SAYING GOODBYE TO A FRIEND

As soon as
the phone rang I knew something was amiss. Picking up the receiver, no voice could
be heard, though I could sense the caller was doing his best to say an
essential greeting. He tried again but a frustrated breath would only offer
silence.  



Of course, the instant the
phone rang, I recognized the caller. For some reason I just knew. I spoke
softly into the receiver and said: don’t worry Uncle Gnarley, we’ll be right
there.

Can a phone
ring with urgency?  Is telepathy possible
through the sheer force of one trying to reach out to another? 



These were
the questions I pondered as my SUV hit the pavement in the direction of the
Southern Shore. 



It was an unusual line
of inquiry to be sure, and contained none of the more down-to-earth questions
that typically preoccupied Uncle Gnarley and me.  At another time, I might have prodded the
caller, demanding to know the nature of the upset. Did Kathy Dunderdale
resign?  Has Jerome Kennedy lost his mind? 



Such questions would have served to tease him in advance of having my own
dignity diminished by his harsh rebuke. 
Intuitively, I knew this was not the right time for levity.   

The voice of
the distraught old man still invaded my mind even as Spouse and I passed by the
turn-off to the Witless Bay Line, forgoing, this time, my customary “gas stop”
for a coffee and something sweet.  Not
one for prayer, I hoped that, at least on this occasion, the cops had not foregone
their own caffeine requirement.

My earlier thoughts
returned, as I sped down the Shore road. I wondered: is an instant connection
created when one of the living seeks the support of another?  Does an object assume some metaphysical
quality once it is touched?  



The
telephone call from Uncle Gnarley just seemed to regard conversation as
anticlimactic; the alarm of crisis, the distress may-day had already been transmitted
merely by the metallic ring of one of Graham Bell’s great wonders.    

I had
resolved nothing as the vehicle turned left and motored into Uncle Gnarley’s
driveway. I swerved slightly to give distance to a young black feline hanging
out on the warm pavement.  Filing away
the last hour’s questions, I knew I would have to revisit them. Uncle Gnarley
would have a view on matters such as this.   

Gnarley was
not there to open the door; nor did he appear to deliver his usual vigorous handshake.
I let myself in and, readily knew something was amiss.  Uncle Gnarley sat in his usual chair in the
living room, though his bent posture confirmed what Graham Bell or perhaps just telepathy had already registered. 
For a time, his aging body remained still; an enormous head covered
by his two large hands.  I could readily
see he was crying. 

I placed an
arm around my great friend’s shoulders, hoping to brace myself for bad news as
much as give him support.  Gently, I
leaned over him and whispered the question: 
Uncle Gnarley, what is the matter? 
The sobs continued as he tried to speak. 
Repeatedly, he worked to expel the words; uncontrollably, the tears
flowed down a distraught and wrinkled face. Finally, his hand gestured to
complete the communication his emotional state disallowed. 

Following
his direction, I looked towards the woodstove from which a certain heat always
radiated and from which spot “Her Majesty” ruled an exclusive group of loyal
subjects.  Immediately, I understood
everything. 

A bundle of
black fur lay on her favourite blanket, her long black bushy tail curled
alongside an equally black furry stomach, a front paw resting on her forehead.  The Cat, for whom no demand was a torment, no
messy kitty litter a burden, no repudiated fur-ball a nuisance, was
motionless.  Rosencrantz, “Rosie” for
short, his eighteen year old feline, the love of his life, had passed away.    

Spouse soon
joined me having stopped to cuddle the stray occupying Gnarley’s front
yard.  Liz knelt down and moved closer to
Rosie.  Tenderly, and with a touch
reserved for the highest order of the animal kingdom, her fingers began to stroke
the regal forehead of the sleeping beauty. 
The Cat’s distinctive aspect related, in part, to her singular colour.  Except for eyes of emerald green, her full
length black coat and Angora breeding, afforded her a look that possessed all
the dignity and intensity of a Royal. 

Liz stroked
her fur softly, quietly, with an earnestness that evoked a depth of affection.  I knelt alongside, knowing that for her and
for me, just as for Uncle Gnarley, this was more than merely a moment to mourn;
it was a coming to terms with the loss of a friend.

For a minute,
I thought of my own kids and the time they spent batting around, what they called “tin foil
ballie”; the toy had robbed China of a manufacturing success and gave the Cat all the
exercise she ever wanted. 



They had grown up and moved on, visiting Uncle
Gnarley only occasionally; though, for Rosie, that was not a reason to
countenance forgiveness.  She hissed in
their presence, showing her curmudgeonly side, if they displayed too much presumption
of her affections. 



In many ways her personality was not unlike Uncle Gnarley’s.
Liz often said they were both just a little too supercilious.  Presently, such reflections were interrupted
as I saw Liz give in to the inescapable reality that Rosie was gone. Uncle
Gnarley soon joined us and for several minutes the only one able to overcome
the sadness of the moment was Rosie, herself.   

