Your life started on Thanksgiving Day, 1995, in Columbus Ohio. A coworker of mine had gone there from Chicago to visit her family, and she went to a movie the day after Thanksgiving. She exited out the back of the theatre, into an alley, where she heard a tiny meow. Looking around, she found you, about a day old, abandoned alone in a shoe box in which someone had unhelpfully also left a turkey leg. She put you in her pocket and brought you home on the plane, which is how I met you, and you came into my life.
You saw me through nearly every major change of my adult life, over your almost 20 years with me. We moved from Chicago after my pre-midlife crisis and career change (you complaining for 3 days in the truck cab). You kept me company during some very lonely years; I really didn’t mind the scratches and the bites (usually followed by a conciliatory lick).
You managed to escape outdoors only once in 20 years. I wandered the neighborhood at night, listening closely. I would say “meow” and wait to hear you. Finally, you did answer me, with your characteristic “meow?” which you somehow always posed as a question, rather than a statement. That was one of the worst days of my life: I thought I had broken my promise to you, that I made when you were a kitten: that I was responsible for you, no matter what. I would take care of you your whole life.
We went on to move, several more times. You got a little fatter and a little more mellow. You survived the addition of Otts (and Juju - another black cat) to our household. You were nothing if not adaptable. And patient. And a bit ornery. When Otts and I had to leave the US (due to the crazy immigration system – me for 6 months, him for a year), you and Juju stayed behind. And you loved me as much when we got home as when we left. You were not vindictive.
You were getting up in years when Juju died (and I’ll never forget what you did at that moment; if I ever wished you could talk, it was then), but you also came into your own as the only kitty in the house. You got kinder and mellower; you developed one white whisker which you kept for years, the other whiskers turning only near the end. When we got another cat (Hachi), you faded back again; you were never the dominant personality.
You never had a sick day in your life, until you were 16. I thought we might lose you then, when you lost so much weight. Due to feeding complications with the other cat, we had to wake up every 45 minutes all night long to feed you – which we did for almost two years. At this point I’m sure we sound like crazy cat owners, but there was not any other way to both let you sleep with us in our bed, and make sure you did not lose any more weight. You were more and more a part of our life as we kept track of how you were doing, where you were, if you needed anything.
It was strange to see the entire arc of your life from kittenhood all the way to extreme old age. It was a little like being able to see the arc of your own life, particularly to see what getting old will do to us all. It’s not that long before I myself am an old kitty.
For the last few years, I really didn’t know each day when I left if you would make it through the day. But you kept on going, ever your loving, idiosyncratic self, all the way to the end. When I left for work each day, I would say goodbye, as if it were the last time. You were deaf by this point and couldn’t hear me, but it didn’t matter, I told you anyway that I loved you. But mainly, I thanked you for all that you had done for me. I genuinely felt that every day I said it. You could not know this, but you made me a better person.
So, thank you, Owen, one last time.