It’s Thursday! You know what that means. Or maybe you don’t: it’s time for yet another in my series of Thursday Tales of Cats I Have Come to Respect. OK, this is only my second such post – and since there have only been two qualifying cats in my life so far, I suppose this will be the last of the series unless something cataclysmic happens in the coming week.
Today’s featured feline had quite a different personality than the first one. She was a gray tabby cat that wandered into my wife’s parents’ yard in northern California one day. My wife’s father (let’s call him “Grandpa” like my kids do) gave her some food, and she never left. She was an unassuming cat, and Grandpa christened her with the unassuming name of “Kitty”. She became a beloved companion for Grandpa and (especially) Grandma.
I never gave the little beast much thought. Whenever we visited, our kids would torment her by chasing her around the yard, trying to pet her. Eventually she came to trust them and even show them affection.
One such visit was not a happy one. Grandma was in the hospital again. The good folks at Kaiser Permanente, who had for years dismissed her chronic pain merely by prescribing pain relievers for “nothing abnormal”, finally gave her something more conclusive: two months to live. Then they collected their bill and sent her home to die.
We stayed with Grandma as long as we felt we could, but we had to get on with our lives — so we packed up the van, said a tearful goodbye (my wife promising to fly back by herself after she got the home front arranged), and headed up I-5. It was late November, and the rain came down hard all the way up the valley. My wife sat in the back seat between our children to keep the peace. I’d glance at the rear-view mirror and see her gazing out the window through teary eyes.
After we passed Redding, the rain changed to snow. We had chains, but it was falling so thickly that I had to slow down just to see my way. We hadn’t gotten a very early start, we weren’t even to Mt. Shasta, and the passage into Oregon was sure to get worse before it got better. My wife began to worry that we might get delayed so much that we’d have to stop for the night somewhere in Oregon, and maybe not be able to get back across the mountains if we received “the call.” When we stopped for gas at Castle Rock, she suggested that we turn back and get a hotel in Redding. I overheard one trucker say to another that the snow was falling just as heavily all the way to Yelm.
Something in me made me say, “No, let’s go all the way back.”
So after I finished filling the van’s tank and the passengers emptied theirs, we turned around. My wife grew more apprehensive. I flew past Redding like it was sitting still (which it was). The further we headed south, the more my wife worried that “something” would happen before we got back there. We made it all the way to Roseville without stopping. I settled the kids into the hotel, while my wife drove back to her parents’ house.
Grandma died the next morning.
Her husband and her daughter (my wife) were with her when she passed. And so was Kitty.
After that morning, Kitty wouldn’t eat. We’d try to feed her by hand, but she wouldn’t have any of it. Changing the venue, no luck. Grandpa even offered her fresh meat, but she wasn’t interested.
Well, I thought, perhaps she’s grieving too — but she’ll get her appetite back. Or perhaps she just doesn’t want to eat in or near the house. Maybe she’s hunting somewhere else.
A few weeks after the funeral, Grandpa called. Kitty had died. Starved herself to death.
Regardless of your feelings about suicide, you have to admire the love or commitment to her owner that apparently led Kitty to desire death more than life without Grandma — although I wonder what that says about Grandpa.
And what about that snowstorm? Was that just a coincidence? Or were we looking for any sign at all to tell us what our hearts were telling us already: “turn back!”