Cliff the cat died today. Cliff is a big black cat. He is so big you think his dad might have been a dog.
When I first met Cliff, he was a bachelor. He lived with my daughter’s boyfriend Erik. I remember meeting Cliff at Erik’s with the other seventeen … I mean three … cats and as I saw my daughter fall in love with this handsome man Erik, the bachelor with the four cats, I wondered just where the cats would all go should Erik ever live with my Lindsey. Certainly no daughter of mine would have four cats in her house.
On move-in day I remember there were cat cages … some arrived full, others empty. It seemed the cats were in a wild frenzy, running here and there and trying to figure out where Erik and his furniture and his things, and let’s be serious, where Erik was going. So, Erik was moving-in, and he was just figuring out that most of his things … even if they had been moved from his bachelor pad, were not making their way to the living room or the dining room … perhaps a prominent place in the garage … until there was time to “have a talk.” Erik was about to learn about how none of his things were getting by the goalie, well, except for that blown glass bubble thing that told the temperature outside – that was cool and landed a front row seat on the kitchen window sill.
And then there were those four black shadow boxes. They were installed on the wall in the dining room, against the gold paint, the gold paint that Erik had to paint over the perfectly good ivory paint because, well, the wall needed to be gold to move-in. After all, Lindsey was my daughter. The house looked terrific! The shadow boxes, the painted walls, Lindsey and Erik playfully working to make a new home, one for them and as it turned out, a home for a few others as well.
Opening the door to the basement stair landing, I was shocked to find not one, not two, but four cat dishes … enough cat food in a Rubbermaid bin to feed one cat for a year, and looking at Lindsey I said, “you are not really….”
“He loves them, Mom, and that one, Cliff, he’s gonna win you over. He is pretty cool – you will see. That is, if Erik can find him. When Erik left his place today with the truck, Cliff was no where in sight.”
Sighing as loudly as I could muster, “Let’s get serious Lindsey, no cat is getting to me, and maybe Cliff found a house in Elizaville to stay in, you know, to stay where he comes from.”
I was accused of being “awful,” and it is true that the eating of my words began shortly after move-in day. Erik went back to Elizaville and there was Cliff, sitting, waiting for him like, “hey man, that was rude, where’d everyone go?”
Thereafter, anytime I stopped over to see them, and yes, this is often and no, I’m not the meddling type, and yes, it’s okay with Erik, and yes, I am sure, I would be greeted by Cliff. I don’t know how he knew I was pulling up in that car, or how he managed to be at my feet by the time I walked through the front door, but he did. The purring began as I rolled my eyes and said, “Really Cliff?” It continued as he hovered near my feet until I sat down and prepared to jump onto my lap. This dog size cat, now on my lap, purring so loud I could barely hear the conversation I was in.
It wasn’t long before Cliff was called Cliffy (sounds more like a dog name to me) and even less time before I began looking for Cliff as I got out of my car.
Winter came and springs and summers as well. Four years later, Max was born in the fall of 2011. I was a grandma, Lola to you. Cliff slept near Maxton and purred him to sleep. My Mackey passed away in October and in the very depressed state I lived in that winter, it did give me the only chuckle I remember to know that Erik continued to offer to let Cliff move-in with me. When I’d leave their home, Erik would say, “He’s gonna figure out you live around the corner one of these days anyway and then he will live there instead of here. It’s just a matter of time.”
Two years later Lindsey and Erik moved in with me for three months. Three cats lived in the garage and neighborhood, Cliff lived in my bedroom and pretty much anywhere he lumbered, walking about the house like we were the ones here on borrowed time. Cliff kept me company when I took a bath, sitting, head tilted, “How long is this gonna be, I was thinking we could hang in the chair tonight?” When Lindsey and Erik moved into the house across the street, Cliff and I stood on my porch and waived goodbye, “adios, good riddens, See ya soon but don’t ask too often when I’ll will be home,” from Cliff and, “He looks pretty comfortable here, so I guess he’ll be home later, don’t wait up,” from me.
We all decided not to talk about it … let’s just be like good first graders and share.
And this worked for all of us. Every once in a while someone would say, “I didn’t know you have a cat?” I’d say, “I don’t, that is Cliff.” And sometimes I’d get a text from Lindsey, “Erik wants to know if you have Cliff, we haven’t seen him for days!” Last week Mary Quinn was visiting and she called Lindsey to say, “Does your Mom have a cat? A big black cat is literally knocking on the front door to get in!”
Lindsey claims it has something to do with the organic chicken I fed Cliff. But I know it was really all about me.
These last two weeks Cliff lost a lot of weight. We had a few sleepovers and I let him have the other pillow – oh what the heck. His purring was so loud. I slept like a baby.
Today Cliff had a stroke. Lindsey found him walking in circles and crying. She held him for a few hours. Maxton got close and I said, “Cliff is very old and he had a great life. His body just can’t stay here anymore so it’s okay to pet him and tell him we love him and then he will go. But the good news is, he got to be here and he got to be ours.”
Max, stocky, kind, smart and four years old, nodded. Then he said he wanted to play at his friends.
After we all said our goodbyes, I put Cliff on Lindsey’s lap in the car and Lindsey and Erik drove down the road to take Cliff for a magic comfort needle. No sense suffering. Only ten minutes later they were back. I knew he wanted to be with them when he left and sure enough, he had left and there he was, still in the towel in Lindsey’s arms. I ran to get Allen, Erik’s back was out, and Allen dug the grave right there in the front yard.
We buried Cliff on the ridge overlooking the river where he will be with us forever.
So why do I think I hear a paw on my front door?