Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cats we know and love

My son loves cats.

We had a cat who was old when he was born in 1985. We found Punk (full name Punk Lucky spinoza) in a shoebox in the vestibule of the apartment building where we lived in the Back Bay of Boston. She was a teensy little fluffball of fur, so small that it all stood up on her tiny body, and I fell in love with her as soon as we opened that box and peered inside. While Frank went to the supermarket to buy a litter box, litter and kitty food, I took the little one inside our basement apartment, opened the lid of the box, and watched her explore this strange, new universe with typical cat curiosity and energy. We named her Punk because she had a punk-ish attitude (in a good way), Lucky because she was lucky we found her (!) and spinoza because she had a gray spot on the white fur under her chin that Frank insisted looked like Spinoza's mustache.

Punk moved around with us, to another Back Bay apartment, to an apartment in Brighton, and then to the house we purchased in Melrose, MA. I have a photo of myself lying on the sofa, hugely pregnant, with Punk asleep atop my mountainous belly; she liked Zack from the very beginning.

Punk got too old to climb the stairs to her litter box in the basement when I was living by myself in New Jersey, waiting for the end of the school year so Zack could join me there; when she became incontinent, the vet told Frank it was a kindness to euthanize her, which he did. I never got a chance to say 'good-bye' to her, and I remember opening a letter from the vet thanking us for being mindful of Punk's dignity, and crying as I read the words.

As soon as we moved into our house in New Jersey, Zack began to lobby for a cat; he and his dad found two kittens at a local animal shelter and came home with Attila and Sheba (Attila was a teensy orange tabby; Sheba was a sleek and gorgeous black-and-gray tabby). We were told that Attila was a male and Sheba a female, which we believed until we took them to a vet who showed us (graphically, I should add) that Sheba was, indeed, a male. We toyed with changing his name to Heba, but decided he didn't care either way, so Sheba he remained.

Sheba was 'my' cat. He slept with me, snuggled under the blankets against my legs, and followed me around constantly. When I moved to California, leaving Frank, Zack and the kitties behind (another story, and one too difficult for me to write about here, even after eleven years), Sheba became Zack's cat (Attila was always Frank's familiar). On the few occasions that I've visited their home in New Jersey, Sheba seemed to recognize me, and once he ended up sleeping in my lap, like the old days.

Attila died two years ago. Frank found him curled up on a heating vent and buried him in their back yard. Attila was the sweetest cat I've ever known; when he was really happy, his purr almost =rang= with joy. I still get misty-eyed when I think about him.

And now Sheba is sick. The vet thinks he's had a stroke - his hind legs aren't working properly and he's having a lot of trouble getting around. I keep hoping he'll recover long enough so Zack can see him at Thanksgiving, but their vet wasn't optimistic.

This morning, when Sam, our big, loving black-panther-of-a-kitty greeted me in the hallway outside our bedroom door, I picked him up and snuggled with him for a good long time, something I'm often too distracted to stop and do -- just like I'm often too distracted to stop and pay attention to the beauty that surrounds me inside and outside our home. I wonder if I'll ever learn to live in the moment, or to value and cherish every good thing in my life?

For today, anyway, I'll work on that. At least for today.


Char said...

They are our children...just as much as our children are. They are not "pets", they are family...they understand our joy and sorrow, they sense our need for closeness or space. Friday night one of my daughters cats failed to come home. He's still missing; she's stressed, but trying to prepare herself for his loss. Yesterday was a long day.

Libbi said...

You are so, so right, Charlotte.

I hope the kitty returns home today...