I’m bad at naming animals what they would likely want to be named, but not as bad as my father: the cat who came to be known in our house as Nori (from Mr. Norrell) was known as Cat-Cat in his.
I’m sure a psychiatric professional can make something of my tendency to make my animals reflect my literary pretentions (Oscar, Edgar, Truman, and Sylvia) and his to be vaguely infantilizing and humiliating, but this isn’t about us – at least not directly.
It’s about Nori, a cat I rescued seven years ago from my father’s creepy and depressing house who has lived with us up until Sunday when he was overtaken by a mass around his heart and lungs. He’d been losing weight for a few weeks and breathing heavily, and it was less than 48 hours after taking him to the vet that he was dead.
(Not that I fault them in any way. The doctor came back to town on a Sunday night so we could spend Nori’s last few minutes with him, and it would have haunted me forever if Nori had died thinking we’d abandoned him.)
He came to live with us on October 28, 2013. I’d received a call a few days earlier that my father was dying in hospice so my sister and I went to visit him. She hadn’t seen him in thirty years and I hadn’t seen him in ten, but the visit was disappointing in a way that visits with a narcissist and sociopath almost always are. He complained about the ambulance ride, asked about my car, and ignored my sister, and I was angrier at that than I was at all his other years of evil because it was his final chance to be human and he predictably blew it.
Karen and I drove to his weird little house in his weird little town, and he’d built a peculiar fantasy cabin of a humble Dartmouth alum living out his years with badminton rackets and fake degrees hanging on the walls and shelves of self-help books about power.
He also had a cat.
The cat immediately jumped on my lap as soon as I sat down, and he seemed happy to be there. I worried that he was mistaking me for my father, thinking I’d come back from hospice cured of my creepy sociopathic aura.
Aimee had told me not to bring home any animals from my trip, but I couldn’t leave him alone there in a scary house so I took him with us.
(She eventually came around.)
We had a good nearly seven years together, us and Nori, and he enjoyed sleeping on my chest at night, usually facing outward. The charitable interpretation is that he was guarding me. The likelier one is that he just liked having his ass in my face.
That last day we saw my father, his final words to me were, “I’ll always be with you,” which is the closest I’ve ever been to being literally cursed. I wondered sometimes if Nori was my father’s black magic scheme to infiltrate my life, but if it was, all he got out of it was seven years of naps and sharing a litter box with three other cats.
Which, as curses go, worked out pretty well for both me AND Nori.
We’ll miss him terribly, the best curse we ever had.