There is a little corner of our backyard that is shielded by a large cluster of bamboo trees so that it cannot be viewed from the house. This was my sanctum. In the crook of the corner, I brought a half-dead palm tree back to life. On a three-legged bench propped up by a tree, I read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Against the fence is an assortment of browned bamboo stalks, formed into crosses and tied together with faded yarn. That is where we buried Shadow, the fluffy black-and-white cat who loved cheese and turned out to be a package deal when we bought the house. She died of leukemia.
Buried next to Shadow is Sarah, as Gramma called her, or Socks, as my Mom dubbed her, a jet-black cat with little white feet. To this day, we are not entirely sure why she died. I remember walking out of band practice with my cousins, Brittney and Luke, when Aunt Barb picked us up and told us, “Socks is dead.” We drove to Gramma’s house, and sure enough, Socksy was lying dead in a box underneath the kitchen table.
I am not even going to attempt to list all of the hermit crabs we buried. We went through hermies like the last batch of Christmas cookies – eagerly, lovingly, and with incredible quickness.
Today, another hole was dug in the soft ground.
Bandit has been around as far as my memory goes back. One of my earliest memories was when I spent the night at Gramma’s house with Brittney and Luke. Brittney loved the cats and would not let them leave. She kept holding and cuddling them, despite their loud objections, attempts to run away, and my Gramma’s wise advice. She continued to fuss over them until finally, Bandit threw up. On my new Powerpuff Girls sleeping-bag.
I was righteously indignant.
Heck, I was in a toddler rage.
At the time, I did not realize the significance of this event went beyond an ugly brown stain forever branded on Bubbles’ blonde pigtails; it was the start of our love-hate relationship and the foreshadowing of my future with Bandit.
When my Gramma moved into assisted living, we took Bandit. I believe that Ronald Knox’s description of a baby also applies to Bandit: “A loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility on the other.” When my sister was informed of Bandit’s passing, her first response was “No more litterbox duty?!” (All I’m saying is when it is at the point that Mom is freaking out because the cat didn’t throw up that day…maybe it is time to let him go.)
I remember a poem that used to hang on the wall at Gramma’s house about a rainbow bridge leading to Heaven and your pet running to greet you when you arrive. I can just picture Gramma standing on one end of the rainbow, a golden city shining behind her, waiting for her kitty to come to her with a joyous meow, not the gut-wrenching yowl he gave in his last days, but a cry of love and overwhelming happiness at seeing her again.
“Then [they] cross[ed] Rainbow Bridge together.”