We found you through the listserv at work the first fall I taught at Geneva. We brought you home and because it was October and you were orange, we named you Jack, short for Jack-o-Lantern. It was an easy name for Grant to say. And you’ve been our faithful companion since then.
You’ve carefully examined new car seats and the squalling babies they brought. You’ve curled up on the end of children’s beds to watch them at night, though never too close to their sticky hands because you hated to cuddle. And you’ve managed to get in almost every back-to-school picture I’ve ever taken, somehow sure that what I really wanted was you in the camera instead of the kids.
I sometimes thought you were more the neighborhood’s cat than our own. You were happiest outside, especially as the days warmed up. In fact, I counted seasons by you. In spring and summer, I would see you surveying the street from porches all up and down or block, getting a different vantage point on what happened on College Hill. I would knowing it was really fall again when you decided to hang out inside our house instead of on someone else’s porch. When you finally came home to see us, people would say, “Oh, that’s your cat?” because of how far you roamed during the warmer months. You made yourself known everywhere; I even saw your picture in someone else’s wedding slide-show, because you considered their home yours, too. You were king of the neighborhood, and everyone from our neighbors to the stray cats in the alley knew it.
You had a fraught relationship with those alley cats. Hitler, the alley cat who takes after his namesake, you liked and would let into the backyard. But other cats, ones that we tried to welcome into our home, you looked at with deep suspicion. And if the squirrel chitterings and robins squawks are anything to go by, you had made yourself known to those communities, too. It was different with dogs. You seemed to adopt River as one of your best friends, curling up with her, or forcing her off the dog bed so you could be comfortable, and then greeting her with a gentle nudge of your head whenever you met outside. We know she will miss you.
As the weather turned again this fall, we knew that you wouldn’t be with us in the spring. We knew that today was the day we needed to say goodbye. It was right, but still so hard. Thank you for being part of our family for so many years, Jack. We will miss you.