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old cats and enduring love
I inherited a little ginger kitten once, long ago. I was volunteering on a biodynamic farm. My husband, Troy, was in med school, the ‘old guy’ on campus. We were renting the top part of a house with our three children. Below us, on the main level of the house, were a young couple. Below them, in the basement, was a single guy. The train tracks were on the other side of the street. When the train thundered through, the glasses in the cupboard tinkled against each other.
I came home with that little kitten, long orange hair, more fluff than substance, to the great delight of our kids. He had one small black mark under his chin. “His bowtie”, my daughters decided. Yes, it seemed appropriate. They dubbed him, “Pedro” and went about the busy work of dressing him up in all manner of ensembles and taking his pictures to build his cat portfolio. After all, what good is such a distinguished cat without a portfolio? As he grew, the pictures evolved. Instead of sweet little kitten photos with bonnets, there were pictures of him lounging on velvet cushions, in old leather suitcases in front of a roaring fire, complete with a globe beside him lest one think he not cultured. All that was missing was the dram of whisky in a crystal glass.
Years later, I got sick with Lyme. I got really sick. Things that had never bothered me started bothering me. I had strong histamine reactions to everything. My skin was itchy and crawly and no matter what we did, there was no relief. I started having reactions to our indoor cats. We tried everything to make it work, even hoping that they might join our outdoor barn cats in a copacetic life of mouse rustling and feline cavorting.
It didn’t work. Pedro, then a big, powerful cat, went after our diminutive barn cats with a fierceness we had never seen in him. The second he got outside it was a murderous fight to the finish. I’ve seen my share of cat fights, but this was something else. I was able to pry him off our smallest barn cat, Esmeralda, but just barely. He had curled his massive frame around her and was chewing at her neck. When I got him off, there was blood everywhere. Pedro was not willing to cede his territory and I couldn’t keep him in mine.
We have a dear friend, Andrea. She’s a beautiful woman with a deep desire to learn and understand and an open, searching heart tuned to the mystery of this life. I asked her if she would take Pedro and his compadre, Pepita, and she agreed. I still remember talking to Mila, Pedro’s greatest love, about the arrangement. She was so angry with me. She offered endless possibilities to make it work for him to stay. Pedro had grown to be her cat. She was only a toddler when we got him. They slept together and played together and lived in quiet moments together. When Mila was reading, Pedro was there blanketing her with his warmth. And now, here I was, the mom, taking Pedro away. I felt retched
I’m so sorry, Mila. I know you know.
Pedro has lived with Andrea and her family for many years now. When we visit he sometimes comes out and lies on us, licking endlessly as he does, purring his big cat purr. He has had a good life, even living around other cats that, for some reason, was acceptable to him there. He came and went on their beautiful farm. Dozing in sunbeams on their bed when he felt like it. Having great adventures in the wild when that was more to his pleasing.
A few weeks ago we visited Andrea and our daughter, Ella, spent an hour with Pedro, just petting him and brushing him and loving him up. Pedro was kneading her thighs and licking her fingers and hands. He remembered her. Of course he did. I whispered to him, before we left, to bring my love to Mila.
Earlier this week, Andrea told me that Pedro was sick. He was going to be euthanized by their vet who would come to their home. Andrea is a farmer with hundreds of animals, all manner of beast roams blissfully on their farm. And yet, she made the time and held peace and love for a ginger cat whose years were long and good. I am so grateful to her for that.
She texted me, just moments ago. Her text read “Pedro is with Mila”. The very second I read that, I heard the wings of a raven above my head. I looked up to see low flying raven directly above me. And away. The two messages came as one. Pedro is with Mila. Transformation without end.
It’s not a wish. It’s not a warm thought. In every bone in my body, the reverberations of a reunion. Our girl, our Mila, whose headstone has her walking into the wilds with her cats romping all around her feet, continues to be the shepherdess of cats only now, her most beloved traipses alongside.