Friday, July 21, 2006

Fur-ry Tale

Miming our family cat first arrived at our house wrapped in a brown paper bag. My father rescued him from some guy who was supposed to throw a whole litter into the deep harbor in the city. I was five years old then and the sight of a scraggly, scrawny kitten rubbing itself against my leg tugged at my heart. I thought he’d make a fine playmate. Miming was a feral cat. We didn’t even know what breed he was.

My father was a practical guy. He brought home the kitten presumably to keep the mice at bay. But our Miming soon got tired of mice and decided that it’s just not his thing. And besides, he got fed regularly. Table scraps, fish bones and his favorite, fish innards. Euoww. He got lots of fresh milk, too.

Cats aren’t like dogs which are too eager to please. Cats simply don’t care. They’d ignore you whenever they want. They’d sit on their asses all day: in Miming’s case, he’d be perched comfortably on the window sill, contemplating his existence and observing his humans, or curled up contentedly in the living room sofa, snoring softly, even when the house was full of piano students during week-ends.

He even went as far as the sleeping right in the middle of my parents’ bed, before my mom drove him out of the room. He got the message alright. I don’t know if we spoiled him, but he seemed so comfortable around us he’d jump right into our laps to be patted while we’re sitting down. He used to sneak behind while we were sleeping on our backs, and slowly crawl his way up and perch his heavy frame (he was getting fatter) on top of our stomachs.

He liked to be carried like a baby, patted in the head, or rubbed under the chin down to the neck. Unlike our dogs which were kept on leashes (stray dogs were shot on the spot, to prevent spread of rabies), Miming was no problem.

He marked the area around the house his territory. We knew because at night, we could hear him fighting with some cat intruder, or wooing some lady cat. He never really strayed far.

In fact, during hot summer months when the entire family would be outdoors, he’d be sunning himself (more like licking himself clean) at some spot where we can see him. Whether my brother was up the caimito or avocado trees picking a ripe fruit and throwing it down my way, or my mom busy replanting her orchids and anthuriums, Miming made sure his presence was felt, too.

He was a comforting companion in the house. He was a silent witness to all my adventures as a kid: the never-ending battles with my brother; fist fights with Re-re and Yo-yo; garbage dump trips with Andy in search of Pepsi caps; endless Bruce Lee, Shaolin and Ninja flicks on betamax (he simply yawned and slept through it), and of course, getting through grade school. I used to include Miming in my bedtime prayers, along with a 5th honor mention at the end of the school year (which didn’t happen because I always ended up 6th anyway).

As he was getting older, he became increasingly finicky with his food, became sickly, and spent more time sleeping during the day, and prowling the neighborhood at night. He’d be gone for days on end, too. I mistook his tendency to eat grass as a self-medicating instinct to cure himself of any cat sickness (I later learned this habit is common to all members of the cat family, irritating their throats so they’d throw up the fur balls created with all that licking).

One night, after a few days absence, his loud mewing meant he was back and that he wanted to be let in. I was getting worried because I felt he might be up to some final “mission” or journey before dying peacefully. My brother and I got that idea from watching all those Lassie and Bingo tapes on Betamax. But he didn’t touch the food we prepared for him; he was only thirsty. And then he left again that night.

We never saw him again.

When you’re a kid, the loss of a pet is a very sad moment. I grieved quietly. Not only because he was anything special, but because his departure seemed to mark a new chapter in my life as well. I no longer liked cartoons and kung fu movies (believe me, these two constituted my viewing diet as a child). I became interested in detective stories (Perry Mason thrillers my mom kept in her mini-library). I started to appreciate classical music (because Air Supply and Menudo gave me headaches). Girls began noticing me (no kidding!). In other words, I was growing up. And Miming probably felt his presence was no longer needed and felt he had to go.

When he lived with us his mere presence seemed to radiate a sense of contentment around the house, you know, that comfortable feeling that suggests everything is just okay.