Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word 4 Wednesday: Ephemeral

Donna over at gardenwalkgardentalk has selected the word ephemeral for all of us to ponder as to  how it relates to our gardens and lives:

 Ephemeral: having a very short lifetime or existence; not lasting.
Donna captured the word perfectly, her images are amazing, defining the essence of the word in pictures alone.
I'm going to attempt to write my post on ephemeral too, but it will (as usual) take me a lot more words to do it.  And please forgive another sappy post from me, but lately the Sappies have overtaken me, I fear.  It's been a rough fall.
This post is dedicated to our late, great, cat, Screech.

 Screech was a part of our family for so long, ever since a cold, early spring day in 1994 when a stray female wandered into our yard and within a week gave birth to two of the cutest kittens I had ever seen.  I know, all kittens are downright adorable, but these were extra-special.
One was a dark gray tiger-stripe kitten and the other was a pitch black one with just a touch of white on his chest and on his underbelly.  Sadly, shortly after the kittens were born, we came home from a Sunday drive and found their mother had been hit by a car crossing the road in front of our house. The two little kittens were now orphans and I was their newly appointed foster mother.  I wasn't so sure they'd survive since they were so young, but they soon caught on to licking the bread I'd soaked in warm milk and meat juice several times a day and after a few weeks, they were eating from a bowl on their own.
Our boys were little fellows then, too, Joel was 8 and David was 4.  Joel named the gray tiger-stripe kitten Charcoal, and four-year-old David decided the black one should be called, of all things, Screech.  The name fit perfectly due to his raspy voice when meowing for attention, and believe me, he loved attention!

All was well with our two little furballs; they would run around and play and tussle in that goofy way kittens have.   We could not have a cat in the house, though, due to David being highly allergic to them.  Within a minute of exposure to their soft fur, Dave would be extremely miserable, though he loved them so.   We fixed up a little box in the garage for the kittens to sleep in, lined with an electric pet bed.  

The two kittens were inseparable and they were also the tamest, most calm felines I had ever known.  Charcoal used to climb into my five gallon weed pails as I weeded in the garden and every time I'd put a weed in the pail, he'd pop up like a jack in the box to attack.  I'd simply tote him around in the pail as I moved around the garden.  Screech was always content to be just a few inches away, batting at my hands and trowel as I worked.  Such a pair they were. 

But sadly, Charcoal's time on this earth was ephemeral.  One day we were getting ready to go canoeing and had the trailer up in the driveway so we could load the canoes and other paraphernalia needed to take a little float trip.  The kittens were now half-grown and were playing around near the trailer for awhile and then made a mad dash to the back yard, chasing each other headlong into the flowers.  I lost track of them after that, and when some friends of ours arrived to go canoeing with us, we set out in the lead, towing the trailer down the road.

What we didn't know was we had two stowaways onboard the trailer, Charcoal and Screech.

When we arrived at the river to begin canoeing, our friend told us what had happened.   
"Did you guys know you had two cats on the trailer? A black one jumped off just past your mom's house and rolled right off the road into the ditch.  Then about three miles later on the highway, another one jumped off the trailer, too, but was hit by your tire.  Sorry I couldn't get your attention.  I didn't even know you had cats," he said. 

This was in the days before cellphones--oh, how handy a cellphone would have been back then. 
The boys and I were devastated.  I felt so bad, I sat down and cried and both of the boys did, too.  We wanted to go home right away, but we had driven a rather long distance and our friends were along for the canoeing trip, so we made the best of it and went anyway.  That was the longest canoe trip of my life.  

On our way home from canoeing we took the same route and found poor Charcoal lying on the center line of the highway.  We brought his body home and held a tear-filled funeral that night.  Before laying Charcoal to rest, we looked for Screech as we drove but there was no sign of him anywhere.    We were all so sad, and I was blaming myself.  Why hadn't I thought to check the trailer before we left?  The cats had climbed under the upside down canoes and had been hidden from our view, but I should have checked.   Hindsight is always 20/20.

We were still crying over Charcoal's burial but we needed to find Screech.   The boys and I walked down our road looking for him, calling his name over and over.  We were hoping against hope that he might still be alive and were doubly worried he was injured and suffering.  We called and called for him and just as we were about to give up, Joel heard a faint, hoarse meow coming from the woods near my mother's house.

