erik lundegaard

Wednesday December 06, 2023

Jellybean (2007-2023)

She came with the name but we came up with the nicknames:

  • Jelly Pie
  • Pie
  • Little One
  • Little
  • Pretty One
  • Pretty
  • Funny Face
  • Funny
  • Sugar Pop

Mostly she was Jelly or Bean. I don’t know if all these names confused her. Probably not. She was smart; she knew tone. She knew when she was being called and mostly didn’t care—unless she was being called for dinner. Or breakfast. Or a snack. Particularly a snack.

She was food-focused but if she’d written a memoir it would’ve been called “Something to Swat At.” That was her forte. She was a rescue cat, and feisty, and most of her swats were with a soft paw, but not always. One afternoon, more than 10 years ago, a dog we were looking after got too close and she gave him a bloody nose. Patricia was embarrassed—what awful neighbors we were!—but I was filled with pride. “That’s my girl,” I told her as Patricia led the wounded dog away. She was superfast. She liked to play with and be chased by Patricia, and she liked to cuddle with me. She had strong back legs and climbed 6-foot armoires and 7-foot bookcases, and leapt between the kitchen stool and the refrigerator like Evel Knievel. She arrived with a square purple patch of cloth, like a potholder, which she carried in her mouth, mowling, when she was feeling vulnerable. When people commented “What a pretty cat,” I corrected them: “The prettiest cat.” Patricia simply called her the best cat ever.

For some reason she liked me. Because I listened to her? Because I was the softer touch? Both? She didn’t like being picked up except by me, and sometimes not by me. I would hold her body with my left arm and create a platform with my right hand that she could rest her front paws on; and in this manner I’d walk around the apartment and show her things. She loved book shelves. She would nose close, purring. I assume she was looking for a spot to slink into, but we’re book people and there wasn’t a lot of extra room on those shelves. She didn’t seem to mind. She liked the journey. She liked looking out the window onto Cherry Avenue. Early on, she was a hunter, and would make eck-eck-eck noises when she spotted a bird or a bug. Early on, she made low growling noises, like a dog, when strangers came to the front door.

Maybe she liked me because I adhered to the lesson I learned from Willie Morris in his book “My Cat Spit McGee.” Morris, the legendary editor of Harper's in the 1960s, and author of the book “My Dog Skip,” was a dog man until late in life when he married a cat woman, and one of her cats because his cat. It was a dog-like cat, and one afternoon, to the hysterics of the neighborhood children, he tried to teach him to fetch. Skip wasn’t having it. Why isn't he doing it? he asked his wife. “Because it isn’t his idea,” she replied. That’s the lesson. I rarely tried to force a program on Jelly. I let it be her idea.

She came to us in Feb. 2008 when our friend Ward spotted her on, and it was two years ago that the breathing issues began. Antibiotics helped until they didn’t. This September she was diagnosed with cancer, and we opted, at age 16, not to go the chemotherapy route. Since then, she’s been up and down but on a steady downward trajectory: eating less, sleeping more, her breathing increasingly clogged. Our wake-up calls got later and later: from 5:30 to 6 to 7 to not at all. She could still be curious—exploring the hallway—but other times she’d wake from a nap with a start, like she couldn’t catch a breath, and then stare at me for a long time as if to say: “Can’t you do something about this? Can’t you fix it?” Saturday night, for a time, she seemed not able to breathe, and I worried we’d waited too long; I worried she was suffering too much. After it was done, I worried we hadn’t waited long enough. It’s an awful thing to have to decide.

I thought the trauma of losing my brother two weeks ago might lessen the sorrow of losing Jellybean this week. Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

Posted at 10:18 AM on Wednesday December 06, 2023 in category Jellybean  
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