When I was married in a late sweaty summer 16 years ago my wife and I started our life together with two totally divergent schedules that certainly weren’t as conducive to the life that newlyweds might envision, nor anyone else for that matter. When she would rise for her 9-5 (usually more of a 9-7) managing a cigar shop in downtown Pittsburgh the hello’s from me were through the radio at a station where I did mornings in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and when she would return to our first place, a wonderful little first place, I would be in the midst of saying goodnight. Not the greatest of starts for togetherness, I guess, but we muddled through with love and promise. So for our first Christmas together I sought to find a way to fill the gaps of time spent alone in that best of little first places. I went to the East Liberty animal shelter. It was to be a surprise and that it was as she watched in wonder two kittens, on Christmas morning, enjoying their first taste of paper and empty boxes, the joys of which, for cats, is solely theirs.
Well that marriage didn’t last for very long. The time spent alone was soon extended when my radio life took me away from that first little place and I went ahead, to Dayton, Ohio, with the intentions of setting up shop in a second new little place and preparing for finally being able to start the together.
It wasn’t the original time alone nor the new one that spelled the end of the union, as it was other reasons entirely that brought it to finish, reasons beyond my control really, but one thing did survive out of that brief time…Benny.
He had a sidekick in those early days but sadly in the nomadic time I found myself in after the end of the marriage, Merlin, as special as Benny, was lost. Benny, though, kept me as his forever sidekick instead. Until last night.
At 16 years he succumbed to age and the kidney problems that cats are wont to after time. I found him on arriving home in a bad state and he went quietly but not without this lifelong sidekick weeping as he rubbed his ear for the kitten memories of Pittsburgh and Dayton and Pittsburgh again. The memories of New York and his first taste of the outside world replete with things he could chase, toy with and, well, eat…grossly…just the heads his favorite parts for some reason.
Of Florida and a time for me to let the constant sunshine finally cheer my mood while that same sun turned his almost all black coat copper from his lounging leading me to the nickname “Benny Brown,” ala the Peanuts and Charlie. He was always my “You’re a good man, Benny Brown.” Of watching him back then recognize my car at the end of the street and start him running along the four neighbor’s yards he would cross before getting to the front door to wait for me to exit my car and make it his way for a hello and rub on the ear.
Memories of he and I then making our way back to New York in the special spot I devised for him in that U-Haul in the upside down room created from a computer desk placed on its’ side under a mound of continuing personal history and laid against that little door in those trucks that slides open to the cab. For what turned out to be a 48 hour trip with some slinking into non-pet friendly hotels in a couple of places obscure to me now, he had his litter box, food, water and an opening to come out into the cab and sit in my lap whenever I started to sing along with the radio on the road. He liked my singing…he was one at least.
Of his first view and then endurance of a screaming newborn and eventual maturing curious, grabby infant in a house I shared with my brother and no longer pregnant sister as we all needed each other to split the rent while starting over again at the same time… but more importantly needing each other just for the need at such a time. My sis, a newborn, 2 bachelors (who knew nothing of babies other than they existed and apparently cried a lot) and the Ben just looking either curiously or disdainfully (you never could tell with him) upon the whole happy mess.
Memories of his surviving a lost fight with a car and back surgery and the jerry rigged cage that I built for him with uneven two by fours, bent nails, plastic chicken wire and a slightly functional staple gun. The whole monstrosity took up three quarters of my bedroom but it housed him comfortably and safely near me. Of the stray cat we adopted in that house who we didn’t know was pregnant but would soon pop out 5 kittens. More newborns for the Ben to look at curiously and/or disdainfully while he pretended to hate them following him everywhere like a surrogate dad. Of the pride I felt at moving Benny the next time into my first place alone in eons after finally making my way back into the world of radio, at least when it came to making enough money to go it alone. We also had, at this point in time, added one of those kittens so he and I had a new sidekick to move along with us and make us more Musketeer like. This was Shoes, the soon to be fat orange tabby, who would become Ben’s best bud for the next six years, sometimes eclipsing even me.
He also right around here met my Maria and her then 5 year old son Jagger, or the J.G. (I like the word “The” by the way as you’ve probably noticed. It has always added an extra import to the referring for me… it’s special in a world where not enough is). He would eventually meet my Maria’s dog Shana (badly though with an eventual truce), 2 puppies (incredulously though with an eventual and delightful fear of him) and find himself, along with Shoes, in a house with his very own spacious space…Frankenberry’s Attic. His own nomadic existence paired with mine had found a home, 3 whole years without moving, 3 whole years of finally finding a constant space that his Steve would come back to, and him, uninterrupted.
This is where I found him, after a “his” lifetime and my own it seems, laid out on the warm golden browns and yellows of a carpet he so loved to lay on while I sat at my computer while also pawing at it, wrestling with Shoes on it or fur-balling up all over it. This is where I found him still breathing and, I’m hoping, hanging in there long enough for one final return of his Steve…one final come back to
I will miss you my Ben…so miss you.
-Your Steve xXoO and rubs on the ear