This weekend past has been one filled with mixed emotions. We traveled to New Jersey for a memorial to my wife’s cousin Vivienne, even though almost everyone referred to her as “Aunt Viv”. I had the rare and honored pleasure to meet this woman twice, once for lunch with my then bride-to-be and again at our wedding reception.
Vivienne was a rare gift to this Earth as she was equipped with a happiness mechanism that should surely be cloned. She watched her two sons go off to Vietnam and return home whole, maybe any positive attitude that could weather such a storm was a virtual steamroller for whatever life could dish out. This was a woman that was far more than “the glass is half full”, she was more like “My glass is spilling over, let me fill yours as well.” She also was able to cast away peoples faults and gaze light into their hearts like no one I have ever met. To say that she will be sorely missed is gross understatement to say the least.
In the shadow of this weekend of grieving and remembering all that was bright and happy about Vivienne, we returned home to find we had lost a loved one of our own.
“Hamish the Red”
“Hamish the boy”
“Hamish the bad”
“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”
“Oh Ye of little brain and so much hair”
“Get down from where you do not belong”
All of the above were synonyms that were used for the incredibly furry, bushy tailed, hair-between-his-toes, clown of the house known as Hamish.
I chose his name from the character in the movie “Braveheart“. Hamish (Hay-mish) was William Wallace’s faithful companion, always beside him, making him laugh and loyal to his last breath. Our Hamish might not have been brave, in fact the poor boy was frightened by many things but he was without a doubt loyal and loving to a fault.
It was absolutely impossible for me to move from room to room anywhere in the house without him tagging along or running ahead in anticipation. No matter the time of day or night, leaving the bedroom guaranteed a fuzzy tail brushing about your ankles within minutes. These antics sometimes became annoying, since having the back of your calves tickled when you’ve just gotten up to an alarm clock doesn’t always make you smile with glee.
There were many other times though that it was adorable to have him about. Sitting on the sofa late at night was “our time”, he would get rubbed generously, purr like a motorboat and shed copious amounts of hair. Any towel or blanket was considered a new bed to be pawed and slept on. Any crumbs spilled onto my shirt were goodies to be consumed and my forearm seemingly always needed much cleaning…even if he had to hold on by his claws.
Lying down and trying to nap on the sofa was whole other game. First your face must be suitably pawed at, then the entire sofa must be patrolled for the best possible spots. Once this circuit was completed three or four times he would finally settle on the sofa back, on my hip or behind the bend of my knees.
If he wasn’t interested in napping then his chair in front of the den window gave him a looking glass on the world outside. This was obviously much more enthralling to watch than to actually venture out into since moving beyond the back door was an adventure in terror. Hamish did however keep a keen interest in plants, christmas trees,silk flowers and dead leaves at the back door were high on his list. He even helped keep a natural progression for silk flower arrangement we once had on the dining table. After giving the petals a thorough licking, they would fall open as if the plant were wilting. Once they would dry then they would return to the original fresh look only to “killed” by him repeatedly.
Sometimes we never truly appreciate the things we have until they are gone. Even as I sit now at my keyboard, the small stool to my right is empty which was his regular perch for my late night or early morning computer sessions. If he wasn’t on the stool he would be underfoot or even more odd, draped over the backrest of my office chair. This particular spot had its distractions as he would swipe his tail (which was impossible for him to keep still) and bat me on the side of the head, curling enough on the end to tag me in the eye.
You see Hamish was an unabashed glutton for attention (if you hadn’t already figured that out). Preparing to leave for work would have him bouncing between dining chairs so that he could reach out and swat at your clothes. He even occasionally stuck his head in through the bathroom door and would look up as if to say “Did I come at bad time?…no rubbing now?…I guess not.”
He was also very sure that putting on socks and shoes required his close supervision,you see it works so much better when he would lay across my toes. Clawing at my laces was considered game time.
I had a puppy when I was a child but she stayed with my Mom after I got married. My ex-wife had many cats that either wandered off or passed away during our time together. Both of my children and my step daughter have lost a cat near and dear to them. I mourned and felt pain for all of them, but never anything like last night.
To walk in and find this lively and easily spooked feline stretched out in the den floor as if he were asleep was bizarre in itself. I turned the light on and not even a twitch. I drew closer and his eyes were wide open, mouth closed and feet gently crossed as if he meant to lay down anyway. One touch told me he was gone.
Getting ready for work this morning felt empty beyond measure, as did the rest of the day as I tried to muse over what I would write on this page. My wife’s blog entry was wonderful and tells of how he came to be with us in the beginning. Please read her entry here
He came to us so very frail and had just survived a fight for his life. Cast out into the freezing cold, I have little doubt someone stuffed him into garbage bag at some point, since pulling out any plastic bag made him bolt for cover like a rocket. I’d love to think that coming to live with us was a reward for living through that ordeal. Hamish brought such laughter and love into our house, more so now than I ever truly realized before.
I always thought when we got him that he would grow old and fat, and eventually I would have to help him onto the sofa. I also thought that when the end came we would be side by side but as the old saying goes, “The flame that burns twice as bright only burns half as long”
The bright orange glow of Hamish has been forever burned into our hearts and our lives. His bright copper eyes lit us up with joy as he never failed to entertain and he was never so bad that he could not be instantly forgiven for whatever mischief he had wrought.
Like Aunt Viv, Hamish was forever ready to be happy, never growling in anger or hissing in distaste. Maybe everyday he spent with us was like a gift, a second chance at life for him and an education in love for us. I thank God for helping him survive, for bringing him to us and for enriching our lives. I don’t know why He saw fit to take him from us,but I know he no longer suffers from any of the fears that would send him running behind the bed or the water heater.
There is a statue on my den shelf that I gave to my wife called “The Good Cat”. This feline sits in a regal stance and is graced with angel wings, and I will never look at this statue the same again. If my Hamish is given angel wings they will most certainly shed fur. I have made many jokes at his expense but think he knew every time I held him and stroked his bushy tail, how very much I loved him…and how very much I miss him now.
I know the spirit of Hamish lives on, and I have laid his still mortal body to rest under his favorite window, marked with a garden sculpture donated by Trish.
The sculpture is a cat
with his head through the bottom of a birdbath, wearing his swimming goggles. A fitting tribute to a cat who knew how to get into trouble but was far too lovable to stay there.
There is a belief that when we pass from this life that many loved ones gone before us are there to welcome you. When that time comes for me I know there will be those I will be very happy to see, but I will also be looking forward to something fuzzy rubbing about my ankles.
Godspeed Hamish my boy…until we meet again.
-T. August Green