That is the word that keeps invading my thoughts as I comprehend the death of another of our beloved cats. I’ve penned five of these since 1997 when I embarked on this sojourn of expression, argument, and general mayhem. Each one of these eulogies becoming harder than the next. Getting older now myself, I appreciate the concept of death far more. Four years removed from saying goodbye to my dad, whose birthday passed only from the final breaths of our latest ex-feline. James V loved Mo. I guess dignity knows dignity.
His given name was Rivera. We got him in 2009, only a few months old, as the Yankees were on the cusp of winning their fifth World Series title with the enormous contributions of one Mariano Rivera aka Mo. So, he was Rivera, but we called him Mo from the start and so did my daughter Scarlet, who was there when he was plucked from the shelter and subsequently became the first word she was able to write soon after. She couldn’t be prouder than to scrawl his name across a whiteboard or random scrap of paper, “MO.” Over and over. We realized the morning he passed that this was the first of the cats to go that she remembers from his arrival.
And Scarlet knew Mo well. It is a fine tale of the toddler and the little girl and the tween and teen and her big, male cat. At his most robust, Mo was 21 pounds. He was long and grey and when she held him his body engulfed her. He looked like a lion. That was fitting. He had a regal countenance. A king. We once had a Queen around here – Mazzy. Mo was her grey successor. He had to “deal” with two black cats, deferring to their domain and acquiescing like a gentleman despite the fact that he could have killed them both within seconds. That is if he’d been as crazy as the cat he actually replaced.
That would be Parker.
She was grey, lean, and extremely mean. She had the sniping disposition of her namesake, Ms. Dorothy Parker. She terrorized our other two cats, so she had to go. It was sad, but we had to send her back. Never thought the animal-crazed vegan wife would go for it, but it became a matter of survival for the black ones cowering in the cellar. Yeah, Parker only lasted maybe a week, two? Back to the drawing board.
Here came Mo, big, bad, and serene as they come. It was if he knew his role: calm things down, get along to go along. From the moment we got him out from under the guest room bed, he was a joy. Mostly quiet, very matter of fact in gait (which always included the requisite click-clacking of his incessantly growing claws) and comportment. He patiently waited his turn to eat and only swiped at cats that gave him shit, inside or out. One of the three black ones he had to endure (we kept bringing these damn black cats into the fray, but he sucked it up), Bukowski – who, once more lives up to his namesake. Jesus, he is a walking Hank – likes to fight, annoy everyone around him, eat like a beast, and lounge as if every minute is siesta.
But Mo endured. Even when the two kittens came the summer before last, he just sighed and soldiered on. He was cool as long as he could sit in his “Mo Patch” – a little spot out by our hot tub above the patio. Or he might lounge on the hill leading up to the barn or on the balcony outside our bedroom, looking up at the sun and feeling the breeze on his cheeks and brush past his whiskers. He would close his eyes and you can feel his damn smile. It was visceral.
He was, in the end, a cat of simple pleasures. He didn’t hunt like the others, whine like the others (until towards the end when he was a cranky old man) or create useless drama.
My mom took to him, and she pretty much despises almost every living creature on God’s green, but there was something Italian in Mo – he liked to eat, loved life, and got his rest. All these things are important to Phyllis Campion – relax and mangiare! Yeah, Mo could mangiare! He was the first down for breakfast and the last getting his calories in at night. He may have waited his turn, but when it was his turn, politely back the fuck up; the Great Rivera is dining.
I think… nah, I know what I will miss the most is the quiet times we had together on the couch. If I was sitting there, usually writing, sometimes reading, other times just watching TV, no matter where the hell Mo was, he’d find his way to lean on me, put his giant paws on my lap, and nuzzle his head into my hip. As I pounded out words on this infernal contraption, he would purr and give the other cats (and anyone who might saunter by) the side-eye. This was our time together. No sharing! He may have liked those times as much as eating, I tell myself, but then I realize I’m just being a melodramatic human idiot. Mo loved eating most of all.
I am grateful that through that horrible pandemic I got to spend more time at home; the silver lining to the world collapsing. I was fortunate to be “stuck” inside and enjoy all that offered – being with family, including the four-legged ones. Mo was the highlight because he just hung. No one around here hangs out with me, and I guess now no one will. And that’s okay, ‘cause ain’t no one hangin’ like Mo. He cannot be replaced. I made the words. He made the purring. Good partnership agreement. Yeah… gonna miss that.
And so we bid a hearty and melancholic ado to our King of the Clemens Estate. He was a benevolent and sympathetic ruler. He just needed quit time and a meal close at hand. There is never enough time to love that, I think. I should have loved it and him more.
Life moves fast. Mo didn’t. He had his own clock, and that one stopped at 2:40 AM on Tuesday, October 24, 2023.