A Special Cat, with Special Lessons

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Commentator Andrei Codrescu mourns the loss of a favorite cat. But he also reflects on the lessons to be drawn from that death.


Now without the benefit of musical accompaniment, here's commentator Andre Codrescu with an ode to his cat, who just passed away. Her name was Tip, short for Tipitina.


She was black, wise and resolute. She had two litters before she was fixed sometime in the ‘80s. She came as a kitten, together with a brother, from a couple named Hope and Miles. Her brother died a violent death many eons ago, but Hope and Miles's kitty went many more miles, and at the end a kind of hope danced in her increasingly frail frame, keeping her going all through the terrible year 2005, until she gently gave up the ghost after taking one long nap with her mistress.

Napping was Tip's specialty. She knew how to nap with an ease that would have made Sleeping Beauty jealous. Tip was a nap teacher. She taught Laura how to nap and cats came from all over the world to learn perfect napping from Tip. Well maybe not, but it could have happened. She napped through much of George Bush, Sr.'s presidency and barely lifted her head when the first Gulf War came on TV.

She watched the Clinton era with a detached and somnolent wisdom and didn't quite see what the fuss of impeachment was all about, since she had had quite a wild youth herself and still enjoyed watching humans making love.

She watched a variety of such activities with an unperturbed eye. After napping, her best specialty was purring. She purred under many hands. Laura's, first of all, and those of Laura's children, Ben and Will, both of whom grew under her gaze from baby's into teenagers, then young adults. She purred through the years of Bush, Jr., watching the world change as it does, and never once allowed any national or international situation to detract her from her chief occupations, napping and purring.

As she grew older she moved with greater difficulty and sometimes stood stuck still in the middle of the kitchen floor on her way to her food bowl or kitty litter box, as if forgetting her destination.

Such moments of Zen amnesia came more often in 2005, a year that most people would rather forget. Perhaps at long last the world of people which experienced a tragedy of Katrina nearby began to affect her. She has been named after a New Orleans music club, after all, and many musicians were homeless and destitute.

Tip was never homeless and saw nothing but love during her long days through the unrolling decades. She suffered her old age with dignity without raising a fuss about the end. She became weaker and weaker without giving up either napping or purring.

She curled up and died as the voices of humans drifted around her. She let go as easily as she napped. There were a great many lessons in that cat. I wish everyone to learn at least one of them.

BLOCK: Andre Codrescu is author of New Orleans Mon Amour.

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