Grandpa has never been a cat person. He has been a serial monogomist with a succession of beloved dogs, including Buttons the beagle, whose oil portrait still hangs in his living room. (My mother notes that he has no painting of herself and her brothers, so we know how Grandpa’s dogs have rated in his heart.) He tolerated my mother’s childhood pet, Puff–an aggressive tomcat who terrorized the neighborhood children by dropping out of tree branches onto them when they rode past, so that my mother regularly had to return fright-abandoned bikes to her neighbors–but he has categorically disliked cats his entire life.
Enter Suzy. Imagine our amazement five years ago when we heard that Grandpa had adopted a kitten. Suddenly the news from Grandpa’s house shifted from his cancer treatments, back surgery, and Grandma’s failing faculties to reports of Suzy’s latest cuteness. Suzy was a one-man cat, would not suffer anyone else to approach her, but would come running from any corner at Grandpa’s two-tone call of “Suuu-zeee.” She is sweetness personified–a stripey-faced tabby with enormous green eyes and a resounding purr… We just didn’t expect Grandpa to think so.
Last winter, both Grandma and Grandpa had to move into assisted living within a few weeks of one another, and suddenly Suzy was left alone in their empty house. My two uncles, who live nearby and can’t stand cats, stopped by the house regularly to bring in the mail, scoop the litter box, refill Suzy’s food and water, and bring back reports to my anxious grandpa that Suzy was fine (meaning that she wouldn’t come out from under the bed when they visited). When my mother and I flew in to visit at Easter, we stayed in the house with Suzy. Starved for attention after several solo months, she crept under my quilt at night to sleep on my feet, and curled in my lap when I read in Grandpa’s armchair. “I’ve never seen her do that,” my mother remarked, shaking her head. The Big Family Question of the moment–ahead, even, of putting the house on the market, was the Question of Suzy. Where could she go that Grandpa would find acceptable?
And so I found myself on the phone with my husband (also “not a cat-person”) asking his thoughts about adopting. “It would be an honor,” he responded without hesitation. As a mark of the seriousness of the Suzy-placement-issue, I must report that Grandpa did not immediately jump at my proffered adoption-offer. I suspect that a prospective foster-parent undergoes similar questioning about household and environment before being approved to take in children!
But that’s how I ended up, at the end of the week, with a cat as carry-on luggage for my plane ride home. The husband may not be a cat-person, but he is most definitely a Suzy-person; he thoroughly fulfills the saying on our new refrigerator magnet: “Cats don’t have owners, they have staff.” Every week we send Grandpa a Suzy-update (with photos!) to reassure him that she’s doing well. At the moment she is curled on the bed
in front of me, my iPad leaning against her back while I type on the Bluetooth keyboard on my lap. Blissfully unconcerned with the fact that I’m writing about her (and that she’s serving as my “desk” while I do so), I’d like to believe she is content with her life as an Inherited Cat. Speaking for ourselves, we are certainly content to serve as her Staff.