A friend of mine crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a few weeks ago. More than a friend. For more than five years, he was my brother-in-law. For at least thirteen he was my skittish orange pal and son of my future father-in-law. I’m talking about Patch the Cat, a beloved fixture at my in-laws’ home, now christened Vacation Cottage in honor of my son’s many visits, a singular slinking blur of nervousness and distant warmth that nonetheless captured our hearts with his unique affections, affectations, and antics. And he will be missed.
I first met Mr. Patch when Nancy and I started dating and her own cat, ‘Saki, was still living with him. ‘Saki and Patch never truly hit it off, the circumstances of why were never wholly clear (neither would come clean), and periodically Patch would feel the need to offer ‘Saki “rapid fire”, a series of quick paw slaps to her face to snap her back in line. The cause of these disciplinary actions is hard to determine but, having housed ‘Saki myself for several years, I have no doubt his corrective measures were justified.
While living with my future in-laws for several years, I had several dreams of Patch dressed up as historical or literary characters; I can’t explain why. They were often vivid and humorous, and they featured Mr. Patch in signature attire. There was The House at Patch Corner, featuring him as Winnie-the Pooh. Adolf Patchler, with him jack stepping about with a little Hitler mustache and riding crop. He and ‘Saki as Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle from My Fair ‘Saki, both dressed up in Edwardian finery. And my favorite, Amelia Patchhart aka Earhart, where Patch flew over my head, saluted me with his paw and gave me a hearty, “meow” as he/she flew bravely into history and mystery. Again, no rational reason for these dreams, but good memories all.
Out of dreamland, but still somehow in the realm of fantasy, Mr. Patch, who never really lost his manly appetites despite having lost the corresponding anatomy, had a beloved black and white wool checked sweater named Lolita that he would “get busy with” by gripping her with his teeth, dragging her about the house, and vigorously twitching his tail and hindquarters in a seemingly trancelike motion. He would do this frequently, sometimes at inopportune moments, such as if guest were over, and always with the greatest of fascination from all who observed it. My favorite memory here – and I’m not making this up – was once when I decided to follow him with her as he dragged her up upstairs between his legs and into his bedroom. As I watched, transfixed, he turned around once he was in the bedroom with her still gripped in his teeth, put his head down and to the door, and closed the door on me as I watched from the hallway. They were to have privacy that day and voyeurs were not wanted! What a cat! He will be missed.
He loved chocolate pudding, he loved having his hair combed, he had been trained to shake hands, and he showed affection by doing that rubbing motion that cats do, but from several feet away. He didn’t like to be held, except by his daddy, Wron, my father-in-law, and he had learned out of love to say his name, sitting sometimes for hours by the door croaking out, “Rooon. Rooon,” when his human had to go to work. While both were home, he was almost always at Wron’s side, or in view, or “on guard” in case Wron did something exciting, needed assistance, or was ready with his prescribed Whiskas Temptations, which were doled out with loving clockwork precision. There was never any doubt whose cat he really was. He had come into the family as Mary Anne’s cat, but his heart belonged to Daddy.
Mr. Patch was nearly seventeen and in ill health when he made the last trip to the vet from which he didn’t return. Shortly before his death, he began to warm to Bup, allowing him to pet and hug his frail frame before doddering off to hide in his cat bed and get some much needed sleep. Bup was thrilled by this, loved Patch as much as his own brothers and sisters, and referred to Patchy as his cat in the same breath with ‘Seyde and Duke and Shadow. I’m so glad that Bup, at the end, was to find a loving relationship with this little soul who is as much a part of my memories of Nancy’s household from the very beginning. We all loved Patchy dearly, and he was as much of an idiosyncratic fixture in that household as any human could be. After all, when you spend seventeen years of your life with someone (frequently less), they all too easily go from being a pet to being family. And Patch, my friend, my brother-in-law, my dream weaver, was just that. And he will be missed.
Patchy, may you find peace at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge, dear soul.
Until we meet again,