Happy Trails, Cleo

The grim reaper darkened our door last Monday and left with our kitty cat’s ninth life. Cleo was a stray kitten, given to us by a friend of Jeff’s 18 years ago, and she has always been an alternately purring, silent, and sometimes yowling member of our family.

Roman has had (mercifully) limited exposure to death - in fact only once really. A little over a year ago, his much beloved teacher from two grades previous, died suddenly over Thanksgiving break. And to tell the truth, Jeff and I really grappled over whether or not to mention it to Roman, fearing he wouldn’t understand, but finally deciding to discuss it with him as school break came to a close. We hoped prepare him, best we could, in case he overheard chatter in the halls.

So gingerly, I asked him to remember his teacher, then explained that we had some very sad news. Romi wouldn’t see his teacher again at school, because he had died. Roman replied with a pained “oh.” Unsure, I pressed on: “Do you understand what it means when someone dies, Romi?“ He immediately supplied: “they are cold and kinda sleepless.” Which I think summed it up better than any of us could have.

But Cleo, or Keedo, as Romi used to call her before he nailed his Ls, was part of Roman’s everyday life since day one. Petite and completely black with a white blaze on her chest, Cleo was a fearless outdoor adventurer until she was struck by a car three years ago. She very nearly died then, but Jeff nursed her back with intravenous liquids, tiny quantities of food, and lots of love. Cleo slowly came back to life, but with increasingly common seizures, after which she would walk in circles and finally collapse from exhaustion.

She lost a lot of mobility with the accident: once a lively gal prone to long walkabouts, she had taken to sitting in the sun, and contented herself with looking out the window, tail twitching. And then recently, she seemed to have lost interest in the outdoors altogether.

We shared happy memories of Cleo at dinner that night, how she would hang out with the neighbor cats, and bring all sorts of “prizes” from the animal kingdom to our doorstep. How you were likely to find her nestled in your comforter, always in the warmest spot in the house.

And what an amazing hunter she had been in her prime. In fact, she lived in Florence, Italy with us for a year, and one day batted not one but two birds into our apartment through an open window. At once. (Do not worry. I was able to shepherd them back into the urban wild with the business end of the longest broom I could find. Dio mio!)

Happy trails, Cleo. I hope the afterlife brings you an ample supply of small furry creatures to chase, warm, sunny spots to lounge in, and chin scratches all day long.


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