I didn't want to write Charlie's story because I knew I would cry. He's been gone for a long time, but he's still close to my heart. After reading some very good stories about other cats, I decided that Charlie needed to be remembered too.
How do I begin to tell about Charlie? He was all cat, Charlie, from the tip of his little pug nose to the end of his ever swinging tail. Beautiful, is how I'd describe him. Though just a stray, he had the carriage of royalty. His long gray silvery coat sported a white star just under his neck. I could almost imagine that one of his forefathers belonged to a Persian Princess.
Charlie loved us as much as a real cat can love humans, but mostly he tolerated us. My daughter and I wanted to hold him and snuggle. Charlie would tolerate it just so long then he was gone. On the other hand, my husband Charles, clearly had no interest in Charlie, and often made the comment that cats weren't good for anything. I often thought that his resentment towards Charlie had something to do with the fact that Charlie was named after him without his consent.
I once heard that cats will chose only one person in a family with which to bond, and to everyone's dismay, Charlie choose Charles. Each night Charlie would finish his meal, then preen himself for nearly an hour before he jumped into my husband's lap for a long nap. Neither touched the other, they simply tolerated one another.
If my daughter or I tried to pick Charlie up and hold him, he would quickly scamper away and head straight back to where he was least wanted. Charlie was an acrobat too. Many times my husband was almost brought to the point of heart failure when Charlie would silently creep up behind the recliner and jump over my husband's head and into his lap. As many times as Charlie did this, my husband was never prepared for the overhead assault.
There was one game that Charlie would play with my daughter and me, but it took a lot of coaxing. We would stand in front of Charlie and wave our night gowns back and forth. Charlie's tail would begin to sway. Then he would position himself for the launch by rocking back and forth. Eventually it ended with us screaming and running through the house and Charlie in hot pursuit.
Charlie had a particular dislike for all females, I think. I had a lady that came once a week to clean for me and Charlie clearly hated her. One morning she arrived before I had finished dressing for work, and had gone upstairs to get the bed linens. Charlie was waiting for her just inside one of the bedroom doorways. The attack was swift and the result was a blood curdling scream that would wake the dead. From that day on, I had to make sure that Charlie was out of the house before the cleaning lady would come inside. Even so, Charlie was not through with her. He knew that she would come outside to put the trash in the garbage can. Charlie was patient. He waited, and he nailed her again. Now she refused to take the trash out.
Charlie lived his life pretty much like he wanted to. If he felt romantic, he would scour the neighborhood in search of female companionship. My sister had a female cat and wanted Charlie to mate with her cat. When the time was right, I grabbed Charlie, put him in the car and off we went to my sister's. Once there, we closed the garage door and stood back to watch the romantic scene unfold. Never have I heard such growling and howling! Back and forth they went under the cars, darting here and there, it sounded like they were killing each other. This is not working I thought. Indignant that Charlie would spurn her cat, my sister said, "Your cat is obviously gay."
"No, not at all," I replied, "Charlie is just a little choosy. We just need to put a small paper sack over your cats head, that's all."
Charlie and I went home, both a little huffy. So much for that. Never again would I put Charlie up for such ridicule. Then, weeks later, my sister called. Her cat had one lone kitten, and he looked exactly like Charlie!
As Charlie got older he slowed down considerably. He was more content to just swish his tail when he saw a bird perched nearby, rather than go for the hunt. He didn't play the game with my daughter and me anymore. I could look into his eyes and tell, something was just not right. After a thorough examination from the vet, I was informed that Charlie had kidney failure. His advice was to put Charlie out of his misery. There is no cure he said.
Breaking the news to my daughter was not easy. She was a teenager and to put Charlie to sleep was unthinkable. Everyday she would take Charlie to the vet and he would be hydrated. This went on for almost a month, but Charlie didn't get better. I made a bed for Charlie in the utility room, his litter box sat unused. Charlie was too weak to get out of his bed. The only time he was out of it was when he went to the vet.
My husband and I knew that we should put Charlie out of his misery, but my daughter cried and put up such a fuss that we always backed off. Never again will I let an animal suffer that long. Charlie needed to go. We needed to let go.
Even my husband who professed not to like Charlie was determined to properly bury him. He had begun to build a coffin for Charlie. Then out of the blue Charlie came out of the utility room. It was the first time he had walked in over two weeks. He slowly came up to me and I picked him up and held him in my lap. For the first time he let me stroke his head without trying to get away. We sat like this for what seemed like a very long time, then Charlie decided it was time to leave. Slowly he walked to the back door and as I let him out, he paused on the deck as he watched my husband building the coffin. He descended the steps, then turned and looked back at me one more time, then he was gone.
Charlie knew that his hour had come, he said his good-byes, then did what all of God's creatures do. He went to his resting place. His little coffin was turned into a planter and over the years has been the home for many bright geraniums, but it's true purpose is to remind us of Charlie.
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Another story by Gwen: Go Fish