When my children were still single-digit ages, we adopted two kittens, our family’s first fur babies. Even though Teddy and Rainbow are long gone, the life lessons I learned from them keep coming.
Teddy and Rainbow
Teddy was a white, short-haired cat with golden Siamese markings on his ears, face, and legs. He was muscular, quick, smart, and relentlessly affectionate. Rainbow, his brother from another mother, was a long-haired orange tabby. His creamy coat matched Teddy’s Siamese markings, but that’s the only thing that matched. Teddy routinely outwitted Rainbow in chase games because Rainbow was slow, dim, and aloof.
We loved both of our kittens, but Teddy—always present, affectionate, and engaged—was hands-down favored over Rainbow.
One morning a neighbor came to the door, “Don’t y’all own a white cat?”
“I think he’s dead in the driveway next door.”
Our hearts fell with a thud as we collected Teddy from the cold concrete, his body still warm, his exuberance limp.
Why did he go first? He was the favorite!
Meaux and Delilah
A few years later Rainbow left us, and we adopted two more kittens, black littermates that came with the names Meaux and Delilah.
Like Rainbow to Teddy, Meaux was more aloof and decidedly dimmer than his sister. Delilah was the smart one, outwitting her brother in chase games, and queen of the hunt.
Delilah had our hearts because she was the one who would curl up in our lap, head butt us, and comfort us through the end of a marriage, adolescent and teen years, and more.
A few years after the divorce, the kids and I returned home after Thanksgiving, but Delilah never did.
Again, our favorite—the loving one—was gone first.
When Teddy and Delilah left us first, we spoke our disappointment out loud: “This isn’t what we expected! Why him/her first?”
With the loss of people, we tiptoe around that sentiment. It’s rude to air it, but it swells inside. And the sense of loss is deeper and wider because our hearts break with whys and what ifs and anger oozes through the cracks.
Life Lessons from Cats
Here’s the thing, though. In the absence of the one that embodied the love, affection, and tenderness we craved, Rainbow and Meaux stepped up their game. They became less aloof and more affectionate, and they spent more time in our laps. Maybe Teddy and Delilah had modeled love for them, maybe they were afraid we were disappearing our cats. Or maybe it was just us and our skewed perception of them.
I like to think it was the modeling of life lessons. I prefer to believe that Rainbow and Meaux learned to love better from Teddy and Delilah.
What’s undeniable, in Teddy and Delilah’s absence, both Rainbow and Meaux changed for the better. This too gives me hope, and I choose to believe that in the wake of loss, people can learn to become better as well.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022
Perhaps it’s a transformation, or perhaps it was there all along, just waiting to be noticed. Sometimes we don’t recognize that tender side of a person until we need to.
Very true. Thanks
I love this and thank you for sharing your story.
I saw this in one of my uncles. My aunt (one of my Dad’s younger sisters), as she grew older, developed a lot of heart issues. My uncle had grown up on the streets, it was said as a brawler, later an amateur boxer (I don’t know how many of these stories were true, but I always knew him as a good man). We always knew they loved each other greatly. With her health issues, he took on the housework despite being raised in a tradition of this being outside a man’s sphere. He took such gentle and good care of her and only outlived her by a year. Alana ramblinwitham
What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing.
I saw it in my father, Pennie. Always loving and kind, he was also, like the bulls are he raised, headstrong, opinionated and in CHARGE. When my mother’s illness became apparent, he changed overnight into the soul of patience. He cared for her. Fed her, bathed her. Took her for drives. When her illness became too much for him to handle alone and he was forced to move her to a facility, he went every. Single. Evening…to help her with supper and visit with her or read to her. It was a joy to watch. And he kept it up until she passed quietly through the veil.
Mom was always kind and we wondered why she had to suffer so. Then we realized it was for my dad.
I loved this post, Pennie! It is so true that hard time press us coal into diamonds!
What a beautiful account of your dad’s transformation. Thanks for sharing.