When we think back on our married years, a certain little grey and white tabby cat interwove herself into our lives in so many cherished ways.
It was the fall of 1989 and I had just moved six hours from home and bought a new farm. I was engaged to be married the following spring to my lovely wife. A knock came on the farmhouse door. There stood my brother-in-law-to-be with an armful of cats. It was a housewarming gift, quite literally. The furnace had not yet been installed and the cats snuggled up with me at night in an attempt to pilfer body warmth. It was a symbiotic relationship though from the get go.
By mid-winter both cats were obviously pregnant -- a lesson learned, I'd be much more vigilant with my own children. Callie, the flightier of the two, went to a local dairy farm, to help reduce the rodent population and increase the feline population. This left me with Tessie.
|The Mother Superior|
Not many folks can say their cat was a part of their wedding. We went back to the farm after the ceremony for some candid outdoor shots. From these windswept snaps we chose one of our favourite poses to have blown up. After the photo was hung on the wall, someone else was first to point out the little grey tiger striped tail curling out from the hem of the missus's dress. It was so classically Tessie. She was always just inobtrusively there. She never missed an occasion.
A year later our first daughter made her less-than-inobtrusive appearance. Tessie immediately adopted her. She slept in her bassinet, crib, bed, brought her mice and generally lavished her new baby with as much kitty love as was felinely possible. The funny thing was, that when daughter number two arrived, Tessie was not impressed. She seemed to say, "I've done my part, this one's yours."
|A long suffering friend|
|Watched over by the faithful sitter|
|Alice what have you done?|
Whenever anyone stopped by the house, they would be greeted by the welcoming committee. A head nudge, a shin rub, a gentle purr, and the come-hither expression, "this way to the family jewels". Those truly favoured would be treated to the million dollar rollover and an invite to rub the tummy.
|The fur comforter|
At fourteen, Tessie developed a cataract in her one eye. We should have had it attended to quickly, but as the king of procrastination, I didn't. Unfortunately the eye ulcerated and choices had to be made. Otherwise she was perfectly healthy. Two days and much money later, Tessie came home a Cyclops. But she was still our Tessie.
We had four more loving years. In the summer of 2008, she began to noticeably fail. Her fat warm little belly was gone, her fur, dull and lifeless, but the purr and head bunt were still there.
I came downstairs on the morning of August second to find her lifeless little body sprawled across the threshhold to the kitchen. We placed her lovingly in a wooden basket, took her to the flower garden where I had dug a small hole. None of us had words to say, but we each had our own pleasant memories and emotions, swirling around our sad little hearts. Laid to rest on the grounds she loved to wander, we marked her final resting spot with a clump of iris we had hybridized years earlier and named, Tessie, in her honour.
Tessie set the bar high, as far as cats go. Whether we will ever be fortunate enough to be graced with such a generous little spirit again remains to be seen. Most pets operate on the cupboard love principle, but we always said Tessie's love was genuine and unconditional.
My wife painted a portrait of our pets several years ago, which still hangs above the fireplace in our new home. Few days go by, that one of us doesn't look at it and either silently or audibly whisper, "I miss Tessie."
And that is about all I have to say today,
.Musings and meandering from the Musical Gardener.