When our school secretary lured me into the principal’s office one day in 2009, scooped you up from behind the desk, and placed your little kitten body in my hands, I knew I’d just been handed a lifetime commitment.
You were a little dumpster kitten, found scavenging behind the cafeteria, and called for a few brief hours “Panther” in honor of the school mascot. I knew better.
You were put into my hands on September 11th, a barely tended wound of a date on the American psyche, so I set out to find the name of a life lost to give to you. There were a few I found on the memorial website and tried out on you. The one that stuck, that came to fit you, was of a man named Carl M. Flickinger.
Just over six years later, when I held you in my hands for the last time, and the vet did what she had to do, and your seemingly robust, but secretly frail body breathed its last, your life, like your namesake’s had been cut short, but my commitment remained.
It’s the human burden to see ahead, to understand what is coming, to know that each furry friend we bring into our lives will break our heart. I knew you would do that to me, and I took on that future pain and loss, knowing I would get years of joy beforehand. Well, they weren’t enough years, but you were a joy. You were funny and cute, and you pumped new energy into the cat community in my house, to the occasional annoyance of Kali, Ivy, Perch, and Morph.
You went through the rituals that all well cared for cats go through: strange people poking you in strange places, needles that would keep you healthy, always with dignity and not much in the way of fear or fuss.
When the inevitable Cone of Shame had to be worn (garnering you the temporary nickname ‘lampy’) you took full advantage of the fact at the food bowl.
This September 11th is, was, would have been, your seventh ‘gotcha day.’ I thought we would have many more years together, years more of attention seeking while I try to read, years more of your ineffective attempts at smothering me in my sleep, but it was not to be. Six years was all we got. It’s not fair, like life isn’t fair, but this is even more unfair because you were so young, and until the last few weeks so vigorous.
I regret I didn’t realize earlier that you were not feeling well. I regret my first clue of your illness was picking you up off the TV stand, dropping you to the floor and your not landing on your feet. I regret that it took me days of you laying in the same spot for it to finally dawn on me that something was really wrong. But what I don’t regret is taking on that burden and responsibility. I know I gave you a happy, lazy spoiled cat life when you could have been a desperate stray struggling to survive and dying a lot younger than you did.
For the rest of my life September 11th was bound to be a somber day, but now the sadness is more personal for me, and I hope I have some small insight into what many families go through every day on this date.
So this is your ‘Gotcha Day’ Flick. I love and miss you, buddy.