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Cats in El Salvador

Our life has revolved around cats or their absence as Barbara and I are getting ready on Valentine’s Day to celebrate 50 years. And in that fifty years she has certainly effected a great deal of change in her husband – probably all for the good (OK! All for the good!) However, my biggest failure (other than not being attentive, loving, caring, sensitive, aware, etc. etc. etc.) has my not being able to share (or convert) her to love cats.

Now it has not helped when you have amorous cats sitting on your window ledge at two in the morning looking for love in all of the wrong places. It also doesn’t help when you have cats find their way into your attic and play roller-ball or bungee jump or whatever – also in the middle of the night. However, occasionally they would find a nice resting place on the sky light.

Not too long ago we found a bread bag with bread in it twenty feet from the kitchen. Did we have rats? So we bought rat poison. Sometime later we found footprints on the kitchen counter. Now those footprints either belonged to a very big rat or a cat had visited. Take your choice. (I hoped it wasn’t a cat but glad it wouldn’t be a rat – of that size.) We live with our doors and windows open during the day but it was a mystery in the night. Not too long afterwards we hear this crash in the office – 1:30 A.M. I go down to the office and there is a broken vase on the floor in front of the open window – our intruder’s entry/exit. So now we close the office windows at night.

A couple of weeks ago I am headed to the kitchen in the afternoon and flying by me is a calico fuzz ball headed straight for the patio door. Unfortunately, for our friend the door is closed. WHAM! Poor thing hits the door full force bounces off and heads around the corner to the open patio doors and makes her escape.

Last month I go out on the driveway and there I find the mother cat with three kittens under the car. Thankfully, they were not born there and were big enough to eventually make their escape. Mother cat took off and ran up the low tree in front of the nine foot wall. The kittens didn’t take off right away but stayed under the car.

Each of them eventually made their way up the tree. So for the next couple of weeks we had kittens walking the walls, walking on the roof and even getting inside the roof playing tag. Every so often you would hear one of them mewing for mom. One afternoon one of the kittens just wouldn’t make the leap from one level of the roof to the other so the mom took her over the roof to some other exit. Haven’t seen the kittens in a while (Barbara is glad!)

Cats sleeping on the roof

Not to be too hard on Barbara and her lack of love for cats it is probably because she didn’t grow up with cats. On the other hand it seemed that my dad often found a stray cat that decided to stay. Once, one of the strays had kittens. And not just ordinary kittens but kittens with magical names. First Kitten was Lambassotollo, second was Gianchini, the third was Frangipanie, and finally Contrahepofalis. If Barbara had had cats like this in her life she might have loved them too! In fact, in the early years of marriage she told me that the day a cat moves in she’s moving out. I like being married. And she is a determined woman (men might read that phrase as “stubborn”) but determined never the less. As I said, I like being married (even more now than before) and I wasn’t going to push my luck. But one evening, almost some forty years ago Sister Monica, our Montessori mentor came to visit with Barbara. She asked if her “little friend” might come in. Someone had dropped off a kitten at the convent and she was taking care of him until they could find a place for him to go.

I am sure Barbara raised an eyebrow but said OK. Sister Monica brought the kitten into the house in a bag.

The kids (and their dad) were giddy playing with the gray kitten while Sister Monica and Barbara visited in the study. “Can we keep him daddy? Can we keep him?” they asked in a chorus. I smiled, sadly, and said, “You know that your mom is not fond of cats.” So we just enjoyed our time.

In the study Barbara was sharing with Sister Monica that she felt badly about not giving me a cat. This was an opportunity. “Can you keep the cat until Christmas?” This was mid-November. “Probably not.” “Can you keep the cat until the 4th of December? That is Ed’s birthday.” “Yes. I can do that.” “OK.” And the secret deal was made.

Sometime later Barbara told me, “You’ll never believe what I am giving you for your birthday” Well, I was clueless. Socks? Underwear? Whatever!

Several weeks later, the day before my birthday, I came home late from classes at the university and I was wondering why the kids were still up. “Hey, kids, should we give Dad his birthday present?” “Yay!” went the chorus. Barbara put in my hand the little gray kitten with a red bow.

I stood in the doorway of the kitchen and laughed and laughed and laughed until I cried.” And that is how “Monet” came to live with us. He is named after the French Impressionist painter who is one of our favorites (and after all I am French.) One minor detail on the new family member’s name. He is “Clawed Monet.”

The family adventures were only starting with Monet. It was his first Christmas so he wanted to get a close look at the tree. He climbed up the inside of the tree and promptly knocked it over. As you can also well imagine for people who are not fond of cats; cats are fond of them. Monet would crawl up on Barbara’s lap and offer to let her pet him. She being the wonderful sport she is would pet him gingerly. One day in so doing, Monet began to purr. Barbara looked at him and said, “Kids, what is wrong with the cat?” “He is purring, mother. He is happy” “I thought that was just in the books – purr, purr, purr.”

Monet worked his way into Barbara’s heart but he was always my cat. Monet lived with us for years inside and out. One day he did not return for several days. We scoured the neighborhood. No Monet. Our neighbor knocked on the door. He had found Monet in the ground cover between our houses. We took Monet’s body and buried it in the backyard and then Barbara and I both sat on back door step and cried.

Maybe Barbara doesn’t want to get close to another cat. And I suppose that is OK – especially since she is keeping me and I purr happily.

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