Porches and summers go together.
One geriatric gent savored eleven summers porchside…but 2017 would be a different summer altogether.
We don’t know much about the path that led Cornell to his porch. With his wise, wizened face, perhaps he’d pursued his Ph.D at Princeton, only to be wooed away to Ithaca for post-doctoral research. With his sweet spirit, maybe he’d left that post-doc to donate his life to licking kittens.
Maybe he had a family. Maybe he had a mentor. Maybe he had adventures we can’t imagine, intellectual or otherwise.
All we know is that this brainy, balmy-hearted boy ambled his way to the perfect porch eleven years ago.
The year was 2006. Cornell had just been passed over for the Nobel Peace Prize. Justin Timberlake was bringing important matters back, while Gnarls Barkley was going Crazy, and then we all joined Gnarls when Facebook sprang into our lives.
Cornell, though, had one matter on his mind: the quest for “Carmella.”
Carmella will be our name for Cornell’s hero, his human haven, the great love of his life. If cats naturally have radar for the people they need, Cornell had Ivy League-level antennae for his inamorata. Carmella was The One. Carmella was The Answer. Carmella was Cornell’s best friend in the making.
And “the making” didn’t take long to get made. Carmella was that rare angel-human who heard the meow and made it her mission to love — lavishly. When Cornell, already “older” and utterly in need, arrived with his begging bowl on Carmella’s porch, Carmella cherished him, immediately.
For the next decade-plus, Carmella loved Cornell in every way. Despite her fixed income, she had Cornell neutered and vaccinated, providing for him faithfully. She called him “Pistad,” Italian slang that she says can mean whatever you want it to mean — in this case, “Baby,” or “Cutie.”
In the winter, Carmella would enclose the porch with plastic to keep in the warmth. Lambertville Animal Welfare helped by providing cat houses filled with straw for Cornell and company (didn’t you already guess Carmella had a whole fraternity of felines depending on her love)? Tabby’s Place provided donated food.
But the greatest nourishment in Cornell’s heart and belly was the love of one Carmella. When her car pulled away, Cornell would sit on the porch, gazing out into the street until she returned. When she did, he ran out to greet her.
Now let’s stop the story for a second. Can you imagine being an old, grizzled guy; long in tooth and serious in expression; not as cute as you once were, and far, far from the days of babyhood…and finding someone who looked at your squashed ear and aged eyes and saw only 100% pure, lovable Baby-Cutie-Pistad?
Would it feel like a miracle?
Would it seem too good to be true?
Would you be terrified to lose such an otherworldly love?
I confess I might. Such unconditional acceptance and affection are, frankly, not of this world.
But Cornell, being a cat, and therefore in a league far, far beyond our meager brains, had no such insecurities. He found love; he loved being loved; and he lived into it gracefully.
Cornell was not concerned with his GPA. Cornell was not angsting over whether he knew all the bands on the Billboard Hot 100. Cornell did not need a fidget spinner.
Cornell was cherished for exactly who he was, and he knew that was exactly as it should be.
But eleven years into this porchly paradise, Cornell started collecting conditions. This toasted marshmallow of a cat was looking a little crisp around the edges. The outdoor life he’d loved was taking its toll on his aging body, and it was increasingly clear that Cornell needed medical care.
You might say Cornell has gone from porch to porch, as he now holds court in the Tabby’s Place lobby. He’s quiet, pondering physics and philosophy in his elbow-patched jacket, but happy, letting us love the stuffing out of him each day.
He’s also in the right place. We’re still sorting out Cornell’s collection of conditions, but they include a heart murmur, dreadful teeth, a cyst on his neck, chronic ear issues, wonky liver values, and hyperthyroidism.
Whatever’s on his syllabus, Cornell will get the care he needs to savor as many more summers as felinely possible.
Carmella is planning a visit to her Cornell as soon as her car is running properly. In the meantime, her boy waits, peaceful, adored, and healthy, gazing…always gazing out in gratitude, love and anticipation.
This is education far beyond the Ivy League.
This is love.
This is what we live for.
Thank you, Carmella and Cornell. You are showing us wisdom in its truest form.
Thanks to Lambertville Animal Welfare for the photos of Cornell pre-Tabby’s Place.