Monday, September 05, 2005

Wait For Me Johnny

Johnny was a kitten in 1990, the year I graduated from Potsdam University with a degree in Computer and Information Sciences, and the year I started the first job of my professional career. I lived in a house with three of my best friends; I was single and didn't have the credit to get a credit card, much less to own a car of my own. I depended on my roommates for a ride back and forth from work.

Jeff took me to upstate New York to pick him up. Jeff was learning to play the bass guitar, and indulgence for me, his friend who was obsessed with the electric guitar. I have always had the fantasy of going back in time and playing a song that would someday go platinum to an unsuspecting crowd, passing it off as my own, and for one glorious night enjoy the moniker of genius. My dream played out before my eyes in Back To The Future, as Marty McFly played Johnny B. Goode to a fifties school prom audience, and I had to learn that song. I was in the throes of that passion when we brought my new kitten to live with us, and it was no stretch of the imagination that I named him Johnny B. Goode, forever Johnny for short.

Johnny was gentle and social, friendly to a fault. He was perfect and beautiful, and followed me around like a dog, and could even be counted on at times to come when called. Even during the cacophony of our ear-splitting jam sessions, Johnny was always there; nothing seemed to bother him.

I felt guilty that such a love-sponge had to spend his days alone, so Jeff and I made the trip once again and came back with little Mew, a playmate and life companion for Johnny. Now I had two little lumps in my bed at night.

They made the trip with me to California in my new Mazda MX-6. I was creditable now. The car held everything I owned, which was mostly my clothing and music equipment. I rented a large empty apartment that for the most part remained so. Both Johnny and Mew made friends with the neighbors.

Years later we moved to San Francisco where they both for the first time were trapped inside, and I vowed to buy a home where they could safely run outside. Years later I finally made good on that promise as, now married with a newborn, we moved into our first home. While Mew hid from my growing son, Johnny took his abuse and never scratched at him or tried to get away.

The economy crashed and the technical gold rush of California had come to an end. We decided to move to the east coast and live near our families; we moved into an apartment while our house was on the market. My youngest cat Mew got curious and snooped inside someone's garage storage unit, which the person only visited once in a great while. The garage door closed him inside, and the owner didn't discover his body until three weeks later. Johnny was alone, and we were forced to bury Mew in the woods and leave him behind.

Three weeks ago, I took Johnny to the vet because he was scratching his ears, and in general he wasn't himself. He checked out healthy, except for an ear infection, which I was given drops for. Ever since we've lived in this house his cries kept us up at night, and I was forced to leave him outside at night. Johnny used to be my only focus, but with two children, his role steadily diminished. He was so lonely, and his health was declining, despite what the veterinarian said. The light in his eyes was dimming.

I looked out the window into the front yard and watched him walk around our great venerable oak, and his step was so tentative. He layed under some bushes below our windows and basked in the warmth of the day. Later he was sleeping in his litter box at the base of the stairs from our kitchen and into the garage. I had never seen him do this before, and I scratched him on his side. He looked up at me with a satisfied look and I felt him lightly purr. He blinked his eyes once, grateful for the moment of attention. I thought about picking him up and taking him inside with me, and I now I wish I had. The signs were there, and a part of me read them correctly, but I just didn't want to believe.

Yesterday, on Sunday, September 4th of 2005, I saw him still laying there. I almost walked on by, and even thought to myself that he was such a quirky cat, but something made me stop. I stared at his chest, and looked for it's familiar rise and fall, but it wasn't there. I touched him and the warmth was gone, and he was stiff like a clay likeness.

When he was a kitten, I was still a boy who would never dream of having children, or being tied down in any kind of relationship. I couldn't borrow twenty dollars from a friend, much less enough to buy a house. Johnny and I grew up together, and he helped to raise my own children. He was a loyal friend even when he was nearly forgotten.

We buried him in our back yard. My wife padded the bottom of the box with a few of our old baby blankets. My oldest son drew him a picture while my wife found some pictures of Johnny with all of us. We found a mouse toy that my oldest had bought for him at the vets, and a stuffed animal cat and a few toys. And last we added his cat brush, which had tangled in it a tuft of his hair.

The box was from the post office, and had an address label that said: To. I took out a Sharpie and wrote Heaven. Under that I wrote: Johnny B. Goode. I love you. What for us there, ok?


Shesawriter said...


I'm so sorry to read about Johnny. May he rest in peace.



Beth said...

I've buried two beloved cats. The first time, it really hit me so hard, I cried for days. I'm so sorry, Scott!

Lucy Stern said...

It is so hard loosing an animal that you love so much. They are part of you and it feels like a little piece of you died along with him. I have buried a few animals of my own, so I can honestly say, "I know how you feel". Sorry for your loss.

Scott said...

Thanks all, I was really blue yesterday after writing this. Lucy, you nailed it, Johnny is a part of me, it's hard to explain, but now I feel so mortal and vulnerable.

jenbeauty said...

So sorry Scott.

Mrs.T said...

I'm so sorry Scott. I hated losing my cats... It was very traumatic for me. I'm just so sorry.

trinamick said...

I've lost several cats & dogs over the years (living near a highway). But most of the time, my siblings told me they ran away. It was years before I found out the truth.

My sister has had her cat for 9 years. If something ever happens to him, I think she'll end up in a mental hospital.

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Scott, I'm so sorry about Johnny. He sounds like a wonderful old friend.

Scott said...

Thanks all for your condolences. I've lost animals before, but Johnny was special to me in ways I can't define. I wish I could have him for just one more night.

Tee said...

Oh gosh Scott, I'm so sorry. Johnny looks just like a cat we had named Chan. He lived a very long time and his last days were very similar. He was also a very good cat and friend - more like a dog really. Would come lick your tears when you cried, and run to your defense if he heard screaming.

I'm sure he's waiting for you. Be happy knowing he has his younger body back up there and is probably frolicking and having fun :)


The Zombieslayer said...

I sympathize. I was closer to my dog than a lot of my friends.

Jason said...

That's heartbreaking. Woody and Marty have been with me for 12 years, longer than my wife. RIP.

Scott said...

Tee - What a great name for a siamese cat. Chan. Thanks for the kind thoughts.

Zombie - I'd venture that a dog is more of a hit than a cat, as they seem just a little more human.

Jason - Same here; I've had my cat for 15 years or so, long before I met my wife.

magnetbabe said...

Sorry I couldn't write this sooner, I am just catching up today and couldn't not comment on this post. I have lost cats before too and the pain is indescribable. When the cat I grew up with died, I was spiraled into a deep depression. When I went away to college I was faced with the difficult decision of whether to take her with or leave at home with Dad. Ultimately I thought that taking her with would be too traumatic and she formed an eveen stronger bond with Dad. Luckily I lived close enough to visit her often (seeing Dad was a plus too;)) I never forgave myself for leaving her and when she passed I was inconsolabe. The loss of anything that loves you unconditionally be it human or animal is truly overwhelming.
You are in my thoughts.

Scott said...

MagnetBabe - Thank you for understanding. That is so true. I feel bad that Johnny loved me so much and yet my attentions were diverted towards my children, my wife and the new house. He was a good little soul, and I miss him so much.