Monday, February 23, 2015

Sail On.

This is Po.

Po's real name was Sailor. (Partially inspired by Nic Cage's character in the David Lynch movie "Wild at Heart." Also, we thought it sounded cool.) We brought Sailor home in September 1997- about a week or so after we got married. Jason and I had moved into our first apartment in Chicago and wandered into the tiny pet shop down the street on Lincoln Avenue. There was a litter of teeny tiny little orange cats screaming for attention. One of them was to be our Sailor Po.

Baby Sailor. September, 1997.

I used to call to him as a kitten in kind of sing-songy voice: "Saay-lor. Oh Saaaayyy-lor boy." I eventually replaced "boy" with "Po" and thus the nickname was born. An explosion of pseudonyms soon followed: Mister Po, Popo, Pojangles, Po Diddley, etc. It was always a big deal in our house when we would come up with a new Po name. I remember singing the Notorious B.I.G. song, "I love it when you call me Big Popo" to him. Po names were the best names.

Po and Miss Lulu. Like they do..

The word that keeps coming to mind when describing this cat is "magical." It seemed like Po was tiny for about two weeks and then he blossomed into a lion. He was regal. He ruled our tiny little apartment (and every place since then.) When we brought home his brother Spike and finally his baby sister Lulu, Po was always boss and they knew it. A gentle king, but king nonetheless. In his prime, Po weighed around 20 pounds- but he was solid you know? When people would visit us there was always a strong reaction to him when he would saunter into the room. Things like "Whoa, that is a CAT" were often exclaimed in his presence. He would be a appropriately aloof (as cats are) but he knew how to work a room.

Po's favorite thing in the world was comfort. He sought it out in all it's forms. He had a purr like a lawnmower that you could hear from two rooms away if he found the perfect spot to nap in. (Oftentimes the perfect spot was a doll bed or a pink bean bag chair- the perks of living with two young girls.) His preferred place to be though was on Jason's lap. No other belly would do and he would show his annoyance at your inferior lap if Jason's wasn't around. It was also unacceptable if there was a laptop in the way of his favorite place to snuggle. There would be a battle for the prime lap position but in the end, Po usually won. He was hard to resist.

People often say that pets are family and I firmly believe this to be true. Something about having Po with us all through these particular years in our lives though makes losing him even more... stark to me. I barely remember a time in my adult life without him. (Was I really even an adult before that?) We brought him into our home when we were both 19 years old, not having been married even a month yet. He grew with us those early years, saw us bring babies home from the hospital (what a great memory watching him react to Juliana for the first time), and lived with us through 3 cities- 5 different homes. I was practically a kid myself when he came to us 17 1/2 years ago. Now that he's gone it feels like a huge part of my life is coming to a close. It sounds silly that I'm talking like this about an animal, but I can't picture anything filling this missing piece in my life right now. There simply won't be anything like what he was to us again.

In the past few years Po husky frame slowly started to shrink but he was still healthy and strong for the most part. We lost his sister Lulu almost 4 years ago to diabetes but he never had any major problems. We started affectionately calling him Old Man Cat (for obvious reasons) but also because with the passing years he began to develop a very wise air to his personality. We started to notice that instead of people commenting on how big he was, they were now commenting on how he looked like a sage, old man. The Gandalf of cats, if you will. He had a devoted following on the internet.

These two. Every. Morning.

I could write about this damn cat forever. But I won't. It all boils down to: I miss him. I miss his tiny little baby meow that never fit his regal stature. I miss how the stairs creaked as he limped down them one by one for dinner at the end of the day. I miss how he would stare at me patiently every time I ate a bowl of ice cream, begging to lick the bowl afterward. I miss him hogging the bed at my feet at night and purring in my face to wake me up on Sunday morning. I realize that it hurts this bad because I was lucky enough to love him so much for nearly 18 years. It doesn't make it any easier though.

Goodnight, Sailor Po.