A year ago today, I had to put my beloved cat, BeBe Louise, to sleep. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
BeBe Louise 1993-2008
Now, I know that everyone thinks their cat is the best cat in the world, but BeBe was quite spectacular. She was my baby and my best friend, the best gift I've ever gotten. Eight pounds of toothless and tailless terror, that one, with the loudest meow on the planet. And smart. She knew how to say hello, and blessed me when I sneezed. (Not kidding. I'd sneeze and she'd meow in the same inflection a person would say "bless you." Every time.) She gave eskimo kisses, rubbing her nose against mine. She knew I was home when I was still half a block away, and greeted me at the door every single time. At night she'd curl up with me, the perfect nestling spoon, or settled her 8 pounds on my hip. I spent hours petting her until she drooled a puddle. And I also subjected her to utter humiliation:
Moooom! Stoooop it!!!
You could sing her name in any song, and her nicknames were The Beez, Beezus, Little Miss, Doo, Tailless (and Toothless) Wonder, and Keeper of All Secrets. I told her everything. Countless times I sobbed into her tortoiseshell fur, and danced with her (which she tolerated, with dignified patience, for about 45 seconds) in happy moments, but mostly she would just be purring on my lap or inches away, as I absently pet her while I read or watched TV or was on the computer. We were rarely in separate rooms. We survived our apartment building fire together -- I had the firemen and the neighborhood looking for her, and she emerged from "the sixth dimension" -- the portal of which was in my closet -- unscathed and annoyed. She hated everyone, including me, and we all bent over backwards to try to make her love us, though it was usually met with disdain. She especially hated other cats and children and the vacuum and getting her nails clipped. What she loved was Fancy Feast, feet, a dirty wad of string called "String Baby" which she nurtured, and drinking water from her own little cup.
At the end she was a little senile and completely incontinent (I hung the above photo on the fridge at her eye level, hoping she'd at least try for the litterbox every once in a while) and when her back end gave out and she was barely eating, I had to give up the hope that I had held for so long, that we'd find the right medicine and she'd get better. Up until the last minute I was resistant, but it was the right thing to do. I will never forget that moment when she went -- I was holding her and her eyes dilated and I couldn't be polite for the vet's sake. Just then Jon's cell phone went off and instead of ruining the moment, I remembered that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.
The night I picked up BeBe's ashes, I was sitting on the couch, crying, sure that my heart would never heal, when one of my best friends called. I figured she was calling to ask me how I was doing, but instead she was calling to ask a favor. She and her husband and two kids (our god-children) and dog were moving to Arizona, and would we take their cat? I wasn't sure, but Jon and I agreed -- we'd be helping out, and no cat could be like BeBe, so it wouldn't be a replacement.
I'll admit, when Norman first came to us (and immediately squeezed himself behind the record shelves), I was worried. It was too soon after The Magnificent Beez, and this giant cat was nothing compared to her. Ohhh, he was nice enough, but his face wasn't smushed like BeBe's was. And his name couldn't be sung into any song. And he was on Prozac (living with two babies and a dog made him a little bonkers) and attached to a catnip stuffed bulldog, not a dirty piece of string. What was I doing? I could never love this animal, and I felt like a traitor to BeBe, whose ashes were on the mantel. "You're kidding me," I could hear her sneer. "This? You've replaced me with THIS?" "Nice Norman kitty," I said, but the words sounded hollow. The "n" sound was nasally and guttural, not the flowing "eeee" I'd been used to for so many years. I went to bed that night, feeling like maybe I had made a mistake, and was doing this poor cat a disservice because I couldn't be a good adopted cat mom after Beezus.
But then, in the middle of the night, I woke up and saw Norman staring at me, and I swear to God he looked worried. Like, "Hi, we don't know each other, but I hope you like me. Please?" And my heart melted, and I scratched his cheek, and he put his chin on my hand and gave me kisses. We've been pals ever since.
It's true, he is the polar opposite of BeBe. For one thing, he's a BOY. And he has a tail (which is a language I'm still trying to learn) and all of his teeth. He weighs three times as much as she did, with a belly that swings side to side when he runs, and isn't picky about food at all. And shhh, don't tell him but he's, um, not as smart as BeBe. He doesn't bless me when I sneeze -- he gets spooked and takes off. He can't sit still when you pet him -- he paces and gets over excited and flops around. He won't sit on laps (but I'm teaching him, along with being picked up), and his meow is little and wimpy. He has eaten all the plants.
But he is so sweet, and a total lovebug. He completely lacks that disdainful cat gene -- he's more like a goofy dog, earnest and eager to please. He loves people, and is dying to go outside and play with the other cats, but we kind of think he's so dumb he'll try to befriend a raccoon and that wouldn't be good. At parties he comes out to check out the action, whereas BeBe hid, furious, in the closet until everyone was gone. And he is also musically inclined:
So we've had Norman for about a year now, and I still think about and miss BeBe every day. I miss her little clicky feet on the floor, and her sweet motorboat purr. But Norman has grown on me, more and more all the time. It's not the same kind of bond I had with my little BeBe girl, but we're good friends, he and I. I try not to talk about BeBe in front of him, because I don't want him to get jealous and think he's a rebound. It's a different kind of relationship. But I do love him very much, and I know he loves me back -- he spoons, and looks at me with that open, sweet face, and he follows me around like a puppy. Right now, he's beside me, snoring as I type. And I know that as soon as I go to bed, he'll put his chin on my hand and give me lots of licky kisses (he doesn't get the eskimo kiss thing) and we will fall asleep, and he'll wake me up way too early tomorrow morning for a cheek scratch. I'm awfully lucky that I had BeBe, and now I have Normie-Boo.
Find the Norman
Because they taught me that sure, we take care of pets, but really -- they take better care of us.
Thirty-three down, 64 to go.