I made several trips to New York before moving there, checking the area out and trying to decide whether I wanted to live there or not. A couple of notable things happened on two of my return trips to Ohio, things that would follow me into my future. The first was spotting a single shoe on the side of the interstate. I was driving in silence, the radio was turned off and I was alone with my thoughts, soul-searching if you will, and weighing all of my options. I only got a quick glance of the shoe, as you can imagine driving 70 miles an hour, but I was able to notice that it was a brown woman’s clog and it looked practically brand new. I thought to myself… “How the hell does someone lose one of their shoes going 70 miles per hour down an interstate!?” This was not the first time I had ever seen a single shoe alongside the road, but this time was different and I really went off deep in thought thinking about this bizarre phenomenon. “And why is it always one shoe”, I thought. I concocted a plan to travel the country searching for these single shoes, trying to find their owners and documenting their stories for all of humanity. It was at this moment I realized my soul-searching turned into sole-searching and my life as a lost shoe collector was about to begin.
The next occurrence happened after the song “I Can See Clearly Now” came on the radio. I sang along at the top of my lungs, hearing the lyrics like I’d never heard them before. The song ended but I kept singing the line “Here is my rainbow I’ve been praying for” and I got to thinking about rainbows and how magical and rare they actually are. I had just driven through an area of rain and it seemed like the perfect ingredients for a rainbow, so out loud I asked the Universe for a sign. It was a very specific request… “Universe, if I am to move to New York State to start the next chapter of my life, show me a rainbow”. I was somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania and I kept my eyes wide open to spot that rainbow that I was sure the Universe was going to show me. A few hours passed and I had pretty much given up hope, I was about an hour from being home in Ohio when out of nowhere a marvelous rainbow appeared. I think my heart skipped a beat it was so surreal. I smiled and simply said…”Thank you, I will move to New York”.
Benji was the spitting image of Max, right down to the adorably rotten personality. I truly believed that he was the reincarnation of Max and it was difficult to leave him behind when I moved in with a friend’s sister after separating from my husband. My husband and I had just grown apart; I guess I should say that I grew apart. I just wasn’t happy and after 17 years of trying to figure out ways to make things better and countless nights of crying myself to sleep, I came to the realization that people don’t always grow together and you certainly cannot make someone grow along with you in the same direction. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I wanted a divorce, perhaps I just needed some time away to think. I went “home” on the weekends to visit my cats and talk things out with my husband. It was about three weeks in and during one of our many discussions that it became very clear it was time for me to move on. My visits “home” became fewer and farer between as I figured out what the next chapter of my life was going to look like. I got a job as a an inventory auditor, it sounded SO much more fancy than it was; basically we went into grocery stores at 5:30am and took stock of every single item on the shelves by visually counting the items and punching the numbers into a machine that hung from our hips. It was a monotonous job and certainly didn’t pay well, but I have fond memories and it prepared me for a very different life ahead. My husband agreed to a divorce, it was fairly quick and painless, and about 3 months later I decided to move in with a friend who lived in NY. I had every intention of bringing Benji with me, my other cat Sophie (the cat who would fetch) had gone to live with my mom in WV. About a week before my big move I got a call from my ex-husband, he was sobbing and I could barely understand a word that he was trying to speak. There was an accident, Benji was... gone. Oh my poor boy, why did this have to happen right before you were coming with me to start a new life! I was distraught but held onto a little piece of hope that perhaps he would come back to me a third time.
