In 1990, a young woman named Cynthia Kalkman (who is now, of course, Cindy Sheen) visited a house with kittens to give away. One, white, tiny, frail, so small he fit in the palm of her hand, so thin she could feel every one of his ribs, touched her heart.
His name, officially, was "Kimba." I don't know that he was ever called that. He had food issues, and by the time I met him, weighed nearly 30 pounds. He would walk determinedly through the apartment, then another apartment, then our trailer, with his feet making an audible Stomp!-Stomp!-Stomp! and that's how he marched, determinedly, into my heart.
He loved unreservedly, tolerated the Bear-Shaped Dog -- a late addition into his life -- demanded affection at his whim, and was generally, as my nephew Cory called him the first time he ever saw him, "The best pimp cat ever!"
We all called him "Beebee," or "Mister Beebers," and we loved him as unreservedly as he did us, and I can't see my keyboard through my tears right now, because he died about a half-hour ago.
He died peacefully, in the arms of his Mommy. After 18 years of happy life, well-fed, well-loved, well-cared-for. If there was any more perfect way for him to breath his last, I don't know what it could have been.
I feel, in a way, that I ought to feel satisfaction. A friend who is at times very wise told me, on the occasion of a previous cat's passing, that the life of a pet is a story, and that a story isn't a story without its ending. Beebee's life, part comedy, part love story, almost without drama, was a story with a happy ending.
I keep telling myself that between the sobs that take control of me, and rob me of dignity and motivation and all else.
They're not "like part of the family." They are part of the family. He was our baby, and he's gone and we are devastated.
There are ways in which our lives will be better. For the last few months, he has been incontinent, and had not even a theoretical notion of the concept of "the litter box." We can begin, now, to undo that damage to our home.
But he was our baby, and he is dead, lying curled in a cardboard box at my wife's feet, looking as if he's sleeping peacefully, where our other cats and bear-shaped dog can see him and smell him and know he is no longer in there. Tomorrow, we'll figure out what next, be it back-yard burial, disposal by our local vet, or some ridiculously expensive pet cremation.
For now, he lies curled in the cardboard box, dead, and we are devastated.