Kate, Get The Cat Carrier!

- Jun 13, 2018 -

My father had just passed away. Not even two dawns had broken since I heard his last words, "Kate, tell the cat I'm coming home"  He hadn't come home. He had died of a heart attack on the shuttle to his car at the airport. Still reeling from his swift departure my mom and I were trying to pull the pieces together at our home in Virginia.Rounding up the family, notifying friends, holding each other's hands through the process. In the midst of it all, tucked in the barn, was Emily. My Papa's love. Emily had been discovered in the woods at the end of summer some years before. She had been wild and was terrified as a kitten to come anywhere near people.  We heard her tiny cries while playing ball in the field on my parent's farm in Virginia. I was there with my sister and all eight of our children, sprawling wondrously on vacation, drinking in the southern sunshine, lolling about under towering elms, savoring Mama's blueberry pies. We began setting out a bowl of food for this minute kitten, coaxing her to come closer. She eagerly lapped up the food but wouldn't step near us. We continued feeding her while we were there, at the same spot, at the same time, each day. We told Mama and Papa about her before we left, and asked if they would continue her feeding. Papa's first response, after years of caring for animals that we brought home was "No more animals, Kate!"  It was understandable, considering the fact that these were his golden years, times to do as he pleased, to walk his fields of hay with his dogs, to write, to remember.

Emily became Papa's sweetheart. She let him carry her. He sang Frank Sinatra songs to her. She accompanied him on some of those walks in the fields. They mused. He gave her his heart. She gave him hers.She never warmed to anyone else, nor would she come in to the main house, but resided very comfortably in the small barn on a soft bed.She could come and go as she pleased, through an open window,and in the evenings she waited for Papa.

I had been leaving food for Emily and kissing her lightly on the head for the last two days but I hadn't really explained things.  So I sat beside her and told her about Papa. That he would not be coming back. I tried to reassure her that she was loved and I asked her if she would consider moving into the main house. I felt it would be a way to connect us, to help us heal together, it would help me hold on to Papa.Emily just stared at me, her amber eyes solemn and dark. I wondered if it would even be possible to get Emily to the main house! While she let me pet her, she certainly gave no indication of ever letting me pick her up, let alone carry her to the house. And there were dogs there, who were still waiting for Papa to walk through the front door, lovingly hold them, and quietly say their names. While I pondered the possibilities, wiping aways tears, I heard Papa. As clearly as if he were standing beside me. He said "Kate, get the cat carrier."  "Papa" I whispered. Then I looked around. What cat carrier? I started uncovering piles of blankets and books, old stacks of newspapers. Then I saw it! In a corner, dusty and rusted, a cat carrier. I pulled it out, and deftly wrapped Emily in a blanket so I could get her in the carrier. She complained bitterly.I marched to the main house, up the stairs to the spare room where I put the carrier down,and opened the latch. I went downstairs, closing the door behind me and stated to Mama, "Emily is going to live here now".

It has been five years now since Em moved in. She has whipped cream for breakfast and sleeps on Mama's bed. She rubs up against those same two dogs and preens in the window that faces the driveway. She purrs. And in the evenings she waits for Papa.

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