Requiem for a Very Good Boy

It was 6:00AM, some day in March 2012. There was a scratching sound just outside of my bedroom window, and a whimpering.

I looked around. My husband was sleeping peacefully, the cat, a tri-colored female tucked just under his chin.

The other cat, a ginormous black seal of a thing, was curled up at the foot of the bed. He was skittish, generally, and whatever this noise was had awakened him, too. He did not look reassured.

I got out of bed, scratched my mega-cat’s ears as I passed, and peered out from around the curtain.

We lived in a tiny tiny tiny little apartment–50 meters squared, about 550 square feet. What I loved about our apartment, though, was that it was above a store,. So, there was our apartment, and then there was a terrace outside my kitchen that was the same size, if not bigger, than our apartment.

We had a garden out there. Our landlord, who lived upstairs, used to gaze down at our garden and tell me how much he loved looking at it.

I wasn’t so sure that our landlord would love all this noise coming from my garden at that very moment. Where was all that whimpering coming from?

That’s when I saw it. A grayish-black animal trying to climb to the window sill.

It was smallish, but in the early morning light I couldn’t really tell what it was. How did an animal end up on the roof of a store? I wondered.

I went to the kitchen, opened the door and went out into the garden. Indeed. It was a small cat, whimpering and trying to crawl into the apartment through a window. Any window.

“Hey!” I whispered loudly. “Be quiet! And go home!”

The cat was not to be deterred. He wanted in.

“How did you get here?” I said, closing the door behind me.

I squatted to get a closer look at this filthy cat who was now purring, trying to nuzzle me with his sooty nose. He was scrawny…past what would seem healthy. He put his paws on my knee, and I could see that he appeared to have almost no claws: they appeared to be raw. To the quick.

“What happened to you?” I asked, as if he would answer. By now, he and his soot covered nose where sniffing me, kissing my nose. “You must be starving. Wait here.”

Against my own better judgment, because I do know something about animals, I went and got a few croquettes, that is dry cat food, from inside. After I’d closed the door, the cat started meowing. Loudly.

I opened the door again and said, probably louder than necessary, “Tais-toi!” Shut up!

I hurried to get the croquettes into a bowl. By now, the big mega-seal cat was stalking about. I told him to hold tight, and went back outside.

The stranger cat ate everything I gave him. Not smart. I told myself. He’s never going to go away now.

My very very good boy

I gave that cat a bath, and discovered that he was indeed not gray, but an astoundingly attractive black and white.

Under all that soot, there were these fabulous white whiskers. I had a very real thought in that moment: “Why, this cat has potential!”

Those claws? We could only assume he had been stuck somewhere, trying to claw his way out to the point of bleeding. Maybe he had been escaping something, and that was how he ended up, with whatever he had left, climbing to a second floor terrace and whimpering into a window.

We took pictures, we made posters. Surely someone was missing this incredibly friendly, well-behaved cat.

No one ever called. So very quickly, he became our cat. Or…more like, we became his people. We called him TomTom, like a GPS, you know, back in the day? Because somehow, he had the exact coordinates to find us.

We moved, only days later, into the apartment where we live now. If he hadn’t shown up that day, he would have missed his shot at living in the lap of luxury.

When he would misbehave, which he did often in those first months–mostly because he still hadn’t understood that his next meal was already planned for–for example, knocking a container of chili onto the floor in his effort to eat it all before I could put it in the fridge, we would call him, Thomas!

So we called him Thomas The Cat. TomTom. Titi.

Titi loved snuggles. Snuggles are my love language, and because he was so fluent in my love language, we spent a lot of time together.

He rarely left me alone.

Titi the Healer

Before I knew that I was pregnant for the first time, Titi did something weird. He urinated on my purse.

He had never done anything like that before. He was always so well-behaved! Was he sick? I wondered.

Later that day, I got a positive pregnancy test. It was like he knew.

On the day that I learned my twins would not survive, Titi never left my side. He was my absolutely faithful companion. As I lay in my bed, he sat on my chest, staring at me, like a sphinx.

When my first scalawag was born, Titi only half-heartedly gave up his position as the favored son. He made himself at home whenever he could. He was so sweet with the baby. He kept an eye on him, too. I was never worried that he would hurt the baby, even as people warned me that animals could get jealous.

They didn’t know Titi.

Another baby. Post-partum depression. Mid-life crisis.

Titi was there. Titi never judged. Titi just loved. He was there every morning, waiting on my husband to pour milk into the coffee, always getting his own special little bowl, just for him. He was always sitting on my husband’s desk, two paws on his forearm helping him work.

Titi was our little miracle.

Titi, my love

When I started writing in my blog, Titi was always by my side. When I would record my podcast, I would do it very often with a cat on my lap. The number of times I had to re-record something because he would start purring can not be overstated.

Titi began to lose weight last summer. We were worried. He was only ten years old. We took him to the vet, and the vet discovered a very very serious case of diabetes. He would need two shots a day of insulin for the rest of his life: morning and night. In addition, he had some serious kidney issues, but we couldn’t treat those until the diabetes was under control.

I tried to give him his shots. The kitty who had always been my best friend and partner in crime now avoided me.

It’s been a few weeks that I could tell something wasn’t right. He felt different. He smelled different. He looked different.

At some point last week, we noticed that the injections weren’t helping. He spent his days and nights in the bathtub. He rarely got up.

I would sit in the bathtub with him, holding him. He was too weak to avoid me anymore.

We told the boys that Titi was dying.

It would have been so much easier to just ignore the little pile of fur in the bathtub. I didn’t want to cry. No one likes to confront grief before it’s time. But, since both of my boys have been home all week due to class closures and a case of the stomach flu, I needed to get away from all this togetherness. Being with Titi was all I could do.

And obviously, if you spend more than thirty seconds loving on someone you are going to lose imminently, you will cry. I reminded Titi of all the good times we had. I laughed about the chili, and how mad I was at him for knocking the whole darn Tupperware of it on the floor.

I thanked him for being with me and never letting me out of his sight when I was hurting.

After about five or six of these moments alone with him, remembering, I was able to start thinking forward. My questionable theology about animals in heaven allowed me to consider that, perhaps, he might get to sit in the laps of the babies we’d lost. Maybe he could pass them the message that we are okay. We still love them, but that their two brothers are keeping us busy.

I also told him to tell Gigi that her legacy is living on and that she is still the most beautiful woman in the room. (As if she ever doubted that.)

We lost Titi on Wednesday. I was with him. I got to talk to him, pet him and kiss him while he passed on. He did finally go away, but he fought hard.

He was such a beautiful boy.

But above all else, may Thomas the Cat always be remembered for being a very, very, very, very, very good boy.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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