Friday, November 9, 2007

Poignancy? Really?

I got a request recently for the entire multi-anecdote saga of how I met Hub 1.0, which in turn tells the saga of how Starman and I met. However, we're leaving this morning for Lexington, MA to see Coffee Jones and her beans, stay in their pod and provide a bit of a respite from their daily grind.

[I promise never to use those puns again. Honest. I promise.]

In light of the morning's schedule, I don't think I can do the full double romance justice. With apologies, I'll leave those stories for another day and move on to another request.

Someone I've only just met wrote, "I would like to read something of yours which is poignant." Hmm. This got me thinking about a lot of things, mostly humor. You see, Casper (the fellow asking for poignancy) is very funny on Bridge Base Online, which is where I first encountered him. That's the face he shows to that world. His recent e-mails to me have been more contemplative. I love, for example, how he described his marriage: " I have been Married to the woman I found at the age of 18....the first month of college...and....I don't just love her....I am still in love." Isn't that sweet?

I would so much rather make people laugh (or at least smile) than make them cry (or at least mist up). But, paradoxically, I love to cry at the sad bits of movies and books, particularly if there's a happy ending after the sad bit. Somewhere on this blog it lists my favorite books, one of which is "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A rich but unspoilt girl has to endure deprivation and sadness before she makes enough friends to survive. Just when it looks hopeless, there's salvation! Now that's sadness followed by a poignant happy ending!

But to write something like that, myself? I dunno. I could try. The thing is, I've got that annoying philosopher's gene that makes me see both sides of a situation. When my mother died, for instance, I celebrated her life and my belief that she had died the way she wanted to die. It was years, literally, before I got selfish enough to wish she was here to see Harmony, to meet Starman, and to call on Saturday morning just to talk, the way she used to.

But one loss cut right to the bone, and I still can't think about it -- now more than 20 years later -- without crying. That was when Timmo died.

Timmo was a feral stray cat in Albany back in 1980 when I first met him. He was a tuxedo cat; probably an adolescent from a litter born that spring to a local stray. He would slink down the back yard to steal the gravy from my the dog's breakfast. It was a month before he wouldn't run away the moment the back door was opened. Then another month before he wouldn't run away when I stepped outside. And a third month before he would let me pet him. After that he was mine.

That house -- a small, woodframe townhouse, had been completely renovated by my mother, who started with a $10,000 shell. She put on a balcony in the back, and both her bedroom and mine opened onto that. Underneath the balcony on my side of the house was a pre-fab greenhouse. Timmo would jump from the retaining wall of the garden up to the roof of the greenhouse and from there up to the balcony and into my room. We could go away for the weekend, leave the door locked but open three inches, and Timmo could go in and out as he pleased.

But, as much as he loved his freedom, he loved me more. When I moved to a studio apartment in Portland, Maine, Timmo seemed completely happy to have his outdoor activities reduced to sitting on the window sill, looking down on the world. He also endured being alone during the day, I suppose because at the end of it, I always returned. For a stray, he was the best behaved cat I ever met -- he would sit on the floor next to where I was reading in bed, reach up and tap me politely on the arm if he wanted anything.

I'll spare you the story of how he died -- it would make you hate vets forever, and that's hardly fair -- but he died at age four of feline leukemia. Almost certainly he'd had the retrovirus by the time I adopted him. I have had other cats since then, and they were and are lovely, friendly, good natured companions. But not a single one has ever looked at me the way Timmo did, as though I was the most beloved of all God's creatures. In fact, no one -- human, feline or other -- has looked at me the way Timmo did.

Well, at my advanced age of 51, I can say that last fact is a good thing. I don't want Starman to think I am all there is in his world; I want him to have friends and loving relationships with lots of people. I think that's necessary for a successful life. But twenty-five years ago, when I had precious little sense of myself and my place in the world, to have even just a cat think I was all there was in his world was huge, and undoubtedly hugely healing. Losing Timmo was, and is, an indeliable sadness -- it's just not at the forefront of my emotional world these days. It's like a painting I've owned for all this time and don't really see as much as I used to. But when I look at it, really see it again, I'm struck again by the sadness of one tiny life, doomed from the start and ended too soon.

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