They say that sometimes you adopt a cat, and sometimes a cat adopts you. When it comes to Billie, the latter is without a doubt true. In a room full of cats vying for our attention, Billie had a way of getting ours right away (cutest cat in the room, right here, guys; no need to look at those other clowns!). Within a week, she was with us in her new home.|
My wife adopted Billie when Billie was already eight and a half years old. Now please know that she was a young eight and a half; if I gave you the impression she was old when we adopted her, she would scratch me in my dreams for months. I remember the first time she went to the kitchen for dinner, her short legs churning so fast she could have made butter from cream. I couldn't believe how fast she moved, or that she was already eight and a half. I also couldn't believe how quickly she adapted to her new home. It was as if she had lived there for years. Right away she made one thing crystal clear: this was her home. There were other creatures and people in the home, but the house was hers.
From the beginning, she let us know there was no cat like her, and that the matter wasn't even remotely close. Her personality defies words; you would just have to have been around her to understand her. She was a beautiful cat--either black with white clouds or the other way around, depending on how you looked at her--but cross her and, oh boy, there would be hell to pay. She was afraid of nothing: nothing! We once had a stray dog inside. The dog weighed about seventy pounds. We had Billie back in her room while we were looking at the stray's tag for his owner's phone number. Billie, all nine pounds of her, managed to pry open the door, run up the hall, and swat the big dog on the nose. This was her house, and it always would be. If a bull came inside, the bull would have gotten the same treatment.
Billie could be as adventurous as she was fearless. She would get in anything that was open. She once climbed in the hamper ... and took a nap there. But when I went to take her picture, she woke and looked up at the camera to make sure I got her good side on film. If a box was open, she was going to investigate it. If there was a new pillow on the floor, she was going to lay on it. If paper was on the bed, she was going to crinkle it. It was her house, remember, and that meant everything inside was by definition hers, too.
At one point, Billie had to contend with four people in her house, one frog, two dogs (Sam and Peter), and another cat (Simon). I think it was around then that she just said the heck with it and spent most of her time on my office chair. If I was writing or teleworking, she would lay on the armrest; otherwise, she would lay on the cushion. In either case, the rule was that she was to be petted no less than once per hour. If I was already on the chair and she joined me, she would make one of her "entrances." She would climb the footrest, and then start her patented five second long, loud enough for the neighbors to hear meow. After five seconds the meow would turn into a kind of absurdly happy chirp, because she knew she was about to get some serious petting or brushing. For the next thirteen years, she would be my constant armchair companion. As I write this today, I simply cannot believe she isn't here beside me.
(But maybe she is. It wouldn't be the first or even the hundredth time she surprised me.)
Over the years, Billie has been called by a few monikers. Little. Little girl. Little head. Miss Bill. Boo-boo. I don't know how any of these names were formed, only that she had a say in each of them. I only came to call her boo-boo, the strangest of the names in my opinion, in the past four months. She seemed to like that one, maybe that I to this day don't know why I started calling her that. Maybe that one was completely her idea.
Billie (sorry, girl; I have to call you by your proper name here) had a strange ability. Whenever I was talking loudly or seemed at all upset, she would immediately brush up against me and start meowing to calm me down. What kind of creature does that? Amazing. I think sometimes she was an angel wrapped in a cat's body.
For most of her life, Billie was in good health. She was a little chunky (sorry, girl) for a few years, but her health was always solid. It was only in the last days of her life that she started having problems. Her kidneys were failing and she was having trouble eating and drinking. At the emergency vet on Friday, I was told her kidney's had essentially completely failed, her numbers so high the machine didn't return a number for them but instead the word MAX. I think now, looking back on things, she was keeping her pain to herself the past few months, but that it was there. In December, we lost our other amazing cat, Simon, and then, just eleven days ago, I lost my father. I really believe she was waiting for me to experience my other pain, especially waiting for me to get back from where I was staying while my father was dying, before she let go. She wanted one more time to calm me, to be there by my side.
