Before I was born my parents had a cat named Pixie or Trixie or some silly name.
I can’t ask them about it since they are both dead (as is the cat, presumably).
After I was born we had a cranky male Siamese named Beezer.
The story is told that I named him after an imaginary playmate.
He would swipe at my mother’s legs as she came through doorways,
sometimes snagging her post-war nylon stockings.
Later we had a second Beezer, who went so far as to sink his fangs into her calves.
I think my mother was either extremely stoic or a masochist,
given how long she stayed with my father.
Later there was another Siamese, Cleo, an anorexic female with large blue eyes, whom my mother loved dearly.
She was high-strung and somewhat sickly and loved to curl up with our dachshund, Schaatze.
My father found Rosie, the next Siamese female, meowing under a pyracantha bush in the backyard.
She was not neurotic, but very affectionate and fluffy, which is why he named her Rosie.
She brought compensating joy to the family for many years.
My mother got her in the divorce.
The first cat I had after I was on my own in college was an insouciant little calico I named Mary Jane.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain why the cat was named Mary Jane.
My roommate Michael once threw her in the apartment complex pool, just to see what she would do.
She calmly swam out, though much put out that she was soaking wet.
Michael had a cruel streak, as if that needed saying.
His girlfriend Donna said that all he needed from her was to act as a receptacle.
Donna was the one who introduced me to cunnilingus,
one of the finest things a woman has ever done for me.
Mary Jane was at the foot of the bed when Theodora and I woke up,
turned on the television, and learned that Bobby Kennedy had been shot.
Later she had a litter of kittens in my apartment above the laundromat,
which came as a complete surprise. The weakest one, the white one, died within a day.
The other four became a roiling mass of kittenness until they grew up and went out on their own.
Mary Jane was also insouciant as a mother, but I count that as a virtue.
Theodora got Mary Jane in the breakup and took her to live on her parents’ avocado ranch near San Diego.
When I met my wife a couple of years later she had recently acquired a kitten,
but I had been living so long without a cat that I was now exquisitely allergic so Lynn sadly gave up her cat.
Then we moved in with my mother, who was not going to give up her cats (including Rosie),
so I had to get over it. After about six months, I stopped sneezing.
When Lynn and I were on our own again we acquired C.B. (short for Crybaby) from her sister Pam and her husband, Michael.
C.B. was a companionable cat, but one day he went out of the apartment and never came back.
Some years later, Pam went out of Michael’s door and never came back.
After C.B. we got a white cat whom we named Miranda because I was studying Shakespeare and Lynn likes to name our cats people names.
Miranda had a gray spot on her head, which I think saved her from the usual fate of white cats, agoraphobia and deafness.
She was a fine feline and lived to a ripe old age in spite of being an outside cat.
After that we decided that it must be lonely for a cat to have no feline companionship, so we got two cats.
Wesley, a big orange tom who was rescued at the local Methodist Church, was recovering from PTSD and spent a month hiding under the bed.
He came out when we brought Isabel, a tiny Siamese kitten, home to be his friend.
By this time we also had several children.
Wesley and Isabel became the heart of things, except there was a Cybill.
Another white cat, all white this time, rheumy-eyed and allergic, full of tics and twitches, she hid in the closet or camped out on the heating vent, never venturing more than a few feet to food or catbox.
Her cry was soundless and she grew fat with sleeping. At the end of all their lives we ran a cat hospice,
pilling and injecting and feeding them special diets while their old kidneys failed and their urine grew pale.
Now there is a new crop, a pride of five. The alpha male Calvin and the beta male Leo loll by the toilet like a pair of lions guarding the watering hole.
The old tabby female Fiona, high on steroids, relentlessly whines for cream cheese.
The tiny all-black Ruthie angrily stalks the gray wraith Isaac, the final unwelcome interloper we found in a motel parking lot and brought home against our better judgment.
Lynn will no longer stay at that motel for fear of finding and adopting another.
When my grandchildren come over they begin by hunting for the cats, who by this time know all the hiding places.
I wonder which ones of them will still be here when we break up and our kidneys fail and we go out the door.