This is not an endorsement of Your Name Here Stadium, but I found it comforting to discover the Mets would be playing at the Marlins this weekend. This is where they were last year at this time, and last year at this time was a weekend I won’t forget.
One year ago today, Stephanie and I lost our beloved Bernie the Cat. It was Friday of Memorial Day weekend. He seemed fine right through that morning. Then he wasn’t. His breathing was off. I thought it was because the temperature was rising outside and there wasn’t enough air circulating through the house. Though cats wear sweaters, they don’t sweat when they’re hot — they pant. I thought he was panting. It took a little while to understand that there was more to his sudden shift in behavior than weather-related discomfort. We rushed him to the vet to no avail. He was gone before we got there.
I haven’t lived a single day since last May 27 without thinking of him. Bernie was the first pet I ever had and he owns the No. 1 spot in my heart for all time. He was a very big cat in every sense of the word. Big body, big personality, big heart. For thirteen thrilling years, he filled up a room and overwhelmed all of our senses (the cat people out there will understand which one tends to be most overwhelmed, but that’s neither here nor there right now). I miss him like I’ve never missed anyone.
But this isn’t meant to be a sad story, not altogether so. Little did I know that while we were in our deepest mourning for Bernie that another kitten was being born somewhere in the Metropolitan area, one who luck would steer into our home a few months later. Avery The Cat came along and single-pawedly lifted us — me, Stephanie, Hozzie (a fine feline in his own right but one who missed having a brother) — out of our summerlong morass. Avery was the most daring, most exciting, most fearless kitten we’d ever seen. He was determined to show me, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, that though a Bernie can never be replaced, a pet-loving life does go on.
He demands attention and he gets it. He demands monitoring, and for the sake of various electronic appliances, he gets that, too. He demands carte blanche where my lap, my stomach, my chest, my shoulders and occasionally my head are concerned. If he wants on me that bad, who am I to shoo him off me more than a few dozen times a night? What Avery wants, Avery gets. And more often than not, Avery wants me.
I love being wanted that way. I’ve been blessed by four cats since Stephanie showed me the light: Bernie and Casey (neurotically loving tabby who is also deeply missed), Hozzie and Avery. It took me until I was almost 30 to get in on the cat action. I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.
There’s a reason for everything, I suppose. Tom Seaver never should have been traded, but at least we got to know Steve Henderson and Doug Flynn. It hurt to watch Hubie Brooks go, it was great to see Gary Carter arrive. Rico Brogna gave way to John Olerud. The departure of Rey-O begat the coming of Reyes. Edgardo thoughtlessly evicted (boo!), Wright eventually moves in (yea!). The transactions and transitions are sometimes unnecessarily messy, but baseball life goes on as well. We love our pets, we love our Mets. If they’re not always the same ones, at least we are given chances to fall in love with new favorites.
One year after Bernie ascended to his skybox, Avery spent a half-inning or so climbing and kneading my torso. Hozzie slept soundly on a chair in the dining room. Tom Glavine gutted a school of Fish. Everything was as it should be for the Princes and their cats.