Dad had a cousin named Sylvia who lived on River Road in Ceres. We got several orange kittens from her during my growing-up years. One particular cat who I called “Big Red” holds a special memory. Red would follow me when I’d go out in the field or exploring in the barn. He’d follow me while I played on the lawn or climbed the big tree in the front yard.
When Phillip could reach him he’d pull his tail or poke at his eyes. Red would just keep purring as if he loved it. Phillip would use him for a pillow. Red would just lay there and purr. He was by far the most loving and tolerant cat I ever had.
One spring day I was lying on a blanket on our front lawn looking at the joke pages of a Readers Digest. I heard a thud from the direction of the road. When I looked I saw a car but it didn’t slow down it just kept going. Then I saw Red. He was walking in my direction. He was wobbling a bit and not coming in his usual quick gate. As he neared the blanket his walk slowed even more. When his front feet got onto the blanket he fell into my lap. His lower jaw was crooked with blood beginning to soak his face fur. He had been walking in such an unusual fashion because his back leg was twisted and his foot was facing the wrong way. I was paralized when I looked at Red. As he laid in my lap we stared at each other. Mom was in the field with dad, I felt so alone and helpless. I couldn’t yell for help. I didn’t know what to do.
Red made a squeaky meow like he didn’t know what to do either. I gently stroked the very top of his head where it looked like it might not hurt. That gentle old cat held true to his loving nature and began to purr. I continued to pet and he continued to purr for the next few minutes. Then, with never a whimper, he just quit breathing. I sat there with him across my lap till mom and dad came in from the field. It seemed like a very long time but was probably only a few minutes. I was crying.
Dad took Red from my lap and mom went into the house. When she came back just a moment later she had one of Phillip’s old baby blankets. Dad took the faded little blanket and wrapped Red in it. He held Red in one hand and my hand in the other. We walked out behind the barn.
Dad dug a hole and gently placed the precious bundle at the bottom. Slowly dad filled the hole with the soft dirt. Not a word had been said. Dad's face looked flushed when he looked at me and gently said, “He was a good cat.” The two of us went into the kitchen. Mom had cookies and milk set out for all of us.
Dad gave mom a grateful nod. They didn’t treat me like a little kid that day. They listened to me as I carefully told how Red had been hit by the car and come to me to die. We talked for a while about what a good and loving friend Red had been. Dad whispered something in mom's ear I could not hear and she left the room. I could hear her dial the phone in the living room.
When mom came back she was smiling. When dad saw her he began to smile too. He put his hands on the kitchen table and stood up. "Well Joyce, I guess it's time for a ride to Sylvia's house. It seems she has kittens again looking for good homes. I think we'd better get right over there if we want to get a red one. That is, of course, if you want another one."
That evening a new friendship began with me and "Tiger." Tiger was from the newest litter of Red's parents. I think Red would have like that!