November 12, 2010

To Sir, With Love

When I was little, a black cat crept up onto our porch and just. wouldn't. leave.

Mom refused to let us keep him because we already had two cats. Except that the real reason she didn't want us to keep him was that he was one of "the Nellum family cats." They just allowed their cats to run around, never spaying or neutering, and mom would put literature in their mailbox about how wrong it was and swore up and down that we would never get one of their cats.

I was a very cute 3rd grader and he wouldn't go away, and what other possible outcome was there? That cat became Sir.

He used to hate being held, so I would walk around with him wrapped in my down blanket so he wouldn't scratch me. I would take him into my room and close the door and make him let me pet him, chase him under the bed. I'm not sure how long it took, but eventually, he would let me pet him without restraining him. After a very long while, he became attached. He became my cat. I became his person.

When mom moved to Kentucky before I graduated high school, she took all our pets with us, with the single exception of Sir. And thank God she left him with me. It was a terrible time, saying goodbye to the house, my high school, and everyone else, and at the end of the day all I needed was to go home and see my cat--the same cat that I had had for nearly ten years at that point.

When I left for college, I promised myself (and my cat) that I would never move anywhere without him again. A year ago, I blogged about how Sir had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was losing weight, something I discovered while trying to get him a sedative for the 7 hour drive to DC. Sir hated the pills and they ultimately made him sick, so I stopped forcing them on him. We moved back home and Sir helped me deal with being 23 and living in my mother's basement.

In the past year, his weight cut in half again, despite mom sneaking him cheese sticks from Arby's and buying $15 cat food that is designed to help kittens gain weight. Also in the past year, I had to break the promise to myself to never leave him again. Mom took care of him while I lived with grandma working for Jack Conway. She said the entire time she just prayed that he didn't die on her watch.

I came home Saturday afternoon and Sir was unwell. He would eat a few bites and then lay down, and didn't do that thing he always did where he would purr when he ate. He didn't get all up in my face when I was sitting in the bed, eating cheez-its or Triscuits (two of his favorites, but he didn't discriminate: he loved PB & J, spaghetti, ham). He didn't insist on me kissing the top of his head (read: ram the top of his head into my face). He didn't come when he was called. He was falling apart. I was hoping he was just ill, just a cold. His nose was running, after all. I was sure it would be okay.

I was supposed to go to Columbus that night in a car Tim rebuilt, and I got all the way up there, all the way to the Lane Ave exit, and the car just stopped. Just. Stopped. So I called AAA and since they tow 100 miles free, I had it towed all the way back to Burlington and just paid for the 35 miles overage.

It was 1:30am. Sir was still unwell, but when I got in and he started to eat, he purred again. I took this to mean he was feeling better, doing well. On the road to recovery. I picked him up and took him to bed at around 2:30. I woke up the next morning. Sir did not.

Fifteen years. It's unbelievable to me that after all this time he's just gone. Either way, thank God the car died and Sir spent the last night of his life the way he would have wanted: with tuna on his face and next to his person. With that tooth hanging out that I used to poke sometimes when he was asleep. (He loved that, let me tell you.)

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