In September 1998, I’d been married for about a month. I was supporting my husband the grad student and myself on two $6/hour jobs (copyeditor at the Herald-Times and part-time editor at the Indiana Alumni Magazine). We were back living in our college town, but we were lonely. All of our college friends had moved on. We had each other and our just-starting-out stress to keep us going. We ate a lot of white rice with baked beans and hot sauce. (Surprisingly tasty, if you’re poor.)
Anthony’s parents threw us a wedding reception up in Middlebury and we gratefully make the trek upstate to collect some more wedding gifts and also escape our stressful newlywed lives. (I know — those days are supposed to be full of wonder and sexual adventures. We had never lived together though and they were filled instead with petty arguments and tears as we navigated our new married landscape.)
There were kittens at the reception. Wild, feral, orphaned kittens. They were roaming around my in-laws’ country place, sickly because they had no mama but they did have worms. One little feisty guy liked to hiss and meow at us. He would crawl into my lap to be petted and then trot away. I said to him, “If you do that one more time, I’m taking you home with me.” And that’s how we got Lyle T-Bone Hanky Schrock, our first pet as a married couple.
From the very beginning, he was a little f*ckball. Kind of a cute little jerk, if you know what I mean. Not exactly affectionate, but it was clear he liked us. He’d bite and kick and claw but then curl up adorably on our bed. We’d take him on walks (on a leash) in Bryan Park, we’d cancel trips if he barfed, we bought him toys and worried that he wasn’t growing. We were awesome cat parents.
Then we had our human babies and our pets took a back seat. We’re so cliche like that. Lyle took it well — because he wasn’t super into us anyway. We’d joke that he’d totally eat us if we died in the house. Lyle got enormously fat. So fat that a workman once asked when he was due to give birth. Um, what?
Eventually, our house grew to include two daughters, two more cats and a dog. Lyle was the patriarch of the place — never hesitating to use his claws and teeth to establish his place ON the kitchen table or guzzling your beer.
Like most curmudgeons, Lyle was loved by all. Mostly by Bella in his old age, since he’d been peeing all over Valerie’s room for years and on MY head one night. (How many of us can say we’ve had a cat let loose a steaming hot stream of piss on the back of their heads at 5am? I raise my hand.) Our relationship had suffered, but Bella was his champion, defending his honor and taping his beloved brush to the kitchen floor so he could rub his face on it while she was at school.
His bad bathroom habits finally did him in. With chronic diarrhea outside the box, despite a daily regimen of meds designed to fight it, Lyle had grown tired and sick and old. Our amazing vet, Dr. Shari Hughes, gave us the OK to put him to sleep last Wednesday, February 11, 2015. There was sobbing, there was wailing — it was not pretty. But Bella remained stoic and frankly in denial. She asked to play Subway Surfers on my phone as we were preparing to end her cat’s life. She refused to talk about him and his death for days. Until last night. Lyle’s death hit her and she cried and cried for him. We talked about how he’s in cat heaven now, with no more sickness. He’s romping around, chasing butterflies. That seemed to calm her, but then four hours later a stomach flu hit and she’s been knocked out ever since. I hope she’s dreaming about her kitty, Mr. Ly-Ly Boo. He was a good cat. Rest in peace, little f*ckball.