Underneath my yellow skin

Shadow, my little cat ambassador

all the love.
My favorite pic of brotherly love. (S, left; R, right.)

Shadow and I are a duo and have been for almost three years since we lost his brother, Raven, suddenly one cold and grim Saturday night. I’ll never forget it, and I think about him every day. Sometimes, only for a flash, and sometimes, for longer, but he’s still in my heart.

Shadow took it badly. For six months, he clung to me in a way that he had never done before. He was more my aloof cat, wanting to be near me on his own terms. He would disappear for hours, only showing up when he wanted to. Raven was more a ‘I need to be on you’ cat, and it was hard to adjust to once he was gone. Shadow would cry out for him, and any time I was outside to smoke, he would put his front paws up on the sliding glass door that separated us and howl.

He’s changed in other ways. He never used to meow at all, but once Raven was gone, he became more vocal. I slowly realized it was when he wanted food and that he had let Raven do it before. Once Raven was gone, Shadow took it upon himself to let me know it was breakfast or treat time. It didn’t matter how many times I told him he would get both regardless–he still meowed. He still does. He’s also more assertive and confident, though that started when he first met Ian, and he’s more affectionate as well.

Anyway, my father, who has never shown any interest in my cats while Raven was alive, has taken quite the shine to Shadow. It started either last year or the year before. Year before because it was when they were in their apartment. We went to visit my niece and her then-boyfriend, now husband, and their adorable Shibu Inu. He was a puppy then, which meant he was highly exuberant. He was all over us because puppy energy, and my father was not happy about it at all. I could tell by the set look on his face, and on the way home, he commented about how nice it was that ‘we’ had a pet who was quiet.

First of all, it’s MY cat, not ours. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with a puppy being a puppy.

This summer, my father has really become enamored by Shadow. I mean, Shadow’s adorable as fuck, but I don’t get why my father is so fascinated by him or why now. My mother said it’s because it’s in contrast to Raven. Her words (paraphrased): Raven got on everything and was noisy. You didn’t have to worry about Shadow taking your food (watch your meats, though), and he was quiet except when he wanted food.

Yeah? I guess? Raven was his own cat, but he wasn’t doing anything extremely untoward (including, unfortunately, stress-peeing outside the box). One thing I loved about him was that he was bull-headed, and he didn’t follow the (cat) rules. When he was a young cat, he loved sitting on top of the refrigerator. It gave me a heart attack every time I saw it, so I read up on what to do to deter him. There was a suggestion to put down a piece of cardboard with loops of masking tape on it because cats don’t like tape on their fur. I followed the suggestion, and the next morning, there was Raven sitting on the tape loops with a, “What now, bitch?” look on his face. I also couldn’t do the squirt gun thing because he liked the feel of water on his face (he drank from the tap). He once started gnawing on a Prozac pill I dropped before I could wrestle it from his mouth (and I did get it out), and he loved to chomp on dental floss.

Raven was a character, and he always sounded mad when he talked. He wasn’t. Most of the time, he was a happy cat, but that’s just the way his voice was. Yes, he liked to nose their food, and, yes, he did meow more than Shadow did, but it was all within the realm of normal catness. He had a big personality for such a little cat, and apparently, my parents didn’t appreciate it. Shadow, on the other hand, is more quiet and keeps to himself for the most part.

I’m amazed by my father’s warm-up to Shadow. I mean, Shadow is an awesome cat, but my father ignored him for most of his life. Now, in his (my father’s) old age, he’s decided that Shadow is the best thing on earth.  My father asked me last night before he went to bed where Shadow was (I am not my cat’s keeper!), and he’s taken to meowing to Shadow in return to Shadow’s meowing. Both my parents laugh in the morning because they can tell when I get up by Shadow meowing. He creeps into the bedroom when I’m asleep (where I sleep when they’re here), then waits for me to wake up. The second I’m awake, he’s in my face, meowing and sometimes putting his wet, cold nose on my bare flesh. I hate that!

Just now, my father meowed at my mother to tell her he was hungry. (Writing this around lunchtime on Sunday.) She had to come tell me because she thought it was cute. It’s so strange! He has never shown any interest in my cats before two years ago, and now he and my mom are obsessed with Shadow. Frankly, I’m keeping an eye on them when they leave (one week from now!) because I’m afraid they’ll catnap him. Not really, but it’s so strange to me. Shadow is thirteen years old, and he’s been with me for twelve of those years. My parents have ignored him for ten of those years, and now, he’s the cat supreme in their eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they called him their grandson and showed pictures of him to their friends.

It’s sweet, which is disconcerting. I’m not used to my father thinking about anyone other than himself. Well, that’s not quite true. He thinks of others, but he sees them as made in his image. With Shadow, he is curious as to what makes him tick. My father asked how many meals a cat ate a day. I’d explain to him before that I fed Shadow breakfast when I got up; he has a bowl of dry he can eat from at any time; I give him treats throughout the day. My father’s memory is shit, though, so I had to explain it again.

This visit has been interesting. Overall, we’ve had much less conflict and very few arguments. I’ve had to support them much more, though, emotionally and technologically. It’s the classic switching of the parent/child role, and yet, they still think I’m twelve at times. I’m in this weird position of–well, let me explain. We’re planning what to do with the living situation in a few years. I want to live in NE Minneapolis, and they prefer South Minneapolis. They are about twenty minutes from each other, and they want South Minneapolis because it’s closer to my brother and his family.

There’s probably going to be a recession in a few years, so it’ll be a good time to buy. I said I’d buy a house in NE Minneapolis because my parents want to sell this house, my mom especially. Once I said I would buy a new house, they started to push back as we outlined me having my own place in a few years, and they would sell this place a few years after that. They immediately protested, saying it would be weird not to have me here when they came. Then, they said we could get condos next to each other or a duplex, and I said, “Why are we selling this house, then?”

The kicker? They mentioned wanting me here so they could get me to do things for them easily. I mean, I knew that was the reason why, but to hear them say it out loud was, well, validating. I don’t love it, mind you, but it was good to know it wasn’t all in my own head.

I’m drained and exhausted, and I know my self-esteem takes a nosedive every time my parents are here. They have a way of making me feel as if my opinion was worthless, and it makes me snappish and more defensive than usual. I think about how I might as well be dead, and I take criticism even less well than I normally do (which is shit to begin with). On the other hand, we’re able to joke and act like what seems to be a semblance of a normal family. It’s weird, and I’ll have to process it after they leave.

This trip has really hit home that they don’t have much time left. They are both having health issues, and at least in my father’s case, his mental faculties are deteriorating. They are still the same people they’ve always been, and I’m trying to make peace with that. In the meantime, I’ll let Shadow soften them by being his shy, quiet self, and let that be the bond between us.


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