Dec. 29, 2004 – Nov. 14, 2019
He’d been declining since summer, and most noticeably his back legs, and then the right front paw, betrayed him so often that he usually flopped over on his side several times on his way to his food dish. The Humans arranged a sort of stairway – a pillow, and a footstool – so he could lurch his way from the floor onto the couch. He steadily lost weight, and at the end, he was a scrawny 10 pounds, compared to his years-ago record of 18 plus.
Last Thursday, The Grouchy One and The Nice One lowered Cat into his carrier and drove off. When they returned an hour-and-a-half later, the carrier was back, but Cat was not. To be fair, the Humans had invited me to say “goodbye” as they were leaving, but nobody ever sat down with me before or after to explain what was going on and how I might feel. I had to figure it l out by myself, and I still don’t know everything, except I’m here and Cat isn't.
On these kinds of occasions, it's traditional to say a lot of things that aren't true about the one who isn't here, usually along the lines of how generous, what an incredible genius, yet humble, kind, funny, loyal and saintly being he was.
This is not going to happen. When Cat and I set up this blog, we promised to be frank and straight-forward.
Which leaves me little choice to tell you things like this: Cat voted for Donald J. Trump.
I know. I KNOW!
A lot of you are thinking that good old “sweet” Phoebe has lost it, writing such gossipy drivel, just the sort of thing that doesn’t belong in anyone's obit or at his memorial service or even a “just between the two of us” chat as the wake is winding down. Talking trash about a cat whose just been reduced to a few ounces of ash in a vase -- well, it's contemptible.
But Cat never denied the crime he committed in the cloaked horror chamber known as the 2016 voting booth; he never denied being among the Americans who precipitated the original sin of the 21st Century, electing Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States.
Cat was said by Our Humans to be the perfect host, welcoming every visitor to our home without discrimination, which is to say, whether the newcomer loved or hated cats, he would materialize next to where they were sitting, cozy up to them and begin this deep purr. “Oh, how wonderful. Cat loves me!” the visitor would say, forgetting until it was too late about his or her hyper allergy to cat dander.
But those of us who keep our four feet close to the ground knew better. So cloying. So self-centered. So disingenuous. I don’t know about you, but just thinking about Cat’s duplicity makes me want to puke.
The fact is that this was one mean cat.
He raged night and day, protesting that his Higher Power had made a single but unforgivable mistake: inventing dogs.
“How couldest Thee (or is it Thou)?” Cat would howl day and night.
Cat often placed himself strategically on a stairway landing or in the middle of a doorway, just to prevent my passage, stopping me cold with that menacing, icy glare. At the end of the day, he might be sitting on a chair, snuggling with The Nice One, then he'd jump down, turning his face in the direction of where I was lying on the floor and letting out the most godawful goodnight hiss before marching off to the cellar and his food bowl.
When we discussed writing a blog about tracking the Trump presidency, Cat volunteered – barged in, is another way to put it – to speak for those whom history will hold responsible for unleashing unimaginable evil upon our land and planet.
But Cat couldn’t stand it.
Don’t get me wrong. Cat did not go all namby-pamby, Kumbaya, soft-in-the-brain “progressive” (Lordy, how he despised that word) on us.
He simply came to see Trump for what he is: a mean, greedy, egotistic, cowardly, cruel, sadistic, lying, bullying, destructive, Twittering, psychophatic golfing cheat.
From then on, Cat had nothing to do with the See-Hear-And-Speak-No-Evil Enablers of the Republican Hive.
Instead, he became The Common Sense Cat, the contrarian, contemplative sage, who would bring rational, wait-just-a-minute balance to the freaked-out, terrified, we’ve-lost-our-minds Left Wing, lurching as we do between wild optimism and paralytic depression.
I truly believe this: Cat may have been the last creature in this divided, polarized country willing to change his mind. He listened. He read. He thought. And he changed his mind.
Think of it.
On his last full day, he slept through the entire Session One of the Trump impeachment hearings, his back turned to the flat-screen as he nestled in a pile of comforters and blankets, purring deeply whenever someone, usually The Nice One, sat with him.
It’s quiet, now. There’s no one blocking the doorway, no one glaring at me from the top step, no angry goodnight hiss. No one to talk with. No one to pull me back from the cliff when I go crazy about Trump. No one to say: “But Phoebe, you’re sounding so crazy .…”
There was a lot we never talked about.
I don’t know whether Cat expected Trump to win a second term. Or whether he believed that Trump would keep getting away with everything, whether immigrants would one day be welcome again, whether there is time to prevent the worst of climate change, whether there will be a woman President and if democracy can survive.
I don’t even know what Cat thought about death.
What I do know is that he was more than my colleague, and that whether or not he wanted to be one, Cat was also my friend.
Now he's gone. And around here, it’s quiet.