Friday, March 4, 2016

My Friend Esther, Fifteen Years And Counting

A couple weeks ago, my cat Esther and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary.

In 2001, Murray and the kids decided to get me a kitty as a surprise Valentine’s Day present. They went to the animal shelter, filled out all the necessary paperwork, then checked out the cats who wanted a new home. A lady who worked there indicated Esther and said, “She’s the friendliest one.”

So they brought her home, and everyone carefully coached Benjamin, who was four at the time, not to say anything about her when I got home from work. “What are you going to do when Mama gets home, Benjamin?” “Not say anything about the cat.”

Everybody was gathered in the living room when I came in the front door. “Hi, Mommy.” Benjamin greeted me happily. Then he turned and walked the other way, murmuring, “I didn’t say anything about the cat.”

Murray quickly grabbed my hand and said, “What is this Rebecca has?” And he put my hand on Esther, sitting on Rebecca’s lap.

She was calm, and she was friendly, and she didn’t waste any time winning my love.

She was an adult, two years old when we got her, and she kept being a calm, friendly member of our household until about three years later. Then we decided to bring Holly into our family. I was sure Esther would be happier if she had a kitty friend to play with.

Not such good thinking. Once Holly and Esther were both established, we started learning more about the varied personalities and moods of cats. They never got along. They hissed and growled at each other, and chased each other out of whatever space each was claiming for her own at the time.

Esther wasn’t so calm and good-natured any more. Murray said she asked us, “Why’d you bring that other cat? Wasn’t I good enough?”

Time passed. We moved to a different house, and even if they weren’t friends, we loved our cats for their grouchy and annoying selves.

Then we got a dog.

Now the cats were really mad. But did they join forces against the dog? No. Holly retreated to the basement, where the dog never goes. Esther withdrew to Murray’s and my bedroom, which isn’t open to the dog. And that’s where they stayed.

Holly was with us for eleven years, and whenever we could coax her out, she was a joy. When she died last summer, I started getting scared that Esther would die at any time. I’ve pretty much gotten over that.

Esther is seventeen, which is certainly old for a cat. But she’s still going strong, so I’ve decided to enjoy every day I have to spend with this precious gift.

Esther is calmer again as she’s grown older, but she’s still active. She loves to eat, and she yells at us if we haven’t fed her quite as soon as she wants us to. She winds around my feet whenever I go into the bathroom. She carries on long conversations with my daughter Sarah.

One night recently, I must have had food on my face, because when I went to bed, Esther started licking my chin. I told Murray, “It was so sweet, just like a little puppy.” By the way, I don’t let the dog lick my face.

Esther has always hopped on the bed and curled up by me at night, but over the last few years, she’s crawled under the blankets with me in the winter. This year, she snuggles right up against my face. A little hard to breathe comfortably with all that fur, yes. But she plops down close to me, lays her face against mine, and purrs loud and long. How can I push her away?

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