My parent’s last cat was a short haired goddess called Mouse. She was grey and that’s where any resemblance to her name ended. Mouse was not small; in fact she was more elephant than mouse.
Mouse was dad’s cat. She’d been found on the work site, a tiny ball of fluff and fury, at the end of his shift. He’d tucked her into his work bag and brought her home. She’d back up into the corner and defended herself with teeth and claws. But it was all for show and over a dish of milk and some cold roast lamb the kitten had a new home.
It was a good relationship, dad work nights and Mouse waited up. She was sitting on his knee purring before he took his boots off. Dad had a cuppa and a Ginger Nut and Mouse had a handful of kibble. But over the years the midnight snacking began to tell.
We all tried to show dad that Mouse was getting fatter and fatter, but he just couldn’t see it. To him, she was the same kitten, a white mask and bib, four white toes and a pretty white tip at the end of her tail.
But she also had a sagging belly that swung millimeters from the floor and stopped her jumping up on the couch. Dad had to lift her and she sprawl over his knees in an uncomfortable way when they watch the telly. While it was glaringly obvious to us dad just kept his head in the sand.
We decided Mouse had to go on a diet. We threw out the fish-shaped kibble and lectured dad on the list of diseases that could shorten a cat’s life when they were obese, diabetes, arthritis, heart and respiratory disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, skin problems and cancer.
I’m sure Mouse knew we were talking about her and when she turned to waddle out of the kitchen I pretended to fall to my knees while trying to scoop her up in my arms. We all made fat jokes and went on about how she was nowhere near the average weight for a healthy cat. Dad didn’t say a word.
Dad and were never close. He worked long hours I had school and then my own life. We all made an effect of visiting, but even a big family can break down as siblings marry and begin their own families. I always felt dad didn’t approve of me; I should have been a Boy, that’s the job of the first-born. I should have done better in school, been prettier, had a job he understood, a partner that wasn’t Dutch.
When dad died I wasn’t around and a younger brother made the arrangements with all the decisions taken by the time I flew in. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him, the last time I had visited the house. I only started to cry when I saw the picture on the Order Of Service and there was dad with Mouse on his lap.
It all came flooding back how Mouse had been dad’s cat and how special that silly grey beast had been to him.
If you had asked me I would have said my father wasn’t an emotional man, he wasn’t sentimental, he had no time for girly tears, he was a practical man, a thing was black or white. But as memories swept over me I heard again that eavesdropped conversation too astonishing to ever be repeated.
‘I’m sorry kitten but this is all you’re getting. What would I do if I didn’t have my Mouse to greet an old man in the middle of the night. Now eat up and stop your whining, that’s all you’re getting’.