This is a post about a boy.
It’s about a boy cat. A boy cat named Leo. Leo looked like a dollar-store plush toy. With unkempt fur and unmatched temperance and a meow too meager for his mass, Leo was Marie’s first best friend, really, a best friend with crooked whiskers and dark brown tabby stripes. A few months ago, Leo got sick.
Not long after, Marie had to say goodbye to her boy, Leo.
We bought special food to make him well, and sometimes he ate it. Sometimes, he just sat next to the bowl. Marie sat with him in the kitchen. She’d place the bowl in front of him, and move it when he moved, to keep it in front of him.
Marie wanted to give Leo every chance.
She held the food in her hand or poured it on the floor and sometimes he ate it. But mostly, he didn’t.
He didn’t get better. He got more sick, and skinnier, and weaker. So Marie lifted Leo off the ground and onto the couch next to her and held him close. He lay with eyes squinted the way cats do when they’re sleepy, but with labored breath.
Marie’s boy had a massive tumor in his belly. He also had a massive heart. He was a gentle giant who challenged my position as the house’s alpha male. He’d knock over any unattended cup of water and greet Marie in the morning with a demure meow that defied his size.
He gave Marie the kind of faithful love I hope she’ll always recognize around her.
Saying goodbye, as you can imagine, was heart-breaking for her.
The girls mourned together in ways I’ll keep private. Their cousin came over and there was a lot of closed-door time together. She’s had to say goodbye to pets, too. They did emerge eventually, and took to crafting to, as Grace said, “take our minds off things.”
They wound up with things like this.
You might remember also the Jabba the Hut Grace made me. That came out of that day, too.
As days wore down and I saw less gumption in Leo, less resolve to stand up and eat, even, I took a moment, scratched his chin, and thanked him. I thanked him for his loyalty. I thanked him because even under the heavy-handed affection of a toddler, he never hissed and he never scratched.
I thought of that night so long ago I saw him and his three siblings perched on a curb just waiting for me. That’s a story, too. It’s a story for another day, though.
This post is for Leo, and Marie. And the way the cat guarded the girl’s door, and how the girl could always count on the cat for company when she was sick, or just felt sick, doing homework. He’d cuddle up even when Marie was doing nothing at all. He’d always be there.
Susan Zutautas of Everything Susan and More blog asked if it would be okay to challenge me to tell about why I write. Well, this is. Stories like Leo’s, and Marie’s. I write because my mind thinks in 400-600(ish) chunks of blog, for a community of readers and writers who come here and read and comment.
It might seem so – but blogging isn’t really narcissistic.
It’s a contribution to a community. Sure, you write a story to tell your story, or your kids’, or their pets’. But after you put it out there … you want to hear from everyone else. The post is the main course, and the comments? They’re the side dishes around the table.
I hit publish … and wait – for what you have to say.
Today, tell me your Leo story. Rather than tell us how things ended … tell us what made them less a pet and more a friend, in your comments to this post.
As for the ‘why we write’ challenge …
I’ll challenge these bloggers to do the same. I haven’t asked them if they’d accept – instead, it’s up to them, and I’ll give them their shout-out here.
Sandy Ramsey, of Mother of Imperfection blog
Tamara Bowman, of Tamara Camera blog
Laurie Smith, of Adventures in Writing blog