The following year a new fur baby came into my life. One of my husband's employees took the kitten from a young girl at a convenience store, she was trying to find a home for it; he was trying to impress her but really had no desire for a kitten. As soon as I laid eyes on him the words "It's a little Max!" spilled out of me. He looked just like my Max did when he was a kitten, that same pale buff-orange color, semi-long hair and fluffy tail - well he had to grow into that but I digress. My husband and his rag-tag construction crew just laughed at me for squealing over this little ball of fur. Ben, the employee who half-heartedly adopted the cat from the girl he was trying to impress, told me that he thought there was something wrong with the kitten's leg because it seemed to have a limp. I scooped him up and took him into the house, gave him some food and water and showed him where the litter box was (I still had all these things because we always had two cats, one was never enough). He ate a bite, drank a bit and hopped right back out of the litter box. I took him outside and placed him in the grass that seemed too tall for his little body. As he maneuvered the blades I did notice that he seemed to hobble a little as he walked, but nothing that would make one overly concerned. My husband and I sat outside with him that evening and watched as he played and chased a butterfly, we talked about how much he reminded us of Max. Then my husband said something that, honestly, was quite bizarre coming from him... "His bum leg is the same leg that was broken on Max", I just looked at him and then a thought struck me. I jumped up and ran into the house and went to the calendar that I always kept hanging in the kitchen, I looked at the date and thought back to the day when Max died the year before; it was the exact date. Whoa! Could it be, could this kitten be a reincarnation of Max? Do such things really happen? Am I the kind of person who even believes in this type of thing? We decided to name him Benji, after Ben (Benjamin) who brought him into our lives. A couple of weeks later I took little Benji to the vet to get him checked over, I told the veterinarian that he favored the one leg, she felt around on him and told me that she did feel that his leg had been fractured but was healing and there was really nothing we could do but keep an eye on it, but he would probably be just fine. She examined him more thoroughly to see if there were any other injuries or issues and when she turned him over there was a scar going down his belly. Whoa! I was speechless for what felt like forever and then I told her about Max and how he died and his injuries and how he looked just like this kitten. We just stared at each other and then stared at the kitten.
WARNING! - IF YOU ARE OF A SENSITIVE NATURE, THIS INSTALLMENT DEALS WITH THE TRAGIC DEATH OF A PET.
Max came first. He was, what I would call, a buff-orange cat with semi-long hair and a fluffy tail. He could be mean and rotten and then absolutely adorably lovable. There was something about Max that stole my heart more so than any of the others, perhaps it was all of the claw and scratch marks I endured over the course of his short lifespan. I believe he was only two or three years old when he was hit by a car. It was Labor Day Monday and I was preparing some food for a cookout later that day. I saw Max sitting at the top of our long driveway staring intensely at something at the bottom. He was not one to wander down the front of our property toward the road, when he was outside he would always explore the backyard and the woods. But whatever had caught his eye made him make a mad dash towards it. I stopped what I was doing, put on some shoes and headed outside to go capture him and bring him back home. As I was walking down our long driveway I noticed a truck drive by rather slowly, when I got to the bottom the same truck was coming slowly back the opposite way. He stopped as I approached the road and rolled his window down - "I think I hit one of the farmer's cats" he said, I lost it and immediately started crying. I asked the man if it was an orange cat but I made no sense to him through my blubbering, he asked me to repeat and I slowly spelled out "Was it an orange cat". He nodded his head, "yes I believe so". I started screaming Max's name "Max, Max!", I finally heard him meowing, he had made it back across the street. In an attempt to dart back across the road towards home he was hit by the man driving the truck, I found him in the weeds on the bank at the edge of our property. I scooped him up and carried him as quickly as I possibly could up our long winding driveway, crying with every breath and pounding beat of my heart. I just kept telling him he was going to be OK as I looked down at his sweet little face hanging on for dear life, he had a big gash in his belly and his left hind leg was just kind of hanging. I got him into the house and took him down to the basement where I kept the pet carrier, he did not want to go inside, I had to force him in probably hurting him even more than he was already. I carried the carrier up and set it in the garage, rushing into the house to call around and find a vet that was open on this holiday Monday. I finally got someone to answer and they said that they would meet me at their office. I put Max in the car and rushed to the vet, crying and praying that he would be OK. He was in the animal hospital for three days, on the third day I went to visit him, I put as much of my body as I could in his cage with him and gave him some love and said my goodbyes because I just had a feeling he was not going to survive. Later that night the doctor called and said that there just wasn't any more that they could do for him.