So, for now, we must say goodbye.
When I was a new bride, I was newly pregnant and three hundred and fifty miles away from home. I was lonely; sad and depressed. I loved Big Daddy with all my heart, but it was hard being in a new place and learning to adjust to so many changes. I missed my friends and family, but I also missed my cats.
So, I asked for a cat. And, Big Daddy never says no and so we went to the local animal rescue to find someone for me. And we did. A homely, scrawny, cross-eyed cat. He wasn’t pretty, but I knew I’d love him anyhow. However, we didn’t have enough documentation with us and they didn’t allow us to adopt him.
Big Daddy and I were upset. We’d both been so excited. Big Daddy had never had a cat or a dog and it was depressing to consider returning to our apartment, empty handed. In a fit of optimism, we’d laid out the litter box and bought the cat milk and the kitten chow. Big Daddy suggested we drive north and visit his family. They’d have a copy of the advertiser, a local classified only publication, where people frequently gave away kittens. I agreed.
Halfway between our apartment and Big Daddy’s parents house was a pet store and on a whim, we stopped in. She was there. Tiny and alone. The kid working at the shop told us he’d ask the store to hold her for him, but he hadn’t been able to take her and all her litermates had been adopted. I picked her up and she scrambled up my shirt. I loved her right away.
We took her home. She slept, like all of our babies have, in the middle. She made our apartment feel like a home. But, more than that, she comforted me. She cared for me. She followed me. She stayed near me. She tolerated my tears. And slept on top of me.
She has made up our home since the beginning. She had always been where home was. No matter the changes in life or the location. She wasn’t the kindest of animals and friends will tell stories of her territorial, anti-social behavior,but she loved me and she love Big Daddy.
A few months ago, I noticed some lumps on her chest during a belly rubbing. They caused her no pain and I monitored them, but a few weeks ago the situation worsened and she went in for sugary to remove as many tumors as they could. It was cancer and her prognosis was poor.
Yesterday morning, she caught my eye. I could tell she was weak. When I picked her up, her body felt cold and her breathing was labored. I called out for Big Daddy and while he called the vet, I laid on the floor. SHe had wanted down and had crawled under our bed. I stretched my arm as far as I could and pet her as we regarded each other. For the last time.
Twelve years of marriage. Every year we’ve had.
A dog, two other cats and six separate addresses.
She has accompanied us with every step. And yesterday morning, she fought us valiantly to stay in her home as we tried to transport her to the vet and she died in my arms, with her head tucked under my chin before Big Daddy could even pull out of the garage.
Big Daddy and I walked through the sodden grass together and buried her together. The three of us alone. Like we started. We tucked her in under the pear tree that blooms in the spring and is the last tree to turn color in the fall; a bright rich red.
She was more than a cat. She bore witness to each chapter of our lives and she was my friend. I miss her more than I can say.
I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. – Jean Cocteau.
It’s true and she was ours.
In loving memory of Shelby Cat. July 1999-December 2012.