Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Mighty Freddie

20 years ago, I stood outside the front entrance of the hell hole that served as my high school.  Like a scene out of The Blues Brothers, my sister came roaring up in my '78 Olds, kicked open the passenger door (the only way to get it open) and yelled, "Get in! Poser's in labor!" I leapt into the car and we sped home.

My sister and I and our best friend spent a lot of time going to concerts when we were in our late teens/early 20s. There was a local dive (love-to-hate/hate-to-love) where we spent a lot of time, made some good friends. Usually we'd run to the nearby Subway for something to eat before a show, and it was from this scenario that we acquired a cat named Poser. Poseur? I forget how we spelled it.  I wasn't there that time, but the short story is that Sis, BFF and another friend found a stray cat, lured her to the car with Subway and brought her home. Mom didn't want the cat, so she kept letting her outside, and we would lure her back with canned food.  Fast forward a few months and a visiting friend announces, "That is one hell of a pregnant cat."  AROO?

On the afternoon of September 4, 1992, Poser went into labor.  Her first kitten, was born around 4 p.m., I think.  We weren't sure how many she had cooking, and we'd never owned or experienced an animal giving birth before, so we waited. Many hours later (a little after 11 p.m., in fact), I was lying on the floor in my sister's bedroom, reading a book and listening to the radio.  Poser was in her birthing box by my sister's bed and all was quiet.   Queen's "Your My Best Friend" came on the radio and a few seconds later, Poser started shrieking.  "Sis!" I yelled. "Here comes another one!"   Poser hadn't made much noise at the first birth, but this second one was a real doozy. It didn't take long; the little creature inside was impatient to get out into the world and make it its own.  And so when the little grey rat thing wiggled its way into our lives, I smiled and said, "I'm naming him after Freddie."   (This was just a year after Freddie Mercury had passed away, and with Queen being on the radio, it was the only choice for me.)   

We later learned both kittens were girls.  Monkey started out as Clovis but has been known as Monkey (or "the Monkey") for most of her life.  Freddie has always been Freddie, though a few years in, my sister nicknamed her the Bee because Freddie's tail was always "buzzing" your ankles for attention.  She'd do this little running move and bop up against you.  Chris called it buzzing and who's the best at buzzing but bees?  And so she always was and always be my little bitty Freddie Bee. 

I have been a dog person my whole life. Friends will read this and laugh because cats far outnumber dogs in my household and I'm always heard to be muttering, "I hate cats" to anyone who will listen.  I don't hate them, I swear. I just love to say I do. I love dogs and their dopey, unflappable loyalty, and cats have always had this standoffishness that irked me somehow, which is ironic because personality-wise, I'm more cat-like than dog. 

Early in their kittenhood, the girls formed attachments: Monkey to me, Freddie to my sister.  And just as quickly, they reformed and switched teams and I was Freddie's and my sister was Monkey's.  Some say that to name something is to make it yours.  I don't know if there's any truth to that. I did name Freddie and we belonged to each other, but I adored both of those kittens equally; I didn't spend more time with one than the other. In fact, my sister spent more time with both of them than I did, since I was still in school.  So what made Freddie decided I was hers? I can't say for sure, and I don't think I really care one way or the other. All that ever mattered to me was that this little, ornery cat loved the crap out of me, and I loved the crap out of her. She chose me, and it always felt right. 

A cat-human bond is different than a dog-human bond, for obvious reasons, the biggest being the very nature of the species. One isn't more capable of love than the other, or of loyalty, but they go about their love and loyalty in different ways.  You know a dog's got your back. Unless you're a complete and utter cock-knocker, a dog will always be your huckleberry.  Cats? Not so much.  Having a cat is kind of like having a 24-hour help line; you can always reach them, but there's a good chance you're going to be on hold for a very long time. That being said, when a cat is there for you, it's that much more special because they deigned to acknowledge your existence and cater to your emotional needs at all.

Sarcasm, of course. I know well the power of a cat's love, having known the full strength of it for 20 years. There will never be another Freddie. That can be said about any animal, for sure. They are each as unique and beautiful as snowflakes.  But there was something about Freddie that I can't quite put to words.  My sister says we were soul mates, and I believe that with my whole heart.  She can describe it better than me, but that's what we were.  The closest way I can describe it is like bond between humans and their animal daemons in the His Dark Materials book trilogy. They are basically the physical manifestation of your soul, and I don't feel ridiculous in saying Freddie was my soul and I was hers.  We fit each other perfectly. I can't really go into detail, there are a lot of little things that I didn't pay much attention to until my sister told me; maybe she'll comment here and share some stories. I know Freddie and I were a great source of amusement for her. 

Freddie was born when I was a senior in high school. If I had had any kids, Freddie would have seen me and my child through high school and college.  She saw three different U.S. Presidents come and go. She traveled so many miles with me (east, west, midwest), and we kept each other snuggly-warm on countless winter nights. 

