Yesterday we lost one of the Fun Apartment’s most celebrated residents. My beloved cat has died of what my older son calls “kidnap failure.” My heart is heavy.
Gollum was eighteen years old. As a kitten, he was runty, scruffy, with his his face sort of squashed. He looked like a fruit bat. But he was my fruit bat.
He moved with me from the mean streets of Minneapolis to Brooklyn. In the moving van, he paced across the dashboard, eventually choosing to drape himself across the steering column. And in Brooklyn, we joined a crowd of other midwesterners and their cats. We called ourselves “Little Milwaukee.” I think in a way we were taking care of the cats as practice for adulthood, like those seventh grade health classes where you get a bag of flour and pretend it’s a baby. (To be fair, some of the others might actually have been proper adults. But I wasn’t.)
Gollum was more like a puppy than a cat. He greeted all visitors at the door. He had no manners, and knew how to assert himself. His relentless sense of playfulness was the stuff of legend. My sainted roommate was home more than I was and Gollum’s gleeful harassment drove her completely bonkers. Also, his neutering at an early age seemed to have no effect on his sexuality. Visitors knew not to wear long sleeve shirts if they wanted their forearms unmolested. And he did with such enthusiasm that those who were not chosen for a thorough forearm humping somehow felt slighted.
And let’s get something straight: This cat was a genius. A really stupid genius. He could solve amazingly complex toy-acqusition problems, but he could never remember that my roommate’s cat did not want to have sex with him. Her life with him was one long series of obscene proposals. His brain was on a short loop.
Happily, the Man of My Dreams was compatible with Gollum, or this whole Fun Apartmenty thing probably wouldn’t have happened. And, when the inevitable kids came, he took that on the chin as well. When you are pregnant, people talk in uncomfortable, hushed tones about what happens if your cat and your baby are not compatible. Happily, we didn’t face that situation. If we had, I know I probably would have made the right decision, but I would have thought long and hard about who was already potty-trained and who wasn’t. Initially terrified of our oldest son–a pixie-like newborn pinioned in his carseat, Gollum eventually assured me that he was totally cool with all the sitting on the couch we were doing, even if it involved the little guy. By the time our second son showed up, Gollum eagerly leapt to the old nursing spot on the couch, purring impatiently.
And he even came to love the Fun Apartment. It coincided with his later years and he has thoroughly carved out his turf. He made it clear that the spot underneath the head of our bed was totally off limits for storage. He was sociable enough and met the challenge of two pestering, curious boys with agreeable resignation. The older boy had just taught himself to pick up the cat. He came to me in the kitchen, grinning with triumph, with Gollum draped over his arm like a rope.
Gollum was also terribly serious about bedtime. When he thought it was time for me to retire, he was fairly insistent. He would lay on my chest purring each night. There are worse ways to fall asleep, people.
I think in some ways, this cat was me: enthusiastic, guileless and a little bit dim. And now, without him, I won’t know to go to bed. I won’t know how to let go of the day, petting his sleek, seal-like head. I hardly feel like myself without him.
But I still have to move through the day. There are all the usual minor miracles to perform. I was talking with a friend who had recently lost someone (a person, not a cat, but grief is grief) and we discussed how, despite the blackened insides, we have to carry the rainbows and spread the glitter. My boys were sad, but I can’t realistically expect a four and a six year old to be sad through playdates, potluck suppers, and preschool graduations. So I grieve in tiny moments to myself, before I pick up the rainbow again. (Also, if you are going to cry in the shower stall at the Y, you should use the accessibility stall with the bench in it.)
And, when I open the apartment door, I allow myself to pretend that Gollum’s just about to greet us.
I’ll let the ghost walk a little longer. I need the company.
(Unprecedented! The Mister, who shuns all social media, except for lurking on my accounts, has also remarked on the lovableness and loss of our little panther.)
And to think, I had been drafting a post about how not much has been going on around here. My literary friends will recognize the foreshadowing.