"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue


06 Apr 2002

Sarnia, Summer 1981 or 1982

There's all sorts of stories I could tell. About how Jason found his way into the cold air return and was trapped in the furnace ductwork for a day, just a disembodied meow that seemed to come from everywhere. Or the time he tangled with a skunk in Wyoming and was subsequently bathed in tomato juice by me and Mom late one night. Or how he broke his leg under completely mysterious circumstances in Petrolia, and how he plonked about in a cast for weeks afterwards.

I could tell you what he was like: That he loved raw liver, and could be made to come by snapping the scissors we used to cut it up. That he especially liked to be rubbed under his chin. That his shedded hair (Jasonhairs) would adorn my wardrobe for almost 20 years.

The scent of his fur. The inevitable litter box odor. The smell of an adolescent cat marking territory. Indoors. God, that was awful.

Petrolia, early 1983

Favourite places: On top of any hot water radiator. In the rocking chair, on a towel. The cottage.Wherever there were people and laps.

The most vivid memories are a stupid hodgepodge of unimportant moments.

The earliest is of him as a kitten, falling asleep on my chest as I was lying on the couch, watching television. He rode up and down with my breaths. I don't think I had ever been so close to a cat in my life.

In the kitchen. He is sitting, thinking. I loose my grip on a wet washcloth which goes skidding across the floor until it touches his paws, and then he springs straight up into the air with surprisingly scrutable surprise.

In the summer of 1982, I am alone in the house for a weekend. It's 4:30 in the morning, and I'm looking out a second storey door into a nearby park. My brain is on fire with a woman I adored, but who did not adore me. Jason happens by. I scoop him up and we look out at the coming dawn together. I desperately wanted it to be a moment we could share and look back on, but Jason wasn't interested, and after a couple of minutes, he squirmed away. Even now I wonder if there isn't something to be learned from his Zen-like detachment.

Late 1980's

Jason has been around for about as long as I've been the person you might recognize as me. His life spanned my bothersome early teen years when I ceased to be an loose amalgam of my parents to became someone different, and stretched into adulthood with and all of its concomitant rites. I feel this observation must have some profound meaning, but it eludes me. Perhaps its just that someone will someday make the same impenetrable observation of me once I've died, and will be just as puzzled.

Ontario Street, Toronto, circa 1992

In recent years, Jason suffered a number of ailments: feline AIDS (an 8 year survivor), cataracts, hyperthyroidism, tooth decay, arthritis, and constipation. He was on medication and put up with frequent injections of Ringer's Lactate to keep him hydrated. And yet he never failed to purr if you took the time to visit and to help him up into your lap.

After he had six teeth pulled last year, he switched to a soft food diet for the first time since he was a kitten. We moved his food to the end of the kitchen that was closest his litter box so he wouldn't have to walk so far, and so that he could find it in his blindness. Unfortunately, that part of the kitchen is right in front of the refrigerator, a high traffic zone, and if you weren't careful, you could easily put a foot in his food dish, or on The Old Man himself. But it was something you got used to. When I was home last weekend, I found myself involuntarily looking at that same patch of floor every time I used the fridge. There's nothing to see there now, and for a while I couldn't figure out why I was looking at the floor so much. It's probably the same reason that made me scan the living room when I went in, looking first at the radiator, then the empty couch. I guess it's through loss that you discover your habits.

One of my sisters (aged 6) asked, "Where is he now?" While I think she was referring to his body, she might also have been asking the metaphysical question. Where do you go? Cat heaven? No -- I don't buy that. He's on a mouse pad I had made up last year. He's on my Mom's fridge. He's still on my sweaters. And he will always be where he is remembered.

The Happy Cat
South Drive, Toronto, late 1990's