I’m not a cat person, never have been, never will be. I prefer the warmth and emotion of a dog to the seemingly cold stare of a cat. My family have never been cat people; we always had dogs growing up. The last time I tried to pet a cat it dug its claws into my hand and wouldn’t let go, so I pretty much steer clear now. I don’t see a scenario where I would ever live with a cat, but a recent discussion brought me back to a brief time in my life when I did.
When I was a kid my grandparents lived on a farm in a small town called Meshoppen, nestled in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, just off Route 6. On a side note: Route 6 is a beautifully scenic (occasionally scary) road that winds its way through the mountains, a highly recommended drive if you happen to be in the area (my wife and I detoured through there once on our way back from Niagara Falls, totally worth it).
During the summer our family would make the long drive from South Jersey for a visit. One year my parents dropped me off to stay by myself. They would return later in the summer to pick me up. I don’t recall how long I stayed, it likely was a shorter duration than I remember, but our fondest memories have a way of growing larger and grander as the years go by.
While I was there I had the time of my young life: wandering around the big farmhouse and exploring the grounds that featured a pond, wooded hills, and a barn where you could climb to the loft and swing down off a rope to land in the hay below. It was like one of those summers you read about in books.
One day my grandparents brought home a kitten and offered to let me name him. I called him Garfield, despite the fact that with his gray and white fur he looked nothing like the cartoon cat–I guess it was the only cat name I could think of. He took to me immediately and we were inseparable during my entire stay. He followed me all around and when I lay down he would climb on to my chest and sleep there, his body rising and falling in that funny, heavy way he had of breathing. Our friendship was the highlight of my summer.
When it was time to go back home, I was sad to leave Garfield behind but took comfort in knowing that I would see him again. However, not long after returning home I received the devastating news that Garfield had died. It turned out that his heavy breathing was a symptom of a medical problem, something that had afflicted him since birth. I can’t help but wonder if my disposition toward cats would be different now if I had spent more time with him, had watched him grow from a kitten to a cat, but it was not meant to be. Looking back, I am glad I was able to give him affection and companionship during his short life. He gave me so much more in return.
I’m not a cat person, but for one summer of my youth, I had a cat that I loved. I’ll never forget Garfield. He will always hold a special place in my heart.