout your life; eating everything in your bowl like a dog.

I vividly remember Leslie and Katie coming over to bring you home to the house we rented right by the school's airport. They came with a cat carrier. I was so excited to meet you that I rushed to open the carrier, realizing it was empty. I didn't notice that Leslie had you in her pocket. You were so tiny—the most delicate living thing I've ever seen in my life. I knew you would be Wilson—the companion who would be by my side.

For the first time in my life, I was responsible for a life that wasn't my own. I was so scared I would mess it up. How many years could this possibly last?

This was the first of many photos I'd take of you on a Kodak disposable camera. Yes, that's a Terminator 2: Judgment Day poster hanging right in the living room—typical college bachelor pad. Sorry you had to grow up with four college dudes.

We had an adventurous time in college; living in three homes and a week where you ran away when I was in Italy and got hit by a car. Your leg broke and were in a cast for several weeks. You kept growing and we'd call you the cat version of Clifford the Big Red Dog. At one point you grew to 22 pounds, earning you the nickname MegaKitty—the one that stuck with many people.

Post-college was tough for me. It was during the recession of the late 2000s. Many of my classmates ended up moving home. I was working a job that'd barely pay the bills while trying to figure out how I could go to grad school. If I were to be honest with you, I was really depressed during that time. Even in my darkest times and coming home from work, you would always wait by the door. In truth, you were probably ready to get fed, but it reminded me that I needed to take care of you. I truly believed your companionship helped me get out of my depression.

Things changed for the better. As you know, I never went to grad school, and pivoted into design and tech, working at an early SaaS company and starting my own with my best human friend, Adam. You proved to be there for me again when I made the biggest change of my life—moving to Brooklyn, New York. I booked a one-way flight with my 2011 MacBook Air, a bag of clothes, and you.

You lived in more cities than some human being do their entire life: Ellensburg, Seattle, Brooklyn, back to Seattle again, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Palm Springs.

In any new chapter of my life, you were the constant, and always there with me. In many ways, you were more like a dog than a cat, letting me walk you on a leash so you can go outside. People were amazed when you would sit for treats.

You were with me when I was in New York and San Francisco; nearly a decade of life-changing experiences. We both grew up together, and I wanted us to grow old as buds. What I was not prepared for was you growing old much faster than I would.

In the final three years of your life, I could see things got harder for you. You went from MegaKitty to just kitty, losing about 10 pounds of your body weight. It felt like you were reverting back to your years as a kitten—needing my help much more than your prime of independence. We had a few scares before moving down to Santa Monica. You had a lot of challenges with your kidney and diabetes, the same chronic condition I have. You started doing things you'd never do before, such as missing your litter box when you went to pee. I could see in your face you felt bad about me cleaning it up. You had nothing to be ashamed of because I love you and knew you didn't mean to.

When we moved down to Santa Monica, Dr. Kent took such great care of you. We had a health plan that got you back on the right track—medication, low carb cat food, and daily insulin shots.

You were healthy again! We both lived our Los Angeles lifestyle to be in our best shape. The only thing you didn't do was eat kale and do Soul Cycle. We celebrated your 18th birthday in Santa Monica.

In the beginning of 2021, we moved out in the desert in Palm Springs and split our time on Highway 10. You were a champ going back and forth in the cat carrier. It was just like old times. You loved it out in the desert. There was so much sunshine and all the birds to stare at. Jessica and I often described it as your retirement phase.

We had another scare on the 4th of July. You were shaking and losing your balance. In our new community, we took you to the VCA Animal Hospital in Indio, CA. The last time I was in that city was for Coachella back in the Hologram 2Pac days. The vet took such great care of you. You were healthy again, but you started slowing down, but not enough to celebrate your 19th birthday in the desert.

In the final months of your life, I could see you were in pain. You spent most of your days on the Restoration Hardware Jessica got for my birthday, but you took it for your own immediately.

Most of your days were the essentials essentials: sleeping, eating, hanging outside, and using the restroom. Though you were slowing down, I could hear your purs every time I carried you around the house to explore every window the house had. You couldn't run anymore, only fast walking to get your food, then heading back to bed. It reminded me so much of your kitten days back at the house in college.

The last few weeks of your life changed quickly. I could tell it hurt you a lot trying to climb in the litter box, so I would carry you into it, making sure you can go to the bathroom pain free. When I'd pick you up to take you to your food, I could feel you so much more brittle and no longer purring.

February 3rd, 2022 would be our last day together. As I was getting ready for work, I heard you meowing for help in the bathroom. You walked slowly back to the bedroom and laid in the closet, breathing on your side. I took you back to the VCA Animal Hospital in Indio. You've bounced back so many times that I was expecting the same result. You'd be okay and we'd prep for your 20th birthday. However, this time, it was different. You were in so much pain. I promised myself that I would not let my selfishness ever get in the way of you having the utmost dignity in your life.

The vet recommended exams for you that would take six hours. I still held on to hope. I drove back home to go back to work—something to ease the mind. I knew something was wrong when the vet called me 1 hour into the procedures. He asked me if I could to come back immediately.

Upon arriving, I could see in the vet's face what this meant. It was time to say goodbye. People who work in animal hospitals are such saints for the compassion and care they have for people and their beloved pets. They brought you in so I could see you. We spent a long time, with your head in my hand, just like when you were a kitten. I don't know if you remember, but I rubbed the top of your head and shared with you the messages from everyone, telling you how much they love you. I could see it in your eyes, barely open, that you were ready to go. The doctor came in and we said goodbye.

Now you're gone from this world and free of pain.

I stayed at the hospital for about an hour afterwards, sitting in the lobby sobbing. I couldn't believe what just happened.

Jessica drove over from LA to come to the house. We sat there and cried for hours. The house feels so empty and quiet—what made it feel so special is now gone. I cleaned your bed and put all your favorite toys there. Every time I walk by it, I expect you to be laying there.

I miss the sounds of your claws clicking on the floor as you walk.
I miss how you’d follow me into every room while I’m working from home.
I miss you climbing on the bed at 5am to be fed.
I miss you laying on my hand as I try to get work done.

I learned throughout this that it's possible to cry for four days straight because you miss someone. In every spot of the house, I think you'll appear and meow at us. There are moments I'll be okay, then I'll pick up scraps of your food on the floor or one of your cat toys hidden under the couch and lose it. Though I knew there would be a day I had to say goodbye to you, I was never prepared for how hard it would be the days after. You were the companion who kept me from being lonely. I never felt lonely since the day I got you, and now, with you gone, I feel lonely again.

I don't know what it'll be like moving forward. All I know is I promise you I will not be lonely because you would not want me to be sad. You weren't just a cat. You were Wilson—my best friend who stayed by my side until the very end. I know it will get better, but right now my heart is shattered for me and everyone who loved you dearly.

As much as it hurts now, I am grateful we had nearly 20 incredible years together and I would not trade that for anything in the world.

Wilson, I love you and miss you so much.

Proof of Concept: The 000 Series

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