Lately, my family and I have been talking a lot about Whiskers for some reason.
Whiskers joined the Menconi family when I was three years old. She and her sister, Fritzie, came from the same litter. Fritzie was tragically hit by a car a number of years later. Whiskers, however, lived on.
I was 20 years old when she passed away.
Over the 17 years in which she roamed my mother’s house and neighborhood, she became a constant figure in our family life.
As a youngster, she gracefully accepted rough prodding from our uncoordinated hands. We involved Whiskers in countless imagination games, constantly trapped her under clothes hampers, and relentlessly cuddled her. One summer, my older brothers created an event dubbed the Cat Olympics. We still have a photo of her wearing the gold medal necklace.
Once, she disappeared for an entire week. While we were visiting my dad in San Diego, my mother called to tell us that she had returned. The family rejoiced.
A short while later, Whiskers had three kittens. We convinced our mother to keep all of them. Whiskers was an incredible mother. The three kittens followed close behind her in a row…just like little ducklings. She ended up outliving all of her children.
As years passed, her meow turned into a crackling cry. She lost most of her teeth. Her too-long claws got stuck in the carpet. And once, when my mother gingerly dropped her from two feet above the floor, she landed smack on her back.
“Oh,” my mom sheepishly remarked, “I guess we can’t drop Whiskers anymore.”
She also drooled. One time she fell asleep on top of the television and the screen was soon smeared with the dribbling lines of her stinking saliva.
But she was a class act all the way. She purred when we brushed her. She allowed my mother to clip her toenails. And when my niece arrived, our geriatric cat generously allowed little baby hands to grab at her arthritic body.
Finally, Whiskers stopped eating and drinking. The vet said her organs were shutting down.
The day of her scheduled passing, I drove to my mother’s house on my lunch break to say goodbye. I found her next to the couch, curled up and peacefully sleeping. She looked satisfied as I stroked her back, scratched her chin, and kissed her little cat face.
My oldest brother was with her during her final moments at the vet’s office. We buried her in my mother’s back yard, next to her sister and children.
The other day, I found the photo of Whiskers in her favorite box. When I showed it to my mom and brother, both their faces lit up.
17 years with a family. That’s a cat’s story.