Sunday, November 18, 2012

The C.H. Thing

This is the C.H. in question, our departed cat Charles Howard in all his splendor.  I cannot stop thinking about him, even though he died in February, but not in some obsessed, crazy cat lady way.  Actually, I do believe that Chachi was the largest impetus for writing this book, so I could work out the crazy events and make some sort of logical sense of it all.

Perhaps a little back story is in order, Charles Howard came to us while we owned the cafe.  One of my fave customers and amazingly big-hearted animal lover, Patty (she can be found in book one as Pate Ganje, the mount dealer), asked to put up a flier on our bulletin board.  She was trying to find homes for some kittens and I, out of nowhere, said that I wanted a cat.

I'm not sure what insanity prompted me to say that, it's not that I don't like cats, I love 'em and have had many fine felines in my life.  But we were such a busy family, the deli took almost all of our time and we had a relatively young pit bull who was trampling roughshod over us at home.  But it popped out of my mouth anyway and Patty went right to work.  I tried to backpedal, truly I was worried about giving another pet quality attention time AND Blue the pit bull is described best in one word -- heedless.  I was afraid that Blue would smash a kitten out of pure reckless abandon, no malice at all, that dog just don't care where he puts his paws.

Patty heard my concerns and the kittens were put aside for a bit, "I have another cat," she said, "he's six months and a good hunter."  Now, you must understand that our daughter worked at the cafe with us and heard the exchange, she loves cats so I had gotten her hopes up.  And Patty's hopes were up too, and I couldn't disappoint them both, plus I did want a cat, so I hoped that Clyde would be on board with yet another impulsive decision made by moi.

Clyde was cool with it and the cat formerly known as Tiger joined our family, he gave the dog a claw to the snout by way of hello and proceeded to take over.  Cheech (all my pets have at least 1,000 nicknames) was a superb hunter, he ran a tight ship that included all the neighbors and was invited in to their homes when direct pest control was needed.  Like most cats, CH liked to bring in his kills to display to my husband and I'm still finding the odd finch feather around my house.  But he was a loving little Fuzz Man as well and was especially partial to stretching out in the sun to get his fat belly stroked as he purred and rolled back and forth.

Charles Howard disappeared one spring night, our daughter was the last to see him and we spent months searching for our wayward boy.  We put up fliers, knocked on all the doors in the neighborhood, went to all the local shelters regularly and checked the websites several times a day for pictures of cats that had been impounded.  I kept hoping though, even as the days became weeks and then months, I just knew in my heart that Chucky would be back someday.

I did not keep that sentiment to myself, just like Lt. Saavik, self-expression is not one of my problems.  I don't know how I knew, but I did, so when people suggested that I get another cat, I would look at them like they were crazy and ask how Charlie would feel when he got back and found a replacement.  No, no.  I did not want a new cat, I wanted my cat back home; end of discussion.  I never stopped looking either, even in the most ridiculous and improbable locations, my eyes were always peeled for a fuzzy orange and white cat.

It took almost two years of looking, waiting, asking the Universal Order for some grace and many, many tears until I saw my ChaCha again.  But it happened, just like I knew it would, he turned up across the street and I recognized his voice.  My heart was pounding in my chest as I went up George's walkway to the porch ringed by shrubs and peered around.  IT WAS CHARLES!!!!!!!  I saw those familiar stripes on his head and the cream colored 'eyeliner' around his green eyes, my knees gave out as I grabbed on and just sat on George's porch rocking my cat back and forth.

At first, Chach didn't seem to recognize me, I could see the confusion plainly in his eyes.  But I could also see that he was working it all out, he didn't fight me as I scooped him up and took him into the house.  I watched the light in his eyes slowly get brighter as he realized that he was finally home and I all wanted to do was scream with joy.  But I stayed cool, I didn't want to traumatize him after all.  Charlie looked well, not too skinny and no wounds, and I remember the exact moment that the cat's memories all unlocked.  It was his Helen Keller moment and I was Annie Sullivan signing out water into his paw, I can't begin to describe the emotions I felt.  Such happiness is rare in life, but it is an indelible memory on my soul now, and Blue's too.  I've never before or since seen that dog be as kind and gentle as he was when I finally let him out of the bedroom to see the cat.

As I watched Blue delicately sniffing Charles Howard, gently wagging his tail in a way that I'd never seen before, I knew that my family was truly reunited.  We had been given a miracle, a truly spectacular one because life gives you many things and takes many things, but almost never gives back exactly what was taken.  But he was back and I rejoiced every day, I told him often how much I had missed him and joyfully groused as he got back to his old routine of entitlement.  Charles didn't wander off too much, he stayed close to home and was a billion times more affectionate than he had been.  He preferred to snuggle on Clyde's warm, stable lap and play endlessly with his new laser pointer.

I wish my Chachi's story ended there, but most stories don't have a fixed ending.  Tomorrow I will continue this post and tell about what happened after.  But for today, let us end on a miracle.

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