There was Screech, huddled at the base of a big tree, too terrified to come up onto the road.   I went to him and he nearly leaped into my arms.  Though he was scared, he was miraculously unhurt and started purring immediately, pushing his little face up into my hand to pet him again and again.  He lapped up all the milk and attention we all gave him when we arrived home. It was truly a miracle he had survived the fall from a trailer going 30 mph. 
Screech was lonely, but he was fine.  I took him to the vet and had him checked over and then eventually we had him neutered.  The biggest danger for outside cats is being run over by a car, but never again did Screech trust moving vehicles.  He would look both ways carefully before crossing our quiet side road and if a car was even in the next mile, he would wait for it to pass.  He often accompanied me on my walks, it was comical to see my two Shih Tzu's, Teddy and Pudding, on their leashes trotting along with Screech right in the middle.  When he heard a car coming, he would be down in the ditch immediately, long before I even noticed it approaching.  Moving vehicles would never harm him again.   
We have a lot of visitors to the gardens, and many of them weren't crazy about felines in general and/or especially black cats.  In fact, some people were highly superstitious and a few were downright afraid of him.  The only thing they had to fear from Screech, however, was his raspy meow as he begged to be petted.  He was a complete and total ham.  How he loved attention!  When we had wedding parties here for photography, I'd have to go and get him because he loved to be in the photos, too.  He even plopped right down on one of the bride's wedding gown trains for a little nap while the photographer was setting up a shot.  He didn't do any damage and she thought it was cute, but I had to carry him around with me for the rest of their visit so he'd stop being so pesty. 

Anytime I was outside, Screech was with me.  He was a much more faithful companion than even my dogs are.  Long days spent weeding in the garden would always be sweeter due to his presence.  I'm home alone day in and day out, but with Screech around, it was never lonely.  He would simply doze on a rock or nearby on the lawn and follow me where ever I went.

Whither thou goest.......Screech would go.

He was so good with the hens, too, and would never harm a feather on them.  Every morning, we had a ritual, I would go out and open the chicken coop door and Screech would accompany me, sitting up on the fence post out by the coop and observing the Girls as they marched out on their way to start the day.  Then it was time to feed Screech and he would go and sit by his bowl and wait for me to give him his breakfast and, of course, some loving.
Screech bringing up the rear, on his way to breakfast.
Always patient, always loving.
Whenever I'd go out to whack rocks for Castle Aaargh, there he'd be, sitting on the wall, observing me.  Even with all the noise, he was always nearby, always ready with the affection.  He was a big kitty, weighing in at a whopping 20 pounds at the vet, which made him twice the size of our dogs.

We'd had Screech here with us for so long, and I know we took him for granted.   But it was becoming apparent already last year, when he turned 16 that he was getting old.  He still was as loving as always, but time was taking a toll on him.   
He wasn't quite as frisky as he'd always been, and laid down a lot more, basking in the sun.  His need to give love never left him though.  In the picture above he is basking in Dave's attention back in September.  
There were days I saw him move much more slowly than he used to, especially in the colder mornings earlier this fall.  

The last close-up photo of our dear Screech.
When we had those frost scares earlier in September and I was out covering everything with my fabric stash to save it, Screech was following me around like usual.  I do remember petting him that morning and he 'talked' to me with that raspy meow of his, shoving his head into my hand for the extra-hard face rubs he had always loved. He wasn't particularly interested in his breakfast that morning, but I didn't think too much of it.  He was an outdoor cat, after all, and was a good hunter, busy keeping our pest population down.

Little did I know this would be the last time I'd ever see him.

 When I was looking for pictures of him,  this was the last one I found.  

The next morning when I went out to let the girls out of the coop, no Screech came to greet me.  I called for him, but heard no raspy voice calling back.  I searched high and low for him, but came up empty.  He was not to be found.  When Carl got home from work, we looked around, but still, nothing.  Carl comforted me by saying maybe Screech was out hunting, but we both knew the truth.  He was probably gone forever, but we worried, had he been attacked, or stumbled into a trap in the woods, or was he hurt, unable to come home?

I grew up on a farm, and as a result, have seen life go full circle so many times.  On a farm you just cannot get attached to the animals as if they were pets, because the heartache when you lost one would soon do you in.  You care for your animals, but you can't afford to get so wrapped up in them as you would a special pet.  We had many cats on the farm when I was growing up, and it was not unusual for them to simply disappear when it came their time to die.  Many animals sense their impending death and go off alone.  This is what I'd hoped had happened with Screech too, but it didn't make his loss any easier.

I was in love with this cat, and it was so hard not knowing what had happened. 

Finally, a week later, I was in the garage and found him.  He was lying in a concealed cranny between some pieces of lumber, just like he had laid down for a nap. At first I thought he was just asleep; he looked so peaceful.  Oh, the tears flowed then....Joel was home and we laid our dear kitty to rest right next to his brother, Charcoal.  

For seventeen years we had the pleasure of being owned by our sweet Screech.  They say you own a dog, but a cat owns you....and that's true.     

 Screech had a face and a loving nature that could melt a heart of stone.

 having a very short lifetime or existence; not lasting.

His lifetime wasn't long enough, but Screech's memory will live on forever in our hearts. 
Rest In Peace


Carol said...

Such a loving tribute to a beloved family member. My heart aches for you and your family. said...

This was a heart warming tribute, but also filled with woe for the two cats' trailer ride experience. My cat, Jingles is almost nineteen and I know it is not long from now. You are right, having pets is always too short a time. That last photo of Screech is so cute. That is one to remember him by. Thanks for joining Karen.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

I know how you feel Karen. I have lost two dogs. I wonder how I will go through this again but I have to have a pet around, they are such company. If we think about it, everyone in our life is just here for awhile.


