She was hung over from the night before and trying to grab a few groceries for dinner tonight, and the blaring ring tone made her cringe. It better not be Robert, she thought. Fumbling, she pulled her phone out of her purse, while her five-year-old son wrote his name, “Issac” in the frosty glass door of the frozen veggies.
It was dad. She smiled. Lately dad was so much smarter than he used to be. Funny how that happens. “Hey dad,” she said.
“Hey hun.” Uh oh. Immediately she sensed “the tone.” Not the “you’re-in-trouble-tone,” that she remembered so well from her horrific teenage years. But the “something-isn’t-quite-right-tone” which immediately sent another wave of nausea through her stomach and caused her knees to buckle under her body weight. Her son looked up at her, holding up his hands, red and icy. “What’s up?” Anna asked.
“Well…” he began “I thought I better tell you that Sissy died today. I found her in the flower beds. At first I thought she was just sleeping. I went ahead and buried her. Just thought you should know.”
“Awww…well, she was old…” Anna stumbled on her words. She never particularly liked the cat. The mushy hairballs, annoying mewing, and white hair all over my black pants never exactly improved her quality of life. Even though she didn’t care for the cat, a twinge of sadness pierced her. The white ball of fluff had been there. Really been there for almost as long as she could remember. Sissy had wandered into their lives in the spring of 1994. Anna and her twin Elizabeth were in the fifth grade and they lived in a wooden A-frame house nestled deep in the mountains of Ohio. It was not uncommon for people to drop dogs and cats off on the side of their windy road. Normally, her parents would call the humane society, but this particular cat stuck with her family. Sissy’s low maintenance, stay-out-of-my-way-I-will-do-my-own-thing personality probably increased her chances of a home.
A year later Anna found her guarding a fluffy orange kitten. For weeks, Sissy wouldn’t let anyone near her baby. She drug him around and hid him in tight places like window seals or in piles of winter jackets. Eventually, she awarded the family visitation rights. He became an easy-going, energetic ball of orange which earned him the name Tigger.
Hanging up the phone, she began aimlessly wandering around Harris Teeter. “When are we going to leave?” Issac whined.
“Please chill,” she said a little too abruptly and then silently reprimanded herself. She pushed the grocery cart through the coffee aisle. Her temples ached. How much had she drank last night? Five glasses of wine? Six? She needed to slow down, but Robert stressed her out so much.
She remembered Sissy perched on the porch railing, glaring at everyone who walked by, analytically criticizing the world. Then she would drag dead chipmunks to the front porch welcome mat, causing Anna and Elizabeth to scream in disgust. Sissy would sit up straight, proudly licking her paws. “It’s the way she shows us she likes us,” mom would say. Sissy lingered throughout their lives, playing a small role, but a constant role. She was there. Anna realized this through old pictures of birthdays, graduation parties, and holidays where Sissy was in the background, perching proudly. She may have kept a low profile, but her presence comforted. She observed every step of their lives, while perched on that porch rail in those Ohio mountains. Anna missed those days.
So even though she was at least fifteen years old, and lived a long full life, Anna cringed at the thought of dad finding her in the flower bed. A tear slipped from her eye; She tried to catch it but it was too late. “Mommy! What’s wrong?” Issac asked, now hanging from the cart.
“Mommy’s fine honey. Sometimes grown-ups get sad.”
“What are you sad about mommy?”
“A cat,” she replied, wondering how silly how silly she sounded. Issac looked puzzled.
Finally, with a full cart, they headed to check out our groceries, but not after Anna grabbed two bottles of merlot for the evening. Her phone blared from her purse again. This time it was Robert.