Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Mama's Last Cat
I look at the cat standing sentry atop my refrigerator. It isn’t a real cat; it’s a wooden cat, painted a jaunty black and white stripe with its tail impossibly long.
It isn’t even my cat. It had been my mother’s, a present I’d purchased for her at an import store to feed her feline fix and to remind her of traveling the world and how much she loved a good street market.
My beautiful, brilliant mother, laid out in a mechanical, antiseptic bed, underpants and teeth taken from her during her last sad days on this earth. Alternating between rage and sweet confusion, all she had left of the material world was this cat peering over her untouched dinners and a rendition of Van Gogh’s sunflowers hanging askew on the opposite wall next to a sign promising Sunday chapel services.
“I want to go home. Please take me home,” she begged, although home was thousands of miles away, an impossible gift from a daughter who would have if she could have, a grown up little girl who would have given anything to be able to.
My daddy always said the only good cat was a dead cat, but he put up with at least one at all times I can remember because of his love for my mama. But Daddy left us years ago.
On her last day, during my last visit, Mama looked up from her confusion and laughed as I saw her fingers trail an invisible arc in the air. “I just saw a cat jump up on that table and then run out the door,” she said, her eyes offering a passable semblance of merry.
I kissed her goodnight, told her I loved her and left, never to see my mother again.
I know in my heart it was my daddy who sent that particular dead cat to come get my mama to take her home.
The sunflowers greet me each day as I rise and shine. The striped cat watches over me as I break my morning bread.
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