My daughter’s cat lived a good number of her nine lives with me before going on to kitty heaven, or where ever cats go after permanently scarring their mistresses. In the weeks prior to her departing, a young black cat mysteriously arrived. He had no identification other than a tag with his name, BlackJack. He was obviously well cared for.
BlackJack would hang around in the backyard with Misha, trying unsuccessfully to interest her in a leaf, a blade of grass, his antics. She ignored him, unless he got too close and then she’d hiss. I warned BlackJack what that hiss meant and shooed him away.
Within a couple days of Misha moving on to her just rewards, Blackjack showed up, this time pushing his way through the kitty door and looking for food. I tried to explain that he had a home and I thought perhaps he understood because he cocked his head at me and looked like he was paying attention.
Of course, my own kids and students did the exact same thing and they weren’t listening to my words of wisdom any more than the cat. I turned around and he was curled up asleep on my bed.
BlackJack! He opened his eyes halfway, looked at me, yawned, stretch, rolled over and promptly went back to his afternoon nap.
The visiting routine turned into a full time residency as autumn turned to winter. I still had no idea who owned him, but BlackJack had moved in, now eating meals twice a day and keeping me company on the winter evenings. Then, we would head to bed where he usually slept cuddled up next to my back.
He was much better behaved than Misha and preferred purring to hissing.
Although BlackJack enjoyed Thanksgiving with the family, entertaining us before dining on a bite or two of turkey, he really loved the Christmas holidays. He thought the decorated tree was his new toy, batting ornaments and sleeping under the lit tree in a cozy, warm nest in the middle of the gifts. I tied a red ribbon and bow around his neck and he thought he was the cat’s meow.
I still had no idea who owned him, although it seemed like I might be assuming that role.
Springtime came, the weather warmed and, just as mysteriously as he showed up, BlackJack disappeared. I have to admit, it was rather lonely and I did worry about him, although that ceased when he started stopping by for a few minutes, rubbing up against me, purring and then twitching his long black tail before running off.
It was mid-summer and I was out for a walk when I spotted BlackJack a few blocks away. He ran up to greet me and then turned tail and ran towards what I later learned was his summer home.
Eventually, the owner of the summer home, and real owner of BlackJack, and I met. The cat looked at both of us, caught red-pawed so to speak, and took off. She and her husband had two young daughters so winters inside were louder than the cat wanted. By then, BlackJack had his routine and for the next few years, he wintered with me. I offered to pay half the vet bills, but she declined, saying room and board were more than sufficient.
She called one year in early December to check on BlackJack. He was sleeping on my pillow. They were going away for the holidays and she wanted to know if she should board him
Oh no, he loves Christmas, I said.
I wouldn’t know, she answered.
A few years later, in the middle of summer, the family moved to a larger home, taking our cat with them and breaking my heart.