There will be one less addition to our journey when the time comes. And this is a bittersweet tale, one that still brings tears when least expected now. One that connects with a flash to a image just out of eye’s reach, surely there, but not. And brings about poignant wishes that we could once again hear the trilling, upbeat sound that always made us laugh.
About a year ago Christmas time, a little scraggely black cat showed up on Button’s feeding porch. I took her to be a juvenal she was so little, and shooed her away, thinking she belonged to the people down the road who are irresponsibly breeding, or rather “letting breed” feral cats, mostly black. I see the offshoots all around the neighborhood. Not my problem! I shooed her and shooed her to no avail. I checked with the neighbors and put a notice at the animal shelter. I tried everything to harden my heart and finally found an appropriate bowl. She was very hungry. Oh well.
Soon I realized she couldn’t be feral for she was fine about being picked up. And when our granddaughter, Cassidy went out on the deck, the little cat jumped about with such glee, rubbing and trilling against her new friend, that I knew for sure we were in trouble. But still I persevered. We did NOT need another cat. Oh, I would feed her with Button, but continue to look at the shelter postings and ask around. Maybe put up some flyers.
More and more she was crying at the door, her nose pressed against the glass. I’ll open it just once, I thought, and see what happens. What happened was that she was so ecstatically grateful and over-the-moon in people heaven that she ran from one chair to the other. There happened to be five of us that day – the two of us, my mother, my daughter, and her best friend, Carole. She would jump up to one person, mewing her peculiar, little, happy rising-at-the-last-syllable me-YOU, to be petted and coo-ed at, then notice there was someone else requiring her attention and jump down to bound to that one, then on to the next, and the next and the next. And so she flitted like a faery spirit on and on. And her me-YOU’s were endless and her happiness so profound and her relief so immense that, well – you get the picture.
But now the question is – What’s to be done about Cosmo our spoiled only cat? He is not a fighter but he is used to being “The One”. He is fine with outside cats, co-exists very well with Button, but has mortified me in the past by his inhospitable behavior when, for instance, our daughter Sheila brought her lovely, unthreatening, laid-back, Siamese Sassy to visit. His wailing and hissing was most unpleasant. And even with repeated tries and “giving-them-time” he has failed to accept a house guest like a good host. And that was part and parcel of my early resolve to not succumb to a little black cat, cruel though it might seem, considering we kept her at bay outside for many months and tried repeatedly to lock away our hearts from the sight of her little face pressed against the pane.
But what do you know. He liked her. It was a miracle. I held my breath as they first tentatively touched noses. And nothing. And in matter of fact, he liked her but she didn’t like him! Well I’m not sure that it was that she didn’t LIKE him, she just only liked people. And Cosmo only wanted to play, became a kitten again, creeping around behind the sofa and springing out to run just so close, then running back again. He did this all the past year from time to time, never giving up, trying desperately to entice her into a good game of tag, like he does with me. To no avail. And gradually he settled into the role of big brother who likes to poke the little sister – just with a soft paw, a careful, slow nudge, just because he COULD, and make her hiss as if she was yelling “Mom, he’s poking me!” Occasionally we found them curled up together on a chair or on the best sunniest spot on the bed, just barely touching.
But to back up a bit, when we first let her inside and it was decided that she would stay, I at first thought that she was a little boy, a juvenile boy at that, and wrong on both counts. I had temporarily named her Loki after the dark trickster of Nordic legend. And now the vet, who obviously gave her a closer inspection than I had done, pronounced her not only a girl but a girl who had previously been fixed! After a slight shaving the scar revealed the fact. My daughter, Noelle, who had been there on that first fateful open door day, and fallen in love with her sweet spirit immediately, called her “her alien child”. And she was. It was as if she had dropped out of the sky from a far distant planet in this little scruffy runt-ish body, with the other-worldly chirping voice that always made us smile. So I called her Lyra after the constellation, and that soon became Lyra Deara, for that is definitely what she was.
Her coat became sleek and healthy and when the sun shone upon it you could see the under-brown, a sure sign of Burmese in the background, and she even grew a bit so that sometimes at a distance it was difficult to tell the difference between her and Cosmo. There was always a strange arch to her lower spine and we wondered if she had incurred an injury in her earlier life, but we would never know and could only imagine what travails she had endured before we opened the door. We offered her an open door on occasion so that she could go outside for brief cat forays, but she almost always declined, so unpleasant were her outside memories. She was in, she had her family, and that was that.
When I came home one day recently and found her lying upon the window seat where she liked to join me when I read or watched TV, and realized that she had no control over her legs and lower body, and turned her face away from food and water, and hadn’t been to the box in quite some time, we were alarmed beyond belief. The vet kept her overnight for observation, did multiple tests, ruled out many of the usual things, and only concluded that there was a severe spinal issue and she was dying.
I think I’ll bury her ashes under the Fairy Rose. But I think I’ll keep a little bit in this small painted hummingbird box because my Lyra Deara didn’t want to be outside. She wanted to be with us.