I Didn't Wake You up to say Goodbye
CHARACTER PLUS IN A GRAY PUSS!
What can I say about Gray? The craziest cat you’ll ever encounter. Gray Girl…our gray kitty. She never walked; she’d always run. Scampering around the house. The funniest thing I ever saw was when she tried her moves on my new hardwood floor. She was used to running on wall to wall carpet. But, things changed several years ago when I decided to redo my home. Out with the carpet, in with beautiful, slick hardwood. And Gray hadn't been warned. She started with her usual momentum.
At first, she just couldn’t get going. Her little furry paws scrambled with great effort…but she was going nowhere fast. She looked desperate…what in the world was happening to her. When she finally caught hold and was able to bolt forward, at the first corner she reached; rather than turning that corner as usual, she slid sideways forever, her legs stiff in surprise. And the whole thing started again…little furry padded feet moving frantically while the rest of her body remained stationary.
Gray had such a unique way about her. Everything she did was fast…there was no slow moving as far as she was concerned.
Except the day I met her. That was 14 years ago. The year was 1987. I had driven into the parking lot of the old Lucky market on Jefferson and Trancas. As I started to park, I noticed a skinny, matted and oily cat lurking beneath another car which was about to begin backing out of its parking spot. I jumped from my car and, arms waving in the air, I yelled at the driver to “STOP!! STOP!! There’s a cat under your car!” He stopped long enough for me to retrieve the cat and then he continued on his way.
I cradled the cat in my arms and carefully walked over to a nearby fence which separated the parking lot from a home. I placed the kitty on the fence and walked away quickly, to do the shopping I had planned. I glanced back to see the gray kitty still sitting on the fence.
When I returned to the parking lot, there again was that scrawny cat hiding under another vehicle. I approached her again and she came right up to me. I walked with her in my arms to the fence and, this time, placed her as gently as I could over the fence onto the ground. As I turned to walk away, I heard a most plaintiff “meow,” as the sorry looking kitty jumped back over the fence and ran up to me…following me to my car. “What can I do, how can I leave this lot wondering if this cat will make it out alive?” I thought to myself.
Well, the answer came quickly. I opened the driver’s door and as quick as a bunny the grey kitty jumped into my car. “Well,” I thought, “I guess you’re coming home with me.” She rode quietly in my car, never trying to jump out, not making a sound.
That is how Gray came into my life. She was at that point…the “cusp,” says my friend Al. That most important moment when the decision made could actually mean life or death.
Gray chose life that day. Gray chose me.
“Thundering Gray.” That was the Al gave her because of the way she’d jump up on the long, glass covered coffee table that occupies the center of our home. This table is always loaded with an abundance of items that somehow accumulate each day. Just like the way she navigated the floor, Gray would run full speed ahead as she approached the table top. Flying through the air with the greatest of speed, she’d land at one end and keep on sliding over the entire length of the table, sending papers, pencils, remote controls, coffee and whatever else was there, tumbling to the ground as she slid across the table top. Gray always make a splash wherever she arrived.
SQUEAKER AND GRAY - FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Once upon a time, I had a cat named Squeaker. When Gray joined the other members of my home, she and Squeaker became best of friends. Who ever said cats can’t adapt? Where did the idea start that cats cannot learn to live peacefully in a multi-cat household? Whoever started those ugly rumors was terribly wrong on both counts. Gray and Squeaker played throughout the house, cavorting from room to room and sleeping together on the large couch at night. Watching them was much like enjoying two siblings playing, teasing and frolicking. They became inseparable. Where one was, the other was sure to be nearby.
One very, very sad day, Squeaker disappeared; never to be seen again. To this day, I do not know what happened to her; whether she is still alive, how could she have disappeared in a split second on a sunny, quiet day, literally one moment there, the next gone. Losing Squeaker was a heartbreak for me; I looked for her for months, placing ads in the local papers, calling the live “Pet Patrol” on our local radio station, placing posters all around the neighborhoods near mine, and walking miles looking for any sign of her.
I was not the only one whose heart was aching because of the loss of Squeaker. For weeks after Squeaker’s disappearance, Gray would pace the entire house, going from room to room, meowing in the mournful way, peering into corners, closets and behind doors. She would walk the perimeter of my yard, searching the familiar places they used to play, always crying a low inquisitive, sorrowful moan. It was the saddest thing to see and it brought tears to my eyes. I’d walk down near the creek and talk to Gray, as I picked her up carrying her back into the house. I’d hold her and hug her and talk softly, trying to sooth her, paying special attention to er so that she wouldn’t feel so alone.
