Saturday, March 27, 2010
In the spring of 1977, just as my father's illness was becoming something we could not ignore, I decided to bring home a tiny orange cat, even though I knew that I'd get in trouble. We already had two cats, despite the fact that my father was allergic to them, not to mention a feisty Doberman, who nipped the neighborhood children. But my friend jumped off the bus one morning and handed me a kitten, a little orange creature who somehow lived in my pocket all day, took another bus ride home, and lived in my closet for approximately four hours until we were all found out, kitty mewling and running into the dining room.
He was a cute little kitty, and we all seemed to love his trusting little nature. But something was going on in the house. Theoretically, we were going to be moving first to Europe and then to Saudi Arabia because my father had been hired by Aramco. But the real reason my mother knew we had to get rid of the cat was because my father was truly ill and we weren't going to be going anywhere. She was right, but at the time, none of this was articulated. The only thing I knew was that no one was listening to reason, and kitty moved to a home where he was very happy. For a year or two, we had a picture of him on the refrigerator. He was sniffing another cat, I think, but reports came from his new home that he was happy.
The next year after my father succumbed to stomach cancer, I brought home another orange cat, and I actually don't remember how Eustace ended up with me. Who gave me Eu? I can't remember, though I believe it was someone at Orinda Park Pool who gave him to me. All I do remember was that he wasn't a big hit right away because he had a tendency to pee in the corners of the den. AT this point, we had four other cats plus a now incontinent Doberman and a neurotic lab mix. I'm not sure if the rabbit was still with us at that point, but suffice it to say we were trying to fill with animals the hole my father left.
But Eu was special. He slept on his back, splayed in complete trust. He drooled with joy and happiness. His main goal was to be loved. At all times. He would sit on my lap, close his eyes, and drool with pleasure, no subterfuge there.
One of our cats ran away at this point, and just before I moved out of the house, I brought home another orange cat. He became Eu's little brother. They slept in a warm orange cat pile, friends until Buddy's untimely death at the bottom of the street. No one was advocating indoor cats much in those days, and he took one field trip too many. I had children at this point, my mother warning me that Buddy was on the street dead, waiting for someone (who?) to come and take him away. I had to explain death as I drove up the street with my sons, the best I could, both of them looking down at the poor orange creature.
All the other cats and dogs died, my mother moved with Eu and our anorexic calico Jenny to a condo. Jenny eventually died, and Eu ruled the roost I think until his 18th or 19th year. Maybe twenty. He was old but still drooling and happy, and then I did it again. I gave my mother two orange cats for Christmas.
These were the nuttiest cats I ever met, but I didn't get to know Henry well because from the moment I opened the cat box and let him out into her living room, he lived under her beds. When no one but she was around, he'd play in the house and sit outside on the patio on his rug, but he was like a stealthy wraith, slipping by me the few times I managed to catch a glimpse. Gus was a milder, not quite as acutely cute Eu, but a good friendly cat, a happy, food begging cat. He hung out with us during holidays, pacing around, showing off his enormous belly. They were inseparable (at least when no one else but my mother was around) and lived a very good life for many years. This spring, Henry managed to escape out of the patio and his fate is unclear. And Gus--who lived the most pampered life of all time--just died, cared for with loving hands until it was finally time to put him asleep.
My mother says she does not want any more orange cats, and I can accept that now. I don't know why I always brought home orange cats. Five orange cats, all for my mother, or, at least, cats that were to live with her. I have never had an orange cat of my own, really, and I will always associate orange cats with her. She loved those orange cats, even kitty, the cat she found a home for when she knew ours was going to fall apart.
Posted by Jessica Barksdale Inclan at 1:00 AM