Thursday, October 13, 2016

In Memoriam

Stella Kaskey (1997-2016)
I lost my long-time feline companion, Stella, on Tuesday afternoon. She has been by my side since I was 24-years-old and she was just 3-months.  My first husband and I found her at the SPCA after she had spent her earliest days on what I like to call "the mean streets of Kensington" in Philadelphia.

She was a fighter from the beginning, making sure I did not change my mind about adopting her.  I told this story on Facebook already: I had spent some time playing with her, and decided that she was the kitten we would take home with us.  But when they put her back in the cage so we could fill out the paperwork for her, I had a moment's hesitation when I saw an adorable little tuxedo cat two cages up.  He was all black with a little white marking right where a bow tie would be.  I mean, adorable!!  But Stella was watching me the whole time, and she clawed her way up the front of the cage and looked at me with these meaning-filled eyes, and I could hear her just as surely as if she spoke out loud: "Don't you dare change your mind, lady! I am coming home with YOU!"

It was tough to find a name for Stella.  The "finalists" were Zelda and Stella--Zelda for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, and Stella for--no, not A Streetcar Named Desire!--Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella.  (My college English professors would be proud!)  I think it was a year until I felt like the name Stella was the proper fit.  Now, of course, I couldn't imagine any other name.

I had just accepted a job to teach at Haverford High School when we first brought Stella home, but summer vacation wasn't yet over, so I spent the first day with her just sitting on my lap to get to know me.  We literally sat on the sofa for hours, she just getting a feel for me and looking around at the apartment, her new home.  We really bonded that day, and it was a bond that lasted us for the nineteen years that followed.  I told her, "You have to live until I'm at least 40 years old.  That's a requirement!" And she met her obligation, and then some.  She lived an extra three years beyond.

You can see that we had a tendency to order each other around!
Stella has lived with me in four different apartments and two houses.  She's been on road trips and in airplanes many times in her younger days.  She has been by my side through a separation and divorce, a remarriage, and some highly questionable boyfriends in between.  She has comforted me through countless sad days and sicknesses. She was there for me during the absolute anguish of two miscarriages and the amazing joy of two births.  She was always a notoriously crabby cat, but she fully accepted and loved my husband, and let my daughters mess with her in ways that no one else on earth was allowed to.

Last night, to try to make me feel better, my husband said, "She was a sweetie." I looked at him and laughed, saying, "Did you even KNOW Stella?"  I've been calling her a crabby old lady for years; she would have given Grumpy Cat a run for his money.  I can't tell you how many times I've said to people who come into our home, "Um, you might not want to pat her; she's not all that friendly," while thinking what an understatement that was.  An unwelcome pat brought growls and a severe paw padding, and she even spit at the veterinarian once.  How embarrassing!

But I loved her spirit.  Somehow I needed her to love and accept me, even when everyone else in the world seemed to annoy her.  And then when my husband Michael came along, and I saw how much she accepted him, I knew he was The One.  We both agree that she was instrumental in making (allowing?) our marriage to happen!
Every morning and throughout the day, I find myself looking over at "her spot" on the sofa.  She didn't move around too much in these final months, so I still expect to find her there.

There's a little Stella-shaped hole in my heart.

Rest in peace, little girl.


daisy said...

This is a truly beautiful post -- but it made me cry. And I think there's nothing else I can say. Deep bonding and real understanding between two beings does leave a hole in the heart when it's time for one of them to leave. I love you dear little girl.

Christina said...

Man, I've been tearing up ever since Monday... This is a beautiful post, and I love your artwork!! Stella was a special, perfect girl. Always and forever. Thank you for sharing her with me!! Whenever she hissed at me, I secretly knew she loved me, too. It just made me want to hug her more. :) xoxo

Linda said...

Awww, this is such a touching and heartfelt post. I'm so sorry about your cat. I love the tribute you gave her, and it shows how much love was between the two of you. I'm amazed that she lived so long. It is definitely difficult to adjust when a pet is no longer around. I lost my little boy (dog)in May of this year. I had him for 1 month short of 16 years. It was so hard and still is. I feel for you Andria. I pray that God will give you much peace and comfort for loving and taking care of this precious cat for so long and giving her a wonderful home......Linda E.

iHanna said...

So sorry for your loss Andria, and thanks for sharing your cat stories here. It made me cry but also reflect and feel, which is a good thing in blog land. I hope you're taking care of yourself and taking it easy


Jewels said...

My late but heartfelt condolences to you Andria - they are part of our family - what a lovely post you wrote to honor Stella.....