Stella Kaskey (1997-2016)
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!
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!
There's a little Stella-shaped hole in my heart.
Rest in peace, little girl.