El Gaucho said...

So sorry for your loss. Somehow, somewhere, Screech is reading your words and feeling your love for him, and is appreciative of the wonderful home you gave him for so many years.

You do an immense job of putting feelings into words and I had tears welling up in my eyes reading your story. I think that pets are truly the definition of ephemeral, they're only on this earth for too short of a time, and before you know it, they're gone. Thank you for the story. I'm going to go home and give my pooches big hugs and all the pets and tummy rubs they can handle.

Sueb said...

A beautiful tribute. The last photo is a heart breaker.
Sleep well Screech x

Beth said...

Karen, I am so sorry for your loss. Screech was a beautiful boy and much loved. You gave him a good life. While our hearts break when our pets die, we must remember the good times and you've done a good tribute to those times.
Hugs, Beth

Heather @ what's blooming this week said...

What a lovely tribute to a loved cat - you're right, life is ephemeral by nature. Thanks for sharing.

Alison said...

Oh, Karen! I am so so sorry that Screech is gone from your lives. I am much more of a cat person than I am a dog person, we have two kitties and they are both about 14 years old now, so they are getting up there. Several years ago we lost two older cats within two weeks of each other, and it was so hard on me! I still miss them. My heart goes out to you. I love that last photo of him with the little angel. They're a pair of angels now.

africanaussie said...

I should have been forewarned when I read it was going to be a sappy post.... luckily the box of tissues was close by. This reminded me of our little cat who was a stray that adopted us. She loved being around when I was gardening and would try to distract me by jumping up into a nearby tree and then begging to be rescued! If I ignored her she would come down and "attack" the trowel until I gave up and gave her a cuddle. Gosh I miss her!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Such a beautiful, loving tribute. My heart goes out to you in your loss of Screech....

Dandelion and Daisy said...

I'm so sorry, we have two cats and lost one a year ago to a car accident. It is like losing a family member...fortunatly, Screech will live in you memory forever and always be in your heart.

Andrea said...

You apologized in the beginning for its length, but you write so well that carried us away. A felt some sadness too as i remembered our pets simultaneous with yours. We had lots of those too and my nephew and niece cry when someone gets a kitty to be their pets. Neutering is not much practiced here, and also very expensive that our cat population expands fast, but every single one is loved and missed. Our dogs are well loved too, and sometimes we think they feel like they are humans. And my sister joked that maybe we think we are dogs! This is a beautiful tribute for a pet.

Andrea said...

You apologized in the beginning for its length, but you write so well that carried us away. A felt some sadness too as i remembered our pets simultaneous with yours. We had lots of those too and my nephew and niece cry when someone gets a kitty to be their pets. Neutering is not much practiced here, and also very expensive that our cat population expands fast, but every single one is loved and missed. Our dogs are well loved too, and sometimes we think they feel like they are humans. And my sister joked that maybe we think we are dogs! This is a beautiful tribute for a pet.

Sue said...

What a wonderful friend you had there. The loss must have been terrible. They truly become one of the family!

Rosemary said...

Love your stories and this tribute to Screech. Was a beauty.
I did smile at the walking with the dogs and the cat ....... A neighbour here walks his dog on a leash ever morning and walking right beside is Cloud a huge white cat as pure white as Screech was black.. Proud as punch Cloud is.....

Cat said...

Oh,Karen,what a beautiful tribute to your sweet friends. Screech sounds like one in a million...there are some pets, like people, who just move into your heart and never leave. So glad I stopped by for your tribute, it reminds me of the fondness for my own Baby Kitty who died a few years back after 21 years. I only wish I had as many photos of her as you have of your Screech. She was black like Screech with a tiny white patch on her chin. When you rubbed her chin she would immediately start drooling. I miss that little kitty.

Darla said...

dadgumit! It took two visits here to read this....sad

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

Hi Karen, What a moving tribute to a faithful pet. I have tears in my eyes.

The Sage Butterfly said...

Halfway through this I had to grab a handkerchief. I am so sorry for your loss of Charcoal and Screech. Your tribute to Screech is heartwarming and very touching. I have had cats most of my life, and each time I lose one it is never easy. In fact, I have a 16-year old now, and the thought never leaves me that these may be his last years. Screech was a treasure. Thank you for sharing such a lovely story of a beautiful spirit!

HolleyGarden said...

I need to wipe the tears away so I can post a comment. What a sweet boy! I love black cats. They really love their people. We rescued a black cat someone dropped off at the cemetery (we named him Lazarus) and he won't eat breakfast until he comes to see us and get his daily petting. I know how much tender love you received from Screech, and how much love you bestowed upon him, too. And poor little Charcoal. We have also killed a cat driving down the road, not knowing we had a 'hitchhiker'. The photo of Screech and the angel is precious.

Donna said...

What a loving tribute to such a dear friend and companion Karen. He was beautiful inside and out...I love black cats and he seems to be one that would capture anyones heart...thx for sharing this heartfelt story. I need another tissue....

noel said...


that was very touching....thanks for sharing