Meet Princess. I inherited her from my dad. Sadly she only was able to retire to Florida for a short time before cancer took her life. I hope she saw her time in Florida as her retirement. I have a feeling she thought I kidnapped her.
My dad called and said he wanted me to go visit him for his birthday. That was in the middle of October. There are no school breaks in October. Uh, no. That won’t work. A few days later I see Sidney on my caller ID. Oh no. Sidney was my dad’s neighbor and friend. If Sidney called it wasn’t good news. We had been through Dad’s ambulance ride to the ER when he had a heart attack, transfer to another hospital, quadruple bypass and subsequent infection. With dread, I answered. Dad had lung cancer. Well, he smoked for his entire life. A lot. In fact, after his heart attack the cardiologist said he would not treat him if he didn’t quit smoking. So Dad quit going to the cardiologist. I think that is how it got so bad without being caught. I took off work and made the 12 hour drive.
“Have you been to the house yet?” asked Dad.
“No, your house is passed the hospital. ”
“There is Pepsi in the fridge. I had Sidney buy it last week. I knew you were coming. ”
Never was one to miss an opportunity to say, I told you so. At some point in that visit, he asked me to take his cat when he died. Of course I said yes. And I was really relieved. Dad also had three outside dogs. I could not imagine even one of the dogs in my condo. Okay, I can add a cat into my family.
Dad was always a dog person. The fact that this blue-eyed, mouthy cat won him over amazed everyone who knew him. On one of our weekly phone calls Dad mentioned his friend Mike wanted him to take this cat. Her family, parents and two little girls, had moved away and left the cat. Another week passed, and Mike was still trying to talk him into the cat. Eventually he picked the cat up, put her in his car and brought her home without any thought of actually taking care of the cat. He opened the car door and let her out in the yard. Problem solved.
I was talking to Dad on the phone and he is making all sorts of distress noises. Hold on, Princess wants out. Princess? Dad was married six times, never to take anything for granted, I needed more information. When Princess, the cat, wanted outside she jumped on the arm of his recliner, then batted his face or bit his ears. She also did this every day at 4am to go outside. Isn’t that cute.
Who was I talking to? Cute? And when she wanted back in she sat at one of the two sliding glass doors and glared until you let her in. And at 4am he would wait for her to come back for breakfast. Nuts!
I first met Princess after Dad’s heart attack. Sidney had called and I made the trip. A word about my dad’s house. It was a one bedroom on stilts in a flood plain. I often said you drove to the middle of no where and kept going for another half an hour. The first time I visited he insisted I take the bedroom. The bed was the most uncomfortable thing ever and in the morning he mentioned the squirrel that was chewing holes in the ceiling. The chewing sounds had worked their way into my nightmares. There was a hole in the bathroom floor near the toilet and you could see daylight through it. This was dad’s house.
Flash back a couple of years. My dad wakes up while having a heart attack, calls 911, walks out back and turns the gas off to the house and sits on the steps and has a cigarette while waiting for the ambulance. We found this out two days after I was there and he was with it enough to explain why the heat and the stove didn’t work in a very chilly November. Thankfully Princess was not adverse to being a blanket at night and she and I sat 3 feet away from the space heater (I read the safety warnings) the rest of the time. And of course I fed her so Princess and I were friends.
The hospital stabilized dad and were trying to find him a rehab facility. There was never any discussion of treating the cancer, just ways to manage the pain. I went home.
Less than two weeks after that first phone call, as I left school I got a message from the hospital. They had been trying to call all day. There was no way I could make it before he died but I could try. I drove home, threw stuff in the car and made the 12 hour drive in 10 hours. It was just after 1 am and I sent Sidney home. He had managed to get this very lapsed Catholic last rights. He never woke up but I think he knew I was there. He passed away around 6am. After making the funeral arrangements and starting the nightmare of settling the estate, I put Princess in a carrier and brought her back to Florida. More on the Princess later, I am sure.