I received an email in August of 2014 from a client regarding what he called “Tuxedo Central”. Essentially, he had been feeding a colony of predominantly tuxedo cats and discovered three kittens had emerged from the bushes to join the adults at mealtime. He was calling me to come get the kittens.
What’s a girl to do? I was scheduled to care for his cat, a relative of the outdoor colony, and the outdoor kitties so it was the purrfect opportunity to get to know these kittens and scoop them up once they trusted me.
It didn’t take long to gain their trust. I called the local shelter and made arrangements to have them vaccinated and spayed. The morning of their appointment, I scooped them up and off we went. That afternoon they were heading to their new home with my Dad. He had lost Allie that January after having her nearly 19 years. It was time for little ones.
We named them the flower girls: Willow, Petunia and Buttercup. Willow and Petunia were practically identical twins! The difference was their purrsonalities: Petunia always a wild one; Willow was always the lady. Buttercup was the monkey in the middle…always the clown. They not only cheered my Dad up, they gave him reason to live! His health had begun to decline when they came to live with him. Daily kitten snuggles and antics to enjoy kept his spirits up; knowing they were home waiting for him kept him wanting to get out of the hospital. They were truly heaven sent.
Willow was particularly attached to my Dad, so much so that I often thought she was Allie returned. They had similar purrsonalities. I would call her Allie on many occasions. As my Dad’s dementia worsened, so did the outbursts…the hallucinations. Despite her fears, she would return to his arms to comfort him. No judgement…no hesitation…just love. She would rest on the table with him when he ate. He often shared his meal with her. They would both nod off there. He would stroke her silky fur and call her baby. She would purr and purr.
In May 2020, my Dad passed after six months of hospitals and rehab centers; Mom went into the hospital two months later for hip surgery to repair a fracture. I would visit daily prior to my parents’ absence but with both of them out of the apartment, the girls were quite distraught. Honestly, we needed each other for I, myself, was distraught. Being there with them was comforting. We comforted each other. They helped me go through my Dad’s things. They were there for me late at night when no one else was.
Mom returned home and the girls eventually got used to an empty room. I put some of their things in there to give them more space to call their own but Willow mostly avoided Dad’s room. They grew closer to my Mom. Willow would often sleep on her sunlit cat tree overlooking Mom’s bed. The girls would take turns sleeping with Mom. They became her girls. Willow began sharing Mom’s meals. I still visited at least once daily. My visits were longer and I, too, grew closer to the girls. They were our girls now.
Our hearts always had a special place for Willow because she was the timid one…the gentle one. She hid from everyone but Mom, my brother and me. We knew her heart. She was pure…not a mean bone in her body as they say. Her sisters, particularly, Petunia, Toonie as we call her, were sometimes rough with her. Willow got extra loving when her sisters were mean to her.
This summer I painted and redecorated my Mom’s apartment making Dad’s room a sitting room and the girls’ room. Willow wouldn’t venture in. Toonie and Buttercup made themselves cozy. I figured Willow was comfy the way things were and she chose to stay in Mom’s room or the living room. This seemed fine as it gave the girls space.
Late October my Mom called me to tell me one of the girls knocked a plant over. When I got to the apartment, Willow was acting like she was in pain. I figured Toonie had fought with her and knocked her off her tree taking the plant with her. I started Willow on pain meds. She was responding or at least I thought she was. Willow was laying low…avoiding her sisters and choosing to have me bring her meals rather than eat with her sisters. She was happy and purring. She would give me belly every time I approached her. Willow was never built like her sissies: Toonie is shaped like a triangle and Buttercup…well, a butterball. Willow was svelte. I called her my meowdel. She was silky and sleek. I noticed she was thin but I figured it was because she was only eating wet food. In the back of my head, I remembered my JoeJoe. He had fallen from his perch and 3 weeks later was gone. He had a tumor in his aorta. I dismissed the thought: Willow was 7 1/2. No way! This was simply an injury. She was responding to the pain meds afterall.
The week before she passed, she started to sit up outside her cubby and meow for her meals. I thought this was a positive sign! I cheered her on, “Yay! Willow, you’re feeling better!” Sunday, November 21st wasn’t a usual Sunday. My brother didn’t visit so I didn’t stop by Mom’s til 2:30 in the afternoon. I brought food in. As always, I said hello to the girls first. Willow was in her new room! Yay, Willow!! Mom and I ate. I called to the girls, “C’mon girls, let’s eat!” like I always did. Willow came running out and jumped up to her cubby! Wow! We’ve turned a corner. I will spare you the details but that corner wouldn’t turn out to be the corner I thought it was. A few hours later, Willow would leave us to return to my Dad’s arms…
Losing my Willow…Dad’s Willow…our Willow was not something any of us were prepared for. Even as I write this I still cannot believe she is gone. I still call her name every time I am at Mom’s. Maybe Dad needed her more…maybe she missed him more than I realized. She experienced so much trauma and loss in her short life. We were just settling down…things seemed, despite everything, to be at least, more peaceful. I wanted her to enjoy that peace with us.
Willow, you were so loved. You are so missed. Until we meet again, my sweet rebel, please visit me in my dreams. (We called her rebel because she always managed to slip out of her collars.)
May 3. 2014 – November 21, 2021