One of the harder things for me about travelling–whether it’s for just a few hours or for days–is leaving the cats behind. I’ve gotten accustomed to their presence on my king-sized bed, greeting me at the first sign of stirring in the morning, sometimes right up in my face with soft fur and purring. I take for granted their continual presence in the house, curled up on various pieces of furniture, particularly that bed (which they seem to believe is a giant cat bed). The soft mew of complaint but then grudging compliance when Spitfire is in my spot; the persistent insistence of Eleanor when there is Swiss Chalet chicken to be had, the shy ask of Victoria for water at the sink–all are missed when I am gone. As a result, I notice cats on my travels. The tortie shop cat that escorted us around Planes of Fame on both our visits (and who I sought out that second time). The kittens “on staff” at Memory Lane Heritage Village. And going way back, I have a photo of my mother with a kitten from one of the barns at Kentucky Horse Park close to 40 years ago. Getting a “kitty fix” is always an unexpected pleasure.
I had often seen cats around Cooper’s Lake Campground on my yearly pilgrimages, but one early morning in 2014 I met a wonderfully floofy orange and white cat in the Town Square. He came up to greet me, accepted my offering of head scritches, and then moved on to the next cat-deprived camper. “Oh, you’ve met Greebo,” said another friend, when I recounted the tale. Greebo, as it turns out, had quite the fan base upon whom he had bestowed his benedictions. In both colour and temperment, he was nothing like his namesake from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. This Greebo was a chill cat. For the next few years, each morning when I would wander through the Town Square on my morning walk, I’d look for him, and count it as a particularly lucky day if he found me. He eventually got his own Facebook page, and we “interviewed” him in last year’s Pennsic Independent (or rather Evelyn, our canine Animal Reporter, did). That’s how we learned that he was an elder cat, likely around 15 years old. He spent a lot of time this past summer in the cool of the CLIC, the onsite internet cafe, although I caught him one morning lazing on one of the walkways, and he accepted my scritches with good humour.
Last night, Greebo, at least in his physical form, departed from this world. Before he left, hundreds of people said farewell to him on his Facebook page, and I learned just how many had had similar experiences to mine. He was a cat that brought together a community, and not just at Pennsic–as his Facebook group proved, he had a similar following at other events hosted at Cooper’s Lake. Every single one of us had felt special because a friendly cat, seemingly recognizing a kindred spirit and a lover of his kind, had acknowledged us.
When I look for him again in August, I will not see him in his usual places–but yet, he will be there in memory, in time. I will feel his presence, even if I can no longer touch him, just as I can remember my own cats in their cedar urns on what has increasingly become my niche of remembrance, here in the corner of my office/craft grotto. His memory shall be a blessing.