We get more than we pay for at Tabby’s Place.
But some days, we wish the price was not so high.
Saturday began with the news of Bob Barker’s passing.
If someone snipped the string between your heart and mind, you would say this was sad, but not tragic. He was, by all accounts, a good man. He enjoyed ninety-nine years. His “Price is Right” brought joy to generations of children home sick from school. His legacy includes Plinko, compassion for animals, and enhanced awareness of the price of detergent. His time on earth was abundant.
The mind says ninety-nine is a good deal.
The mind is a textbook, but we are storybooks. We grieve Bob Barker. We want more time.
Grief was greedy last Saturday. We did not have time to grieve the white-haired man with the prize wheel. We were given no discount on our own tears. Before the day was over, two of our best friends would leave us.
Boom always seemed to have one foot out the door, one scrawny grey chicken leg wiggling through the curtain between life and death. He laughed at his frailty, a Vaudeville act with his own bones.
From the hour of his arrival, Boom was too costly for those who pinch pennies. He had diabolical diarrhea that eluded interventions. He had the body type of a bendy straw. Yet the years piled up like gold, and we forgot that Boom was fragile.
He was never what you might call “healthy,” but he preferred to answer to other names anyway. Hooligan. Rapscallion. Angel Imp. Punk Rock of Ages. He was the Mad Hatter with the price tag still on his top hat. He was four pounds of wry survival.
He was a stick insect who treated every day like a stickup. We gave him all our valuables.
We gave him our laughter, the only appropriate response to this duke of delight. We gave him our affection, rubbing that perfect pewter belly for luck.
We gave him ourselves, and he took us as we were. Boom loved you when you felt like a new nickel. But when you felt like a wrinkled three-dollar bill, Boom grinned and suggested you go print some funny money together — you know, to help bacon-deprived kittens. Named Boom.
We gave him our years, and he took us outside time, where love shouts bawdy songs at sickness and fear.
Boom didn’t always feel well, but he always felt his worth. Creatures fifty times his size bowed before him. For over a decade, Suite A’s silver dollar shone at the center of our attention.
In his sunset, we promoted Boom to Quinn’s Corner. He relished the real estate and approved of the orange window seats. He swapped old stories with fellow members of the Decade Plus Club, Elijah and Steven.
He lived and lived and lived and never counted the cost. Playing chicken with gravity, he zoomed like a dragonfly over our heads. Playing for keeps against death, he filled his wallet with years against odds.
Playing the role of Best Friend , he filled his heart with oddballs. Our love was free, but Boom would have paid any price. The one thing he valued more than ridiculousness was love.
On Saturday, love meant letting go.
It is ridiculous to feel cheated after ninety-nine. It is ridiculous to still be starving after a feast of years. It is ridiculous to complain to Santa Claus when you knew all along that every day with Boom was a gift.
Very well, then; we are ridiculous. Very well; you grow ridiculous when you have been loved this well.
But Saturday was greedy for our tears, and Saturday was not finished.
Careful creatures count the cost of loving fragile creatures. We care too much to be cautious at Tabby’s Place. We knew Samantha was ancient. We saw her disease ledger, longer than a CVS receipt. We might have “prepared ourselves” for the day that is always too early.
We might have, if we had counterfeit hearts.
But Samantha had the deed to our love, and we had mortgaged everything to sit at her feet.
The lounge’s Great Lady gave us a great deal of thought, taking free samples of sweetness for years before committing.
She was hesitant but wholly in control. She was timid, but trusted her own timing.
Finally, she was all in, buying club-size packs of our kisses.
She was the hyper-serious friend who turns out to be the funniest person you know, her wit as dry as freeze-chicken. She rolled her eyes at Fenek. She gazed upon food trays like a flotilla commissioned for her Golden Jubilee. She allowed mortals to believe her vision was cloudy, only to see us through our trials and tears.
Samantha, like Boom, was not the cat on a Walmart calendar. She was old and unashamed. Her fur was a little sticky, and her eyes were a little drippy. Her loveliness was a lot deeper than two dimensions.
She let us believe that our love made her beautiful, but she did not need any help in that area.
She knew her worth. She knew our devotion. She knew when the quest called her onward, even if we were not ready.
We don’t know what we’re going to do without her.
Tough minds would say we bargained for this. What did we expect, opening the vault of our hearts to creatures whose tab rarely tops two decades? Boom and Samantha lived long and loved well. Why should we weep, when we got more than we paid for?
How can we explain to those who don’t know?
We can only hope that they will someday feel this beautiful bankruptcy. We pay the price we cannot bear when we love so much.
We are tycoons in tears.
Samantha is still with us. And, making outrageous faces over her shoulder, doing the chicken dance until we laugh again, is Boom.
They were worth the worst Saturday. They are worth our best memories.
Love is worth everything it asks.