How I learned to live with love and loss this Valentine’s Day
She was never going to be mine.
This tortoiseshell cat with piercing green eyes, I did not want.
She sat in a cage in a Birmingham pet store and looked up at me. I did not want a pet store cat. If I wanted a cat at all, it would come from the animal shelter. But there she was, a kitten separated from her siblings who were huddled in another part of the cage far away. They wanted nothing to do with her. Her mother was nowhere in sight.
I had intentionally avoided getting another cat. I was not over the loss of one from years before. But my then-boyfriend convinced me it would be wonderful and she was unceremoniously scooped up, put in a cardboard box and sent home with us. We paid for her at a cash register like she was a sack of groceries. How odd I thought it was that I could buy a living, breathing being for about the same price as going to the movies.
I felt her tiny body slide around in the box as I carefully carried her to the car. I held her in my lap on the hour-long drive back to Tuscaloosa. Her claws — that needed to be clipped — pierced a hole in my new, green blouse.
At home we waited for her to play, as kittens are expected to do. She did not. She sat around. She lounged. We named her Lolly because of her
We found out later she was sick — one of many sick pets sold by a store that was eventually shut down. Medicine made her better. She became a kitten like those in commercials. She ran. She played. She would catch a roll of balled-up child’s socks in her paws in mid-air. She played fetch. She was a doggish cat.
We joked that her mother was an owl because of her ability to spin her head far around. We joked that her father was a rabbit because of her very soft fur. Yet she was mean in those early days. I fought with her. A lot. Then one day, we had a come-to-Jesus meeting in the living room.
“Look,” I said to her sternly, as she sat, head cocked like a dog. “I’m going to love you even if you don’t love me, so brace…