Once upon a time…sixteen years ago…I lived in Eugene, Oregon. We had moved there recently, my now ex-husband, my not quite two-year-old and me…very, very, very pregnant.
The pregnant part is important. You see, like many expectant mothers, I dreamed of cats. I constantly dreamed of a cat. Ok, that means we need to get a cat. After all, we owned our home for the first time in over a year. We could have a pet. I talked my husband into going to the shelter to look for a cat. He’d had a cat before. I had grown up in a quasi-cat lady house. We’d had a couple of cats since getting married. But, cats didn’t really like me. Dogs loved me. Not cats. I didn’t much like them either. I am and was a dog person. But, I NEEDED a cat just then.
We drove forever in our new town, out to the shelter. (which took miles and miles of driving–particularly since we didn’t know how to get there) It was a beautiful shelter–set up in a way that I had never seen before–all the cats were running loose in the cat room. You just walked in. Remember: we had a child not yet two–he wouldn’t be two until late November and it was summer.
We walked in and I looked at various cats. I sat down on the floor to play with them. Boy child goes charging in, toddler that he was and ran after one and…caught it. He picked it up by his ears. The cat just looked at him. Boy brought the cat over…refusing to drop it. His father running to support the cat and pry it from toddler hands. Cat released–he came over, nudged my very big baby belly, and laid down on my lap. We pondered the virtues of other cats for a few minutes. There were more interesting looking cats, kittens, but we knew we had been chosen by this cat.
We came home with a less than one year old but not kitten cat. He promptly was named Miles for the miles we drove. He followed me everywhere. He’d play with boy child, gently and boy child was gentle in return. But, he seemed to be headed toward being the girl-to-be child’s cat. Miles forever was on my belly, nudging her when she kicked.
This seemed confirmed once I had girl child, he shadowed her in those early days. He soon forgot about me for the most part. He belonged to the children.
One day my husband came home, girl child had a scratch across her cheek. He freaked out a bit. The cat had hurt the baby! I told him to hang on a minute–I brought out the cat, rolled him over and showed where she had drawn blood first. Yes, he had scratched her–but she had bitten him first.
A couple of years after Miles joined us, he started to shadow me again. I suspected I was pregnant and Miles seemed to confirm it. Once again, he was all over me. Then I had youngest child. He was older by then and didn’t take to yet another baby quite as much as he had the first two. He didn’t have the young cat tolerance and she was bouncy. But, he loved her too.
Miles sometimes seemed more dog than cat in his affection and tolerance for people. He loathed the cat carrier. He urinated all over a security checkpoint when we moved to Florida–flying him with us. Why yes, I spent a plane ride from Oregon to Florida, pregnant, with two children under four, a cat, and cat pee on my clothes. I am sorry airline passengers that flew with me that day.
A few years later, we got divorced. In the dividing up of households, it made sense for Miles to stay at the other house. I missed him, but in a way I wanted him there for the kids when they were away from me. I knew he would curl up with them and listen to their secrets and let them wipe their tears and runny noses on him. In some way, I felt like he was helping their father take care of them. I know. Kind of silly. He was a cat. But, a special one.
When I would pick the kids up at the other house, he would come to the door to see me. There were a few years where I didn’t really get to see Miles. One of the best things about moving up to the hinterlands was that I once again could step inside and give Miles a pet or mirroring our first meeting, sit on the floor, with him on my lap, while I waited for the kids to gather their things.
I knew he was old. He’s been pretty sick for the past year. My ex decided on chemo and it helped. We all knew we were just putting the inevitable off. I wasn’t sure that was the best thing, but on the other hand, I saw the shadow pass over boy child’s face every time we talked about it. I sort of hoped that Miles would rally and make it through boy child’s graduation. Not for Miles, it hurt to see him often during kid pick up over the last few months, but for boy. It didn’t happen.
Miles had a massive stroke last night. He didn’t recover. My ex called me to tell me. I was at the Target and Denise knew as soon as I answered what had happened. I hurt for my ex. I hurt for my kids. I hurt for me. I was looking forward to seeing Miles tomorrow as we gathered the kids stuff. I will miss him, a cat I haven’t lived with for over a decade. Yes, he was that special.