Friday, December 4, 2009

So Long, Sweet Simon

All Clara wanted for Christmas when she was five was a kitten. I was determined to make it happen. I called around -- no kittens. I finally saw an ad in the paper for animals at a shelter about an hour's drive away. I called and the woman claimed to have lots of kittens -- for free even, and she'd give me a case of cat food if I adopted one. I dropped Clara off at school and headed to the North Shore Animal Welfare League, thinking I'd be back in time to pick her up from school. Ha.

I started the day battling scores of other people trying to find pets to give as Christmas presents. The woman on the phone had lied to me. They had lots of cats, but only four kittens -- two sets of siblings -- and they wouldn't separate them. If you took one, you had to take the other. One pair was an adorable set of tiny little marmalade kittens -- they were feral and attacked anyone who walked by their kennel. The other pair consisted of two tuxedo kitties -- mostly black with a touch of white on the chest, and the male had 2 white toes on his left rear paw. They were nine weeks old and were named Sylvester and Tweety. Ugh.

I knew I couldn't bring home two cats without asking Pete if it was okay, so I went in search of a pay phone (this was long before cell phones). There weren't any at the shelter, because they did background checks on prospective adopters and didn't want them warning people they would be calling. So I got in the car and found a pay phone. Pete said okay, and it was back to the shelter, where I started filling out lots of forms. Oy.

By this time I knew I wouldn't make it back to Greenport in time to pick Clara up from school, so I drove back to the pay phone and arranged for someone to babysit. At the shelter they were processing my application and calling my references. They had me sign all sorts of papers that made me promise to raise the cats indoors, get all their shots and have them neutered when they came of age. That done, they sent me off to the cashier. Huh?

The cashier asked me for a $25 donation. Okay, I said, but the ad says the cats are free -- what if I can't afford $25? All she said was, "we'd like a $25 donation." So I wrote out the check and handed it to her. She handed it back. "$25 for each cat, please." (Isn't this called "Bait and Switch?") I tore up the check and wrote a new one, hoisted the case of free cat food (free my you-know-what!), took my kittens and headed home. Whew.

A friend kept the kittens for me for two nights. I picked them up on Christmas Eve after Clara was asleep. My sister Barb made a big tag that read: To Clara From Santa. Open Me First" and had a big paw print on it. Clara woke up on Christmas with the worst cold ever, but she tore the lid off the box (it had air holes!) and squealed with delight. She carried both cats under her arms all morning and kept saying, "I can't believe I got two kitties!" which in reality sounded like "I can't believe I got two titties!" because her nose was so stuffed up. We still laugh about that.

Clara renamed the cats Lily and Simon, aka Lillehammer (the winter Olympics were held there that year) and Simon Two-Toes (he had two white toes). Lily was a cat's cat -- aloof but affectionate when she chose to be and a little bit wild. She was Clara's cat through and through. Simon was more like a puppy -- he aimed to please and would let Clara dress him up, turn him upside down -- whatever -- as long as he was fed and petted. Barb said she thought he was just grateful to have been rescued from the shelter. Simon was my cat. Every morning he would sit on my lap as I drank my first cup of coffee. On cold nights he'd paw at the blankets so I'd lift them and he'd curl up behind my knees. He had long legs and his tail curled into a question mark when he held it upright. I loved him.

Lily developed thyroid problems several years ago and we had to have her put to sleep. We scattered her ashes across the front yard, where she escaped to whenever she could sneak out of the house. Simon remained as strong and healthy and graceful as ever -- until a few weeks ago.

I knew his time was drawing near, and made the decision to not take heroic measures and to keep him as comfortable as I could at home. He hated the car and he hated the vet and I didn't want to put him through the trauma all that entailed. The only place he wanted to be was on the newly recovered sofa, so I covered it with plastic and towels and made a nest with an old fleecy blanket. I brought him food and water and carried him to the litter box. Yesterday he kept meowing for me and would only be quieted if I stroked his chin and ears. When I left the room, he crawled to the edge of the couch, dropped to the floor and yowled. I picked him up and held him and he died in my arms.

Pete buried Simon in the back yard, not far from where he buried our Jack Russell Ruby (aka Sweet Ruby Beets), who was Cairo's aunt, and our angora rabbit, Ash, whose only nickname was the uninspired "Ashes", and the myriad number of gerbils and hamsters and mice and fish and frogs and turtles that have populated our home over the years. They all enriched our lives in one way or another -- even the white mouse who stunk to high heaven -- but Simon was the pet with whom I felt the strongest connection and it is Simon I will miss the most.

So long, sweet Simon.


Lana said...

Oh Sarah! I'm so sorry about Simon. :(
I did enjoy reading how he came to live with you and how he took to you. I'm sure that he knew you were the one who gave him a wonderful home. :)

Orange Sink said...

Dear Sarah,
I am so sorry to hear about Simon. May your heart heal in time. Thank-you for being such loving pet owners and giving Simon all he deserved in this life! Cathy G

TamboinMO said...

Oh Sarah, what a sweet tribute to Simon. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. You and your daughter and family are in my thoughts today.

Annie said...

:( xoxoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Dear Sarah,
You are a wonderful writer. To think that Clara was only five when you brought the kittens home.

Anonymous said...

I don't get these things. This is Carol Markel from across the street. Hopefully, we will see you this summer. We may rent a house in Orient