You don’t need anybody, nobody needs you. Don’t cry, old man, don’t cry. Everybody dies, old man, goodbye, old man, goodbye.
— Art Garfunkel
The first time I visited the woman who would become my wife, she proudly introduced me to her two cats. I quickly told her I wasn’t a cat person.
“You’ll adjust,” she said.
I should have known right then this woman saw things most normal folks didn’t.
Flash forward several years to a house in the historic Rawson Circle neighborhood, where I’m going through my daily routine of ... well, lying on the couch and pretty much vegetating, trying to conjure up the energy to get up and walk to the kitchen or the bathroom.
I’d just gone through some pretty radical health issues, and at the time walking from the bedroom to the living room was seen as an accomplishment.
The rest of the family had stepped out one particular afternoon, attending a Little League game a couple of streets over, and I felt a little pulse of panic when the doorbell rang. The trip from the couch to the front door seemed at the time almost insurmountable, and I thought about ignoring the persistent ring. But my doctor told me I needed to walk as much as possible, so I got up and started the trek.
Heck, if the visitor gave up and went away before I got there, no big deal.
When I opened the door, I was greeted by one of my wife’s friends. She held in her hands one of the littlest balls of calico fur I’d ever seen. I invited her in and discovered she’d been sent as an emissary on behalf of my then 3-year-old daughter.
“Your folks said you didn’t want another pet in the house, but they wanted me to bring this little kitten by to see if you’d take it in,” the friend said. “They told me there was no way you’d say yes, but this little guy needs a home, and they really wanted her. What do you think?”
By this time I was back in my place on the couch, exhausted from the effort. While I talked with my wife’s friend, the little ball of fur was hopping all over the place, batting at anything within her reach. When I picked her up and put her on my chest, she closed her eyes and purred contentedly.
How was I supposed to say no?
So that’s how “Saucy” became a part of the family. She got her name from the 3-year-old, who loved her “sauce” (soft) fur. And even though he was annoyed with her manic energy, even Nernge, the veteran Manx who was part of the clan — he got his name from another household 3-year-old’s mispronunciation of “orange” ... yeah, I know, sometimes you can OD on cute, but what are you going to do? — seemed to like having her around.
It didn’t take long to realize that Saucy was not a normal cat. She decided at some point in her life that no one could pick her up, and if you did you felt the wrath of her back claws, the front ones having been removed. I don’t think she wanted anyone else in the house to know it, but often when there was no one else at home but me and the cats, she’d hop up into my lap and snooze there, contentedly.
Of course, this oddball cat with the smudge of black fur on the tip of her pink nose that everyone kept trying to rub off got into more and more stuff along the way, several times leaving broken heirlooms or chewed-up keepsakes in her wake. But every time I’d complain, my wife would remind me, “Don’t forget who sat with you on the couch all those days when you were in recovery. It doesn’t matter what she does, Saucy’s earned her tenure.”
She made a couple of moves with the family, finally settling in — and settling down somewhat — with the most recent. But somewhere along the way as we worked to turn our new place into a home, she got sick.
Trips to the vet yielded no perceptible change, and eventually she had to be given an emergency transfusion to save her life. (And I’d always said there’s no such thing as a $500 cat ... little did I know.) She never really recovered, and as I watched her deteriorate before she finally slipped quietly away a few days before Christmas, I felt a piece of my heart fade with her.
She’d stayed with me, helped me get through the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, and I couldn’t help but lament my failure to do the same for her. Maybe it’s silly to mourn a simple little cat, but who’s to say what moves a man’s soul.
No, I’m still not much of a cat person. But I’ve learned to adjust.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.