the short, happy life
of George McFly
I will warn you right off that this will probably be a long story. And also, that it will turn out to be a sad story. But write it I must, for my own catharsis, as my own farewell.
He showed up at the back door late one night in April of last year, two days after his brother, Brett, arrived. And I’ll admit it, this was not exactly a case of love at first sight. I was a little wary of George from the beginning, he was semi-feral, half-starved and though this had nothing to do with him, we already had four cats inside. (It was however, a case of name at first sight, he immediately made me think of Crispin Glover’s George McFly from Back to the Future.)
I have always wondered where he was for those two extra days, how he made his way to us, why he seemed so much more wild than his brother. Initially, we made them a shelter to sleep in outside and provided plenty of food. We still hadn’t decided if we would keep them, I mean, six cats, really?
About a week later, George came home one night with some pretty serious injuries. We never did find out exactly what happened, but he had puncture wounds and a hernia. Now we had a decision to make. Of course, the decision was only in our heads (and our wallets) because our hearts already knew what we would do.
Yes, six cats.
The four that we already had were essentially indoor cats, they like to come out with us when we sit in the garden, but we live on a country road, a 55 mph country road, and so, indoor cats. But these new boys, The Outsiders, as my husband would come to call them, were never going to be indoor cats. These kittens were hunters. So we compromised, they would go outside during the day and I would coax them back inside at night.
And so they became my yin and yang kittens, George Porge, Puddin and Pie, The Boys. So much the same, yet so completely different. Brett is just adorable, and the quintessential naughty kitten. He’s very social and active and demanding, especially when he wants his special (canned) food. George was the quiet one, slow and steady, always reserved, always calm, polite, and undemanding. George was special in a way I always found hard to describe, he was intelligent, but he lived in his own little world, always slightly apart from the rest of us, always slightly unaware, or unconcerned, about his surroundings.
Despite those initial reservations, over the past year he worked his way deep into my heart. Proof of this is the fact that he became the only cat allowed to sleep in our bed at night. Besides going outside, it was the only thing he ever asked for. And I couldn’t say no, I just couldn’t.
Slowly, we formed a bond, he learned to let me rub his belly, I learned his habits and that his introversion was not a lack of affection. I am certain now that he loved me, loved all of us, with his whole heart. He would stop in throughout the day for snacks and as soon as he was finished, he would come into my studio and ask to be let out again. He did this funny little canter on his way back to the door that always made me smile.
The only time he was naughty was when we tried to keep him inside, which was only when we went away for a few days. Each time, when we returned, blinds had been shredded, couch cushions were strewn across the floor. George wanted out.
But he never demanded to be fed, never demanded attention. If one of the other cats budged their way into his bowl, he would step aside gracefully. Every time I stepped outside, to get the mail, water my plants, take a break, there would be George, winding himself around my ankles. When I went outside to call him in at night, almost always, he came running.
And when I picked him up to take him in, he always nuzzled his head into my neck, and I always said, “That’s my George.”
Once inside, he would almost immediately go off to sleep, fueling up for the next day’s adventures. If he wasn’t already there when I started getting ready for bed, he would hop up onto the mattress, plopping down in my spot and looking up at me hopefully.
During the past year, at night, we learned to trust each other, in the silence that fell into the space between my head and my feet, where he slept with some part of his body always touching my leg. Maybe just a shoulder, or a paw, but always something.
If I moved in the night, he moved with me, ever polite, simply rearranging himself around my new position.
And each morning he waited for me to wake up. Sitting there as my sentinel, silent, awake, waiting. Not for me to feed him, but for me to let him out the back door. He would come back in later for food. But first, he wanted out.
On Sunday, I let him out the same as every morning. Brett stayed inside to get a snack first, and followed a few minutes later. Just a few minutes after that, my husband and son arrived home from our cabin and found George in the driveway, no longer alive. Brett was siting nearby, he now the sentinel.
Our guess is that George got clipped by a car and managed to make it partway up the driveway before collapsing. He was trying to make his way home.
It was the thing I worried about most. The road was always the first place I checked whenever I couldn’t find my boys, and especially with George, as he always seemed completely unaware of danger. But still, that morning, it was completely unexpected. It was a shock. We all had the wind knocked right out of us.
The three of us spent the day in tears, and that evening my husband placed a stone, on which he had written “Sporty” (his name for George), at the spot where we found him. We decided to inlay it into the gravel. After the three of us did so, my husband and I walked back to sit in the garden. Just a moment later, I thought I heard bagpipes, and I looked at my husband, and we both said, “Is he?….” My son was standing where we had placed the rock, playing Amazing Grace on his iphone, which at first made us totally crack up, but then, of course, made us both burst into tears.
And so, my George is gone. He had a wonderful year filled with love and kindness and adventure, and I don’t think he would have wanted it any other way. Actually, I am certain of it.
He was a sweet soul who was destined to live a short life.
And he lived it in his own special world, in his own funny way.
Always with just one paw extended into ours.
But, damn, he broke my heart.
And I miss him.