The oldest of our four cats has died.
Julian (yes, named after the English mystic) came to live with me as an adorable calico kitten in the fall of 1987. I had just moved to Atlanta, and I chose an apartment with the ability to have a cat as a consideration. She was rather shy — a classic “scaredy-cat” — but could be very warm and affectionate with you once she decided she liked you.
When I married Fran (in 1993), she and Julian really bonded. For most of her mature years, Julian slept in the bed next to Fran. We have often joked that of our four cats, Julian “owned” Fran, China “owned” me, Clarissa “owned” Rhiannon, and Ferbie, the youngest (like China, a stray who adopted us) was the free agent in the house.
In recent years Julian suffered from arthritis and her self-grooming declined considerably. Which was a shame, as she was always a lovely cat (and for most of her life, fastidious with her grooming, as most cats are). As her grooming declined, her hair would be matted — we nicknamed her “Mattie” and commented that she was our first “Rasta kitten” since she had such wonderful dreadlocks. In an effort to help her with her grooming, Fran bought several cat-combs and we would take turns combing her. Feisty old lady that she was, she would complain loudly and bitterly as we combed out her matted fur. But she never bit and always would come back for more grooming, so we figured that she really was glad to be cared for that way, even if she had to complain about it. She was by far the most vocal of our four cats, the house will be eerily silent without her persistent meowing. I believe she was part-Siamese, and certainly talked like a Siamese cat.
Julian hated closed doors and adored being petted on her head. If we would lie on the bed to read, she knew that if she were persistent in rubbing the book (making reading nigh impossible), she would be rewarded with ample head-petting. She knew how to work us.
This weekend I was in Virginia, visiting my father. Early Sunday morning Fran heard a loud noise and woke up to find Julian lying on the floor, having fallen off the bed. She obviously was having seizures. Eventually the seizures stopped and she spent several hours wandering aimlessly around the house. As Fran described it, it was clear she had suffered a stroke with considerable loss of cognitive function: she would walk into a wall and just stop and stand there, unsure what to do next. At one point she got stuck between the refrigerator and the cabinets, and just stood there until Fran rescued her. Finally she settled down in a corner of our living room and slept; Fran made a little nest for her with towels in a box. We figured that we would probably have to get her to the vet today, since often strokes in cats can be treated with steroids.
But that was not to be. Early this morning — roughly a day after she suffered her stroke — she passed away, peacefully with Fran beside her, gently stroking her.
When I got home, Fran and I groomed her body one final time.
I’m sad and I know I’ll miss her terribly, but she had a good life, over twenty years of it. Fran has a clear sense of her playing in the fields of heaven. I suppose she’s gone to Tir na n’Og, where the mice are plentiful and the hunting is good.
God speed, Julian. Thank you for sharing your life with us.