I have "owned" many animals in my 38 years, and but have never known any as long as I knew Freddie.  Twenty years.  Twenty years.  God, that has to count for something.  Cats don't normally live that long, and usually the ones that do should have been euthanized long before their owners came to terms with letting go.  Freddie was not one of those cats.  She was a tiny, spritely, impish little cat her whole life, and had very few illnesses in those 20 years.  When she was about a year old, she decided to chew on a wire and electrocuted herself.  She badly burned her tongue and gums, and ended up losing about a quarter inch of her tongue, melted her gums a bit and as a result began losing teeth (rapidly) at an early age.   Whenever I took her to the vet for her annual and the doctor would go to examine her teeth, I would say, "Ok, before you open her mouth, let me explain," and it invariably startled whoever was about to go poking around in there. 

Toward the end of her life, Freddie had very few teeth left, most of which were on the right side of her mouth.  She had this endearing and life-long habit of biting the hell out of me. When she was happy, mostly, but also when she was pissy.  You could almost say happy and pissy were all the same to Freddie, and that would be fine.  The bites rarely hurt because she didn't have very many teeth left, but she was smart as a whip and learned to turn her head and bite from the right side so as to inflict more "damage."  I lied when I said her bites rarely hurt.  One morning I didn't wake up fast enough so she latched onto my cheek.  To this day, I don't know how she managed to hang on with mostly gums and a couple of fangs, but holy fucking hell, THE PAIN.  I lay there in bed going, "Auuuugggghhh!" with this tiny cat gleefully chomped onto my flesh, and don't think there wasn't an evil little triumphant glint in her eyes!  

On more than one occasion, Freddie woke me up by pulling my eyelids open.  I shit you not. SHE PULLED MY EYELIDS OPEN.  Freddie was also a pro at bitch-slapping.  All done in love and affection, of course, but more often than not my sister would hear me talking to Freddie and doling out a few smooches and then I'd yell "OW!"  She smacked the glasses off my face more than once.  Broke them twice.  

I loved that cat. I still do. I always will.  I don't know why she chose me, but if there are gods and goddesses out there, I would get on my knees and thank them every day for giving me these twenty years with such an extraordinary, beautiful, fierce little creature. I did not deserve her, but I am beyond grateful to have been able to call her mine.  

I got her remains back this afternoon.  I haven't been able to sleep at all without her, so I was awake when Dignified Pets called to tell me she was ready to be picked up.  
I lay in bed for a while and cried, then I got up, got dressed and went to pick up my little demon.  

She was the smallest cat we ever owned, but she was the mightiest.  Nothing phased her. Ever. She was fearless and unflappable.  Freddie was, in fact, the original honey badger. It was her particular delight, every morning, to dance along the edge of my bed and wait for my dogs to wake up and come over to see if I was awake.  Freddie, little stinger of a tail whipping back and forth, would wait and bitch-slap them mercilessly for daring to get too close to her domain.  Mind you, one of my dogs was a 95+ lb German shep/pitbull mix, and she would knock him on the snoot like Ali.  And, like Tyson, she was not afraid to bite his face.  I had to pull her off of him once, and his cheek stretched out a few inches until it slipped out of the grasp of her angry little gums, and I swear to god Luke's eyes teared up. I still laugh about it to this day.

Yes, she was small.  Eight pounds at her heaviest. And yet, I'm still shocked to see how small the container holding her remains is.  How can something so small hold 20 years of love and light and laughter and companionship? Freddie, she was a black hole.  A tiny little ball of such incredible love and memory, I can't help but get pulled into that warm, bright light and that gravity. And what happens after doesn't matter.  I let go and I fall back into my soul and all that's left is everything we ever were and everything we always will be.  Nothing can ever take her away from me.  Not being able to hold her close at night or wake up to her purring little face in mine (so dangerously, bitingly close), it doesn't matter. It hurts, but it doesn't matter because it means Freddie was here.  Freddie was here, and she was mine and I was hers and that love and that bond that we had will always have a place in the universe and in my heart.  We existed together and that will go on forever.  I believe that with all of my heart.  I am a skeptic and a cynic and I believe that that love is an energy that will always exist until the universe itself comes to an end. And when that happens, I'll be broken down into memory and energy and I will be back with my little Freddie Bee.

I am not someone who is comfortable with emotion, but I sit here in this Starbucks, drinking shitty coffee and using their "free" wi-fi, sobbing openly and not caring at all who can see me.  I loved that cat and I would give anything for 20 more of those wonderful years with her, and the loss of her deserves more than a few tears.  This blog entry is the best I can do. I wish you all could have known her, this fierce little creature.  She was a fighter and a champion, and she was my best friend.  

I love you, little Bee.  I will see you again.  Rest in peace, Beezer. You were the best part of every one of my days.  




The best part of waking up


The Bee

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