It has been a long time since I last wrote.
2.5 years, in fact.
I have thought of you all consistently, and the space between these words and those have bookended many, many experiences.
However, this post is not about those 2.5 years; this post is about Cally.
Last weekend I drove to White Haven, crunched into the driveway, and my family met me in the kitchen. JQ, long hair, overalls, having come in from the yard where he chainsawed with Dad, hair short-cropped, grey, sweatshirt, Mom straight-spined, sad-smiling, all of them kind-eyed. Later, we called our far-flung desert sister, Erin, and we all cried as a unit to celebrate our dear friend Cally.
When I was 11, capping a long line of cats who met sudden, tragic endings, our family adopted Cally from Cat Row (as my dad likes to say). I have dim memories of the animal shelter– hamster smells, peeking through cages, Cally wavering towards us with her butt in the air. Her previous owner had been very old, died, leaving behind a young Cally, homeless.
If I was 11 that means Erin was 8 and JQ was 5– and both of them were terrified of Cally at first, her perpetually winking eye glinting at them from beneath beds or couches.
We all came around.
Her name was Cally but she had many aliases, including “Kitten, Meow-Meow-Meow -Meow”, “Round Cat”, and “The One-Eyed Reilly”, the latter following The Quinn Brothers’ early 2000s first (and yet only) recorded CD of traditional Irish folk songs.
She was kind, assertive, shy, round, winking, purring, stove-bound. She hid, slunk, sauntered, and, in her later years, flopped boldly in front of the fireplace or on the couch, splayed.
Long after our family leaves the house on Fern Ridge Road her claws will mark the doorways to the garage or my dad’s office to show that she has been here, we all have been here.
Cally Quinn was sister to Keen Quinn and Netty Quinn, curious observer of various reptiles and amphibians in our household, and was the would-be-liberator of a crayfish I once tried to save. She warmed our feet, chewed my mom’s hair, silently kept my dad company after we’d long been to bed. She was Olive’s opponent for Christmas 2015 and busted out the bottom screens of the hallway windows on perhaps more than morning in early spring throughout our childhoods. Her toes click-clacked across the floorboards.
In her last years she would open her mouth and no sound would come out at all. She lapped delicately from Dixie cups and requested to be placed upon surfaces no longer scalable.
Last May, when I was home for a week to help my dad recover from hip replacement surgery, I stayed up late each night in my childhood bedroom, windows open, breathing into the breeze that would bring the rest of my life in the days before my siblings arrived. You could almost see our family photos flutter on my corkboard walls. Cally was fine company each of those nights, hogging the pillow, purring loudly into the ether.
Rest in peace, dear friend. We have space saved for you on our couch cushions, sweater piles, and on the rugs in front of our crackling woodstoves. Meow.