I am just 2 days shy of returning to my own bed. I have been on the road for most of the past month, home long enough to do laundry, check the mail, and sleep a couple of fitful nights before packing up and heading out again. I have 2 weeks ahead of me and I am ready to reconnect to my own space, see if I can resurrect some of my poor plants. Perhaps I will be more accustomed to the profound emptiness that lives there now that my beloved cat and friend, Butch, is gone.
Butch was a legend among the many poets and friends who have stayed with us, either in my perch on the third floor of Mrs. Powers’ house on Victoria Place for 10 years, or the 10 years since that I have lived in my home. It was 10 years ago last week that a throng of friends moved me from the apartment to this house, quite an ordeal. Butch and my other cat, Angel, were quite disturbed by it all. Angel retreated to the basement for a month. Butch took to finding his way and claiming the space.
Butch was a big boy, born into the wrong body. Some golden lab somewhere was seriously confused because the cat that should have been in Butch’s body was switched at birth. He loved water. He followed me everywhere. And he was relentless in loving.
Right now, Butch has been what I have been calling Walt Disneyed. In upstate NY in winter, there is no way to bury a cat. So the day he passed, after a lengthy hospice through the holidays and into the new year, I bathed his body and wrapped him well, then placed the bag that holds him in his bath sheet shroud in a nook in the chest freezer I bought this summer to keep him safe until spring when the ground softens.
The other day, I opened a can of tuna and there was no one to give the liquid to as a treat. With my teaching schedule, I haven’t had much time to adjust to the loss in that kind of immediacy.
Butch came to live with me just a few weeks after I attended my first National Poetry Slam in 1994. I was doing secretarial work at the time and I told several of my friends at work that I was going to do whatever I could to create my life centered on my identity as poet, which I had put on a shelf for nearly a decade.
Now, more than 15 years later, that kitten grew from a frantic little maniac, to a big bruiser, to a distguished older gentleman, to an old, old man. He departed at a time when I am solely supporting myself as a teaching poet and my success in writing has been evident as well. I have gone from just returning to writing to my present self, and Butch was there for the entire journey. Now he leaves me on my own.
He was a great guy. He made a warm spot for me on the bed before I retired on winter nights. He filled my lap with bone-strengthening purrs. Butch loved me unconditionally, and he loved my friends. He will be missed by many. I was lucky to know him. Nite nite Butchie Boy. And thanks loads…
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