SHAK-ti KEEEE-ta! (buh-neer-NEER-neer, buh-NEER-neer)
I'd like to keep this to five or six paragraphs, and could toss off thirty pages without even thinking about it...but that's not an LJ post. Thing is, it's so caught up in (my first wife) Cheryl's death, five years ago last month, and Ruminations on the Path, and a bazillion other things. So let's just focus in on the life, and the death last weekend, of Shakti-cat -- at a ripe old age, after a long and varied and happy time on the planet. Yeah, on that, and on one's real friends...most particularly St. sal93
. Her own wonderful tribute to Shakti is on her page. You should go look at it, and at a picture of Shakti, here: http://sal93.livejournal.com/19540.html
We met Shakti sometime in the early Nineties, when the elegant Nancy McG, then managing our apartment complex, showed up at Cheryl's door one weekend afternoon to ask, "Do you happen to know somebody who wants a cat? We have a stray on the property -- I have her in my office, which I'm not supposed to. I'm supposed to call the pound," she added, voice glum. As always in those days, in those many years, Cath and I were up at Cheryl's at the time. I knew I wasn't safe looking at a stray cat (we had, as we have now, three: different three all these years later, but that's the limit). Still, Cath and I had both felt for some time that Cheryl's little boycat, Roger, could use some feline company, and the two women went to see. Cheryl wasn't sure. Cath is mighty persuasive. A dazzling round furball of multicolored Zen joy came to live at Cheryl Manor. Skittish and worrisome Roggie wasn't sure, either...but it didn't take long to win him over. The Shaktian head-licking helped.
Since I'm telling the short version of this, I'll omit the mad adventure of AJ and Nancy McG retrieving Shakti from her expedition to the roof (all our crats are indoor crats, but Cheryl wasn't good with crats and doors); in fact other than emphasizing again what real delight Shakti brought to all our lives, most especially Roggie's, I'll note only the Jimi Hendrix impression I used to do with Shakti: a version of "Foxy Lady" which ended with our title above. The "buh-neer-NEER-neer" stuff is air guitar, of course. I once used Shakti herself as
the air guitar, playing her tummy as the strings, and while she seemed to love it I got peed on for my trouble. Serves me right. Shakti's final outing as a guitar...but I sang that riff to her all the time, anyway. Cath sang it to her over the phone last Saturday, as Shakti prepared to leave the planet.
The hard part. Cheryl had been struggling with breast cancer since 1981, discovered a few months after we were married in October 1980. In February 1997 she collapsed: couldn't work for months, had us all frantic. She went back to work after that, though, for a period, but in, what?, 1999-2000? couldn't work any more; had to bust her retirement fund (before the market fell, thank God); took to being cared for fulltime at home (by Cath & me, natch; our apartments were in the same building, she upstairs and we downstairs; had been since November 1987, for obvious reasons). Finally in spring 2001 she had the Big Collapse, and we had to simultaneously find hospice care for her (which, miraculously, we did), and immediately close out her apartment, emptying it of over two decades of our shared stuff. And, of course, of Shakti and Roger. I detest whining, and won't elaborate further. It wasn't fun, as you can imagine, and plenty of you have undergone worse, or will. So it goes. But, see -- here's the thing:
I have spent just shy of thirty years now on The Path, and specifically doing my darnedest to help people out. The rewards have been beyond measure; the disappointments not a few: in particular, I will never understand how people, particularly those who criticize others for the same behavior, can suddenly turn on you (but, hey, that's people). Anyway, one of the worst real crises of my life (subjectively; about objectively, don't ask) was trying to keep those two cats together, in a good home, somewhere -- and having exhausted every avenue I could think of, it proved simply impossible. I couldn't keep Cheryl on earth much longer, I definitely got that part...but come on, universe. The cats. Please. Then sal93
-- halfway across the country in Texas -- agreed without hesitation to take them on. There aren't words. I won't try to find any. Thank you, sal. :*
Cath flew with them to Houston, got them settled in there. When Cheryl died (two weeks after September 11th, no less), to everyone's horror Roggie only outlived her by a few weeks: he was always Cheryl's Cat, Period, and he just gave up the ghost. Did sal complain? Hell no. She stood by Shakti-cat, and soon got her a new little brother, Humphrey. And this part of the story is really sal's story, told over time on her own journal, so I'll leave it there...except to note that Shakti's name got into the Chronicle, and her photo exhibited in Houston's big art museum (well, the gift shop), and in short, she had a wonderful life, and that's very largely thanks to sal. No bad reflection at all on people who couldn't help -- placing two grown cats is very difficult -- but oh, wow, our gratitude for what she did. :)
It is easy to profess friendship; easier still to withdraw it. It is apparently easy, for some, to pledge the most solemn oaths of brotherhood and hospitality, then ditch them without warning or explanation. It is hard to be a friend. sal is my, is our, friend. God bless and keep her forever. :*
93 93/93 -- AJ