I’m not a cat person, really. Or much of a pet person in general.
Sure we always had cats or dogs or hamsters or even the occasional bunny around the house.
I have some pretty cool stories about Husky (the dog that got mistaken for a wolf), or Columbo (the dog that could see ghosts) or Tuffy (the dog that redirected traffic).
So I enjoyed pets all my life – but they were family pets or owned by one of the sibs.
I only had one pet before River and Rayn – a duck named Richard.
Richard (never Dick the duck – don’t even try it) was a result of a second grade class experiment with heat lamps and eggs. He didn’t make it through the fire that took our house near the end of that school year.
And so another thirty years before I took in another pet.
Technically River and Rayn are family pets, belonging (if cats can belong, which they can’t) to both Catherine and I. But it was pretty much unspoken agreement that I was a little more Rayn’s, because, well, she chose me.
When we were at the foster home checking out the rescued kitties, Rayn came and sat in my lap – something apparently she didn’t do to strangers. And River immediately went to Cath and started playing with her.
Leaving no question that these kitten siblings were coming home with us.
In the early days, Cath was a bit jealous, as Rayn would cuddle in my lap but not hers. Rayn was very particular, and had to be the chooser – Cath’s attempts to force a lap sitting were rebuffed.
But when the girl decided that my wife was okay – from then on they were fast friends.
In fact, Rayn rivaled me in some areas for Cath’s affection. My wife, ever ready to be a guest of James Lipton, always made clear that her favorite sound was my laugh.
I was informed one evening that her second favorite sound was Rayn’s purr – a deep rumbly purr that shook the mattress with the force of its contentment.
Rayn’s favorite position in the night was pushed up between my shoulder and my neck, where we could feel each other’s pulse, and match the rhythm of each other’s breathing.
With her body pressed to my ear, that purr of hers would make my skull vibrate. One would think such a racket would prevent sleep – but it was a soothing racket, a joyful noise as it were.
I was thinking about that purr today as I held her in my lap. It had been nearly two weeks since she stopped eating and drinking; her bones stuck up through her skin, her legs too wobbly to support her for more than a few steps at a time.
And that purr, that monster roar of satisfaction, had been greatly diminished – she simply didn’t have the strength for it. Cath could hear it only when putting her own ear to Rayn’s emaciated belly.
We sat together, Rayn in my lap, Cath leaning in, River making slow passes up and between us – giving up his normal rambunctiousness for a respect, somehow understanding the weight of the moment.
It was a vigil, that sitting, waiting for the time to arrive so we could deny it, then face it.
She let me carry her to the car – Rayn did not like to be carried; she went where she wished when she wished. But she hadn’t the strength to resist my arms, and I hadn’t the strength to allow any other means of transport.
The receptionist wanted to take a picture, she thought we were so cute sitting in the waiting area – me with the cat sprawled across my lap on into Catherine’s arms. That was another pleasure of Rayn’s – to find a way to be in physical contact with both of us at once.
The receptionist wanted to take a picture.
I wanted to run screaming.
I wanted to rail and cry.
I wanted to be back home lying in bed watching tv, with half the screen blocked and yet unwilling to shift that hot ball of fur scrunched up into my neck into a better position.
But today wasn’t a day for my wants.
I got to hold her at the end; Cath as well. A last chance to feel her pulse, to synch my breath with hers.
That last breath was a purr, not deep rumble, but a final sigh.
I’m not much of a cat person, but I will readily admit that I was and am a Rayn person.
There was something about that girl, who made me aware of my own pulse…
Who synched me with her breath of life…
Who helped me understand the rumble of contentment…
Who gave me the purr of just sitting still and knowing…
Just my thoughts,