In the wee hours before dawn, many, many, many years ago, friends and I were sitting in the courtyard of their apartment building, quietly talking. Across the way, a single light was on in a building that backed to my friends’. The walls of the lighted room were painted red and there was an American flag and a Nine Inch Nails poster hanging on the wall. On the window sill there sat a cat. It was too far and too dark for me to make out anything but a cat-shaped silhouette, but I felt comforted someone else was up as late as us and that they had a cat, and I wondered aloud what the “flag people” were like.
About a year after that night, my roommate, Lisa, and I moved into the apartment complex across the street from my other friends. Tigger, still a kitten, moved with us. As we were moving things in, some guys came around and invited us to a party later that night across the way. So we went to the party, happy to already be making friend with our neighbors. As I was standing around the dining room, marveling that all four walls were lined with beer cans, floor to ceiling, Lisa came racing up to me from a hallway and told me I had to go into one of the bedrooms, where the “most beautiful cat” was hiding from the party. So I followed Lisa to the bedroom and you guessed it: red walls, a flag, and a NIN poster. And the most beautiful cat in the world sitting in the middle of the bed, seeming a little put out by the party but accepting pets from me and Lisa.
Some months later, the owner of the cat announced he was getting rid of her. I couldn’t figure out why, but begged him not to take her to the pound and instead took her myself, planning to find her a home. I quickly realized part of the reason he didn’t want her was probably because she was in heat, which was really pretty annoying. I also quickly found her to be very aggressive: she tried to kill our senior citizen cat, Eishel, and sparred with Tigger. This also made it hard to find someone to take her in, so I called some no-kill shelters, but I have this condition where it’s near impossible for me to tell a lie, and when I admitted she was aggressive, the no-kill shelters refused to take her. Eventually, although we didn’t want three cats, especially three that couldn’t get along, it became clear we were stuck with this beautiful but somewhat annoying cat, and I made an appointment to get her spayed.
I’ve often joked that the animal hospital got it mixed up and gave her a lobotomy when she went in for her spay, because Brachtune (by the way, the origin of her name is in this post) returned home a completely different cat. She was sweet and loving and not aggressive at all. Eishel was sort of ousted by Tigger and Brachtune and went to live with my parents, and I went on to spend 15 more years with Tigger and 16 with Brachtune, convinced I had the two most perfect cats in the world.
Regular readers know Brachtune’s been sick for a while. Like many cats, her kidneys started to fail, and she was hyperthyroid and anemic on top of it. She hadn’t been herself for a week or so and had stopped eating, so I took her in to the vet on Wednesday. After simply examining her, the doctor gave her only a couple of days to live, and after doing some bloodwork, urged me to delay no more than a day or two putting an end to her suffering, warning me her body was going to start to drastically fail very soon. So I took off work today and am spending all day with her, and am indeed watching her body shut down. She and Mark and I have to go to animal hospital at 7. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Part of the reason I loved Tigger so much was probably because I identified with him. Of the two cats I’ve had in my adult life, I think I am most like Tigger; our personalities were similar: independent, feisty, suspicious of strangers but fiercely loyal to loved ones, loud and gregarious at times but introspective at others. Convinced we’re always right. Proud, perhaps to a fault. Uncaring and largely unaware what other people think of us. A bit dual natured. Adventurous. Risk taking. Brachtune, on the other hand, is who I strive to be. It sounds corny, but I learned a lot from Brachtune, and it was mostly this: calm down and enjoy yourself. Love everyone. Tigger had a hard time making friends outside me and Mark, but everyone that met Brachtune loved her. She is just sweetness personified. Friendly, laid back, loving, affectionate, warm, caring…if everyone were like Brachtune, or even half as sweet as her, we’d have no wars. Tigger judged you. Brachtune only judges you on your propensity for petting her.
I just keep thinking a single thought: She’s too nice to die. I need her, true, but the world needs her. The world is a better place with her in it and will be missing something without her. She may have been small – by the end, tiny – but her value as a living being is so much bigger than her physical size. Sometimes it’s hard to see the good in the world around you, but Brachtune radiates goodness. I think it’s so hard for me to deal with because she was so happy, all the time, to be alive. I hate seeing life extinguished from someone who just enjoyed it so much.
Mark and I would constantly joke with Brachtune as she wedged herself between the two of us while we were watching TV or something: “Brachtune, cheer up. Why are you so depressed all the time? Why must you hold all your emotions in?” As she sat there purring like a machine and pawing at us if we stopped petting her for a single moment. Brachtune always seemed ecstactic. I think she may have had an MDMA problem. Except Brachtune didn’t need chemical bliss. It is just her nature to eminate – and soak up – love.
I have a favorite reading chair – regular readers have seen it in numerous photographs because Brachtune liked to share it with me – and I can be found in it almost every evening. When entering the sunroom where my chair is located, from the doorway at the opposite end of the room, Brachtune would saunter into the room, make eye contact with me, and start walking towards me, then start trotting, finally racing toward me at full gallop, holding my gaze the entire time, until she reached my chair and leapt onto my lap. I’ve tried and I can not think of a single more endearing thing in the world than the thought of Brachtune picking up speed as she got closer and closer to me. Every time.
A few years ago, Brachtune got underfoot and I stepped on her, breaking her leg. I felt terrible. The day I brought her home following her surgery, she was hopped up on painkillers and had to learn to walk with a pin in her leg, which had to hurt. I had to take her kitty carrier apart and lift her out of it because she couldn’t walk out of it. I did so and sat on the floor a few feet from her, feeling upset and hideously guilty. Brachtune looked me in the eye and dragged herself over to me, unable to use her hind legs, until she got to my lap, which she collapsed in, purring. I’ll never forget that. It’s rare you feel that loved.
But as much as she loves me, no matter how comfortable she was on my lap, or how fast asleep she was, or how long or short a time she’d been cuddled up with me, the second Mark walked into the room and sat on the floor, she’d bound up off my lap and race to him. Brachtune liked everyone, but she loved us, so much my heart bursts thinking of it.
Brachtune. Brachtunavitch. B-tune. The Toonse. Toonsie. Sweetheart. Sugarplum. Sweetpea. Dollface. Sweetness and Light. Lovebug. Purrbot. I love you and I miss you.