Three years fallow

Three years fallow

IMG_8794OK, God and humanity and felinity and the universe.

You’ve got me convinced:

The best things come unbidden.

Meet Bucca and her swirly, magical right eye.
Meet Bucca and her swirly, magical right eye.

Longtime readers of Felis Catus may have noticed a few things:

  1. I don’t particularly like writing about myself, unless it’s with reference to my husband Marcus Mumford or my soulmate cat Webster;
  2. Webster died in 2013, and;
  3. I’ve scarcely mentioned him since.

Longtime cat lovers — lovers of any ilk, really — will understand #3.

It’s been three years, almost to the day, since Webster left us. There are days when the pain is still so raw I pray to God to peel my spirit off the pavement. God does — every time — and the ache dives back under for a time.

Mostly, I’m able to be cerebral and spiritual enough about it that I’m OK. I know where Webster is and Who he’s with; I know I’ll see him again; I know that death will be swallowed up by life once and for all.

"Is it possible I've come right on time?"
“Is it possible I’ve come right on time?”

But sometimes, even now, even after three years, my heart swallows my head whole, and entire weeks go by when I can’t even look at the exquisite portrait Hope made of Webster.

Such is life this side of the veil. We don’t grieve as those without hope, but we do grieve, my Lord do we grieve.

When Webster died, well-meaning friends comforted me with assurances that I’d have another office mate. They were kind, if kind of unhelpful, and as it turned out, their predictions took on a weird cast.

I did get a new office mate, but Queen was as far from Webster as American Ninja Warrior is from Downton Abbey. Where Webster had been an ever-present empath, a comfort and a constant, Queen was consistent only in her combativeness, rewarding my affections with big, bloodying bites.

Still, she chose to come to my desk every single day. Perhaps hers was the song of “SNAP OUT OF IT!” When she died, I wept.

But Queen was never my anam cara, my soul friend, in the way that Webster was. I accepted that such a bond is an outrageous gift if it happens but once in a lifetime. I didn’t expect another office mate, not ever. I certainly wasn’t looking for one.

And then along came an odd-eyed empath of advanced vintage.

Working: Bucca's doing it right.
Working: Bucca’s doing it right.

Bucca — presumably named for sambuca — was already fifteen years old when she landed at Tabby’s Place. Her family had shrugged her off for no fault of her own. For her first few days in Quarantine, Bucca was stunned into submission. Then she realized what had happened.

And she was mad as hell.

Our staff is pretty friggin’ cool at Tabby’s Place, so it takes more than a few nips and scratches to get them talking. But, in the case of Bucca, they talked and agonized and played ten thousand tiny violins of self-pity. Bucca was beastly, untouchable, wracked with rage.

So it makes perfect sense that, when Bucca cleared from Quarantine, we moved this Genghis Khan of cats into…the Community Room. Visions of Queen II danced before my eyes woke me, screaming, in the night.

But Bucca had no interest in pillaging villages and puncturing humans. Mopey, mournful and iron in her introversion, she found a spot to turn her back on the world and not look back. If this was what life could do to her after giving fifteen years of her best, she was putting in her resignation. Check, please.

Bucca’s choice of desperation station? Behind my computer monitor.

"Three years? Pfft. I'd be worth a thirty year wait, woman."
“Three years? Pfft. I’d be worth a thirty year wait, woman.”

This had less than nothing to do with my presence, and everything to do with being a quiet, inaccessible spot. When my idiocy surged and I attempted to befriend Bucca, she reminded me that her days of making friends were over…probably.

But even though Bucca couldn’t bear the thought of cuddling another human, her voice betrayed her.

“Booooooo-ka.” I’d croon over the top of my monitor.

Shooting me her best side-eye, accompanied by a menacing air-swipe, Bucca would unintentionally make the sweetest sound this side of a harp. “Mrew.”

No combination of letters can capture the tuneful sounds of Bucca. But if Bea Arthur met Lea Michele, we might be close. At once extra-elderly and musical, bawdy and beautiful, Bucca’s voice sounds her age as well as her hope.

So we just kept talking.


If touched, she struck. If offered food, she hissed. OK. So we’d talk. For two, three weeks, we just talked. We talked about the moon. We talked about our shared violent hatred of the song Jack and Diane. We talked about how much fun it is to make dioramas. We talked about why there’s no singular “pajama.”

"This could work."
“This could work.”

And then May gave way to June.

“Mraa! Mraa! Mraaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Bucca was Bea-ing and Lea-ing with all her strength as soon as I entered the Community Room. Bucca was — on the floor? Walking? (I realized I’d never seen her out and about.) Bucca was running, young-cat-speed, at my heels, back to my desk.

Bucca was on my desk. Bucca was throwing the full force of all her soul and emotion into my body. Rubbing. Loving.


Bucca had decided to risk it again.
OK, lady. Let’s do this. I’m all in. Maybe you’ll hurt me too, hurt me bad. But I’m in. Dang, I’m in.

She’s been in my arms ever since.

"I'm all in."
“I’m all in.”

Although this was clearly a switch-flipping experience of sorts — one day she was out, the next she was all all all in — I don’t forget that Bucca comes by her caution honestly.

If a volunteer whips around the corner to my office, or the phone rings, or a kitten appears (I swear I am not making this up), Bucca will bolt back behind my monitor, her one Van Gogh-swirly eye peering out anxiously. Her fears haven’t all fallen like toy soldiers. She’ll snarl at me on occasion, and she becomes utterly incensed even now if I offer her treats. (Again, swear I’m not making this up. Being given three fish-shaped cookies = being pelted with three Molotov cocktails, clearly.)

So we’re taking it one day, one hour, one moment at a time. All I know is that Bucca certainly wasn’t looking to come to Tabby’s Place; I certainly wasn’t looking for an armful of empathic fur; but God does things that are kinder and more mysterious than we ask or expect or deserve.

May unbidden blessings overtake you today, kittens.

So I feel like a man behind a camera
Who waits patiently for something he won’t see
I need to stop giving suggestions and just illuminate the questions
That seems much more accurate to me
To keep the frame as wide as it can be

‘Cause all the love and friends and happiness that ever came my way
Revealed themselves the moment I stopped watching
‘Cause it’s not faith that comes from miracles, but miracles that come from faith
And I’m sure that they’ve got something in common
I know that they’ve got something in common

– Dawes, Something in Common


3 thoughts on “Three years fallow

  1. You are not him, you are yourself – and you make smiles and need attention and are trying and funny and wild and wonderful – as cats are. Sometimes it is all worthwhile again – to love only once in a lifetime is selfish when your love is so needed again. Bucca – you are a reason to enjoy every day again! (our Peanut) Forgive us for putting ourselves in your shoes – we are so happy for you and Bucca and love.

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