I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner. This is a fancy way of saying that I need to see and touch when I am trying to learn a new thing, or when I’m trying to recall a memory. Photographs are a case in point.
Arthur and His Mammeh
Arthur has been on my mind even more than usual…we adopted him when he was barely 5 weeks old, in 2001. He was far too young to be away from his cat mama, but the woman who owned the cat mama was trying to give away the litter, so she brought Arthur and his siblings with her in a cardboard box – to a Pampered Chef kitchen show, of all things. I was there with my friend Katie Weidemaier. Our cat Sarah had died of congestive heart failure some months prior, and our other cat, Jenny, was pining away…and I knew that if Jenny was to survive, she would need a companion, so I started looking for another cat. I had not lived with a male cat for quite a few years, and I really didn’t want another male. However…Arthur grabbed hold of my heart and held on tight – and you can see why:
This photo was taken shortly after we adopted Arthur. He was tiny. He couldn’t drink replacement formula on his own, so I had to feed him with an eyedropper around the clock for the first month we had him. I had to use a warm washcloth to mimic a mother cat’s tongue – there was no way that I was going to do that particular job with…well, you understand, right? He slept under my chin, curled up on my chest…and sometimes he tried suckling the moles on my neck, thinking they were mama cat nipples.
He grew rapidly, and he was delightful. Our kids had a tiny armchair that my mother gave them when we first built our house, and Arthur co-opted it as his own…
Arthur, age 1 year
We did a little research, based on our observations: Arthur loved to drink from a running faucet (usually in the bathtub) – a characteristic of Maine Coons. Arthur’ had a luxuriant tail and large head and ears, and he grew to be a very big cat – and a very tall cat – all led to the conclusion that he was likely at least part Maine Coon. That, and the character trait of imprinting on a small, select group of His People – Maine Coons, like Akitas, will tend to form very close bonds with one’s immediate family and seldom like anyone else. In Arthur’s case, this mean that he loved myself, my husband, our two children, and my in-laws…and my adopted sister Lisa. He hated anyone else and would usually hiss and growl if, for example, my parents or anyone else from that side of my family came over to visit.
I think because I hand-reared him, he imprinted on me more than anyone else. He was my Sweet Babboo, and his favorite occupation was sitting with me anywhere I was. He typically slept between my husband’s feet or against my back…and he loved His Girl and His Boy:
Arthur and me
Arthur and Paul
Arthur and His Kate
Arthur and His Rhys
When my adopted sister Lisa died, I had to deal with her estate and organize a memorial service for her friends in Salt Lake City, where she had been living. When I flew back to Alaska, I was a wreck. I had to organize a memorial service for Lisa here in Anchorage, where she had lived for many years, and where she still had many friends…once that was over and done with, and her ashes were interred beside those of her birth parents and brother (long story, for another time), I took the train to our homestead for a week of healing and rest. I was beyond a wreck by then. Arthur came with me for moral support and to be my Mental Health Counselor. He was very good at that.
Arthur getting a tan on the stairs at Sherman City Hall
Our house on the homestead is rather homely but comfortable. My adopted sister died on March 3, 2010, and it wasn’t until sometime in late April or early May that I was able to get away for my much-needed week of rest. By that time, breakup had begun and the snow was too rotten for me to walk anywhere even if I had wanted to go for a walk. The sun was lovely and warm, and this was Arthur’s favorite spot – soaking up rays on the stairs. I would sit in the rocking recliner and he would sit on the stairs and just look at me, as if to say, “It’s okay, Mama…you can grieve. I got yer back.” At night he would sleep right next to me. In fact, that whole week he was never more than a couple of feet away from me at any given time. He would go outside to use the Great Outdoor Litter Box, but he would always come right back inside to be with me. At that time he was nine years old. I really do not think that I would have survived that period of my life without my Sweet Babboo…
Arthur lived another seven years, and died at the ripe old age of sixteen. He had lived with Jenny, our tabby female, who in her turn died at age nineteen…then Arthur was lonely, so we adopted Jane Pamela, an orange tabby female…and when Miss Jane died in her turn, we adopted Miss Lydia, as Arthur was terribly lonely…
Arthur and his Lydia
When we adopted Miss Lyds, Arthur was fourteen and it was evident that we might not have him a for very much longer…but Lyds gave him another two very happy years. Unfortunately, as is the case in far too many elderly kitties, Arthur developed kidney failure…and he died on July 2, 2016. This is what I wrote that day…”My Sweet Babboo is gone….I feel like my heart has been ripped out….”
So to make a long story even longer…this is what I feel when I look at these photos: I feel richly blessed…and like every nerve ending in my body is on the outside of my skin, on fire.
We adopted Miss Lyds in August 2015, and when Arthur died, she was as bereft as I was…and then came Lazarus, who was born four days after my Sweet Babboo left me…I think Arthur would approve.
Lazarus, age 11 months, Lydia age 2 years, 10 months
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by the ever-talented Kristi Rieger Campbell of Finding Ninee. This week’s prompt was “When I look at this photo, I feel…”