A certain cat of my long and loving acquaintance passed away today.
He was named Rudolph Valentino after the great black-and-white movie star because he was:
- Grey with black eyelids,
- A very pretty fellow,
- Quite stupid.
He was also known as Tino to family, “the pretty one” to artistic friends and “piddle kitty” to one individual with personal experience in the matter.
Who he was was soft and warm and comforting and too dumb to to anything but pur lovingly during the longest of thunderstorms and loudest of movies. He was a sweet man-cat and he will be sorely missed.
I’m never as sad to see cats go as people, because for all the possible complexities of the afterlife for humans, I can’t imagine a world where cats get anything but buckets of catnip and rolling hills of sunshine in which to enjoy their high.
But I am still quite sad. Tino came to live with us at the same time as we brought his sister Garbo (yes, Greta Garbo):
They came back with us from the high Sierras where some unkind soul had dumped them just as the snows were about to start in. I missed them when I left for college, and I miss him now.
My recipe for feeling better
After I heard, I took the long walk home through the woods, to catch sight of happy and living critters. I kept my appointment with my friend to go and work out. I bumped up my weight by 15 pounds on all of my regular exercises and ran for 15 minutes rather than our usual shared walk 5, run 5, walk 5, sprint 5. I desperately want to be tired enough not to dream, because I’m still occasionally dreaming of my grandfather who passed 18 months ago and I’d like my subconscious to give me a break tonight.
When I got home, I cooked comfort food: canned soup with croutons. For a meaningful section of my childhood, our version of cooking mostly involved pasta, mashed-potatoes-out-of-a-box and chicken from the Mi Rancho on the corner, pancakes-out-of-a-mix and canned soup with croutons. I loved these family dinners, sitting on the cold tile floor, edging each other off the floor pad, watching one of the dozen VHSes my brother and I alternated from choosing from.
(It wasn’t until recently that I realized not everyone’s childhood contained a revolving cast of well-known characters played by Rex Harrison, Patrick Stewart, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and that people had grown to being 6 whole feet tall without every singing Edelweiss).
Then I told my friends and family through Facebook that he’d died. Because he was a part of my life, he had been a part of theirs: a fixture at birthday and new years parties, a friend to shy people who wanted something to do with their hands, a menace to shoes everywhere.
And then I had something I never would have had when I first met Tino: Neapolitan ice cream with Lebanese high mountain honey on top of it. I was a culinarily-inflexible 8 year old and had (frankly: have) a strong aversion to strawberry ice cream. But since I’ve grown a foot or more, I’ve also grown to be able to taste around tastes I don’t like. Some of that growth has come of necessity, but others in realizing that mixing adverse flavors with good ones makes the good ones stand out.
And the honey is just pure mountain-bred sweetness. Just like Tino.
“If there is one spot of sun spilling onto the floor, a cat will find it and soak it up.”–J.A. McIntosh