Time passed and, I imagined, Gray’s memory of Squeaker waned as seasons changed and new kitties joined our cat colony. New friendships were formed; but none so close and sweet for Gray as Squeaker had been.
Following Squeaker’s disappearance, Gray was not quite herself. She remained “solo” from that time on. It was very obvious that she did not form another close tie to any kitty after Squeaker; never again the gregarious, playful cat she was when Squeaker was home.
Time marched on and Gray was always a fixture in my home as newcomers came and older kitties passed. Patient and undemanding, she easily accepted each new member of our expanding family. Sometimes days, weeks went by during which I could not say for sure what Gray may have been doing, her presence taken for granted. Time has a way of doing this.
CRAZY KITTY ESCAPADES
Until, it seems, I noticed that she’d developed two habits over time, and I couldn’t really pinpoint exactly when these began. She had a particularly unique meow she uttered when she wanted water. She’d stand by the place where the water bowl usually was and project her voice until I came to the spot to fill the bowl with cool, fresh water. I knew Gray’s “water request,” and accommodated her promptly; knowing how she loved cold, clear water.
As I’ve looked through photos we’d taken over the years, Gray’s second trait became apparent. She had established “her place,” on the living room couch…exactly in the middle and on newspapers that might be left there. She insisted on sleeping on newspaper; if there were none on the couch, she’d patiently wait atop the coffee table until someone noticed her plight and placed the needed papers where they must be, on the couch, in the center. Then, she’d gleefully jump to them, circle once or twice and relax into serene slumber. This was another of her habits that just developed over time and I can not say when it started. I thought it was relatively recent until I looked at pictures of years ago and, there among other members of our kitty clan, was Gray, smack dab in the middle of the couch, on folded newspapers.
These things and more are what cause Al, my best friend, to name her our “Special Gray,” kind of a play on words which just happened to be very close to the name of a particular breakfast cereal. I laughed out loud when I first heard it…and the name, so fitting, stayed with her.
My elderly father moved in with me in Feb. 2001. As I remember it, the image forms in my mind of Gray and my father; sitting side by side on the living room couch. Always together, Gray to his left, on newspaper, his hand resting on her. He’d often quip, “she’s a nice cat, too,” as he patted her head, which was quite a compliment considering he had “his favorite, “ :P.M.,” and was very loyal to her. No matter what time of day it was, he looked forward to Gray being in her place as if waiting for him to join her. That’s the way he saw it, and that was good enough for me. Looking back, I’m really glad that they were constant companions during those months. I’m sure it enriched both Gray’s and my father’s lives, giving them valuable company.
Gray was Nan’s favorite. Nan is Al’s mom and my friend. She always gravitated to Gray when she visited, commenting about Gray’s face…”she has such a beautiful little face,” she’d often say. “I just love her face.”
Through the years, Gray flourished with the safe, secure home we provided her, filled with love and affection. Her once matted, dull coat became full, fluffy and gorgeous; her, “doll face,” as Nan used to say, was the picture of health and happiness.
TELLTALE SIGNS OF CHANGE
Gray was special. And it was a sad morning, when I noticed that she was quite ill, so ill in fact, that she called for her water at the water spot….the water was there already…and she did not drink. She wandered into a room she rarely entered and it was obvious she was in distress; looking for comfort, I called our veterinarian, Dr. Rock, right away and asked to bring her in for observation and whatever was needed to help her become well. Her eyes were shiny bright and her coat looked good-and we believed she’d be cured and home in no time. But, we found out, our Special Gray was really very sick. Little did I know that Gray would never sleep on the newspapers in the center of the couch again. After many exotic tests, even exploratory surgery; we received the worse possible news. Dr. Rock called to tell me that her liver was in real bad shape and her time left was minimal at best and it would be painful; horrible for her to continue. He said she was still “under” from surgery and asked if I wanted him to take her then, or wake her up so that we could say goodbye. “I can do that,” he said, “But it would be easier for her just to go while she is still, “out,” she’ll never know what happened.” And though it broke my heart and I so wanted to look into her eyes again, exchanging that special , “knowing,” gaze; that all too familiar lump formed from the pit of my stomach to my heart and more as I said, “let her go…don’t wake her.”
We brought our Special Gray home later that day and buried her in Lucky’s Garden. We placed a cat statue over her grave and said goodbye. We walked over to Lucky’s Garden, tears in our eyes, as we said a special prayer and whispered “goodbye,” to Gray.
Now Gray’s body lays where all our departed and dearly loved kitty companions are placed to rest until we see them again. We love you, Special Gray