Cats, Friends, and Growing Up

My friend, Bill, lost his cat, Mr. Mouse, of 19 1/2 years.  That’s a long time for a cat.  It is a long time for any kind of an animal.  It is especially hard losing a good and faithful companion who has been with you for so long.  Our sympathies, Bill.

As I reflected on what Bill may be going through, I thought of our “Spike.”  Ardy had acquired the cat about 17 years ago, and I came to know Spike after we started dating.  After we married, somehow Spike became “my” cat.

Some guys don’t like cats.  I have always liked all kinds of animals, so I was one of those guys who liked cats.  And Spike turned out to be a great companion.  He would keep me company during the long, lonely hours I would spend writing and one of the things he enjoyed most was sitting between Ardis and me while we watched television.  He was particularly fond of watching the Florida Gators play ball.

As he aged, we faced what all people possessed by pets faced; we had to make the decision of being selfish and keeping Spike around, or we had to face the reality of allowing him to leave our lives with dignity, even though we were not ready to lose him.

It was best for the cat.

It was hard for us.

And then I thought back to one of the days I consider to be the worst in my life. 

I was in Guantanamo and it was the Fourth of July weekend.  My friend Denny, assigned to the USS Kennedy, was ashore on the beach detachment from the boat.  When I saw him on the ramp, I was happy to see him.  I had not seen him for more than three years, not since Aviation Indoc at Pensacola. 

After Denny and I greeted each other, we started catching up on other mutual friends.  We stood on the ramp in the hot Cuban sun when all of a sudden, he asked, “Did you hear about Phred?”

Just the way he said it, I knew Phred was dead. 

The loss I felt was overwhelming.  I got the details – it was a cold catapult shot and Phred was the only fatality of the four aboard the EA-6. 

Right after this news, we had mail call at the squadron and I had some letters from home.  After I finished up my day at the squadron, I headed back to the BOQ with my mail.  The letters from home would at least cheer me.

Not so fast, Buckaroo…  When I began reading my mom’s letter, she opened with the sad news she had to put her cat, my cat, George, down.  George was 18 years old and he was a good cat.

First the news of Phred, now George.  This was not at all a very good Fourth of July.  The loss of a pet pales against the loss of a friend or family member.

But, as the cliché says, life goes on.

Phred, whose real name was Mike, was a great guy.  I think of Mike and all of my other friends who I lost during my years in the Navy every Memorial Day, every Veteran’s Day.  I miss them all terribly.

Until the next liberty call, shipmates.  See you then.


© 2010 J. Clark

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1 Response to Cats, Friends, and Growing Up

  1. I’m sorry about Bill’s loss. Losing a person is a whole different kind of pain than losing an animal. A person matters to so many people, and you connect with them on so many levels. But a pet is yours alone, so I think we tend to grieve more than some people understand or think is appropriate because we’re doing all the grieving for that one little soul whose whole life was dedicated to you.

    Thank you, Mr. Mouse, Spike and George, for leaving a bright spot in the lives of the people who loved you!

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