Kringle found me when he was just 3 months old. He came in one frigid night in December 1984 while I brought in an armload of wood. He laid in front of the Christmas Tree undetected for some time only to be discovered like a present from Santa. Too cold and dark to find his home that night, we curled into the chair by the fire and napped on and off. The next day, I canvassed several blocks for his owner but to no avail. Al, my closest neighbor, said the little guy had been living under his porch for a week but he had no idea where the kitten had come from.
After the vet dewormed him and his eyes grew straight, Kringle blossomed into a beautiful, regal, affectionate and, well, sometimes distraught soul with what appeared to be two personalities living within the same body. His tail would often taunt his head and his head would savagely attack his tail providing endless entertainment without leaving the warring cat any worse for wear. The game was akin to Ring Around the Rosie For One with a bit of hissing, spitting and an occasional sommersault thrown in for good measure. Last year’s holiday video demonstrates it best:
As we moved through several apartments during our lifetime together, there was at least one landlord who feared for his children’s safety when Kringle hissed and spat himself into a tizzy. While that landlord never did believe me, Kringle was the perfect gentleman around children. He also got along well with dogs and birds.
While out on the prowl two weeks ago to the day, Kringle passed away. Tim discovered him laying in the path next to the house. He was pointed in the direction of home. I suspect a catastrophic health event brought him down where he lay, but his body was positioned at peace, paws crossed, every muscle at rest.
When Tim ran outside that morning, I knew it was the day I had been bracing for. Each and every minute after Kringle turned thirteen was a gift in my mind. I had never known a cat to live longer and yet Kringle gave me 16 wonderful years. We had no regrets, no unanswered headbuts, no ignored meows, no unsaid “I love yous.” Ours was a beautiful relationship and I was acutely aware of its perfection in every moment.
I joined Tim outside. We knelt in the snow and admired Kringle’s beautiful fur, fluffed and glistening from the chill in the air. I wrapped his body in a towel with Tim’s help and held my dear friend close feeling the weight of his plump, furry mass in my arms one last time. Through my tears, I breathed a sigh of relief that he didn’t suffer from disease or linger on in pain. He played with the dogs, went outside for one last walk, fell into the soft snow and succumbed to shock, sleeping the deepest sleep under my window in the garden where we often played in the cat mint.
The night of his death, I choked on my sobs and held my breath as though stillness would halt time. I wanted the day to never end so Kringle would always be part of it, even if that meant nothing more than arranging for his cremation.
Life has since been plagued by distraction leaving little time to reflect upon or accept this enormous loss. Only occasionally has reality crept in. The day following his death, the phone repair man stepped in Kringle’s sillouhette. A footprint had desecrated the indentation where there had been warm paws, an ear, a tail to shape the snow. I felt stinging sadness as I vacuumed the last of his gray fur from under the coffee table where he always sat waiting for a passing human foot or dog paw to whack. I wiped three muddy footprints from the sun porch floor knowing I would miss that task from now on. Even still, there are traces of him all around, memories of laugher, purring, warmth. I move through my days as though Kringle is asleep in my bed or out for walk, never facing the fact that he is, indeed, gone. I don’t remember what life is like without him and have yet to fully understand what that feels like.
But now there are ashes…