We knew it couldn’t last forever. The Gypsy Carpenters are sad to share the news that our original feline companion has passed on to the great unknown. Our decision to leave jobs and house behind and try life as itinerant carpenters and musicians included Mimi as an after thought. That was nine years ago. Mimi was ten. Long in the tooth even then. No cat was going to get in the way of our great dream. We’d figure something out. Somebody, somewhere would want to take her for us. And that was true. Lots of people loved Mimi and another home could have been found but it never happened. Mimi surprised us all and adapted to life on the road as though she wondered what took us so long.
Nineteen years ago Becky Holmes and I plucked her from a litter of barn kittens. My recollection is that every cat in that barn was dead within the year. Predation, mostly. Mimi was a scrapper from the day she was born. At five weeks she was already supplementing mother’s milk with her own prey. It took a year of living in my home for her to stop hiding full time. That feral part of her personality never left. Not one kiss in nineteen years. No belly rubs allowed. No holding. Mimi sat on me when she wanted and then I could scratch her ears. Burt called her a spook. She had nothing to say to him. Or Elvis. This was why we though she’d be happier in a new home.
But then life in the gNash changed her profoundly. Forced into close contact with Burt, Elvis, and me she learned to get along and engage. She wanted to sit with us and asked for attention. We had morning wrestling matches and Mimi kept the mice away. If the water bowl was empty Mimi knew how to get it filled while Elvis suffered in silence.
The last three years I’ve wondered daily how much time left we had together. She was restless and occasionally suffered seizures. This last year it became clear twenty was not within reach. She was losing weight and starting to act funny. I worried constantly that she would decline rapidly and suffer because we were in some remote place without veterinary care. I wondered if I should pre-emptively euthanize her. I wanted to do best by her and feared I was really motivated by my own needs. Sometimes I wondered if I could smoother her if needed.
Last month Mimi was in respiratory distress. We took her to a vet and assumed it was the end. The vet gave her a magic shot and for a few weeks we had the old Mimi back. She was eating and exploring and resting normally. Then one day it all turned terrible. She wasn’t herself. She couldn’t eat, the weight was melting away daily and, finally, her breathing was labored. We made special meals and tried offering food at all hours. It was no use. I consulted Becky, and Sue, and Magi and we all agreed Mimi was ready. Burt and I took her in and had her put to sleep. I sobbed. Burt cried, too. But it was the right time and the right day. As Becky said, “It’s better to do it on a good day.” Meaning Mimi could go while she still had some energy to walk about and look at things. And that was the last thing she did before we carried her to the vet. The picture above is Mimi sitting outside and enjoying the Montana sun just a couple of hours before she died.
SOmething horribly hilarious happened at the vet. I’ve been waiting to write this because I needed time to catch it. Mimi had just died and Burt went to pay our bill while I held Mimi in a box. I was wearing sunglasses. The receptionist greeted Burt with, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Burt stoically ignored the inane pleasantry. I stayed calm. Then she made another sunny inquiry and Burt says, “I have a dead cat.” Plain as day. New picture in the dictionary for awkward. It took a moment for the woman’s face to collapse. I watched the slow motion change of expression from smile to WTF-did-I just-do to OMG-I-really-fucked-up to sorrow. She was devastated. Now Burt and I were trying to cheer her up. We knew she didn’t know. She was just trying to be nice. She handed me tissues and I gave them back to her. I reassured her that we were not offended. Finally I said, “You are right. It wasn’t that bad after all. It was time.” And it was true.
Here’s what I said that day on Facebook: There will never be a cat as trailer ready as Mimi. Tiny, tidy, quiet, and an excellent mouser. She tolerated two dogs and two clumsy humans. Queen of the Nash.
I am grateful to so many that helped care for Mimi over the years. Just this year we had Dodie, my dad, SaraGay, Burt’s dad, Janet, Barbara and Sue all step in and keep her safe while we traveled the world. In years past Magi and John and Burt and others have lent a hand. I am also please beyond knowing that she went at a time where we could provide for her and that we are able to bury her in Montana. Montana will always be home.