This is the monthly Feline Friday post on Rewind Real Slow.
“We die containing the richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
About a week after Kitty’s first birthday, Kip walked into our lives. Literally. I had seen this scrappy little orange kitten running around the neighborhood. At the time in the late 90s, Kitty and I had housing, but it was in one of the most drug and crime ridden neighborhoods in a 60-mile radius. I was on my evening walk and saw this little orange kitten on the side of the road, obviously quite hurt. A car had hit him. I tried to find his owners, but no one seemed to claim him or even to care. Not wanting to be accused of cat napping, I talked to him, and he literally followed me home.
So small that he fit inside of a child’s shoebox, I took him to the animal hospital, where he remained for a week. He had a broken arm with permanent nerve damage resulting, as well as severe internal injuries to his side and kidneys. Even after a week in the hospital, he came home with tubing in his side that required me to keep moist and flush with fluids to remove toxins multiple times daily. Due to his size, I had thought he was only a few weeks old. According to dental analysis done by the veterinarian, he was actually 4 months old, his stature diminished by severe malnourishment and neglect.
I already had a Kitty at home, and I did not want to traumatize the orange treasure by renaming him and instituting an identity crisis. I was searching for something close to Kitty (as almost all cats will respond to kitty) that was not kitty; he needed unique nomenclature to fit his persona. I borrowed a name from one of my favorite movies and novels. Kip Quark Anderson had entered our lives.
What I did not realize at the time was how appropriate this name would be to his place and impact upon our lives. Kip was the apple, the joy, and the love of Kitty’s and my life. We had 14 wonderful, beautiful, glorious years together, many of them spent regulating his resulting chronic kidney condition, before he finally succumbed to pancreatitis a few years ago.
Kip was a happy go lucky, playful cat full of joy. He taught Kitty how to not be so uptight, how to relax, how to play. Everyone who met Kip loved him. Kip was leash trained and quite enjoyed walking on a leash, often emulating a dog. He was a frequent visitor to my preschool classroom, where he never failed to delight, entertain, and draw out even the most shy and precarious child in the class.
He handled his chronic health condition with grace and dignity. The nightmare-ish visions of having to “pill a cat” never happened with Kip. I would set his medication on his plate with his breakfast or dinner, and he would happily eat it the same as his food. Towards the end of his life, he was on 5 different medications daily, one of them by dropper, and he never squirmed or protested when it was time for his medications.
Kip kept both Kitty and I from losing our minds. Life was hard in the late 90s and early 2000s, as we faced bad relationships, and sometimes lived in the car. Kip’s attitude was always upbeat and helped to remind Kitty and I of the brighter side of life, that things do in fact, get better. Of all my kids, Kip is probably the one who most taught me how to adult and forced me to create a stability in my life and theirs that I had never experienced as a child. I made sure that he received all the medical care that he required and that I was home to give him his medications on time. I was even able to keep his medication on schedule during my early grad school years when I had a one-way 6-hour plus commute from Central New York to Boston for school.
I had spent my first three years of college as a physics major; The English Patient movie came out my freshman year of college. I was particularly drawn to the character of Kip, as his profession in the novel and movie was exactly what I was studying to do in college. In many ways, Kip the cat fit his namesake. He was proficient in diffusing many tense situations with his absolute love of life and easy-going personality.
What Kip taught me the most in his 14 short years on this planet was love. He taught Kitty too. He taught me that every experience, no matter how dark or dire, has a small sliver of hope. He taught me that every single person we meet in life changes us in ways we may not even see or understand. He lived a very full and very bright life that was nothing but a lead of love to everyone he met.
This month, for #FelineFriday, we honor the memory of Kip. At times in my life when I was trying to go too fast, when I was trying to accelerate at 100mph, Kip always reminded me to slow down and remember the important things. Each experience in our life changes us and stays with us forever. Kip not only led with love, but he has changed my life in ways that will have repercussions until my dying day. Even as I held him in my arms a few years ago, as he passed away, he still taught me in his final breaths, the meaning of love.
Cheers to the memory of Kip this month on Rewind Real Slow. If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.
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