by Angeliska on May 27, 2005
My dearest and oldest friend died on Wednesday,
and I have never known such devastation.
I have never known such devotion,
such a pure and unconditional love
from another living creature -
and I doubt that I ever will again.
He was with me my entire life, every day-
if you count cognizant memory as beginning around
4 or 5 years old – then for as long as I can remember
he was there – my constant companion, my familiar…
The first time I saw him, I was a wee slip of a girl
and he was a tiny squirming larvae mewling
with eyes and ears still shut..
I waited and waited for him to be weaned
and come home to me, so lonesome was I for a kitty..
I wished on a shooting star for him to arrive,
and when I pushed open the front door, he was there.
It really did happen, just like that.
This is the earliest picture I have of him,
and me the age I was when we met, on the our back patio..
At the time, it seemed that “Junior” was the cleverest possible name-
short for “Frankie Lee, Jr.” after our cat with similar coloring who
mysteriously disappeared (along with all the other cats in
the neighborhood). I think my mom had named him after
a Bob Dylan song. Something about Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.
Anyway. Junior’s name achieved an assortment of variations over the years..
After my mother died, we had to move
from the small Texas town where I had grown up…
My father had the terrible task of packing up our life,
and I was sent to live with relatives until a
new home could be found.
Junior was all I had – no parents, no friends..
Only him. And he had only me.
He came with me wherever I moved, no matter
what peculiar situation I was living in at the time…
When I moved to New Orleans, we rode together
in the back of the U-Haul with all my belongings,
which was very illegal, but remarkably peaceful -
an eight hour nap later, and we were here..
He found life in the Crescent City to be very much to his liking..
One year we received a birthday piñata that bore a certain resemblance…
He made me laugh constantly with his bizarre habits,
anthropomorphic affectations, and a tolerance for people-garb
that I think was slightly vainglorious (and rightfully so)..
He was a Prince- always regal in bearing, loving to sit sphinx-like
in patches of sunlight and blink at drifting dust motes.
I am losing the ability to find the words to tell you everything he was to me.
There aren’t enough words, and words are not enough
and I’ve written far too many eulogies this year.
After 21 years together, one would think that I’d have prepared for the
inevitability of his death. Not so- for I had truly convinced myself
somewhere along the way that he had become immortal..
We all marveled his youthful and spry appearance
and called him Nosferatu!
This was the last photo I took of us together, after he became sick.
The night before he died, I gave him his various medicines, hoping
and believing that he was slowly recovering..
I sat on the floor and held him in my arms.
He reached out his paw and put it over my heart and just held it there.
I knew he was saying goodbye, but I wouldn’t, couldn’t accept it..
I won’t describe the horror of finding him slack on the bathroom floor,
his mouth gaping open in a hideous rictus- and even then me not believing
it until we were halfway to Elysian Fields in the truck, racing for the vet.
Then I realized, and made us turn around and go home.
I held his body in my arms for hours and howled,
until his body grew stiff with rigor mortis and my sisters
made me give him up so that they could clean and shroud him.
Nothing could possibly be worse than this feeling.
I am so lost without him. Two decades of daily ritual,
of the nightly warm weight on my feet or in my arms as I slept.
Any lover of mine will remember his baleful stare or purring,
depending on whether they were a good or bad egg.
Any friend of mine will have known him well.
They brought him back in small carven wood box.
A palmful of ashes in a plastic bag is all that’s left
of this amazing creature who was so much more than a cat.
He was a Parisian dandy, or some shape-shifter
from the scenes of a Bosch painting..
He was this radiant, glowing thing
whose heart belonged solely to me,
and who knew me longer and better than anyone on this earth.
My whole life. My best friend. My heart.
Frankie Lee, Junior
July 7, 1984 – May 25, 2005
His funeral will be held at 7pm
on Tuesday, May 31st at Tanglewood Estates.