Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Empty chair

I think about the cat chairs and I get a little sad.

Years ago when I moved out I inherited the old Laz-E Boy chair that used to be in our family room. It’s probably 30 years old now and I still have it. It’s in my living room beside the empty liquor cabinet I’ve been using as a “temporary” monitor stand since setting up a computer about 12 years ago that just never left the spot and was eventually superseded.

In those days, Bonnie, the tortie I had for 13 years, liked to sit close to me. She’d sit on the back of the chair behind my head, or hug the armrest. I finally moved a spare computer chair beside the Laz-E Boy and gave her a place to lie down beside me. Then another for Max, my grey and white fellah. Larry gave us cat beds as a present one year and they wound up on the chairs. More often than not, when I was home and awake, I was in that chair, and either Bonnie or Max or both were installed in the others beside me. When Twinkle joined us, a third chair and third cat bed, all lined up. She didn’t use it as much as the others, but there were times when all three of them were there beside me. I loved it, but I didn’t know how lucky I was.

Twinkle died not long after I moved here. I got Ally that winter. She was not, and still is not, the kind of cat who will curl up beside me. Next summer, Max died. I got Seth the following winter, but much as he’s a pal, he, too, is not the kind of cat to sit close by. Only Bonnie still routinely sat at my elbow. When it was clear her life was over, I had a vet make a house call to put her to sleep. She died in the cat bed in the last chair, with me sitting beside her, stroking her, telling her of my love for her.

No one uses that cat bed anymore, though it’s still there. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move it or get rid of it.

Bonnie also slept on the pillow beside me. Max, and often Twinkle, took the corners at the end of the bed. None of the cats I have now consider that their place. I really miss that.

Now, of course, for the past couple of weeks, there’s also been Harlequin. He’s still timid and largely afraid of letting me get within arm’s reach. It’s pretty clear he’s never going to be a cat like Bonnie.  I’ll probably never have that kind of trust and love and desire to just be near me in my life ever again. I don’t think anyone, cat, human, whatever, will ever love me quite the way Bonnie did. Don’t get me wrong… I knew what I had when I had it. I just didn’t imagine it would be quite so rare.

But at least I had it. I knew it. I cherished it.


I always give my cats collars. I think it’s important that other people know, if the cats get out, that they are someone’s pet, and loved, and missed. Not just strays or abandoned.

My first cat, Jenny, a dainty black cat, learned to take her collar off, which involved pulling the hole off the tongue and then hauling it through the clasp: hers was just like a belt. I remember the day she hopped up on the bed with it in her mouth like a kill, proud to show me. I was astonished and put it back on her. From time to time, she would take it off. And I would put it back on her.

When I was about 25, I went away on a three-week vacation. I was living with my parents then so there was no real issue about Jenny; life would be largely the same for her. But they noticed something. She was taking her collar off and leaving it on my bed. They’d put it back on her. Soon, they’d find it on my bed again. They finally decided to leave it there.

What was in Jenny’s mind? Had she become superstitious? Did she believe that, if she took her collar off, I would have to return and put it back on her? I’ve always wished I could have spoken with her and asked her. I really do hope that someday, science gives us something like the means. If you’ve ever seen the movie UP! and seen the speaking collars the dogs were provided with, you’ll know what I mean.

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