We laid beloved kitty Wanda to rest two days ago, on Thursday, November 4, 2010, after her short period of collapse — after a long and warm life of nearly 20 years.
Wanda had been my constant companion for over 17 years in 6 of my various 8 San Francisco homes. I can’t imagine living in a home anywhere without her presence, and I still hear her on the stairs and across the floor, see her sleeping in every soft place, and feel her fluffy purring as I lie and try to rest in my new quiet Wandalessness.
When I moved to Landers Street in 1993, I was separating from a relationship of five years. It was a painful and confusing time, and I found my new solo apartment thunderously silent. I went to the SF Animal Shelter and I saw her. Wanda was a young fluffy thing at 1-1/2 years old and had been abandoned by some soulless creature who never had any idea what they were going to miss over the next 17 years. She looked straight at me with her huge yellow eyes, held my gaze, and said “take me home.”
When I took her home she immediately burrowed into the mirrored cabinet corner as if she was seeking her litter. Within a few days she emerged, and began watching over me while I slept, poking my eyes and mouth and nose gently as if to see if this dream was real. After that, I could feel that she never let me out of her radar as long as I was in the house.
We moved quickly to a warmer tiny studio apartment on Lloyd Street, which was the home of many legends in our lives. She loved the warm perch with a sunny view, and in the studio she could always be near me. When I was not home, she retreated to a lump under my bed covers, which is the way most of my friends got to know her at first. When I approached home from way down the block, in a car or on foot, she would immediately rouse and hop out onto the fire escape to greet me. I will never cease to be amazed at how she always leapt out for me no matter what time of day or night I approached. When I came through the door, she always greeted me loudly with the Wanda(tm) yowl of cranky-sounding delight.
When Leanne and I moved in together on Vicksburg, Wanda first met her step-brother Spike. Spike was by all accounts an incredible, daunting, and epic animal. In many ways, there could not have been two more different beasts. While Wanda retreated during the daytime to hide under the bed or blanket, Spike trotted on the sidewalk, and waited. While Wanda’s feline fantasies struck out in the night in solitary bursts, Spike gathered her up and patiently taught her the intricacies of mousing. Spike spent at least 9 out of 9 lives exercising every bit of maximum animalness, and died early in 2003 at 9 years old, the very second the heart of our girl Lucy started beating. Wanda lived a long warm fairly quiet and very devoted life. In this way, they differed not at all: they were both devoted to us.
Even though Lucy refocused all of our time, Wanda welcomed her into our home. Wanda patiently taught Lucy how to be kind to animals, and gave Lucy a great way to learn about being gentle. She amazed us with her agility, although she was already elderly, with accepting Lucy and tolerating infant and toddler love. In many ways, Wanda really emerged after Lucy was born. She came out to play, greeted guests and total strangers, learned of the presence of several other felines in the Clinton Mews, had many caring visitors and caretakers, and generally a happy existence with us for the past several years.
Lucy has been the dearest person to Wanda in her last few days, preparing comfortable spots and sharing her sardines. Now Lucy is coping mostly internally, as I know too well, fairly capably with a mostly incomprehensible wound.
I don’t yet know what to do with the few things I kept that I can’t part with. I catch them in the corner of my eye and see Wanda. As we prepare to go out of town for the night, I catch myself walking across to make sure Wanda has enough food and water to take care of herself while we are gone. And when I come back home, there will be no cranky hello. This is going to take quite some time, but I will listen for you, Wanda, until I can realize you are frolicing with brother Spike and all the good company that came before you, letting me know I too can move on to open my heart to the next furry adventure.
Wanda, thank you, Wanda. I will miss you every day. Thank you.