An Empty Lap
His funny little face, grown white at the moustache, and around the jaw was usually the first thing I saw every morning. His scratchy mrow or the whining maaaaaa, accompanied by a velvet paw tapping my nose or my cheek, signaled his demand for breakfast and got me moving. A soft presence on my lap accompanied by a motorboat purr signaled his satisfaction with whatever was on the menu for dinner, and he gleefully took over most of my side of the bed at night.
When the first sign of the lump appeared, the vet warned me it was probably not good news; the extremely aggressive oral carcinoma was a very fast growing tumour, his condition was terminal. Today, because he told me that he was hurting, he couldn’t eat, we said goodbye; because I owed him that.
I owed him for being a constant comfort for over 12 years; for being there for me during 4 deployments with my husband and a deployment of our son; for being there during holidays when I sat alone in the house when everyone was gone; for forcing me to get out of bed when I was so depressed I didn’t want to move, with his demands to be fed. He made me turn out the light when I had attacks of insomnia, usually by lying on the book I was trying to read, and grabbed the knitting needles when I was in the midst of a complicated cable.
He wasn’t perfect – his insistence on bringing mice into the bed in the middle of the night was one of his less attractive traits when we lived in the country, especially when he’d bring me live ones – the vet explained he wanted to teach me how to do it myself. His occasional hairballs were unattractive, his timing usually infallible – before a party, on my new suit the day of an interview, or the memorable in front of the door a minute before our first open house!
He walked out of the woods 12 years ago – where someone had dumped him. We’d never had a cat, we had 2 dogs who were elderly and who didn’t like cats much. Since he was a very smart little cat (never weighed more than 8lbs – all hair and attitude), he lived upstairs during the day, since the dogs couldn’t climb the stairs anymore. I would see him standing at the top of the stairs – peering down to see if Allie and Sam were sleeping. When I brought home the puppy after Allie left, he taught Lexi who was boss in the house, until she grew – and he was in turn subjected to being carried around in her mouth like a puppy. He groomed her face – the first orange hairball was quite a surprise from a grey tabby, and put up with being chased up and down stairs. He took the PCS move in his stride, and even allowed me to bring EmmaCat in – and he taught a 13 lb big girl that he may be 7 lbs, but he was the boss.
Today I held his funny little face in my hands and told him how much I loved him, as the vet helped the pain go away. Tonight I sit in my chair, without needing to adjust to his demand for space, without his demand for a treat; and my heart is so full, my lap so empty.