I'm grateful we had thirteen years to get to know her. When we adopted her, I remember thinking that, at her age, we'd be lucky to have five years with her. I'm so glad we had so many more years with her than that.
Billie, you are the sweetest, most loving, loyal soul, and every moment with you was a joy. You're free now, little angel, to spread your wings in a new home. Come by and visit me in my dreams from time to time to let me know you're okay, and send me a sign if you can (I think you already have; I found, out of nowhere today, a penny with your birth year on it, and I literally never find coins).
You were and always will be amazing.
Billie, my sweet little girl, I simply can't believe it's been a year since we had to temporarily say goodbye to each other. I wanted for all the world to be with you in the emergency room clinic that night, but they wouldn't let me because of COVID. I wanted for all the world for you, because you did have to pass that night, to have passed with me in the car instead of with strangers. That bothers me to this day, and I think it always will. I want you to know that you are the sweetest soul I've ever known. Never once did I come to see you where you didn't completely light up at my presence, but I was the lucky one, I was the one who lit up whenever I saw you. You were the light. I dream often of all of you wonderful, amazing stars in my life: Tiger, Sugarfoot, Sam, Simon, and you, my little one. I dreamt just the other night of Simon. He visits me often in dreams. So does Sam. I want more visits of you, okay? I want you to let me know you are okay, and that you understand we'll be reunited one day. You gave us the second half of your life, and what a second half and what a life! You brought us smiles and joy and I never for one moment took for granted the time we had together. I miss spending time with you every single day, and I always will. Just know we love you, that you're always going to be daddy's favorite little girl, and that you are in every single way the most amazing and sweetest of souls. You were a true blessing in my life, and you always will be.
Hi, my Little Girl. It's been another year already. My dad said that the older he got the faster the years seemed to go by, and I get that now. I was thinking about something the other day, about how there is no counterpart to the worst thing in life: death. Having a child, graduating from college, scoring some great professional success--all of that pales when compared to losing a loved one. Then I thought about the time that we lost you. You didn't go out much, but one day you got out and I thought I'd lost you forever. I put up a reward sign right away and just hoped that the cold knot in my stomach was just that--and that it wasn't because I was sure deep down that you were gone. The next day, as I was on the phone with my dad, in the mid-afternoon, that knot colder and harder in my stomach and my heart aching, I heard Donna say, "Guess who's back!" That moment was as close a counterpart to the horror of death as I've ever experienced. The joy in that moment was so intense I felt for a moment what it might be like to live outside this plane, where loss and pain and death have no meaning. Thanks for that day, Little Girl, that moment that will live inside me forever as a reminder that good things, really good and amazing things, do sometimes happen.
I still sit at my chair and try to write most nights, but rarely do many words come anymore. Writing (fiction, at least) seems like just trying to come up with an interesting lie, one good enough for someone else to want to read in this world where there are far more instantly engaging activities than books, and I've grown tired of it--maybe even resentful. But those nights when you were by my side, which was every night that I came back here to write, it didn't matter if I found the words. We got to hang out, and it was great, because we were together, and I had a sense that everything would be okay. That sense has departed me now. Doubt I'll ever get it back. Peter, despite some health scares this year, is doing okay. He misses you, Simon, Sam and Andrew terribly, though. He needs a playmate, but Donna and I just can't go through anymore loss. Donna is doing well--still enjoying retirement and working hard. I think she misses the scalp massages you gave her, even if she won't admit it. That was so funny when you used to do that. I think you know it was, and that was one reason why you did it. This year, I missed you attacking the Christmas tree. I kept thinking about that when I was putting it together. You had such a playful side, Little.
I miss you every day. I miss you at my side, on the armchair, my constant companion. I miss your little legs running into the kitchen for dinner or treats. I miss how your eyes would light up every time I walked by when you were hanging out in the bedroom.
I just miss you, my Billie. You are a light that shall never stop shining, and if there's meaning in this universe, I will see you again. Until then, I'll see you in my best of dreams.