It’s horrible, losing someone you loved.
It’s also horrible, losing someone you hated.
Ray opened the back door and walked into the kitchen. He shook his head. I hugged him hard. True, the tears in his eyes were more abundant than the tears in mine, but still, I was a little damp. I was sad. Truly sad.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He looked at me. “You hated him.”
“But I love you and the girls, and you loved him.”
I never weighed him, but Ernie had to be well under 5 pounds, soaking wet. Like the eldest of our 3 (now 2) cats, Izzy, he was a Cornish Rex, tiny (yes, rat-like, you’re not the first to think/say it, here he is on his favorite perch, the stove) and almost hairless. Sort of like the cat in Austin Powers, which is a related breed called a Sphinx.
Ray bought Izzy when we first started dating. I was very allergic to cats, and couldn’t spend much time at Ray’s condo around his original cat, Tigger, a manx mix. Ray’s also got allergies so when he went looking for a cat to keep Tigger company, he did some research and found the Cornish Rex breed. (Because they are almost hairless, Cornish Rexes are supposed to carry fewer allergens. Who knows — ultimately my allergies to all of our cats dissipated, along with my one good excuse for getting rid of them.)
Others may have called her a rat-cat, but Ray fell in love with Izzy, even wrote a short story in which she ruled the world.
Tigger hated Izzy. She hated me. She didn’t like Ernie, who came along on Father’s Day, 10 years ago this Sunday. Tigger wasn’t so crazy about anyone else, either, except Ray. She did give us the ultimate gift by dying of liver cancer just days before Annabelle was born. I don’t know what we would have done otherwise, since by that point Tigger was regularly snapping at young children.
Tigger was gone, leaving her toys, water bowl and cat box to Izzy and Ernie. Izzy’s a mild soul with drippy pink eyes (cat herpes) and a whiny meow. But Ernie (even I have to admit it) had personality. The breeder was horrified at the thought of Ernie going outdoors (risk of sunburn — that’s how little hair he had), but you couldn’t keep him in. He owned our street, strutting down the middle of the blacktop like it was, well, a catwalk.
And Ernie was a hunter, a horror I’d never before experienced, having grown up cat-less. (My parents knew it was true love not because I didn’t care that Ray was a Republican, but because I didn’t care that he was a Cat Person.)
Each spring — but particularly the spring I was pregnant with Annabelle — Ernie brought his prey into the kitchen. Some cats (like LuLu, our youngest) will bring in a live bird and let it go, but not Ernie. Not if he could help it. Ernie regularly left just the beak, feet and feathers as evidence of his meal. (I’ll never get the sound of him crunching down on a bird skull out of my head.)
My anxiety at an all-time high, concerned over all those germs cats (not to mention birds) carry, the pregnant me had a couple of unpleasant run-ins with Ernie (I will say no more, let us not speak ill of the dead, or, frankly, of me) that cemented our relationship, or lack thereof.
Then Annabelle was born, then Sophie, and it got harder and harder for me to hate any of our cats as I watched them develop relationships with the girls, relationships the cat-less me had never had. (And never will have, I stand by that even though I’m happy for AB and Sophes.)
Annabelle carries LuLu from room to room, just like the fictional Olivia the Pig carries her cat. Sophie can’t lift LuLu, but until this morning I regularly found her with an armload of Ernie, the cat blinking patiently as Sophie inevitably lost her grip around his slender waist and he tumbled to the ground.
He always landed on his feet, of course. ‘Til this morning, when the neighbor’s dog literally snapped him in half, breaking his spine and leaving Ray with little choice but to put him to sleep.
“Let’s just wait ’til Annabelle asks where he is,” Ray said this afternoon, when we were discussing what and when to tell the girls. “I figure that’ll take a week.”
I don’t think so. But for once, I’m keeping my mouth shut.