My husband/guest blogger Jamie “Punky” Buhr wanted to accommodate my photo tribute and I couldn’t resist. He’s only allowed on here once every couple of years though . . .
I wanted to provide proof of how much I loved my cat, and I think this does the trick:
I am opening myself up to well deserved ridicule, but I don’t regret the 3-4 hours I spent crafting this on a snowy drive home from Minneapolis last year. While the fact that I’m a little weird goes without saying, you don’t rework silly lyric after silly lyric, practicing multiple takes into the iPhone voice memo to get it JUST right, for some ordinary house cat.
My love affair with Baby AKA Fafa AKA The Striped Prince was one I never could have foreseen in 2003. I’ve always had a dislike for cats, especially when I met Lucas, who was Abbie’s cat. He didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms when I moved in, and it was clear he wanted no part of me once I was there. When Abbie decided she wanted to get another cat to keep Lucas company during the day, the conversation went something like this.
Me: You want to get another one of THESE?!?!
Abbie: Come on, this one will be more like our cat.
Me: Another Lucas…
I didn’t even go with Abbie to pick him out. I slept in, as I’ve often been known to do, and when Abbie arrived home she proceeded to tell me about our new cat “Antonio”. She had actually wanted this white Calico (breed talk) but “Antonio” would not let her get to the other cat. I still have dreams that she picked the other cat, and I’m so thankful Abbie saw what she saw in him. When someone from the shelter came to drop him off, I barely got a look at “Antonio” because he hid so quickly. After another few hours of still only having one cat, I turned to Abbie and said something like: “Great choice, we’re never going to see this one.”
Things began to change fairly quickly. One, his name was in constant flux, Antonio was quickly followed by Henry. But because he couldn’t meow, managing only a pathetic squeak whenever his mouth opened, we simply started referring to him as The Baby and eventually just Baby. A second thing that changed was his presence in my life. When it was just Abbie and I at home, Baby was a regular on the futon or in the windowsill. But whenever a stranger was in the apartment, he knew it before anyone and would wedge his body into hiding spaces I didn’t believe were physically possible, even after I had witnessed them firsthand.
One day I awoke and Baby was sleeping next to me. Actually, right on top of me. I think Abbie had left for an early run and it was just the two of us. He stared at me for a moment and then got into what would become his prime napping position; a perfect circle with his tail safely tucked away. I still remember trying not to make any sudden movements, as I didn’t want to blow this new-found closeness. My position on cats began to evolve. Well, not on all of them, pretty much only Baby who I eventually mostly started calling Fafa. Lucas and I were still barely on speaking terms, but Baby quickly became a constant companion. When you’re around someone or something for that amount of time, it’s hard not to fall in love. Especially when the cost is simply providing them your love in return. That love is now burned into my memory through countless images I hope will always endure.
The back window of our apartment on West 29th street was like his own personal Botanical Garden, when the sun illuminated our back porch he would spend hours just watching the world around him. This one of him in the window of Abbie’s apartment on the Upper East Side before we moved in together is perhaps my favorite image of him (of Lucas too, it’s hard to be mad at him right now):
I love it because it reminds me of everything that lay ahead in those next ten years Baby was in our life. I love the way he’s looking up into the sky. In that one look, those coming years always flash through my eyes. Our apartments, our cities, the dogs we did not yet have, the friends we did not yet know. I always think of my wedding day and then finally, of Leo. I’ll always be grateful that Baby lived long enough so that I have this photo:
I’m also grateful that nine of the ten years I spent with Baby were before we decided to have kids. For what seemed like so long, it was just the four of us, then the six of us, and finally the seven of us when Leo was born last May. I’m grateful there was a time where it was just us, because things change before you even have a chance to catch up. This became evident when I was scrolling through my iPhone a couple days ago, desperate to round up every picture on every device we owned in case Baby’s prognosis became worse. The vet said his kidneys were failing and there was an unknown growth on his liver, potentially cancerous. She called his blood work “scary”.
The pictures on my iPhone told how the story had changed. There were plenty of pictures that sprang up of him in New York, our move to Chicago, our old Sedgwick apartment, during Abbie’s pregnancy, and then they just stopped. I didn’t want to believe it, but as I furiously scrolled throw my library I knew what I was seeing. The day Leo was born, the pictures of Baby stopped. I knew it wasn’t intentional, but it was the emptiest I had felt since the first moment I learned just how sick he was. It wasn’t guilt that my love for him had dissipated (please see above video again) it was the simple reality that a new baby changes things more than you even realize. That is why I’m glad there was a time it was just us.
I will forever remember Baby because he was my first pet. He was the first animal I ever loved, the rare soul that always wanted to be around me, no matter how foul a mood I was in. There was rarely a time I could go 20 minutes on the couch without him eventually joining me. And if he wasn’t with me on the couch there was a good chance he was attempting to lure me off of it, either by bringing me a foam ball to play our favorite fetch game on the stairs, or by squeaking at me until I could ignore its cuteness no longer. It will take some time for me to get totally used to my life without that squeak, but I am no doubt a better person for having heard it for close to a decade. Although I know I will never forget the day I held his paw for the last time, as if fate was just making sure, hours after Baby breathed his last breaths, Leo took his first real steps across our condo floor. And like with so much of life, a chapter ends, a chapter begins.