Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Neighborhood Cat

He was orange and scruffy. He seemed ageless. He was bold, unafraid and in your face. He was friends with every child at the grade school down the road. His name was Tiger, and he was the neighborhood cat.

Just yesterday, my father asked me about that cat. My father is eighty-five, and I found myself amazed that the memory of Tiger popped into his head. "Kar," he asked. "Do you remember the cat that was friends with every kid at the school years back?"

I hadn't thought of Tiger in a while. But he is one cat I won't ever forget, especially since it meant so much to Dad to talk about him. It warmed me that thinking that the silly cat made my father smile and he couldn't stop talking about it for days.

Tiger would stand at the bus stop across the street waiting with a group of children for their morning ride to school. At the end of their day, he would trudge patiently and carefully across the street, once again, as if to welcome them home. There were times he would follow one particular child for a while, as if he knew that they needed a little extra care or friendship that day perhaps.

And Tiger would walk to the grade school near his own house, spending time just like one of the gang with groups of children, rubbing in and out of their ankles, looking up quizzically into their faces as if trying to understand what they were talking about.

The cutest story about this cat however happened when I sat watching a school concert one evening with friends. My son, Matt, was in a little chorus routine, and all of the moms jostled for position in the auditorium. It was a stuffy evening from what I remember, so the doors to the outside were propped wide open.

The lights dimmed, the children began to assemble in their places on the stage before us, when big as life, Tiger walked out onto the stage with them. Audience members couldn't believe it. That silly cat had gone too far. Boldly, brazenly walking not only into the auditorium, but also believing he had every right to be there with what he'd come to know as his friends.

Many people pulled out their video recorders and began filming, others erupted in laughter. One teacher went to shoo the cat from the stage, but of course the damage had already been done, and Tiger had completely stolen the show.

I never really found out what happened to that cat, as my own life got in the way. Rumor had it, that someone actually stole him from the neighborhood because they wanted to give him what they thought was a better home.

Whatever happened, I know that our lives are a little better for having known this special kitty. I learned some lessons from him. Be bold. Be friendly. Be caring. Be all "in your face" when you want something. Make new friends, keep the old. And rub a ton of ankles. Whatever will warm another person, that's what Tiger did. And that's something I'd like to do in this world. Touch lives and warm people with stories such as this one. There's so much seriousness. I want to be remembered like Tiger.