Summer Solstice 2020
I hesitated about posting this information about my black cat, Annabella, or, as I called her, My Annabelle. She was, and is, so much a part of my life, my writing, my writing life, that I at least owe her this space and this place in time, and in memory — on this Pets, Real and Fictional section, to lay her to rest.
In early May 2018, I moved out of the Peach House, into a rental house, about ten miles up the road, to await the construction of the Dream House. Cats are notoriously awful about moving from the home place to a new one, and so I had a chip inserted into each of my two cats just before the move. The mere act of getting Annabella to the Vet required, as always, a reconnaissance mission of the garage and the property at the Peach House, especially those tall grasses that served as her hunting ground.
She adjusted, as well as could have been expected, to this 3-story house amidst oaks and rocks, though she was not as contented as Gabrielle, who, after the eight days of garage captivity, accepted this temporary abode as her new home. Dear Husband disagrees with my assessment. He says that Annabella adjusted all too well to her new terrain:
I made such a secure Home Base for my black cat that she quickly felt supremely confident enough to go wandering off and exploring even more unknown territories. Indeed, her arcs of exploration reached out ever wider and wider and wider — away from the Home Base, as the month of May passed into June, and summer, with its dry heat, arrived in northern-northern California.
For a few weeks, my daily routine with the cats included corralling them amidst a vast landscape, 3 acres worth, of dry grass and rocks and blue oaks. The acreage behind the house, parched yellow grass sloping down an expanse to a neighboring house, became a favorite hunting-ground for Annabella. I would retrieve her, and then warn Gabrielle, the Snowshoe Cat, not to even contemplate imitating this black cat. I established an afternoon routine for my cats, cheerfully brushing first Gabrielle, and then Annabella, on the front porch. That little sprite of a cat loved the mere sight of that brush.
The day after the summer solstice, 2018, Annabella came to me on the front porch, late in the extremely dry afternoon. I brushed her, and then she went off, to hide and lurk, amidst a rock outcropping. That night, she did not come into the garage for the night, with her “sister” Gabrielle. I sensed she had been spooked by a deer, with so many wandering throughout this property. The next day, I saw, from the kitchen window, Gabrielle slowly moving down that long slope of a hill behind the house, in search of her “kitty” sister. And I commandeered Gabby back to Home Base.
Another day went by, and Dear Husband started the dreadful process of trying to find Annabella, online and in the real world. I grant to my dear spouse gigantic kudos for that gut-wrenching work amidst the trying times in other areas of our lives. Upheaval now seems the routine of life in so much of America, and not just for abandoned cats.
Gabrielle, and, a bit later, Annabella, entered our family during a time of enormous upheaval, during the Subprime Collapse of 2008. Their “owner” abandoned them, and I promptly adopted them. Although, truth be known, when I first heard that the greedy divorced wench living beyond her means in the remodeled hovel behind the Peach House was being evicted, I said:
She better take those cats with her.
Obviously, she did not. And my taking those two emaciated, orphaned kittens into my home, and heart, and training the almost-feral black cat how to keep up her part of the Social Contract — those miffed acts of mercy changed not only the lives of those felines; they changed a lot of lives in the Milligan household.
In the wake of my Annabelle vanishing from my physical world, I started working on the Westerns files in their Tupperware storage box. I kept focused on moving forward with my life, and my work, but always with my Annabelle in mind. And I prayed, at least twice a day.
My initial concern was for Gabrielle: GB will be a nervous wreck without AB. Actually, Gabrielle has taken to Queen Cat status quite well, almost too well! While she no longer sees herself as one-half of the pair of cats, Ping and Pong, I am still adjusting to seeing the white cat without the black cat alongside her.
There were times during that first year, from 2018-2019, when I “heard” my black cat calling to me, from that grassy wooded slope that I looked out upon from the kitchen sink. The people living in the house beyond this property reported having seen the black cat, pictured on the post-card that was circulated throughout the far-flung acreages of this neighborhood. I believe that God rescued my Annabelle somewhere, out there, during this past spring of 2020. To escape my own house-captivity, in early April, I took a lengthy walk in that direction, but I had no sense of my black cat being “with” me.
Yesterday afternoon, 24 June 2020, I packed my sewing notions and sewing box, and, about an hour later, I realized that my Annabelle is not coming back to me. The previous day, I had packed away my translation materials for THE DAWN, and then I looked at the Halloween 2017 essay on this website. I saw, at the bottom of the essay, a photo of my Annabella, and I sensed that she was not going to physically be with me, here on earth. I did not lose faith in her, returning to me. I found acceptance of the truth, an intuitive truth that, for all I know, my Annabelle sent to me.
I realized yesterday that I cannot keep asking God for something that can not be. My black cat had to go on to another life, and so must I. Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I always knew that she would not be happy in the wooded expanse of my future home. She was John Robie, the miniature panther of Newcastle, in the tall grass of the upper parcel. For more than a decade, she let me take care of her, and love her, and, from a black cat, that gift was enormous to her human counterpart. It was something that changed my life, and hers.
My Annabelle is always with me in spirit, and I need not mourn all of those wonderful, joyous moments, more than ten years worth, that she gave to me, to all of us who knew and loved her. I trust that God took my black cat to a better place, just as He now does for me, to a world I’d envisioned when I first wrote about Gisèle, the little orphan cat who saves the life of Camille Richarde in THE DAWN. My black cat is now at peace, and so is a lot of me.