My little 17 years young old lady cat, a respectable if not a totally smelly pillar of yucky mucous, sophistication and adventure, took off last week Wednesday and was returned home this Monday evening by 3 sweet and kind little girls up the street. I want to kiss and hug these kids so bad right now. After days of searching, posting ads on Craigslist, putting flyers up around the neighborhood and overall prayers to the universe, Britches, aka Dragon Toes, Britchy, Stinky Britches, Grandma, Bwitch, is safe at home, and wearing a collar with her name and my phone number on it. The veranda from where she escaped is barricaded in an ugly way, but cat-proofed nonetheless. I want to make sure this 6 lb feline equipped with full-on liver failure and fearlessness holds on to what I'm certain is likely the last life she has in her tattered bag that once held 9.
Now, I'm not quite sure if Britches is 17 -- I actually think she is older since I have no idea her date of birth or from whence she came. I suspect she came from Long's Farm, which was right next to our subdivision in Commerce Township, where I lived from 16 until 19 with my then very drunken father, who said one day "Who's ugly grey cat is that?" My sister Katherine and I replied that we didn't know, and he said, "Well, she's yours now, I've been feeding her for weeks."
And that's how simple it was and it came to be that Britches would live a life of romance, recklessness, adventure, drama and happiness and travel along my side. From the farms of Commerce, to the indoor day-spa of dad's house, to the shithole apartments in Detroit, to the nice places in Detroit too, to Richmond and now on to Pittsburgh, Britches and I were only apart for one year in all this time, during which time sister Katherine, who lived next door, housed Britchy with Fifi as I felt I needed some time to be cat-free in my tiny studio apartment.. No less than 6 months later, I find Iago, twinkie-sized and scared shitless, screaming, hungry, he fit in the palm of my hand, in a nasty dumpster on Prentis and then 2 weeks later I adopted little teeny Jupiter, who is now a bully and a pig-cat, weighing in at kitty-sumo level of 21 lbs. And for all his love for humans, he is the alpha-male, he is the cat version of Eric Cartman. So, I brought Britchy back home with home and it's where she's been ever since. The boys, 12 this summer, know she is the Queen of the Castle.
Britches is also a friend to Wilson as much as she is a friend to humans and cats alike. As opposed to Iago and Jupiter, she likes Wilson, I dare say she loves him. It's part of her fearlessness, her friendliness, her willingness to accept and be part of the pack that makes her so special to me. He likes her too, he's not afraid of her like he is Jupiter, she doesn't taunt him, attack him, back him into corners, box his nose with her paws. She doesn't mind sharing space on my bed with him. (One mean look from Jupiter sends Wilson cowering, but don't tell anyone what a puss he is when it comes to pussy).
Her absence was heartbreaking. At worst I thought she'd run away to die - this liver failure is real, her senility is real, her craziness is real, death seems real. At best, I figured someone might have mistaken her for a kitten and decided to keep her. My ads were very clear, she is not a kitten! She is an old lady, the Betty White of cats! But in this absence I began to think of things I might have carried with me in my life as long or longer than her.
My name, for one. Some photos. A Stephen King book or two. And a pair of black Converse All-Stars I wore in high school and still have and that actually don't smell bad. What do you have from 17 years ago? From the time you were 16? It's a strange way to think about life, and death, and loss of not only the things and materials you love, but the living, breathing, loving creatures that grace us with their presence. I've spent half my life with this animal, this harbinger of sweetness and effection, and snot rockets the size of rockets, the color of electric green algae. I've spent what, thousands? of dollars on her food, litter, health care - including 2 surgeries to have her rotten teeth removed, which rendered her desensitized to treats, tuna juice, cheese, or any other delicacies other than her constant need for bowls full of her one and only culinary delight in this world -- original blue bag Purina Cat Chow.
Britches is my girl in my life filled with boys. Of all the boys and things and places and pieces of myself that I've loved and lost and changed and grown out of along the way, Britches has been with me, sleeping on my head, purring in my ear, looking at me with her beautiful huge green eyes, her Pixie Bob petiteness, with a devotion and care that keeps me humble, happy and human.
Welcome home little old crazy lady cat. I love you so much.