by C. Don
Cat adoption, wonderings, Renee’s passing, return to her room, incident, journaling.
| My wife loves coffee, can’t start her day without a biggie. Don’t even try to talk to her until she’s on cup two. I like coffee also, but can function fine without it. My morning cup, medium size, often lasts until cold.
What seems like an eon ago, we were sitting on our kitchen patio having our morning cups, when a beautiful Siamese Tomcat walked up and sat on the other end of the porch. He was young, perfectly symmetrical, intact, and brown, the marbled colors of creamed coffee before you stir it.
My wife wanted to pet him, but, whenever she tried to approach, he’d move away.
“It’s a pretty cat,” I told her. “But, don’t feed it. It might stay.”
She ignored me; gave him a bowl of cream. He stayed.
Because of his coloring, we dubbed him ‘Coffee.’
He remained quite independent. He would stick around to be fed a few days, then disappear for a while. We figured he had another ‘original’ family he lived with.
When he matured, he brought home a girlfriend. She gave him several litters out in our garage. All, most definitely, part Siamese. The litters remained mostly wild, usually stayed outside and did a good job of keeping the mice and squirrel populations in check. Over time, however, their numbers decreased; don’t know exactly why, until only Coffee remained.
Coffee would come and go at will, sometimes being gone for more than a week at a time. When he returned, his pillage often looked a bit rearranged and he’d smell like a sewer. His short hair and breed meant he would never grow much over medium size, so I think he got the bad end of a fight or two. Once we noticed a small piece of his ear was missing.
He remained wary of most of our family except for our youngest daughter, Renee. He would let her pick him up, pet him, and scratch him behind the ears.
Whenever Coffee did come into the house, which was seldom, thank goodness, he would wait outside Renee's room until someone opened the door for him. He would then hop up and sleep on her bed. It was the only room he went to.
Renee, graduated from high school and moved to the bright lights of Boston twelve years ago. Since we didn’t need a second guest room, we were in no hurry to revamp her room. We kept it essentially just as she left it. Most of her things are still there. In fact, the first few years, when she came home for the holidays, she didn't even need a suitcase. Half her clothes were in the closet and dresser.
Except for occasional access to the attic, through the ceiling in her closet, I seldom even went into her room.
Renee last decorated her room when she was in her ‘Gothic’ period. Red walls, black trim and a ‘Guns n’ Roses’ poster mounted on the ceiling. Because she was an auburn-blond, with flawless peaches and cream complexion, she didn’t use much makeup. Just a little for her nails and eyes. Perfume wasn’t a necessity either. Bathing once or twice a day gave her a very light ‘clean’ aroma that could be traced to the ‘Dove’ soap she used.
Why she did it, how she did it, whether intentional or otherwise, two years after she left home, she was found in a Boston apartment, comatose from an overdose of heroin.
She languished in a persistent vegetative state for five years, in hospitals and nursing homes down in Massachusetts. We visited her many days each week. In April 2000, while briefly unattended, she aspirated blood from biting her tongue and suddenly died.
After 5 years of hope, our beautiful daughter had been finally taken from us and it crushed my wife and me.
When Renee died, I sank into a long melancholy, thinking about her almost every minute. I avoided her room... it remained closed for more than two years.
* * *
One day my wife needed to put some boxes into the attic. They were large, bulky and heavy. We went into Renee's room together. Other than a little dust, it was unchanged. It took 10 minutes to put the boxes up and arrange them in the attic. When we came down, Coffee was sprawled out on the bed. Neither of us remembered letting him into the house.
For the rest of the day, we left the door open a few inches so the cat could escape. Hours later, the cat was still there. It was obvious he didn’t want to leave. So, just before bed, I insisted, chased him out and closed the door.
A week or two later just before dark I returned home from work and found the cat waiting at the front door. Normally he strolls away as I approach, just keeping his distance. Remember, we aren’t friends. Mysteriously, this time though, he stayed right next to the steps as I unlocked the door. As soon as it was open, he scampered in.
"Strange cat. You never come in, especially when I'm the only one around."
But, the cat went right down the hall and sat in front of Renee's door. No meow, just a few flips of his tail. He looked at the door, at me, then back at her door.
So I opened it a bit and the cat darted in, but screeched to a stop in the middle of the room, his tail switching back and forth. He gazed around as if looking for a mouse, then crept over to the bureau, hesitated for a moment, sniffed, and rubbed up against it.
I watched him through the door, but he paid me no mind.
His tail still switching, he jumped up on the desk chair... sniffed at the seat... tugged his front claws into the cushion... sniffed at the desk... then stepped off the chair and onto the bed. He made a slow, full circuit around the edges of the bed, sniffing at the covers. He reminded me of a hound, though quieter, on the trail of a fox.
Eventually, he moved to the middle of the bed, tugged at the covers for a moment, then laid down and curled up.
"Okay Coffee, if that's where you want to go, so be it."
I put my briefcase away, read the mail, started supper and waited for my wife to come home.
"Darn cat wanted to go into Renee's room," I told her.
“Yeah, the only place Coffee ever wanted to go,” she said.
Again, I had to shoo the cat out of Renee's room before we went to bed.
For several months, this same scenario continued. The cat would check out the room then sleep all day on Renee's bed. I got the distinct impression he wasn’t so much looking for her, as he was sort of finding her.
With my frequent openings of Renee's door for him, I slowly got over my dread of going into her room. Though the memories are still strong, my reluctance to face them receded.
As time went by, we started leaving Renee's door open without being asked. My wife started dusting the room along with the rest of the house. We left everything undisturbed except for dusting. It became no longer off limits for my memories.
Over the course of a year, I became more comfortable sitting at Renee's desk. I began doing my journaling there. The cat sometimes joined me, usually just sleeping, but on occasion he would sit there like a Sphinx studying me.
At first I didn't notice the difference between his naps and his stares, until one day he seemed significantly annoyed with me. Ears back, eyes wide. I reached out to try to console him, but he jumped away, arched his back and hissed at me.
Dumbfounded, I sat back in the chair for a moment, studying him and wondering, “You don’t dislike me that much do you?”... It became an eye duel.
Eventually, I blinked and turned back to my writing. Then I noticed I had been documenting some things about the assault, Renee's passing, and the resolution of the trial.
Looking back at the cat I said, "You miss her. And you don't like me dwelling on the bad things that happened to her, do you?"
The cat flicked one ear, but kept staring.
So, I turned my journal back a number of years to where I had recorded entries of Renee's last holiday with us.
I read several pages aloud of that happy Thanksgiving and Christmas, stopping once in a while to observe the cat. After two pages, he had bedded back down and was napping again.
I reached over and scratched gently behind his clipped ear. At first he flicked it back and forth, then stopped, and let me scratch him good.
"So, you only want good thoughts about Renee in this room. Is that it, Coffee?"
The cat stretched, turned himself inside out and continued sleeping on his other side.
I returned to finish journaling what I had started. It only took a few minutes. But, when I was done, the cat was back to Sphinx again and his disapproving stare.
"Okay, I get it... I get it. Sorry."
Four years ago, I decided to write Renee's complete story. Cat or not, I write the good and the bad.
My memories are mostly good now. I'm happier and the writing flows easily. Coffee is getting fairly old for a cat, and he and I are becoming friends. Having led me back to Renee, he now helps me edit. And sometimes, after a long session storyizing my notes, with Coffee snoozing or Sphinxing from the bed, I sense ‘Dove’ faintly in the air.
May 26, 2006