We called him “heart boy.” When he sat, as felines often do, with his front legs together, tail wrapped around his haunches, the lighter brown tufts of fur on his chest converged in the shape of that universal sign, but whether or not that particular marking had been there, it would have been an appropriate nickname for the spirit of the regal Siamese who invaded our house nine years ago.
From the time we brought him home and he curled up on a pillow beside me on the couch, I was his primary person. A beautiful specimen of his breed, his seal-point apple-head kitten self would for a while adorn the business card of the breeder from whom we got him.
When we picked him up that day, we met his parents–his mother, a lithe and beautiful cat woman, and his father, massively built and darkly colored who stared at me with a ferocity that would frighten even the bravest of souls. Named for J.K. Rowling’s immortal hero, Harry Potter Sharpe would take after both–inheriting the visage of his sire, but the sweet temperament of his mother, reminding me of many humans I have known.
He trusted me with a completeness I did not deserve, demanding little from me and giving so much more. Though I never tried it, I think I could have held him upside down by his tail and he would not have complained. He wasn’t a lap kitty, but he loved to be hugged and carried around looking over my shoulder. Though his coat was always immaculate, his nightly bedtime ritual involved a game Jan called “Gotcha,” in which she would “throw” him down on her bed, sprawl across him and ruffle him up. He would purr so loudly during the whole affair that I could hear him all the way down the hall in my room. It was the signal that he would soon swagger down the hall and jump up on my bed and compose himself before curling up at my feet for the night.
If I happened not to be in bed, he came looking for me and would start a caterwaul that wouldn’t stop until I followed him to my room. Closed doors that separated us were not tolerated well, nor were my tendencies to be a loner. The family–consisting of Jan and me and Sally, his gray and white domestic shorthaired little sister–had to be together in one room if we were all home.
Like all my pets have been, Harry would become a marker of time in my life, a gift of God to provide what I needed most on my journey. His gentle but unceasing demand that I acknowledge him gave me the constancy, the touch of normalcy we needed in a time of unequaled change.
I think he knew, though no boxes have yet been packed, that we were preparing to leave once again, moving into yet another chapter of our lives. A lover of routine, change of any kind was not his friend. When suitcases came out, he skulked around, watching with a critical eye. Once I found him inside an open suitcase, his 20 pounds of flesh sprawled across my clothes. I wondered if it was an act of resistance or if he was simply stowing himself away for the trip. But this time, I think, he decided not to go. Perhaps he thought his job complete. The signs of his illness came suddenly, almost to the day of our decision to move.
We put him down on Friday. I carried him in a white beach towel, forgoing the disrespect of a carrier, which he considered to be just another closed door. I held him close, careful not to disturb the staples from the surgery two weeks before. He did not struggle, trusting me even to the end to do the best I could for him.
Rest in peace, heart boy. You are stowed away forever in mine.