Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Alex the barn kitty

I'm not sure we even have a picture of Alex the barn kitty. She was a very typical tabby, one you've seen a zillion times before.

Here's how I met her....

My mother had been confined to nursing care with advanced Parkinson's Disease, leaving my father at home to deal with the household.

Part of the household involved my mother's legacy -- kindness to all animals, including the strays who were tossed by the roadside and wandered to the door. Naturally, most of those strays were cats and kittens.

My father abhorred and cursed them.

They were all wild, almost ferile, cats who came to the covered patio and devoured what my mother provided for them.

She, of course, could approach some. But no one else could.

I would joke that she had become the "cat woman," the crazy old lady who had more cats than she knew what to do with. My father just cursed -- and agreed.

Of course, that was all bluster, as I was soon to discover. When mother's Parkinson's progressed to the point that she was no longer able to get around, the caregivers fed the cats.

Dad, of course, continued to curse the felines that came and went in waves, depending on their reproduction cycles. As I visited, increasingly concerned at their numbers, I kept trying to count them.

Four, no there are eight, no there are six....

It didn't matter.

There seemed to be too many.

Mom went into the nursing home, and my visits to our Texas homestead became more frequent.

Dad and I would sit on the patio in rocking chairs, drinking a Coors and talking about our times.

He took it hard, abandoned in his seventies, not understanding really what had happened to my mother. And he found his friend.

Not me, his only child.

A kitten.

She came to him, full of love, and won his affection.

I first noticed her as she sidled up to his rocker, purring and rubbing on his legs.

He reached down and petted her.

"DAD!" I said. "A CAT?"

"Yes," he grinned. "This one is special. She's taken a liking to me."

And she had.

Alex, I discovered later, liked all male humans. But that was after Dad was gone.

Their relationship continued to grow, and Alex -- although remaining a scraggly, rough-coated, independent barn kitty -- loved Dad and he came to know her as the unnamed "cat" he liked.

When he met an untimely death, I took some things from the house that were special to me.

I brought the kitten home.

Anne named her Alexis, and you may already have read Lindsey's account of her full and satisfied life. She became a sleek, house cat who ruled the roost.

But from my perspective, she was an emotional tie to my father, the animal whose love we shared in a time that bridged generations.

When I petted her, I sensed his presence, and his approval that his daughter was carrying on. With Alex to watch, I did OK. His granddaughter turned out pretty good, I found the love of my life and we are all living satisfied lives with a kitty and a few dogs to pet now and then.

How I miss Alex. That connection was a big piece of me.


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