Lisa's Lines 9/23/21

Lisa Ingebrand,

As my family gathered for dinner the other night, we noticed we were one cat short.

Usually, our three felines join us.

Honey, our big orange boy, stretches out to expose his great, wide fluffy belly near 12-year-old Anna’s chair.

Penelope, our sassy, but sweet little tortie, will try to sneak her way onto 9-yearold Ellen’s lap or will spend dinnertime weaving between our chairs, looking for dropped morsels.

Rocky, our orange and white boy, usually meows a simple “hello” to everyone before settling himself on the living room carpet—close enough to see what’s going on and notice if food is being offered, but well away from possible chaos.

It’s our nightly routine

. However, the other night, there was no Rocky.

Anna was the first to notice. We had just said our prayers and had begun to pass dishes around when she glanced into the living room and saw Rocky wasn’t in his normal spot.

Without leaving the table, we took turns calling for Rocky.

Finally, after a few minutes, Rocky’s head appeared at the top of the basement steps and he meowed his regular “hello” to us.

“Rocky, were you being a sleepy head?” questioned Ellen.

“Rocky! You almost missed dinner,” joked Anna.

But, my husband and I could tell something was up. Something wasn’t quite right.

When Rocky finally decided to walk over to his regular spot in the living room, he did it slowly and deliberately. There was a hobble in his step. He was nursing his right, front paw.

His fur looked scruffy and a bit unkempt, and he looked frail.

Rocky is 16 years old.

His age has been creeping up on him over the years, but the changes have been so gradual, I think we failed to notice him actually getting old.

He’s just always been there, with us, day after day.

He was a feral little kitten from the streets of Waterville that Jim and Linda Watzek helped me trap. I took him home in the trap, and John and I decided to keep him.

It took years for Rocky to acclimate to domestic life. It wasn’t easy, but he was worth the time and effort.

Then, we had kids. There was concern regarding how our feral-turned-domestic kitty would respond to a crying baby in the home, but when we brought our first baby, Anna, home from the hospital, Rocky ran up to sniff her and meowed a friendly “hello” to her.

As our girls grew, Rocky was patient with them, ignoring most tail tugs from toddlers and love squeezes from overzealous youth.

While he never likes to be in the center of the action, he always finds a spot on the sidelines to monitor things and offer a meow or two if addressed.

He’s been with us through struggles, first days of school, our move, every birthday celebration, and holiday gathering. He’s just always there, greeting us with his simple, sometimes croaky, but always endearing meow.

Just thinking about life without Rocky makes my eyes fill with tears.

His life will always be synonymous with my first years being a wife and raising our baby girls. It’s amazing how a beloved pet’s life can mark such important chapters in our own lives.

For now, “Grandpa Rocky” is still doing okay. He limps around and grumbles at the younger cats in our home, but he’ll still take a swing or two at Honey when the young buck gets out of line.

Three years ago, we laid our cat, Lola, to rest in our backyard by the girls’ playhouse. We still talk about her every now and then, and Anna remembers holding Lola on her last day with us and how she went to heaven while we surrounded her with love.

Now, we’re paying more attention to our dear old Rocky. He gets more treats and the softest of blankets. Of course, we don’t know how long he’ll be with us, but this time of awareness is a blessing.

Our always-there kitty won’t always be there.

Time can be so painfully precious.



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