I have escaped the house this afternoon to come up to my “local” — not a pub like in Cheers — but the lovely chai shop at the corner. It’s owned and operated by the two sweet, smart, caring sisters from Tanzania. It has been my refuge for these past months as I have gone through my sadness and disappointment of having to move out of my perfect place. When I can’t stand the walls at home filled with their memories and stories and people of the past 23 years for another minute, I head up the street. Here I feel at home. Here I feel like I have family with these two young women and their cats. When I come in, they — the sisters not the cats — hug me and listen to me and let me cry on their shoulders. They pour their kindness and prayers over me. They care for me like I am an auntie from Dar es salaam. I come with my stories and my own selfish concerns and hardly ever hear any of theirs — until today.
I knew something was up as soon as I poked my head into the kitchen to say hello and order my Elixir and samosas. As usual, I had my agenda and my stories all ready to tell them, but then I saw the tears and anything about me drifted out of my mind so I could make room to hear their story. And worthy of buckets of tears it was.
Their feisty, independent girl-cat, Moochie, had gone out on Saturday night for her nightly spin through the neighbourhood. She had her usual route of places to sniff and
maybe even a cat friend or two out there to share stories with of near misses and where to pick up particularly great handouts from neighbours. The sisters weren’t worried when Moochie didn’t come back at her usual time. She came back when she was good and ready but she always came back eventually. And when she did, she’d tell the stories of her roaming to her kids, Bubba and Tinka, and to the Gran Dame of the house, Cloe, to enjoy vicariously. None of them had any interest or desire at all to risk life and limb to the streets of Toronto — they left that to Mooch who was their eyes and smells into that other world.
But Saturday night, Moochie didn’t come home, nor was she sitting on the porch Sunday morning impatiently waiting for the sisters to wake up to let her in. She just never came home. The call from the animal shelter came later. The sisters thought it would just be that they had found Moochie and that they should come and pick her up. Well, they did pick her up, but it wasn’t to cuddle her and tell her they were glad that she was back and for-heaven’s-sake not to do it again. No, it was to bring her home to lay at rest. It was all too sad.
It’s why I cry as I write these words. I cry for Moochie and Millie and Dex, and Lily and Sammy and Rhythm and Blues and Ramon and Mama and Max and Emma and Kiki and Sebastian and Chessie and all the other cats who I have had the honour of knowing. And I cry for their owners who had to let them go at some point — especially these two sisters who are smiling as they pour chai and make food for the dozen people sitting in their cafe.
But, as one of the sisters said to me as we cried and hugged in the kitchen, Moochie taught her and all of us who knew her death that we have to treasure every single moment that we have with each other — and, especially, those moments with our cats.