Change is an inevitable aspect of being Trans. Change often involves great pain, both emotional and physical. I've known all of these.
I wrote in an earlier blog of The Empress; my canal barge, our home and the source of new life and creativity. In my last post we were on the cusp of moving to live aboard her full time. It was a change fraught with sacrifice, stress, huge gains and liberation: Moving meant change. Change to a smaller, simpler more streamlined, efficient way of life. Most of our lives are inefficient, clearly a good deal had to go!
Having found one new home, the final few days before moving saw myself and my husband hunting for many new homes: Possessions we no longer wanted; a TV, a sofa, a bed, a cooker, carpets, furnishings and much much more, needed new owners. Having lived two parallel lives for 7 months, we already had these things in our new home. In a dwelling which is compact and concise, there is no room for superfluity or the useless. Like William Morris, we took only that which was beautiful or useful. My feeling was that it amounted to 20% or less of what we owned. With the countdown to moving day getting more urgent, we sent out frantic calls to friends and relatives to collect what they wanted.
By the morning of Saturday 24th of February the flat still looked depressingly full. It was the last day of our tenancy. In the final race against time to empty every last thing, carload after carload went down to the recycling centre. It seemed a shame to sacrifice so much. Split second decisions were made about what to keep or throw. For both of us, keepsake items like books and the purely sentimental were the hardest to see go. There were tears, partly from frustration but also from the anguish of diminishing time and the apparent hopelessness of it all. At times it felt like watching a bath empty through a blocked drain. That our ex flat was empty by nine o'clock that night, still seems like a miracle. Driving back home to Manchester and permanence was bliss, even though it was early Sunday morning before we got to bed.
Permanence is a relative term. The Empress is moored to a wooden pontoon in the middle of a small lake off the Rochdale Canal. Two mooring lines secure her but they aren't exactly fixed to dry land. Constantly alive to the wind and rippling water she is constantly in motion. It is gentle and insistent, calming to fall sleep to and reassuring to feel. Permanence is not as solid as it seems. The same is true of life. Returning to Empress brought with it the death of our beloved cat Star. Our return is always greeted by his footsteps on the pontoon, trotting along to meet us. His miaowing for food. That evening there was no greeting.
At the bottom of the companionway lay Star, as if sprawled out asleep. Hot tears and sadness came with the realisation that he had died suddenly and alone without those he loved. Stroking his cold fur made me intensely sad. He had been well when we left. Memories of cuddling him and the warmth of his fur as we sat in bed in the morning were replaced by dark and cold and a huge feeling of loss. The photo above had been taken that morning. He was and is my daughter's precious kitten, a wonderful, sociable and adventurous cat. We had cared for him for seven wonderful months aboard Empress, watched him venture further and further afield in the Marina but always aware that he was Beth's cat. He touched everyone in our family with his warmth, my daughter's partner Melanie too and my husband Mart.
Star came to live with me and my daughter shortly after I came out and began my journey. He came as a kitten and, so we thought, a female. A new single Mum with a vulnerable child, he was a breath of new life and a hope for a bright future. He completed our little family of 3; an inexperienced young Mum, a 14 year old daughter and an adventurous young kitten. Our lives intertwined in ways we hardly perceived at the time.
Fast forward to a year ago. Myself and my now adult daughter had grown apart. I know that it can happen after divorce and re-marriage, when both mothers, daughters and fathers find new partners and love again. This is life and yet it was also my fault and my husband's. A mother's love should be shown unconditionally. Mine wasn't. Failing to support an anxious daughter when she felt alone was bad enough, couple that with my newfound love for a man who didn't as yet know her well and you have a tragedy in the making. That my daughter didn't talk to me was only what I deserved.
Yesterday as I write, was Star's funeral and cremation. Yesterday brought two grieving families together with their joint memories of a beautiful, affectionate animal. The occasion of his passing brought us together to share our sorrow and comfort one another. It was a truly precious gift from a wonderful companion. I hope that it is a new beginning, for me especially but for our family.
God Bless you Little Star as you begin your next big adventure..