The brain likes order. It’s why we love jigsaw puzzles and a perfect ocean wave. The crisp feel when two cardboard pieces connect just so, the calm roll of a blue-green curled tube of water gliding to the shore. Order comes in many forms.
When order begins to break down, it can start with the brain directly. A seizure, such as when a loved cat shows her age and you know the end is near.
Hold on to the moments of peace and joy, and the thought that she has traveled a long and winding road with loving homes.
You might say that cats are more agents of chaos than of order. But for Kali, she was order at a crucial time in my life, when I was starting to shed some anchors after college.
I adopted her in Missoula in my post-college years, when my friends Peter and Roni emigrated to New Zealand. I took in Kali and their rice cooker, and both fit my life perfectly. For the first time, I was living on my own without roommates; a seemingly-ideal commune of four old friends had disintegrated for various reasons, and when the landlord dissolved our lease without cause, I found that an apartment of my own was the right path.
Kali wasn’t a demanding cat, nor was she particularly affectionate. But she was happy, and allowed me to give her attention, and added a spark of life to my one-bedroom apartment (300 Strand, Missoula, MT, part of an old brick house partitioned into apartments perfect for young adults). It was in many ways a gentle transition to an adult life. I had a full-time job with Verizon Wireless that paid well, and now I had both a cat and a kitchen appliance other than a microwave. For a time, two of the other three apartments and studios were occupied by friends: my best friend since childhood, Vaughn, and another friend who was close for a time before she dropped us all and moved on to another world.
(That last might sound bitter; it definitely is, but what’s a memoir titled “Kali” without a little gratuitous destructive venting?)
Scratch that parenthetical. I’m letting it go. The girl was always just passing through our world and we amused her for a time, but she never really connected to us beyond a crush on Vaughn, and I was just Vaughn’s friend to her. Life goes on, and friendships come and go. Cats treat you the same, though, as long as you feed them and are kind. There’s a lesson there, somewhere.
But to return to the point. A home with a cat is definitely an adult thing. I loved (love) Kali. She must be 16 or 17 years old now, maybe even 20. When I left Missoula, I left Kali in the care of my parents in their comfortable 1950’s ranch house on 80 acres in Hamilton, and she’s been there ever since, as my childhood cats and dog gradually crossed the Rubicon (because I still can’t bear to talk about pets, you know, dying).
Today, I heard from my mom that Kali has had another seizure.
I’m not there in person, so I can’t say good-bye. I asked my mom to give Kali a kiss for me. It might soon be time to gently shepherd her to the Elysian Fields. Another spirit transmuted out of flesh and fur.
It doesn’t get easy to think about love and loss. Someday my daughter will face this fully, probably with our current cat, Maia, with whom she has really bonded in the last year or so. A patient cat who has allowed Paloma to explore interacting with animals. There’s a silken, golden bond between cats and humans; never take those bonds for granted.
Yes, there is a circle of life, and there is an order to be found in that circle. It doesn’t mean I won’t cry when Kali finally leaves us.
But for now, I’ll just think of the quiet nights when she would sit on my lap and let me pet her while I watched a soccer game on TV in my apartment in Missoula, finding my way towards independence and the ability to move on.
Love you, Kali. Be at ease.
4 thoughts on “Kali”
Lovely sentiment beautifully expressed.
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Thank you. She really is a lovely cat.
Hers was not a happy kittenhood. I think she was adopted and abandoned by a neighbor a few blocks away. I think she survived by the kindness of people who took pity on her.
Our next door neighbor at the former nunnery on Woodford Ave was the most reliable food depot for her, and so she never strayed too far. But our neighbor’s big heart adopted another stray—one that Kali never liked. Kali drifted away, but never too far. She started looking thin. Our neighbor was worried.
I remember the day we opened our back door and said, “okay Kali, come on in.” She did! I called the number on her tag and a man answered the phone. He said his daughter had adopted her I think 4 years prior, but that his daughter moved away and that he assumed Kali was dead. I asked if he minded us taking her in, and he told us to suit ourselves. And we did.
We went out bought the accoutrements of cat ownership and she took to us. We loved that cat. My only regret about upending our lives and moving to New Zealand to this day is leaving Kali. The only thing that made that decision bearable was the fact that you were the only interloper in our home that she gravitated to. She may very well have had a crush on Vaughn, but from our perspective she had a crush on you.
I’m so grateful to you and your parents for giving her a good and stable home all these years. As a couple of newlywed recent university grads, we weren’t quite ready to provide that.
Here’s hoping for a peaceful, painless, and quick journey.
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I didn’t see Peter’s account till just now, I’m so glad to know more of Kali’s history. She’s still with us, at least a week after Devin’s blog post, quite weak but still able to enjoy lap time.