Launch... and Let Go.
By jeanettehewitt78, May 1 2016 12:24PM
LAUNCH... AND LET GO.
It was here! Launch week, the day before the event I’d been planning for so very long. My launch was Tuesday 26th April, the date especially chosen to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, because that’s where my book – Exclusion Zone – is set.
So on Monday 25th April, I awoke, excitement was managing to push the nerves aside for the moment so it was all good. Of course, that would change, as life has a way of throwing us pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and this one came in the form of my faithful friend, my old cat Honey.
As I opened the back door to let her in at 6 o’clock Monday morning, she wasn’t immediately visible. Unusual, but not unheard of, as especially at this time of the year the birds are out early, and she likes to sit in wait and pretend she’s still young enough to catch one. But then she appeared, out of the shadows of the outhouse, dragging one back leg behind her. I was concerned, but not overly so as she didn’t seem to be in any pain, and something similar had happened last year and a single jab at the vet had set her right. So I went off to work, called the vet as soon as they opened and arranged to take her there for their first appointment.
I was so naive, so sure that it was just a blip, just a sprain or a strain, so I even planned to get them to try and sort out the matted hair on her back that I couldn’t get a comb through. As soon as the lovely doctor started examining Honey, I was hit by a terrible feeling. Even before she spoke, I started to cry, no words were needed, but the vet said them anyway. A blood clot had burst in Honey’s leg; that foot would never work again. On top of that she was pretty sure she had a cancer and heart disease. Those words, ‘we may have to let her go’.
The vet asked that I leave her there for the day so they could run all of their tests and I went back and sat in the car, howling as I phoned my partner to break the news.
This couldn’t happen, not now. All of those months that I was working to a deadline, hiding away upstairs in my writing room, and she would come up on my desk and sit with me for hours and hours while I tapped away at the laptop. More often than not, she would sit on my notes and I wouldn’t have the heart to move her. And if I was writing a tricky part, or just needed to reflect, she was there, I could lay my hand on her warm, furry body, and just take a breather while the scene sorted itself. How could it be that as soon as I was ready to launch, I’d have to let her go?
But, like Freddie Mercury said, the show must go on. But was I a good enough actress to get through the launch party without dissolving into tears? I mean, public speaking was called for; I had a whole speech prepared. And like I have throughout the whole journey of Exclusion Zone, I reached out for support. That evening I made contact with a lady who I have come to think of as my mentor, fellow author Ruth Dugdall. I explained the situation, my fears that I wouldn’t be able to ‘perform’.
‘But you will’, she said. ‘The adrenalin will carry you through’. She shared a story of a tough situation she was once in during a launch, and she assured me that I would be fine.
So we bought our girl home on Monday night and treated her like the queen that she always has been. I gave her a cat litter tray so she wouldn’t have to worry about struggling out into the garden. Here is where I realised the dignity of these creatures. At midnight we heard her shuffling around, I went straight to her, asking what she wanted, where she wanted to go. Turns out, she wanted to go to toilet, but she wanted to go where she always went, in the wild flower patch in the garden and she wasn’t going to use the litter tray. ‘Litter trays are for babies and weaklings, and I am neither’, she seemed to say, using her haughtiest expression. So I stood over her outside with a torch while she done her business and then put her back to bed.
Launch day dawned. I had to work in the morning and I got up a little earlier, gave Honey some milk, trying not to reflect on the fact she hadn’t eaten anything for days, not even the fresh fish I’d offered her the night before. She wanted to go and sit in the conservatory, so I dutifully carried her in there. It’s at the front of our house, and as I went to defrost the car (yes, nearly May and there was ice on the car), I witnessed a real heart warming moment. My partner, Darren, who wouldn’t have considered getting a cat had Honey not come as part of the package with me, took his morning tea into the conservatory and sat with her. That vision will be forever etched on my mind, as will the way he used to talk to her and make a fuss of her, and the trust and love that she in turn, had for him.
We have a friend who lives in our home when we are on holiday, and both Monday and Tuesday he came around to sit with Honey. He carried her upstairs when she decided she wanted to sit up there, and he carried her out when she wanted the toilet. People sent kind messages and came to say goodbye to her, all the while wishing me well on my launch, and it hit me just how damn lucky we are to be surrounded by friends and family like ours.
My ‘day job’ is customer service based, and each week we receive telephone calls in a training capacity where we are scored on the scenario we are given. Mine was due that Tuesday morning, and I thought about cancelling it, seeing as I already had enough on my plate. I decided to go through with it and use the call as a kind of test, preparation for the talking I would need to do that evening. I handled the scenario I was given, and at the end of the call, when the judge speaks to you for a moment, she said; ‘Jeanette, you rock!’ Such simple words, but I decided to tell Jennie the judge a little of my current state of mind and situation. She helped me more than she’ll ever know, she was so interested, encouraging and supportive, and I found out she narrates for audio books. We had a lovely conversation which was of the sort that I knew I’d be facing later that night. I’d passed the first hurdle of the day.
Before the launch I had planned to meet our local newspaper in the bookstore where the party was being held. When I got into the shop the first thing I saw was a beautiful bouquet of flowers that had been sent to me from a very dear crime writing friend, Jane Isaac. I was utterly thrilled and touched, and, more importantly, I didn’t feel like crying! I dared to hope maybe Ruth was right, maybe the adrenalin would carry me through! The reporter turned up, I managed (I think) to give intelligent answers to his questions, then the photographer arrived, my parents, my partner and all of a sudden the shop was filled to bursting with people. My speech was spot on, my voice didn’t wobble, I raised a few laughs and then I sat and signed a lot of books and had a lot of conversations.
I’m so grateful for everyone who came to my very first launch party, everybody was so kind. People were there from my past and my present, as well as people who I didn’t know at all!
Afterwards, at home, Darren and Buster eventually went to bed. Still buzzing from the party, I stayed up with Honey for a while. She sat on my lap, I whispered to her how important she was, how much she helped me during those winter months when I was meeting my deadline, how much joy and delight she had given us over the last twelve years, and how much I would miss her.
The next day we said goodbye to her.
The house is very quiet, I realise now that she was the noisiest out of the four of us. This is the family that Darren and I have chosen, and four has now become three. I’m grateful for a lot of things, I’m happy that Honey was the classic writer’s cat. I have so many photos of her sprawled on my desk, my laptop, my notes, my pencils! I worried about writing this, as it would be the first time I’ve sat upstairs to write without her. I needn’t have worried; the words are still coming. Buster, the little darling, has accompanied me up here today. He will never fit on my desk, but he has stationed himself just inside the door. If I reach over I can lay my hand on his warm, furry body. My gaze keeps coming back to the empty space on my desk, and I will look at that spot for a long time.
During this last week, I’ve come to realise a lot of things. Strength, both mine and hers, capabilities of the human body and mind, that when pushed, you can perform seemingly impossible tasks. Love, how much we all have and how we pull together as family and friends.
I’m very thankful to have been honoured with her companionship for twelve years, and Honey will now be forever entwined with Exclusion Zone and the incredible journey it took us all on.
Awwww Jeanette, I smiled and I bawled my eyes out reading this. I can hardly see through the tears. What lovely words and remembrance for Honey and how you made it through your launch. Lots of hugs to you and Buster from me and Buster bear. ❤️❤️
My gorgeous friend, Noelle. Another lovely lady who was in a similar situation. It is a great comfort to have friends who understand and who, again, make me realise how lucky I am! x
What a week you've had, Jeanette, and what a moving post. R.I.P Honey, and well done for getting through this with such aplomb. x
Thank you - for everything! x