”We don’t need another cat.”
That’s what I said when my grandson called to say he and his wife are looking for homes for a litter they rescued but couldn’t keep them all.
I reluctantly share that my wife really wants another cat. We had two. The one I liked died. Cali, the little runt that we have is tolerable, I thought - for a cat.
I like dogs. I don’t like animals in the house. I love my wife. She loves animals, especially cats.
“But Papaw, we just have two left and they need a good home.”
He sounds so pitiful. Besides, I enjoy my grandson’s company.
“Ah, bring them by, let me see them, but I’m not making any promises.”
I sit and wait. I debate my decision. I create a few false excuses why we cannot bring another cat in the house.
“Cali likes being the center of attention and another cat will spoil her utopia.”
“No cat could ever replace the hole in our hearts that the loss of Hope made.”
That last one is probably true, especially for Melissa, my wife, but not a good excuse. I stick with the first one.
I hear a car pull in our driveway. A quick glance out the window confirms my grandson’s arrival. I rush out to greet them. I don’t want them bringing the cats into the house.
Cali jumps up on the window sill. She looks toward the driveway and then turns and gives me a dirty look.
“Not to worry, Cali, I can handle this.”
Kendall, my grandson signals me toward the back door of their vehicle. The first cat I see is a butter cream colored cat.
“Her name is Cheeto. They both have their shots and have been spayed and neutered.”
Then I see the black one. He seems somewhat nervous and timid. I really don’t look too carefully.
“Mom says she’ll take whichever one you don’t want, but she really likes Cheeto over Diego.”
That sounds like he expects me to take one. Maybe I wasn’t clear about making no promises.
Another car pulls in the driveway behind Kendall’s. It’s Melissa. The scenario changes. In my minds eye, I watch my lame excuse vaporize into thin air.
Melissa exhales her usual high pitched “aww” when she learns there are cats in this car.
We bring Diego, the black one in. Melissa sees something special about him. She wants to bring them both in, but Kendall’s mom prefers Cheeto.
Inside, I pay more attention to Diego. He’s not a black cat. He’s a tuxedo with a unique face.
He is the most handsome cat I’ve ever seen. His eyes exude cleverness. His body is athletic. I find myself nearly liking him.
“It looks like he’s wearing a mask. He looks like Zorro or Batman to me,” I point to that face.
Melissa looks at me. Her eyes are asking me if we can keep him.
“He’s male. Do you think he’ll get along with Cali? Better yet, will Cali get along with him?”
Diego is so handsome. I still think he looks like Zorro. I remember that Zorro’s real name is Don Diego. Maybe that’s why he was named Diego. Sometimes I am so astute I astonish myself.
“It’s up to you,” Melissa’s fingers are nestled deep into Diego’s fur.
Her words portray her warm, cat-loving brown eyes. She’s dropped enough hints about wanting to rescue another cat. Here he is. It’s like God himself ordains it.
Diego rolls his big yellow eyes up at me through that shiny dark mask of his. His purring hints a slight crackling sound.
My grandson starts to list some of Diego’s habits like hiding behind furniture and jumping out at other cats or even Kendall himself.
Kendall sounds annoyed with it. The image of it makes me laugh and endears me to the little playful rascal.
I look again at little Diego. I look him straight in the eye and there I see it. A twinkle of mischief and kittenish playfulness lingers there.
“I think we’ll keep Diego.”
I expect glee from the onlookers, but I believe, at first, they’re in shock. All except Diego who seems to be relieved that he doesn’t have to ride in a car again.
After a moment or two of inmemorable small talk my grandson claims they must leave and take Cheeto to her new home.
I walk out with our guests and watch them drive away. I return to find Diego alone and sniffing the air. Melissa calls from our bedroom.
“I don’t like the name Diego. What do we call him?” Melissa asks as she searches for some cat toy.
I throw out some names from the top of my head like Felix and even dumber ones like Zorro.
“Jasper,” Melissa sighs, “he seems like a Jasper - Jasper Alexander Knight.”
I really didn’t get the connection but that doesn’t matter. We call him Jasper.
Fast forward a few years. Not only can I not think of calling him anything but Jasper, I’ll never understand my hesitation to welcome him into our family.
He is smart. He is funny and warm. He has become my best buddy.
He sleeps often snuggled up next to me with one paw over my foot or leg. During the pandemic of 2020, he has memorized my habits to the point of no longer following me everywhere I go to now meeting me there.
He still is playful. He still hides and jumps out at me or Melissa. Melissa hates it. I think it’s fun. We have since lost Cali but he often annoyed her with his rough playfulness.
We have turned his hiding behind curtains, around doorways, and under furniture into a game of peek-a-boo.
I holler, “Where’s Jasper? I cannot find Jasper.” After two or three of these, he pops out or jumps out.
Jasper and I sometimes stand at our front window and watch the world go by. Sometimes we watch a TCM movie together or a basketball game.
He lies nearby while I write, paint, or draw. He’s here beside me even as I write this out.
We do much together. We tell Melissa goodbye as she goes off to work. We eat our meals together. I make the bed. He messes it up.
He does some annoying things like getting into kitchen cabinets where has no business. As I said earlier, he messes up the bed. I cannot tell you how many times a toy, paper wad, or one of Melissa’s hair ties gets lost under our couch.
I know I frustrate him at times, too. I don’t always feed him at every demand or take him outside every time he requests it or get out of bed at his bidding. We’ve taught one another how to love unconditionally.
We have become very close. He brings life into my day when I am home alone. I hope I’m as good for him as he is for me.
By the way, I still have not ever found a more handsome cat than my buddy, Jasper. I’m glad my wife urged me into it and my grandson introduced us.