(Clemson, SC, USA)
Buddy and me
My whole life I had asked for a pet cat. I watched Animal Planet religiously and was determined to become a veterinarian who owned Bengal cats. Years passed, I was still catless and decided that I would not be a veterinarian as I couldn't bear to put an animal to sleep.
Also, my family and I were moving for my dad's job. I was halfway through high school and I had to make a new set of friends and adjust to a different lifestyle.
During my senior year of high school, my grandpa Buddy passed away. My grandpa was my one and only. I never knew my mother's dad, but my grandpa Buddy more than made up for that fact. Everyone who knew him called him "Buddy" since he always treated others with respect and caring.
Growing up, my family and I would go to the cabin he built for my grandmother. While there he taught me how to fish, roast the perfect marshmallow, dance and sing a polka (even if you don't know the words) and how to love. He was a bright light in my life with a "Good morning, Sleeping Beauty" on his lips and a bag of Gummi Worms in hand. He always supported me and could always be counted on to celebrate my victories with me.
At 16, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and bulimia. I had been struggling for four months, was heavily depressed and felt like my life was spiraling out of control. I thought I was going to die and I was mentally prepared to go.
My parents quickly noticed that I had no control over my life and admitted me into hospital. One month in, I received a phone call from my dad. He was crying on the other end of the phone and I became worried. When he could talk, he told me that his dad, my grandfather Buddy, was diagnosed with advanced-stage colon cancer.
The hospital removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit from his body and there was still some left. The doctor said that my grandfather only had a few more weeks to live. I couldn't see him because I was in hospital too, facing my own self-inflicted demons. I feared that I would never be able to see my grandfather again.
A month later I was released from the hospital's treatment program and went straight to see my grandfather. Cancer treatment was already starting to take a toll on his body. He seemed older and more tired than when I saw him last. Nevertheless, he still called me 'Sleeping Beauty' and had a bag of Gummi Worms waiting for me. He was still my grandpa Buddy.
I'd like to say I became better and got my life on track at this point, but that is not the case. Two weeks after being released from the hospital I was admitted into a long-term treatment facility that specialized in eating disorders. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with supervisors and doctors rather than with my family.
Christmas was especially difficult because I thought it would be the last Christmas my grandpa would ever have and I wouldn't be able to share it with him. By this point, I was "faking it until I made it".
My blurred, fuzzy existence snapped into reality when my mom came to visit me one weekend. She picked me up from the treatment facility so that we could have some girl time. In the passenger seat, she left a brown paper bag full of letters. I thought she had brought the recycling with her and was about to put the bag in the back of the car when she asked me to open up one of the letters.
I picked up the top letter and noticed it was addressed to me from the University of Chicago. Curious, I opened it up. It was a letter saying that, based on my SAT scores, they wanted me to apply to their undergraduate program. The University of Chicago wanted me. ME. A broken girl struggling with an addictive disorder. And they didn't even know me!
Excited, I dug through the entire bag. Each one of the letters was from a college or university asking me to apply to their undergraduate degree programs. Some even offered scholarships. Loyola, Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and even Brown University sent me a letter of interest. On top of that, my mom told me of an internship program that Disney has for university students. Right then and there, I decided that I was going to go to college for psychology and do an internship at Walt Disney World.
Finally, after a year-long internal struggle, I had a goal. Three weeks later, I was released from the treatment facility.
To celebrate, my family had a get-together at my grandparents' place, where I rushed into my grandfather's arms. He was weaker and even more frail. Chemo was taking its toll. But he still called me 'Sleeping Beauty', had a bag of Gummi Worms on the kitchen table, and was still my grandpa Buddy.
That summer, my dad's work asked him to relocate out-of-state. I was moving further and further from my grandfather, who always miraculously lived for longer than the doctors gave him. I was even able to celebrate one more Christmas with him before he passed away. When we parted, he gave me a bag of Gummi Worms and a kiss on the cheek. However, instead of Sleeping Beauty, he called me his Angel.
It was then that I knew his time was short, but that no matter what happened, he would always be my grandpa Buddy. Two months later, he passed away a few days before his 80th birthday.
It was then I decided my first pet would be named Buddy, no matter whether it was a dog or a cat. I continued to beg my parents for a pet, but my mom stood firm and was finished with animals after our dogs passed away.
After graduating high school, I went on to college in order to earn a B.S. in Psychology and I also achieved my dream goal of working at Walt Disney World (magical!) The whole time, I knew my grandpa Buddy was watching over me and taking care of me. Especially during finals and Disney's crazy holiday season.
Going back to school after Disney was difficult. I struggled during the first semester. My mind was still on Disney and I was ready to become independent and start my career. Finals came as a whirlwind and I was up to my head in textbooks and papers.
One night, my roommate rushed into our apartment and said, "There's a stray litter of kittens on campus! Let's go pick them up!". I looked at the time. It was just about 11:30 pm and I had classes in the morning. But I needed a break and I could not say no to helping animals. So we went to campus with an empty trash bin to go pick up the kittens.
We found them behind a Coca-Cola machine and a brave ball of little white fluff came out to meow at us. I swiftly picked him up and gave him to my roommate to hold. I repeated this procedure three more times, having to slide behind the Coca-Cola machine to get them all.
The last one was another little white fluffball who was playing with my feet. When I picked him up, he looked up at me, meowed a couple of times, and fell asleep in my arms. I was in love. I knew this was my Buddy.
We brought him and his brother and sisters to our apartment after running to Walmart to pick up a few necessities. The following day we brought them to the veterinarian's office so they could check out the kittens' health. The vet said that all four kittens looked great and were about five weeks old, so they should be good to go on dry food and would have to come back in a couple of weeks for their first shots.
My parents didn't know about the kittens yet and I was afraid to tell them, since they had remained firm on the "no pets" rule. But the more I played with the kittens the more I felt like a mother to them and connected with them. I ended up calling my parents the following day and they said they didn't want me bringing one home. I agreed, but in my heart I knew I was keeping Buddy for myself.
That summer, I stayed on campus since I had a summer course and a new job. Plus I could look after the kittens and spend time with them. They were growing like weeds! Climbing everything and chasing one another around the house.
One day, my dad came to surprise me and I greeted him at the door with Bud Man in my arms. I didn't say anything, but handed Buddy to my dad. He smiled and shook his head, saying, "No, honey, no. He's cute, but you can't keep him. But you're going to, aren't you?" I knew he was sold. He was just as much in love with Buddy as I was.
My mom came around to the idea later, but she has accepted that I'm keeping Buddy. In fact, my whole family enjoys having him around. My dad especially enjoys waking Buddy up from naps because Buddy is extra-cuddly then.
Buddy is now a happy and healthy seven-month-old lynx point Siamese (mix?) and is the light of my life, just like my grandpa (sans Gummi Worms). True to his namesake, he makes friends with everyone and has never hissed or scratched.
He wakes up with my alarm and brings me a toy. He enjoys his food (should grow up to be 13 pounds!) and is incredibly smart. His favorite game is fetch. Every morning as I'm waking up and every evening before bed, he drops a ball in my hand and we play fetch until he's tuckered out.
I'm trying to train him. He knows how to jump in the carrier on command, the word "no", and we're working on high-fiving. My whole life is better because of this one little boy who is my angel. I'm just glad that I'm healthy enough to be here for him and watch him play and grow.
I believe that my grandpa is watching over me and has granted his Sleeping Beauty's lifelong wish of having a cat.
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