Life is aware of me at this point. It is eating and growing bigger around me. It is the elephant in my room. I have always tried to avoid it in earnest but lately it has been the shadow touching my feet every time I try to step away. Big things loom in grand spectacle but they lurk in minutia of human spirit. I am watching my baby daughter transcend terms of months of age into years. I am hearing her learn her own laughter and take advantage of others through tears. I have had several friends give birth to their children all within a few days and my aunt passed away as well. This past weekend some of my wife and I’s best friends got married. My wife had been there nearly every step of the planning process onto implementation. This past weekend, the day we went to travel to their wedding, I had to put down my cat. The shadow of life hit my feet while running.
It’s funny with these big things stomping around shaking my personal earth and it’s my cat’s mortality that truly had me shook. I watched his eyes close in front of me while my shaky hand failed to comfort him when the ill friend was administered his shot. He was the cat that I had chosen for our family. We were newly married and my wife wanted a cat to replace hers that had passed. I was not terribly familiar, let alone fond of her cat. It was a perfectly good cat, it just didn’t matter all that much to me. This cat, the cat that I picked out did matter.
I originally went to get a cat for my wife who was on a stretch of sadness. She had lost her cat the previous year at the ripe old age of 17 which means it grew with her since early childhood. Now she had finally started talking about getting a cat again. While I am not a cat person perse, my wife had suggested that I should pick this one out so I would have more of a bond than I had with hers. After some uninformed and naive Craigslist searches, I ended up at a sweet, albeit crazy, cat lady’s house. She would adopt any cat that was about to be put down which meant she had a little over 30. She said something like 10 per level. The next thing I knew, I was there playing with a very young, spry cat aptly named Thumbelina because she had 6 toes on each paw. She played, rolled on her back and clawed drawing me in, but I was there for what she had listed as “the perfect apartment cat” named Ted so I asked for him. She said he was a basement cat and went to bring him up. When she did, she was bleeding and reassured me that he just doesn’t like waking up from a nap. The blood on her arm gave me justifiable pause. Then she placed him, one of only 3 males out of her 30+ cats on the floor, and the females hissed and swatted him in the face. He was adapted, unfazed and just slowly walked the gauntlet of slaps and claws to sit next to me and wait. No kitten tricks would top that show of bravado and cavalier attitude in the face of such tumult.
The cat exemplified this attitude throughout his 10 years with me. I always thought he was merely reasonably feisty and I respected that tremendously. He never bit or clawed anyone that wasn’t just trying to be the person that messes with cats. He had no tolerance for that. What he did have tolerance for was the upper echelon human relationships in my life. True to feline form, he slept the majority of the day, but he came to check out everyone that would come over. He come out impressively slow and judge with extreme prejudice. If he didn’t like the cut of your jib, he would leave. If he saw something in you, a couple rubs on the leg was about it and perhaps lay in the room we were in because he was comfortable with you.
This was meant to be in passing; the brief thoughts on a cat that crossed my path that mattered. My goal is not to prove his status as the exemplary cat that I believe he was. Maybe it’s simply a eulogy. Perhaps Ted deserved to be eulogized, but more likely is that this is a eulogy for many things lost. I, as we all are, am growing up. I, as we all are, am getting older. I may not be impetuous enough to run to get a cat to fill a hole in mine or my wife’s heart on a whim again. I am not eulogizing the want to be so youthful and impetuous, but rather that things like this remind me who I was and that part of me is gone. It’s ok that it’s gone, but it’s gone the way of Ted and I am only so aware because of what a benchmark he has been for a perfectly round 10 years. These 10 years started the year of my marriage to the year after my baby was born. I have few keepsakes. I don’t craft or stow away trinkets. I have my love for those around me reflected back at me. Ted wasn’t so much that love, but an honesty about love. He bit me when I deserved it and was never afraid to leave me alone. We had a respect and understanding that I’m not sure I will have any desire or need to try to replicate. It’s just exactly what it needed to be. Unfortunately, my guy needed to die. He was my bookends of age 25 to 35 and he entered my life being swatted by female cats and left me where he started. He left me with my female dog, Belle, my wife and my daughter. And I’m still trying to walk through the swats with the gallant, confident ease that he once showed in more stressful times.