That Little Prick, and the Reasons I Love Him Anyway
I can't believe how lonely I feel without Lancelot. This weekend I felt so sad, so alone.
Sometimes it feels ridiculous to miss a cat so much. But then I think about how much of my "real life" I spent with him. I petted him every morning and gave him a kiss every night. He slept beside me after every bad relationship, every argument with a friend, every bad day at work, every Eagles and Phillies loss. (Poor cat. I should have at least protected him from that misery.)
It's been almost two months since Lancie died, and I'm used to the quiet now. Sometimes I ring the bell on his collar so I can remember how he sounded. I rearranged the furniture and bought new curtains. It's nice not having to vacuum up hair every day and burn candles to mask the smell of fresh cat poop. No more litter bits between my toes or interruptions to my sleep because of a moth in the apartment.
I've been reading over my blog entries, and I realize I make Lancelot sound like an angel. He was a bit of a troublemaker, actually. As a younger cat, he enjoyed nipping at my bare ankles, usually without provocation. Lancelot didn't enjoy being alone, and he didn't like it when I was around and paying attention to something or someone else. My friend Jessie enjoys reminding me that I'd suddenly stop talking during telephone calls and whisper, "He sees me!" and run for my cup filled with pennies, my cheap device to scare Lance off.
He loved running under the sheets while I made the bed. We played a game where I'd lift the top sheet to form a parachute and he'd run under and roll on his back. Then I'd rub his tummy while he tried to scratch and bite me through the sheet.
Since spring 2000, my father (who hates cats but is a terrific real estate agent!) has referred to Lancelot as "that little prick" because of an incident before my grad school graduation party. I was trying to cover my kitchen table with a paper tablecloth. Lance wouldn't leave me alone; he kept jumping on the table and poking the paper with his paw. In frustration, I grabbed him up and threw him in my bedroom behind a set of French doors, so he could continue to watch the action. As my father remembers it, Lancelot fixed his eyes on my work and waited until the precise moment I had the table perfectly set. Then he bounded from the bedroom and flew atop the table, scratching nefariously until the table cloth looked like a grass skirt.
"You little prick!" Dad yelled. As my mother tried to calm him, Dad explained, "He was just waiting there, planning his attack so he could mess up that table. That conniving little beast."
My friend Carrie was terrified of Lancelot. Carrie, of course, also fears squirrels and bunny rabbits--but generally she's a good judge of character. During our first few years together, Lance and I got into some pretty bad scuffles. I wasn't really accustomed to the ways of The Cat; I didn't understand they sometimes need space and Alone Time.
Carrie often told me she feared for my safety. I remember the ring of excitement in her voice during a short period when I considered giving up Lancelot. Most of my friends felt the same. Only Maia and my friend Renee, who has been dubbed "The Cat Whisperer" because all cats gravitate to her, seemed to understand our loving, sometimes dysfunctional, bond.
Lancelot mellowed substantially with age. In his later years he spent much of his time sleeping. I learned when to leave him alone, and accepted that rubbing his tummy was asking for trouble. He often slept peacefully on my lap while I knitted or watched TV. The biting stopped for the most part, and we settled into the relationship of married people who know each other's habits and faults so well they know how to avoid triggering conflict, and when it's worth the fight.