Friday, August 6, 2010

Planche à Grief

On Monday, we lost our lovely nut of a kitten, Hopkins. She was hit by a car just twenty feet up the road from home. I've been trying to focus on everything that could have been much worse. She went very quickly, and she breathed her last while we held her close. It took more than a little courage for the two women in the car to come to our door (our neighbor Chuck told them which it was) and deliver the awful news. I don't know whether it was the driver or passenger who told us, "I think your cat's been hit. I'm so sorry." I don't want to know whether the one who was driving was speeding or distracted, because that knowledge might cloud other knowledge. Here's what I do know: she felt terrible, and it could easily have been me in her shoes (or seat).

Hops lived dangerously, as Pete and I allowed her to do. She was mostly smart about cars, but sometimes lounged and rolled in the middle of the sun-warmed street. She tussled with other cats, eluded coyotes, and once backed a raccoon out of her favorite tree. The implicit contract that we made with her a little more than eight years ago had a safety waiver and innumerable "roaming charges" in the fine print. She loved her freedom, and we loved for her to have it, but we knew that we made an irresponsible choice when we let her come and go at will. Irresponsible with regard to her safety, the safety of neighborhood songbirds, and the purity of the local watershed. Irresponsible, as it turns out, with regard to a driver who might not have time to stop if she darted across the road. We decided years ago that we'd probably never have another cat, because we couldn't imagine making a different choice. Still we'd hoped against the odds that Hops could sustain her reckless, intrepid ways into a ripe old age. We can't believe she's so suddenly gone.

We laid her on her well-loved scratch pad (her "planche à griffes," chewed up, taped up, fragrant with catnip) and buried her in the front yard. We planted a red-twig dogwood over her grave. We don't think she'd be offended, as she always preferred dogs to cats and looked to Barley as an older sister. Our neighbor Tracy came by with flowers and a cross as we were laying the stones. (Did I mention that we have wonderful neighbors?)

Hopkins' presence will remain vivid in our home for a long time to come. Pazzo will keep running to the window to search for her whenever he hears her name. Pete and I will keep listening for her chirp in the mornings and missing the sweet furry weight of her in the evenings.

What is a lap for if not for Hops?

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