Posted by: jevcat | March 24, 2012

Our Grand Old Man

On the occasion of his 16th birthday (80 in people years!), I re-post the blog I did last year for Ozzie’s birthday, and congratulations to the patriarch of our household!

I did not first encounter him until about six weeks later, but today is the 15th birthday of Ozzie, who occupies the position of Senior Cat in our household.  These days he also generally occupies my computer chair, although he usually deigns to share the front section of the seat with me, albeit not without a certain amount of grumbling on his part.  This has resulted in an improvement to my posture, as I can no longer slouch against the back of the chair but must sit up straight, a benefit to me that I rather suspect was unintended on his part.  I’ve taken to saying I have a warm, vibrating lumbar cushion.

On those occasions when he jumps down to fortify himself with some crunchies, use the litter box, or do a perimeter patrol, I slide back, a lapse for which I am taken seriously to task on his return.  He begins by sitting on the floor complaining vociferously.  When that does not move me, his tactics shift.  I may feel a paw on my lap.  There may be a leap onto the keyboard if I do not move its sliding platform back almost to storage position.  He will sit on the mouse, which, admittedly, keeps my fingers warm on cold days but makes it considerably more difficult to use the track ball.  Sometimes he gets on the table in back of me and climbs onto my left shoulder, from which vantage he can supervise my typing (he used to take this position frequently when younger, and many an evening meal in those days was prepared with Ozzie perched on my shoulder).  His favorite move, though, is to settle into “meatloaf position” in the space directly in front of the monitor, blocking the lower half-to-two-thirds of it, so I have to stand up and peer around him to see the majority of the screen, onto which the copious fur he sheds adheres.  Should I vacate the chair for any reason – to get a cup of tea, answer the phone – he will immediately reclaim the seat for himself.  Sometimes we race, but, even senior citizen that he now is, he usually beats me.  Ozzie knows whose apartment it is; it has been his a long time.

Fifteen years ago, my mother had just died.  It had been a harrowing six months of caring for her at home during the end stages of cancer, for the last month of which I had been living in her apartment while our landlord replaced ceilings in my own, making it uninhabitable.  During that time, I had lost both my first cat, the inimitable Gabrielle, and we had lost my mother’s cat, Ashfurred, to old age and disease.  It was a lot of loss in a brief time, and a dear friend decided I needed one of the kittens her neighbor’s cat had just produced.  I was reluctant:  I was emotionally and physically exhausted, still had my mother’s apartment to clean out, my own to clean up, under pressure at work, and besides, I did have one remaining cat, Misty.  I had enough on my plate and no wish to take on something else.

My friend was insistent, however, and one evening I agreed to go with her to visit her neighbor and at least look at the kittens.  Sitting on the floor, surrounded by kittens, I was stalked by one in particular, a tabby, who was an especially bold ball of orange fluff.  He was not as attractive as some of the other kittens, his marking not symmetrical, but he marched right up my arm, purring, and nestled against my neck, purring even more.  I picked him up, and he purred.  I put him down, and he purred.  And kept marching back to me.  Against my better judgment, he came home with me that night.  I said I named him Ozzie because he had what almost looked like ocelot spots on his belly, but it probably had as much to do with the fact that I had watched the Wizard of Oz on television the previous week.

 

Misty scooted under the bed as soon as I brought him into the apartment, and he plopped next to the bed, chirruping at her, while I crawled under to explain to her she did not need to be afraid of him.  After having been raised with the irascible and imperious Gabby, I don’t think she believed me.  Within about a week, though, I could leave them alone together, and they became inseparable friends, occasional tussles being followed by mutual washing, and the two of them curling up like an orange/grey yin yang.  Many years later, the day before Misty died – a Sunday when she was obviously sick but the vet was closed – Ozzie would spend the day yelling at me, as though telling me “Do something!” and, without her, he took to spending most of his time in a miserable ball under the covers on the bed, until a few weeks later, Sofia came into our lives to terrorize him – but that is another story.

 

Within a few days of Ozzie’s arrival, I realized that my entire apartment was covered in a fine patina of orange fur, and it has remained so.  It matters not how much I comb/brush him.  Each brushing (which he hates) produces enough fur to build another cat, and no amount of brushing seems to lessen the shedding; I can do it twice five minutes apart (if I can catch him) with the same effect.  But he is a champion purrer – the first time I took him to the vet, when he was still tiny, she could not hear his heartbeat because he was purring so loud – and he made me laugh, something I needed then and need now.  He has never been a lap cat, but would, in a dignified and casual way, just happen to settle on the arm or back of whatever chair I was sitting in.  Because he just felt like, not that he wanted to be near me or anything, you understand.

 

I used to say, “Ozzie specializes in ‘cute’ ” – something that made choosing pictures to accompany this is difficult because there are so many good ones.  He is the only cat I ever knew who would pose for pictures.  I would find him in an impossibly adorable position and run to get the camera.  Unlike most cats, he would hold the position until I returned and snapped the photo.  Then he would alter the position slightly and turn his head to me as if to say, “How about this one?” and then he would do it again:  change, hold, change, each time waiting for approving sounds from me and the click of the camera before moving.  I would wind up with whole sequences, like a photo shoot.  (Meanwhile, Misty would hide at first sight of a camera, so photos of her are rare.)

 

Sofia had imposed a five-year bedroom exile on him during her tenure – he was too good-natured to cope with her ferocity – but, since her departure this summer, he has reclaimed his kingdom, bearing with a weary royal dignity the impertinent exuberance of kitten George, who joined our household about a month before Sofie died, and patiently (or sometimes impatiently) tutoring George in the ways of catliness.  At one point shortly after George’s arrival, I walked into the bedroom to see Ozzie under the rocker, a bored expression on his face and one outstretched paw on top of George’s head, holding the kitten at arm’s length while George took roundhouse swings that invariably missed.  Even recently, one day I entered a room to find them on a table, locked in a pose of combat, but almost motionless, except that Ozzie’s right ear was in George’s mouth and occasionally he would make a pretense of chewing it, while Ozzie gave me a long-suffering look; he may have rolled his eyes.

 

Ozzie is an old man now, with more white around his muzzle than I remember him having before, and he sleeps a lot.  But he still tolerates George’s chasing him, tutors him when he doesn’t, and can still play like a kitten.  Sometimes, when he’s in the mood, he stands up and yowls for George, who comes trotting over to play and learn the fine art of the ambush.  I don’t know how much longer we will be privileged to have Oz, the great, the magnificent with us but, years after he is gone, I will probably still be finding orange fur, and smiling as I do now, shaking my head, and saying an exasperated, “Ozzie!”

Advertisements

Responses

  1. A “Grand Old Man” indeed, and one who still “specializes in cute.” Happy Birthday, Ozzie!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: