Mrs. Mack 5o5 handed me the package with a tear in her eye. “Open it.”
I knew what the box contained. Inside the cardboard, wrapped in tissue paper, was a beautifully finished small wooden box. . .
In the spring of 2000, five kittens were born to a wild mother in a small feral colony not far from here. At first we thought there were only four, as two of them looked almost identical from a distance. We could not leave them out there. They would live short lives and die tragically, or they would thrive and make yet more kittens. Neither solution was acceptable, so out came the humane traps. We caught two black and white Maine Coons, a calico, and a tiger. (The fifth proved elusive and unfortunately did meet a tragic fate.)
It was our first experience with feral kittens. We did a few things wrong, but they turned eventually. They would be the first of many.
Noah and his brother Sebastian came to live with us. Shelby did not approve, but she adapted eventually. Noah was a sickly baby; he almost died of pneumonia in those early weeks. He also was the more affectionate of the pair, perhaps because he required so much handling. He became our baby boy.
He was all eyes and ears. I swear they were born fully grown and the rest of him grew to fit them.
His voice was huge. In his younger years we would play a game in the morning while I dressed for work. He would stand at my feet and cry for attention. I would shush him, “quiet, you’ll wake up Mom!” He would respond more loudly. Lather, rinse, repeat until Mrs. Mack505 began to giggle.
Noah grew to be our kitten whisperer. When we would foster feral kittens, he would ignore them for weeks. Eventually he would spend an afternoon staring into their cage, and then they were done. Turned. All ready to go on to their new homes. He somehow knew when they were almost ready, and he would push them over the edge.
In later life, Noah became closely bonded with Hal. The two of them kept mostly to themselves and were always seen shoulder to shoulder around the house.
We came home from my Mount Washington trip to find Noah unwell. The cat sitter had done her job thoroughly, but he just wasn’t acting right. The vet found a fast-moving cancer.
I won’t dwell on the details. Noah crossed the Rainbow Bridge shortly after noon on July 19th, 16 years 2 months and 4 days after being born in my father’s garage. He was our sweet Baby Boy until the end.
“Open it. . .” Mrs Mack5o5 urged.
I didn’t need to open it. It’s a beautifully crafted (slightly oversized?) custom box for his ashes. I’d rather spend as little time on it as possible. She insisted, though.
And there it was. A diagonal partition dividing the interior into two compartments. Someday in the hopefully distant future, Noah and Hal will lie shoulder to shoulder again.
This would be a good place to end. The story arc is complete. It’s not the best eulogy, but I felt it was time to write something. It turns out there is more, though. Noah has a legacy.
It seems that all the time he spent with semi-feral Hal was a grown-up version of his kitten whispering. Hal has never fully bonded into our family. He’s a wonderful cat, but he has always remained aloof. He never completely trusted us until he lost Noah.
In the month and a half since Noah passed, Hal has turned to us for comfort. He has become more trusting. He seeks us out for attention, and he sleeps with Mrs. Mack505. As I wrote this, he jumped onto the bed twice, approached me, and let me scratch his ears. I’m all teary again. Noah may be gone, but he left us a new and improved Hal to remember him by. Thank you, baby boy.