Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Death in the Family

I came home one day in 1992 to find that two kittens had come to our house to “visit.” Someone had dropped them off at a friend’s family’s farm and they were in need of a home. Someone—my wife, I suspect—had agreed to let our friend bring the kittens to our house to “see how we liked them.”

We go through a ruse at my house at times like that. I’m told things like “We won’t keep them if you don’t want them” and “It’s really up to you.”


And that’s how Eric and Otis came to live with us. Sara named one of the kittens Eric after the prince in The Little Mermaid and Joshua named the other after Otis Nixon who was at the time patrolling centerfield for the Atlanta Braves. The names turned out to be ironic. Eric never displayed
much prince-like courage and Otis never displayed much baseball player-like energy.

Still, they brought much pleasure to the family.

Eric died at the vet’s office in 2004.

Otis died in our den last Monday. He was sixteen years old. I had the privilege of being with him as he passed away. We all gathered around his grave and shared our thoughts about his life.

Joshua was eight and Sara was five when Otis came to us. They’re 24 and 21 now. He had been with them through lots of changes.

Otis moved with us from Adel to Nashville to Adel to Augusta. He never complained, although he did look at us cross-eyed with his tongue sticking out sometimes. Actually, that was his normal look.

We sometimes called him “Mr. Ots.” There’s a story behind that, of course. At Christmas everybody at our house, human and animal, has a stocking with her or his name on it. That included Otis, but his says “Mr. Otis” because Sara thought it would sound more dignified. Someone was visiting the house at Christmas one year and I guess she didn’t see the “i” and asked, “Who’s Mr. Ots?” Such things stick.

We also occasionally referred to Otis as a “lap slut.” If a lap was available, he was going to sit in it. It didn’t matter whose lap it was. If no one was sitting down except Jack the Ripper, Otis was going to be in Jack the Ripper’s lap.

Otis reminded me of some important things. For one thing, you can be a blessing by just being. Otis was good to have around even though he for the most part didn’t do anything. For another thing, as much or more joy is found in the giving of affection as in its reception. Otis didn’t show a lot of affection but he sure got a lot of it and that made us all feel good.

We all miss Otis. He was a part of our family for a very long time.

I really don’t think that we should get another cat. If I express that opinion to my family, I’m sure they’ll concur. After all, it's really up to me.


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