Thursday, November 19, 2009

Precious Passes

This week I've invited my brother, Ricky, to once again write for Kat's Pause. You saw his tender heart a few weeks ago as he shared his cancer story and love for our big brother, Bert. Lest you think he has only a soft, serious side, this confirms his humorous, edgy side. He's always loved animals so don't let his irreverence towards cats disguise the tears he hides just beneath his words.

When the girls were in early high school, they wanted a cat, so we headed down to the SPCA one Saturday morning and somehow in the process of scouting out a family kitten, we ended up with two, one for each girl. Christine named her gray kitten Juliette. I think she was enjoying Shakespeare back in those days. Kathleen, less of a literary romantic, named her gray, white and black tabby– Precious. Sisters with sister kittens.

Kittens grow into cats and one cat is bad enough, but two was…well, maybe we better say, it was twice the fun.

When the cats were less than a year old I taught Juliette to lay down on command and then roll over on command. Using some special cat treats, they loved it as we went through this routine every night before we went to bed. “Lay down, Juliette.” And she would. Then I’d say, “Roll over, Juliette” and she did.

Not all cats are dumb; certainly Juliette was not. Precious, however was a little different. I once read that a cat that watches the screen when the TV is turned on is usually one of the cats with a lower animal I.Q. Smarter cats tend to figure out that the screen is just some random order of colors and turn away after a while. And this is what Juliette learned to do. Precious, however, was different. She loved to watch TV regardless of the show. She even watched Oprah. And a few times after I turned off the TV, Precious would still watch the TV even though it was a blank screen. I knew this was a sign of being
“special.” I began to notice that Precious would sit on the window sill and look out. To confirm her profound learning disabilities, Precious would often sit on the window sill even when the blinds were down and closed, and she would stare at the gray metal louvers for long periods of time. Maybe she was just using her imagination.

At any rate, Juliette learned to roll over on command and Precious learned by watching Juliette. Not getting a treat motivated Precious to get her act together and start laying down when she saw her sister do so. Rolling over, sometimes faster than Juliette, showed us that Precious, though mentally challenged, had a better overall cat-attitude than did Juliette.

In fact, I hate to say this, but Juliette was often rebellious and mean. More than once she would scratch or bite a person who was simply stroking her. When she had had enough, she just bit you to let you know. Precious would just get up and move. See the difference in cat-attitudes?

Eventually, Christine and Kathleen found young men that wanted to marry them (!), but their husbands insisted that the cats remain with Gwen and me. Good grief. So, we never really had an empty nest, even when Kathleen married and moved out. We still had Juliette and Precious.

When Juliette turned 12, she began to develop some old age problems, like throwing up on the floor. Feeling that her disposition was also getting worse, we one day took her to the animal hospital and left her to be put down. It was not a sad day for us, because…well, she was so mean and hateful.

We thought Precious might have a cat heart attack (we learned early on that she had a heart murmur) upon finding her sister was no longer among the living in our home, but actually, like Gwen and me, she adjusted quite well. I don’t think she particularly liked it when Juliette would hiss and chase her around the house. For whatever reason, life went on with Gwen, Precious, and me.

Until last week.

I came home from work on Friday and when I went to the stairs there was Precious. I was stunned for a second, because she was all stretched out like she was asleep, but she never did that if you had just come into the house; her habit was to usually meet me at the door and greet me with a friendly “meow.”

Looking closer I realized Precious had passed on to be with her sister in Cat Heaven. I knew this by one main reason. Her face was down on the carpet and her usually pink tongue was hanging out and it was purple.

I admit to a bit of sadness welling up inside of me. I guess I wasn’t fully prepared for it. I further admit to getting teary-eyed. I stretched out my hand and touched her beautiful white fur. It was then I notice her eyes were open. I wondered if she had had a heart attack, but with no fur ball in sight, I think it was just her time to go.

What to do now?

I wasn’t sure. Last time I just took Juliette to the animal shelter. I was pretty sure that you couldn’t take a dead cat to the animal shelter; you can take a sick, mean one, but not a dead one.

I thought about burying her out back, but my back yard is full of huge rocks just a few inches below the grass. I hated to dig a hole only so deep and have her head sticking up above the ground.

Then I remembered that today was garbage day—Friday. I went into the kitchen, got a white trash bag (seemed the appropriate color) and went back to the stairs. I gently lifted Precious off of the stairs and placed her in the bag. I then sealed it up and took it outside and place it on top of the other trash bags in the large green container.

I wondered how Gwen would take it. I wasn’t sure how she’d respond.

I was the one that the cats really took to, loving and holding them. Precious would nightly crawl up on the arm of the couch and rub her head on my arm to let me know she was there for me. Both cats tended to stay away from Gwen unless it was supper time. Perhaps they sensed her true feelings about felines.

