Holidays can bring back the most wonderful memories of our loved ones. We come together to celebrate family and friendship, and naturally, we tell stories.Just last week my little family was recalling the life and times of Wilhelm Thiede.Willy was my husband, Ralf’s, father. Willy was intensely loyal. He was also opinionated, cantankerous and cynical. He possessed a heart of gold. If you needed help, you only had to ask.Children found him terrifying, mostly because of his thick and bushy eyebrows.One afternoon, our beloved gray cat, Beowulf, was meowing mightily in Ralf’s direction. Ralf picked Beowulf up. Our friendly feline promptly jumped out of his arms.“He reminds me of Willy,” Ralf said. “He wants attention, but when you get close, he doesn’t want to be touched.”Privately, I disagreed, but I didn’t say anything.When Ralf isn’t home, I allow Beowulf into our home office. He meows until I let him jump into my lap. Then he turns in circles until he has found the right position and settles down. He especially likes cuddling into overlarge sweatshirts I like to wear.(Dear readers: Please don’t tell Ralf about this. The office is supposed to be a Beowulf-free zone.)“When did Willy die?” our son, Erik, asked.Ralf looked at me helplessly.“I’m not good at those kinds of things,” he said.“2001,” I answered, “the same year my father died.”Ralf left to get a book from our library.Erik looked at me. “How old is Beowulf?”“About 10,” I said.“If you allow him about two years to travel through the bardo…”I snorted.I knew what Erik was thinking. According to some forms of Buddhism, souls travel through an intermediate state between reincarnations. Erik was considering the possibility that our cat was Willy. Sleeker, and with lots more hair, obviously.Ralf re-emerged. He had obviously been thinking about his dad.“The list goes on,” he said cheerfully. “Beowulf craves nicotine.” This is true. Whenever a smoker comes into our house, Beowulf leaps on said smoker and licks any patch of exposed skin he can find. He chews on their hair.Willy was a chain smoker. Lived for nicotine.Ralf continued: “He stares out the window constantly.”I nodded.After retirement, Willy’s favorite pastime was keeping an eye on the neighborhood from the kitchen window. He could tell you who was going shopping and when. He could tell you the ages of local children. He had a running commentary on the local doings.“He stays up all night,” Ralf added.Willy was a chronic insomniac.“He eats the same thing every day,” I put in.It was Ralf’s turn to laugh.I looked at Beowulf. Beowulf looked at us.“He has Willy’s eyebrows, doesn’t he?” I asked.
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012
A cat is a cat, except when it’s not
Things we remember about our loved ones
Barbara Thiede is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Barbara? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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