Brooklyn, named for where he was found sixteen, maybe even seventeen years ago. . .by a dear friend, one half of a couple, married spiritually long before marriage was a debatable topic between gays.They rescued cats as volunteers, named them for places they loved, Savannah, Sante Fe, Cozumel, Brooklyn.
He was really annoying to them, for they didn’t sit still that long, and he was a true lap kitty. A meower. A sock stealer (letting you know loudly that he had a kill for you). But they adored him still, and our friend gave him to us only when HIV disallowed him the chance to care for so many love bugs. Cat boxes are, after all, festooned with bacteria.
So my then future husband took over Brooklyn, with visitation from his former Dad.
Brooklyn loved everyone, wanted to check in with all, but he loved Tony most. He did what we called the flop at least once a day: Tony sat on the sofa, Brooklyn’s hind legs planted on Tony’s thighs, front paws on Tony’s chest. He would gaze into Tony’s eyes, head butt Tony’s chin several times in the classic cat kiss, and then suddenly do a full body flop to Tony’s left, rolling off his lap, if Tony didn’t strategically block his fall with his arm. From there, Brooklyn would lie curved snuggly against Tony’s side watching hours of football each weekend, purring the whole time. He didn’t care how often Tony wasn’t fast enough to catch the flop. Sheepishly flicking his ears when he rolled off lap, and sometimes sofa, he’d get back up and give Tony another chance.
My chest kept him from ever getting a good flop going, but he’d try. Instead, to make sure I wasn’t left out, he’d move into full arm-curl position on Tony’s side, tilt his head back, give me that upside down gaze, and demurely meow at me, asking me to scoot over and scratch his forehead. . . expecting such until he dropped off to sleep. I always complied.
He even became pivotal in Tony’s marriage proposal on Valentine’s years ago. (Don’t groan. I don’t care how many of you think it’s a greeting card holiday. I love my husband and my engagement story.) I arrived at Tony’s house, late for the play we ended up missing. Brooklyn was wearing a wide red ribbon around his neck with bow. . Yes, he didn’t care about those things. He was the only cat I knew who wore a studded collar proudly. I did think to myself, huh, so I am in love with a guy who dresses his cat up for Valentine’s. It didn’t occur to me to say, how come he didn’t get a Christmas ribbon at Christmas? Or even, who the hell ARE you, man? That previous Christmas, I was more concerned that Brooklyn opened more presents than I did from Tony. . .far more. . .so it made sense that, though he was a typical manly, sports-minded, somewhat chauvinistic, stoic guy, he’d dress up his cat.
It took me an hour to notice that ring. The poor animal kept trying to go out for his evening prowl, but Tony wouldn’t allow it. Why can’t he go out, I demanded, ignorant that there was no way Tony was letting my diamond venture the neighborhood. So poor Brooklyn had to wait until I eventually discovered it under his chin.
Once we were married, (Tony is my second and last husband) Brooklyn accepted my sons, my dogs, AND my cats. Frankly, Brooklyn was an alpha kitty, and very few things ruffled his fur. He always greeted us at the door along with the dogs while the other cats barely noted our return. We used to say he was part dog. My older son can swear this is true: Brooklyn this past year woofed twice at a sock he was hunting.
Many cats don’t like young children. I worried that Brooklyn was part rag doll, those cats that seem boneless, when my youngest would grab him and carry him around, which often occurred before a long visit to the bathroom. (Our youngest liked company if he had to be in there for any longish amount of time.) We began to worry that our son wouldn’t be able to pooh if anything happened to Brooklyn, the cat had to accompany him so often. And he did so without a peep, draped over our son’s arms.
Brooklyn taught one of our feral rescue kitties to love us. Moon, our overly shy boy, had for years before meeting Brooklyn, never let us pet him, let alone hold him. In fact when I had to take him for shots before we all moved in together, I almost lost an eye, and got a nice scorching face full of that putrid brown liquid they shoot out of their rear glands when highly stressed. But once Tony and I married and we blended our families, Moon soon worshipped his old man, Brooklyn. He would sit near him while Brooklyn slept, watching over him like a Shakespearean night man. He’d do a few driveby’s a day, run in front of Brooklyn, saying lookie, lookie, lookie, rubbing Brooklyn’s face with his shoulders. He’d copy his cat. If Brooklyn curled up, Moon curled up, too, not haphazardly. But in the same pattern exactly. If Brooklyn gazed out of the window, Moon followed up.
But most of all, Moon began to sit near us, let us pet him. He discovered that he loved being rubbed anywhere, tummy, ears, back, toes. . .but he just couldn’t bring himself to sit on us, or even too near us for too long. Still, Brooklyn had changed Moon for the better and had taught him that we had some attractive qualities as Human beings.
Then, last week, we had to put our best kitty ever down. Brooklyn had tongue cancer, which is awful for anyone, but for a cat, it’s the end. They cannot lap, groom, eat. He had biopsies in Summer; he improved, but the tumors returned, and slowly he withered in size. We saw it coming, and we did everything we could to prolong his life, but not prolong his pain, but as you all know, all the effort never lightens the mourning of losing someone you love.
We gave him forbidden milk, and tuna juice, and whipped liver his last days. He could barely get any of it in, but he still purred as if he were a king, even as we each hugged and missed our goodbye’s to him. We brought his body home from the vet, and ceremoniously buried him on the second to the last day of 2013; one of our dogs lay quietly nearby. A sad close to the year for a cat that made us laugh, whom we adored.
After, he was gone, this week, Moon has suddenly begun sitting on my lap. Yes, he really has. At first, he had to just put his front toes on me, but leave his rear safely perched on the arm of my chair. Finally, he has climbed all the way on my lap, and gone to sleep while I scratch his back. It is the best tribute he could give our beloved Brooklyn. In fact, he is here sitting next to me as I write now. Now tell me that animals don’t love the way we do.
I was worried about how to tell our friend about the cat he loved so much, too . .in fact, our friend had created a web page devoted to all-things-Brooklyn years ago that may still be somewhere in cyber space. It is is well and good that HIV has not come close to claiming him and that he outlived Brooklyn, but somehow it is a cruel trick of nature to make our beloved pets have such brief lives compared to our own. Our friend’s response was simply that Brooklyn brought so much joy to so many lives, he would enjoy a good rest. Well-put. And thank-you, friend, for sharing him with us, he did bring us great joy.