The day after the ambulance whisked away my father, his cat Calico vanished.

CalicoMy mother (already worried about Dad) tasked me to find the missing feline. Talking to the neighbors netted little results. As days passed, mother’s worrying increased. Pointing out that the food bowl in the garage and the litter pan showed nightly activity did little to ease her anxiety. A week after my 93 year-old father was admitted to a convalescent home, Calico reappeared at the patio door. I scooped her up carrying her inside.

After a bit of persuasion on my part, Mother agreed I should take Calico to visit Dad.

I carefully skirted around the clusters of curious patients who were staring curiously at the cat carrier. My steps slowed as I entered the doorway to Dad's room. The patient laying in Bed B bore little resemblance to the man I called “Daddy.” Taking a deep breath, I stepped inside, closing the door behind me. Setting the carrier on the bed, I drew Calico gently from inside. Dad was sleeping; his thin arms lay on top of the covers. Calico sniffed his hand, crawled up and settled in the crook of his arm.

Dad roused from his sleep.

“Mary Anne," he croaked. “You shouldn’t have brought her.” Even as he protested, I watched a smile play along his cracked lips and my heart soared. Pain had kept him out of touch with us for days; the presence of his beloved kitty brought him back. “Of course I should have brought her,” I replied, “you need to say goodbye to each other.”

His fingers stroked soft fur; Calico's contented purrs filled the room. Peace reigned. Stilled by his touch, Calico slept. My father nodded off as well. They lay slumbering together until the nurse swept into the room with his next round of medications.

Calico accompanied me twice more to see Dad. After each visit, she would withdraw into the Sun Room (my Dad’s favorite place).  Leaping onto his wicker chair each time, she curled up and snoozed.

The night the phone rang and the head nurse told us that Dad had passed, Calico ran into the bedroom, performing a ritual she had perfected over the years - traveling back and forth between the long, vertical blinds until they banged together. This was how she cued Daddy early in the morning to feed her and feed her NOW! Hopeful, I went to the pantry, popped open a can of Fancy Feast. Calico came into the kitchen; when she realized I was not her cherished human, she turned away.

After the funeral, Calico traveled back to my home. She hadn’t eaten much in nine days. I knew if her hunger strike went on much longer, she would be the first one of us to join Daddy. 

Sifting through the sizable stack of mail which had piled up during my absence, I came across a small envelope addressed by a familiar hand. It was a letter and the weight in my hand when I picked up the envelope suggested a recorded message from my father. Clutching it close to my heart, I raced upstairs to locate my tape player. Tears streaked down my cheeks as I listened to Dad’s final goodbye. Calico curled up next to me atop the bed and snuggled close.  Afterward, I lifted her onto my lap, telling her I would find a home with people who loved her just as much as he did. 

That night, she ate every bite of her cat food. 

She has since been adopted into a loving family. Her new name is Norma Jean.  I know she misses Dad, but she’s found peace is his passing. Now it is up the family he left behind to find theirs.

Mary Anne Miller

Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her websites include: www.kitten-rescue.com  www.feralcatbehavior.com Her latest work can be seen at www.felinexpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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