For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Charlie McGregor

Charlie came to our house last November, together with Asha. We’d just lost our much beloved black cats Joey and Gimli and the house was simply too empty. When we went looking for a new cat in the rescue centre, Charlie came straight at us, which - turned out later - was quite unusual, because he was very withdrawn and shy. He took to Owen immediately and it was love from both sides. “This one belongs with us,” Owen said and he named him, Charlie McGregor.
It wasn’t until we got him home that we found out how timid and traumatized he really was. It took weeks and weeks before he didn’t pull back or run away when we approached him. It hasn’t been that long that he’d let himself be picked up. First only by Owen, but slowly but surely he was actually convinced that we were trustworthy.
The big change in him came when we started to let them go outside, in March of this year. We’d kept them inside all that time, mainly because Owen couldn’t bear the thought of losing another cat - Gimli fell prey to a badger, managed to drag himself home, but we still had to have him put to sleep and Joey just never came back. Also, Asha and Charlie seemed totally happy inside. But then it started getting warmer and windows and doors would be open more often and I just didn’t want to have to watch out for the cats not going outside all the time. Besides, I think it’s a bit unnatural to keep cats indoors, especially when you live where we do... at the moment...
Within days of being let outside, Charlie was a completely different cat. So much more confident, so much more happy. He’d let himself be stroked by us, he’d come running towards us, even outside. He loved to sit on the yard wall for hours at an end, or to go off for a wander in the woods, he’d play in the garden with Asha, he’d sit with us when we were doing things in the yard. And he was catching mice by the dozens. I don’t think he ever went very far, because whenever we’d call his name he’d be there within a few minutes. Of course, he was very fond of his food and we’d feed him as soon as he came home. Every night we’d make sure the cats were in before dark and then they’d stay in till the next morning.

Last Friday night we sort of all forgot to close the upstairs window, where the cats go in and out of the house. They’d been fed at nine o’clock and after that Charlie must have gone out. When Owen found out that at 11 o’clock the window was still open, he panicked and as it turned out, with reason. Asha was inside, but Charlie wasn’t and he didn’t come when we called for him. We all went out, searching, but couldn’t find Charlie. We left the back door open, so he could go into the utility room in case he came back in the night, but when we got up really early on Saturday morning, he still wasn’t there.

Ken and the kids went out looking again, but I didn’t. In my heart of hearts I knew he wasn’t coming back. Only the day before I was stroking him when he was in his usual place, on top of the cupboard behind my computer, and Myrna and I were saying how unhappy moving house would make Charlie. It would take him such a long time to get used to a new house again and suppose, just suppose we’d find a house in a built-up area, or even in town, we would have to keep him inside and that would be so sad.

When he didn’t come back on the Friday night I drew a Tarot Card, asking why he had disappeared like that. I got Ten of Swords. I had the feeling my heart broke and I cried and cried. In short, Ten of Swords stands for definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings. And the whole conversation I had with Myrna and Charlie the day before came back to me. And I just knew. He didn’t want to move away from this place.

I am devastated by the loss of him and most of all my heart bleeds for Owen, for losing another cat. For a moment I was afraid it would have such a great impact on him that he wouldn’t go on summer camp with the cadets. But he did. He left this morning and he was looking forward to it. Glad to be away from the sadness, glad to be away from the house hunting, the insecurity, the house full of boxes. I am sure when he comes back he will still have to do some grieving for Charlie, but I also know that in this case the blisfullness of Aspergers is that once the black isn’t black anymore, it most likely is white.

I strongly believe that every animal we share our lives with, mirrors certain parts of ourselves, of our souls. And as far as cats are concerned, I think they more than other animals reflect the changes in our lives. So I’m sure Charlie didn’t just disappear for no reason, at this particular moment. And I know there is a message in this for me, too, and it has to do with the way we’re looking for a new house. There will have to be definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings.

Thank you, Charlie McGregor.


Ruth said...

Aww ((hugs)) but don't give up hope
Our cat went for 9 days and I didn't think I would ever see her again and one night she jumped back in the window like she had never been gone. We had searched high and low for her.

Dawny said...

oh sweetheart - i'm catching up with your blog in reverse so I know he's already come home , but letting you know i feel for you before you found him - I hate cats not coming home.