Friday, April 25, 2014

The story of Mao

This is a story that’s close to my heart. In fact, so close to my heart that I hesitate even to tell it, in case I lose my grip on it and what it means to me. But I will tell it, because in many years I may need to be reminded.

This is the story of Mao, a beautiful cat who found our family when there were only four of us, and made himself a part of it. He was a Tonkinese cat, a noble and handsome boy who loved us from the very beginning. We took a little toy mouse with us on the day he chose us, and we waded into a house full of Tonkinese kittens who were running and jumping in all directions and all looked very much the same. We threw our toy mouse into the blur of kitten and out strode a sweet but self-assured bundle with the mouse in his mouth, straight to us.

I used to joke that he was the cat I’d wanted when I was single, when I would have been able to devote so much spare time to just sitting with him on my lap, but he didn’t seem to mind too much that my lap only became available long after dark, when the house fell strangely silent. And when another baby arrived, the lap stopped appearing altogether for a while, along with the silence.

He befriended our Labrador and they often shared a bed, unless Sunday was chased off and then Mao had it all to himself. We’d often see them running full-pelt around the  backyard, Sunday in front and Mao at his heels, tail in the air, then seconds later they’d come back the other way. It was hard to tell who was enjoying the chase more.

He was the Yul Brynner of the cat world, and I could see him in the role of the king in The King And I, all fancy pants and endearingly misguided ego, strutting about with his nose in the air but too lovable to resist. We all loved him, and he loved us back. So when he suddenly became very sick we were all worried. With good reason. Mao had acute kidney failure, and he spent six days at the vet, during which nobody was sure he was coming home. He did come home, and we loved him even more in the hope that it might fix the one thing I knew deep down could never really be fixed. He came good, with the help of daily injections of fluid and a special diet, and he was more loving than ever. He took to being carried around the house on my shoulders, and we walked him outside on a lead so he could get some sunshine. But it couldn’t last forever.

We said goodbye to Mao in early March, and I stayed with the girls, all of us weeping and me trying to console them, while Randal took him to the vet. He came home with the body of our beautiful Mao, who we buried in the backyard under all the flowers we could find. I told the girls that Mao was in cat heaven now, chasing little mice and sleeping in the sunshine, and he would never be sick again. Eventually we stopped crying, but I struggled for several days to come to terms with losing someone who’d become almost a part of me. The things we love most about our pets - their companionship, their apparent empathy, their unconditional love - are the same things that threaten to ruin us when we ultimately have to say goodbye to them.

But then I slowly realised that Mao will never really leave. He is in my heart, and in all our hearts, and I see him curled up there, purring and eternally content, whenever I miss him (which is almost always). And when Rosa, who is four, asks where Mao is now, I tell her he is in our hearts, and he will be there forever and always.

Next: The story of Violet


Anonymous said...

gorgeous homage to that kitty soul!

Derrilin said...

I wish I could have had the privilege of meeting him.