I decided it was better to not tell Gwen. I’ll just let her ask when she notices Precious isn’t around. Besides, by that time the garbage man would have come and taken off our trash.

Sure enough, about 5:30 the same day Precious passed away, it was time to go to the Reformers meeting at the church.

“Precious! Here Precious! Kitty, kitty!” Gwen called out.

I was already at the door setting the alarm. I slouched down just a bit, waiting, but not looking back.

“Precious! Here kitty. Here kitty!” she called out a little louder.

I began to move out the door into the garage.

“Ricky, have you seen Precious?” she asked me directly.

At first I pretended not to hear her, but she stopped me and asked again. “Have you seen the cat? I’m afraid she might be in locked in a closet. I’ve not seen her all day come to think of it.”

I hesitated, thought about it, and decided the best approach was the honest, direct approach.

“She died.”

“Oh, hush.” Gwen went off then to see if she could find Precious. I went to the car.

About five minutes later Gwen came out the door. “Have you seen Precious?” she yelled at me.

“She’s dead,” I repeated.

“Oh, stop it!!” Then Gwen looked at me a little closer. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, serious as death.”

“She died? How? When?”

“She was dead on the stairs when I came home at lunch. I think she died after you and I came in to work this morning.”

“Oh, my goodness,” Gwen said. “Well, where is she? What did you do with her?"

It was at this time I was a little nervous. Maybe I should have tried to bury Precious out back somewhere, but the thought of my neighbors seeing me dig a hole for a dead cat, well, I just chickened out.

No need to lie now, I reasoned. “I put her in the trash can.”

“Oh, good grief. I hate it when you tease me like this! … Precious! Come here, Precious!”

“Honey, she really is dead.”

“You’re serious? Did you really put her in with the trash?” I could tell she was still not believing me.

“Yes. And the garbage men came about three hours ago, so she’s on the way to the landfill.”

Shocked. That would be a good word here, I think. Not shocked the cat died so much as the fact I put her to rest in such a cold way.

But no tears. In fact, Gwen actually seemed relieved that Precious had died. People like Gwen and my son-in-law Jonathan have allergies. Allergy people don’t have a love for cats. They love Benadryl.

I remember the old joke from years ago. It went something like this:

A woman leaves the states and flies for a two-week trip to Europe. Her husband stays home. The wife calls her husband after a few days to see how he is doing and just before she hangs up, she says, “How’s my cat, Precious, doing?”

To which the husband replies, “She died yesterday.”

At this point the wife absolutely loses it. Weeping and crying she says, “Oh my! Oh my! What in the world happened?”

“Dunno,” the man replies. “Just died.”

Then the wife got mad at her unfeeling, insensitive husband and the weep turns to anger and she begins to vent on him: “You insensitive beast, you! You are so mean!"

“Why? What would you have me to do?”

“Well, you could have said it in such a way that I could have gotten a little more prepared for it. Like you could have said, ‘Precious is up on the roof and I can’t get her down.’ Then I would have called you back in a day and you could have said, ‘Precious fell off the roof and died.’ At least that way I could have had some time to prepare myself for the trauma.”

“Okay,” the husband said and he apologized for being so insensitive to his wife’s feeling about her cat.

Just before the wife hung up she then asked, “And how’s my mother doing?”

There was a short pause and the husband said quickly, “She’s up on the roof and I can’t get her down.”

Gwen wanted to know how I was going to tell Kathleen, so I said, “Kathleen, you’re cat is on the roof.” But I knew better than to do that. It ended up being Gwen that told Kathleen that her Precious had died. Gwen began, “I have some very bad news to tell you, Kathleen.” It scared Kathleen and she was thinking that her mom might say she had cancer. When she told her that her cat died, Kathleen sighed and laughed. I guess she had disconnected from Precious when she left home.

I find it a little sad that I am the only one to even have a tear over this cat that we owned for 14 years. I told Steve, my barber, the story and he laughed and said, “Oh, yeah. You really cared for the cat. YOU put her in a trash bag!”

Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know. I do know everyone in the family seems a little happier without a cat in the house. I think Gwen said that Jonathan said, “Oh boy! Now I can visit my in-laws without bringing a bottle of Benadryl. “

I know that sins have a way of boomeranging on you. I know that what goes around, comes around eventually. I’m just hoping that a part of my punishment is not having someone say of me when I pass on, “Did you hear about Ricky? He’s on the roof and they can’t get him down!”

Ricky Tippett

1 comment:

  1. Uncle Ricky, I'd have to fall on the Benadryl-loving side of the family, but I'm glad for your brave sons-in-law laying down the law for their new brides: it gave you and Aunt Gwen two little furry "girls" to enjoy those years!