For fifteen years our household has been under the constant watch of a calico cat named Marbles. From the beginning, she took on the role of caretaker of “the boy.” Now that he’s moved to a college town where he continues his studies, the door no longer opens to Marbles’ meows. Her hiding spot in his dresser is still lined with cat hair, evidence that she hid here. (By slipping underneath and climbing into the drawer from behind, a tiny wedge of an opening would appear in the front of the dresser, where a flashlight’s beam might reveal two glowing eyes.) Long ago, after searching for her under the prickly pines in our yard for hours, the boy discovered her here in the drawer. She had it good here, why would she leave?
Sometimes a cat just needs some chasing after chipmunks, chewing on some grass, feeling the dirt under her toes.
Her failing kidneys made the days weigh heavy. She made the windowsill her vantage point, retiring to watch the world from afar.
But still she tested me with her mischief. She ate more than three feet of string. She climbed across the living room on the tops of the curtain rods. She slept on the top of the kitchen cabinets. She ate a bag’s worth of little craft pompoms. She chased my bare feet whenever I walked by the dining room table. She helped drive away the monsters under the sheets while I made the beds. She begged to lick the butter knife from the dining room table.
When I was recovering from surgery last year, she was my nurse, climbing up to rest her head under my chin. I looked forward to the warmth we shared. I knew her time was limited.
So we gave her lots of love. And the butter knife to lick.
She snuggled four times with me in the morning of her last day. This time I couldn’t help her feel better for long. Later at the vet’s office, it was confirmed – the tumor under her arm would take her down before her kidneys did. We opted to spare her that long decline, despite wanting to just hold her close forever.
Now there is no Marbles pulling tissues out of the box to drop on my pillow. No patting coins off the dresser to clink on the floor. No leap from the dresser to my pillow to wake me in the morning. No climbing under the blankets to snuggle against my side and get warm before the day begins.
The other cats have noticed her absence. Since Marbles is gone, all of us here – like Robert Frost wrote in his poem “The Oven Bird” – every day we’re learning “what to make of a diminished thing.”