Once upon a time, eight or nine years ago, there were three little kittens. They lived with their Mama and their people next door to my parents’ place at Blackberry Flats. They played and frolicked and were very cute. One day their people started loading things up and moved away. And they left the three little kittens behind.
This is when I met the kittens. We assume the people took Mama Cat with them, because we didn’t see her again. But those three–two calicos and a black cat, they were left behind. To fend for themselves I suppose. It was a hard decision for my parents, whose last cat had died, and they really weren’t looking for anymore. They called around to different places, but in the end, my parents found themselves the “parents” of the three little kittens–Pumpkin, Marshmallow, and Rev. (My Aub helped name them. Her younger sister called the boy “Revray” when she was little, her version of Reverend, his chosen name.) Rev was aptly named because he had a little splash of white where a clerical collar would be, you know, if the cleric were a cat. My brother is a minister, so Mama thought this was a cool connection. He was no longer the only “reverend” in the family, so to speak.
It was Marshmallow who moved on first. She took up with a family down the road. Then a few years ago, Pumpkin went off for one of her adventures, and she never came back. That’s how it is with country cats. Sometimes they leave and you just don’t see them again. It can break your heart, but that’s just how it is.
So that left Rev. Mama’s baby. One day Rev came back from one of his adventures with a severely injured ear. After a few days of them cleaning it and it not getting much better, Mama and Daddy decided to take him to the vet. Since that time, he has had this funny tilt to his ear that made him look rather pitiful. And he could play it up too. Whenever I’d go over there, especially in the past couple of years, he would walk up and start meowing, like he was never paid attention to or fed at all. It became something of a joke, that I would open the door and holler, “Mama, when you gonna feed this poor cat?” And she’d laugh and say, “Yeah, right,” and proceed to give me the details on how much he’d already eaten that day.
We were lucky to have great neighbors and family. During Daddy’s (was it almost a month?) time at Emory in 2009, and his month long stay at Houston Medical Center in Spring of 2011, my Aunt, my cousin, and our neighbors all took on the taking care of Rev. This was huge, as Daddy, when he got so sick and was in the hospital the first time, was about ready to give Rev away. I’m so glad that he didn’t, because that cat was someone for Mama to fuss over and care for after Daddy died in November 2011. Oh, she’d fuss. “Come here, you sorry thing! Quit telling Tara I haven’t fed you. You know you just took a couple of bites and walked away not fifteen minutes ago.” Mama couldn’t leave his food out all the time because of the three types of critters who would tote it off–the ants, the stray cat that came up, and the dogs from down the road who took a liking to anything that was Rev’s–including the empty food dish at one point.
During Mama’s HospitalStay in January and February, we had no idea how long she would be in the hospital. Our neighbors assured us they didn’t mind caring for Rev, that we were to focus on Mama and not worry over him at all. Our Sweet Neighbor told me, with a chuckle, that her son-in-law could be seen from time to time, walking over to the house to play with Rev (who knew he was so playful? either one of them?). Again, what a blessing.
And after Mama passed and we were all in a daze, they told us to take as much time as we needed to regarding the decision about Rev’s future. I wished there had been a way for him to stay put, but that wouldn’t have been fair to anyone, including Rev. My sister and her husband decided to take him to live with them outside of Atlanta. I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and told God that for whatever silly reason this cat meant a lot to me–and I hoped he would be safe.
And he was. Rev left his back porch haven for three days right after moving in with them. I don’t know if he was out trying to thumb a two and a half hour ride back home or not. But after three days, he decided it was a pretty good home, he returned, and he stuck pretty close to his new family after that. They lived within viewing, shouting, and walking distance of the neighborhood pool. When my brother-in-law had a neighborhood association meeting at the pool in early spring, Rev walked down with him, presided over the meeting from a table, was properly fussed over, and walked back home with my BIL when it was over. I giggled over that one. Country cat was adapting to suburban life pretty good. When my sister and her son went to the pool on recent visits, Rev went to. He preferred not to swim, but he hung out until they were ready to go. I love that he embraced his new life with such whimsy.
Yesterday evening my sister called me. “We’ve lost Rev,” she said sadly. In the freak bad storm yesterday afternoon, he was killed.
I did what I have been doing a lot of lately.
I cried. I cried on the phone with my sister. And when I got off.
And then I called my Aunt. Another thing I’ve done a lot of, bless her.
And I cried.
I know, it’s silly. He’s a cat. But my Aunt reframed it for me, and my whole soul cried, “Yes. This!”
She said, “Well, after all, he’s a tie to her, to them.”
Rev could exasperate Mama almost as much as I did. (Which may explain my added fondness for him–he could take the heat and the focus off of me from time to time.) He would worry her with his ear or other small booboos he might show up with. But he was vocal, and he knew how to stretch his head up to her hand, wherever it was, to get a scratch and some loving. And he could make her laugh. When I think of Rev, I think of Mama. And all the things I love about her–her spunkiness when she’d tell him like it was, her tender loving ways when he needed it most, her mock (?) frustration when he’d make me think he hadn’t been fed, and her laughter. Oh I miss that laugh.
And so tonight I’m thankful for the story of Rev. For a cat who was adopted, who loved and was loved, who took his situation in stride and adapted. When I think of Rev, I think of my parents, who fed the hungry and gave those without one a place to call home–and not just cats. I think of the love and generosity of the best neighbors and dear family, who gave of their time freely so we didn’t have to say goodbye to another family member prematurely. I give thanks for my sister and her sweet family who took Rev in and loved him and treated him like royalty. And I grieve one more connection, one more tie to people I love and miss with every breath, gone.
I only hope, that when Rev got there to see Mama last night, he didn’t turn the tables and tell her WE haven’t been feeding him. I really don’t want to hear about that one day. Rest in Peace, our funny lop-eared Rev. We love you. You will be missed.