How did he know? I am unsure. In the times before cell phones, how exactly DID we communicate so frequently? Did I just, like, CALL him on a regular old phone and whine and cry? Did I page him in secret number code or did we have word texting yet? Again, irrelevant, but definitely something to ponder in future days.
Upon my very dramatic and morose entry into his home, Pat met me at the door with the hugest grin on his face and his arms behind his back.
"I know you were having a really bad day, so I picked up a surprise a little early for you..."
And then, with as much grandeur as he could muster, he pulled out from behind his back the squirmiest ball of black fuzz and razor sharp kitten claws you ever did see.
Before I could truly glimpse her, she scratched her way from his grasp and leapt behind the couch, hissing and spitting all the while. We spent a good part of the next few days trying to coax some sort of loving response from this "surprise" of mine; we were rewarded with many tiny kitten scratch marks on our wrists and arms that get infected if you don't clean them right away.
Somehow, sometime, she came around. Be it the need for nourishment beyond the kitten treats we offered or an innate desire for loving contact, somehow she decided that we weren't so horrible, and tolerated us to the point that we were eventually allowed to cuddle and pet her.
She was our first baby. Young and freshly out of our parents' homes, we doted on that cat. We named her Smudge because that was clearly her name and no other name would have ever suited her. She was the only pet we ever owned who always, and I mean ALWAYS, went to the bathroom where she was supposed to. She was the cat that endured all 3 babies wanting to love on her. She was quietly present for every tearful and joyful moment our married life presented. To her dying day, which was today, she behaved for us and trusted us. It is strange to realize that there will never be a night where she will be waiting for me on our bed...
And I know it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of the world, but she meant a whole lot to us... to me.
Letting her go today was a reminder of just how short 20 years really can be.
I am so grateful that she decided to tolerate us.
We'll miss you, Smudgie.