Rhonda C. Graves
I'm an eighth grade language arts teacher, married, and the mother of two girls. I enjoy reading, writing, coaching fastpitch softball, and playing tennis.
I miss Buddy. I can't believe I just said that, but I do miss him. Never in my life would I have believed that I could actually become attached to a cat. Cats had always rated low on my list of living things, actually just hovering in rank slightly above rodents.
I'm not sure how it happened. It started out with that same love-hate relationship. The cat loved me for some absurd reason, and I hated it. It was ugly, scrawny, needy, and pesky from the very beginning.
There is no logical reason why it wanted my affection. I yelled at it, chased it, and even though it was obviously famished, I did not feed it. There was a small part of my humanitarian side that felt sorry for it. I don't like seeing anything hungry. However, I knew if I fed it, that would be an invitation for it to stay.
For days, that cat would appear in the window of every room I entered. It didn't follow my husband's voice, it didn't follow my children's voices, the dang cat just followed mine. When I went outside, it rubbed its scrawny body against my leg and purred as if it were getting pleasure from the human contact even though I was giving nothing in return. I just didn't get it.
Leaving school with a terrible headache one day, I drove home and collapsed into bed. My younger daughter arrived shortly and apparently didn't shut the door very well. I was lying there with a pounding headache, not wanting to hear a sound. What did I hear? "Meow." Not only did I hear that sound that I hated, but it was in my bedroom. I jumped up from the bed, snatched the cat up roughly, stomped towards the door, and readied myself to launch the pesky feline half way across the yard. That's when it happened.
After the initial shock of being yanked up by the scruff of its neck, that stupid cat began nuzzling my neck and purring, oblivious to its immediate fate. The cat was still not welcome in the house, but by the time I reached the back door, I just set the cat gently on the ground and said, "You can't come into the house."
When my husband arrived home from work, I gave him a choice. I said, "Bryan, you either have to take that cat to the pound or let me feed it."
He replied simply, "If it's a boy, it can stay."
So there I was, the ultimate cat hater, running outside to flip that scrawny cat over and actually hoping to find certain parts of the anatomy that would allow him to stay. Then I ran through the house yelling, "It's a boy" as if someone special had just given birth. The children started chanting that the cat could stay, and I ran next door to borrow some cat food for my emaciated cat.
After borrowing some nourishment for the newest member of our family, I sat on the driveway letting the sated cat stick his claws into my sweats, making a comfy place to rest after indulging in cat chow. His purring was ceaseless, and that's when I decided I had a new best buddy. That is how he acquired his name.
I decided that after a week of petting and adequate food, he really wasn't an ugly cat. He was really turning out to be a very pretty cat. His coat became shiny, and he started filling out. He followed me and the children around outside more like a dog than a cat. He chased missed softballs, much like a dog would. Slowly my mind became more accepting of cats in general, and I actually began to love my little Buddy.
As I was getting ready for work one morning, my husband entered the bedroom with a worried look on his face. He said, "I hate to tell you this, dear, but when I came in after class last night to change before going to work, evidently the cat got up on the engine of my truck to keep warm. I didn't realize it until it was too late."
I couldn't believe it. I had tried to get rid of that cat, I didn't want it to begin with, and when I finally succumbed and accepted it and began to care for it, it was taken away from me. I ran, disbelieving, to the door. There was a pool of blood on the driveway, just where my husband had parked the night before. He told me he was sorry, and I knew he didn't do it on purpose--he liked Buddy, too.
He told me he had driven the same course to work numerous times during the night to see if he could find where the cat fell out of the truck. There was no trail of blood leading us to believe he fell out immediately and crawled to the side. He never found Buddy. All I had to remember my cat by was a blood stain on the drive and a chunk of fur stuck to the fan blade of Bryan's truck.
I drove to work numb. I didn't tell the girls--they would have been angry with their daddy. All day long I had a sinking, crushing sensation in my chest. When I got home, all I could see was the stain, even though Bryan had attempted to get rid of it. I couldn't bring myself to empty Buddy's food dish. Besides, we hadn't decided what to tell the girls yet. Days went by, and I couldn't help but feel guilty for the way I had treated Buddy just a few short days ago. I tried to convince myself that it was no big deal. I would remind myself that I didn't like cats, that my mother was allergic to them, that they chased birds from my feeder, and that Buddy hadn't been around long enough for me to have become quite so attached. All of my attempts to console myself were fruitless. I had to face it; I really missed and grieved Buddy.
A full week after the fateful day, I began to feel better and was able to accept my loss. Buddy would remain a fond memory, and I was thankful for the short time I had with him. By this time, the girls had decided that either a dog or a car had gotten Buddy, and I made the decision to allow them to believe that.
I drove home feeling a little more light-hearted than usual. Pulling into the carport, I hesitated momentarily before killing the engine listening to an uplifting song on the radio. I turned the key off, put the van into park, opened the door, and heard a noise that haunts me to this day.
It was part meow and part cry. I knew it couldn't be Buddy, but I was still compelled to find the source of the pitiful voice. No sooner did I get one foot out of the van until I felt a familiar brush against my leg. I looked down in horror to see Buddy. He was thin again, there were two chunks out of his side, one out of his neck, one side of his face was practically furless, and one eyeball was completely filled with blood.
I knew he needed me more than ever, but I couldn't decide if I should just start running or stand there and throw up. It was then that I gave my husband his second choice concerning that cat. I walked into the house in a nauseated daze, turned to Bryan and said, "You have two choices. You can go out there and shoot that cat or feed it." Unfortunately or fortunately, I haven't decided yet, the children overheard my ultimatum and ran for the door.
Brittany, my older daughter, took one look at Buddy and so eloquently said, "Nasty" and backed into the house. My younger daughter, Erin, dropped to her knees, gathered that scrawny, bloody cat into her arms and said, "Poor Buddy. You can't help it. I still love you." It was then that I gained more respect for my child who marches to the beat of a different drum. She had the strength to do something I couldn't even bring myself to do. As she gingerly stroked and nurtured that pitiful cat, I went to the food bowl and poured some food into it, not knowing if he would be able to chew or not.
That night I even made Buddy his very own bed complete with a blanket. I just needed to try to make him a little more comfortable somehow. I don't know how far that injured cat rode in that truck before falling out and slowly making his way home. I wish he could talk and tell me about how he used several of his nine lives.
It took several weeks before Buddy was a pretty cat again. He stayed close to home for awhile. As his confidence and security grew, he followed his instinct and became a wandering cat. His adventures have become longer and longer, and each time I wonder if he's gone for good this time. I miss him when he's gone, but I have learned to accept his nature and hope that he'll grace us with his presence occasionally. When I started writing Buddy's biography yesterday, it had been over a month since I had seen him last.
But you know what? When I got home last night, that dang old cat had come back. It looks like he might have a broken leg, and he's pretty thin again. He ate a lot last night, with one leg tucked normally underneath while one leg stuck awkwardly out to the side. I wonder what he did this time. I wonder if he'll be home when I get there today.
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