Uncle
Gnarley stood first.  He nodded to confirm grief had been given fair passage.  When one loses a dear friend nostalgia, too,
is awakened and must be given its own space. Besides, one as rational as Gnarley would not permit an excess of emotion, though today’s display struck me that he
possessed a character that spoke to a very deep sense, not just of friendship, but
of loyalty, too. 



Liz, taking the cue,
suggested it was time for a cup of tea before completing the final but
essential ceremony.  “No my dear”, said
Uncle Gnarley firmly. “You are welcome to tea, but Nav and I have other needs.  Eighteen good years is a lot to celebrate.  Rosie would expect no less”, he added. 

Liz departed
for the kitchen.  Uncle Gnarley headed
for his credenza as he nodded lightly in Rose’s direction, giving me the honor
of securing the Princess in her special blanket.

Soon,
glasses clinked with Liz’s tea cup and we toasted love and an unbreakable bond
between two of the higher species. 



Discreetly, I absented myself and had a
quiet conversation with Carl whose carpentry skills were the only ones Uncle
Gnarley would entrust with a delicate mission. 
We toasted again and again and reminisced over Rosie’s peculiar habits.  We were still enthralled by her determination
to avoid even the slightest affection from anyone, except the three of us, and after sufficient mea culpas the absent kids, too, of course.  

The young
stray could be heard scratching at the front door, a long meow followed, expectantly.  



Liz, with impeccable timing, commented
that the stray possessed not just the colour and pedigree but the youthful
aspect of Rosie, and queried Uncle Gnarley as to the owner.  Gnarley acknowledged that he had, on occasion,
put food outside in case she wasn’t getting enough but, otherwise, had no idea
whether she had a residence. “Will you get another, Uncle”? Liz asked, cautiously,
knowing the question premature. 
The kitten’s presence seemed to make the subject unavoidable. But, in
this moment, at least, her voice conveyed her heartfelt affection for the old
man, which also seemed to have afforded her permission to ask.

A light
knock on the front door interrupted a reply. 
Liz must have been furious at Carl’s timing.  I knew, instinctively, that her thoughts had
already been preoccupied with the stray. 
The carpenter’s arrival invoked the necessity for closure. 



Uncle Gnarley
accepted the decorative box and listened to Carl’s brief words of
condolence.  Gnarley nodded thankfully and,
with Liz, went to where Rosie lay.  No
words were spoken. The now peaceful feline was placed inside along with her
favourite toy, a single tin foil ball. A procession commenced towards the back
garden.    

As we opened
the door the stray meowed and looked up expectantly. A familiar car turned into
the driveway.  The kids had arrived in
time; the grand kids, too. After hugs all around, a brighter Uncle Gnarley
expressed appreciation that his loss was profoundly shared by his whole family.

The little
box was gently placed.  Gnarley was heard
to clear his throat, though he wasn’t quite ready to abandon his best friend just
yet.  After all, this was the feline that
had kept him company and listened to his lonely rants with a forbearance that
could only be credited a deaf lover. More than once, a quizzical look from
Rosie forced him to re-think a sudden outburst or review a conclusion,
carelessly expressed.

His remarks
began slowly but with a deliberation that suggested he had thought deeply about
what he needed to say.  He wasn’t
emotional, unlike his audience.  It was
as if, once again, the old Professor had prepared his thoughts for a particularly
difficult presentation.

“There are
those”, began Uncle Gnarley, “who believe that the souls of people go to heaven
when they pass on.  Perhaps, some
do.  But, I believe the best of them rest
within the hearts of Pussy Cats.  When
they die, heart and soul are, again, passed on to a suitable member of their
species.  In that way, the destiny of man
and feline is forever intertwined.   



“How
could it possibly be any different”, he continued? 
After all, there is none more noble, more loyal, more loving, more
intelligent or knowing; there is no species, on this earth, more gentle or wise
than our furry feline companions.  No
other species, within the animal kingdom, exhibits as many human
characteristics or possesses a greater capacity to identify with or absolve humanity of
its worst excesses. Our Rosencrantz was among the very best of her
kind………..”. 

Uncle
Gnarley’s words of praise were effusive. 
He talked about Rosie’s personality and her charm, omitting any
reference to the visitors, whose attempts at affection resulted in coarse
language and the occasional Band-Aid. 
Every one of his words were lovingly spoken, exhibiting a side to the man
I had never thought he possessed.  Soon,
he concluded with a nod towards Carl, to complete the internment.

The
procession returned up the path to the old man’s residence.  As we neared the front door, the stray had
taken up a position on his veranda.  Her sudden
cries seemed to telegraph a desire to be picked up, loved or fed; but, more than
likely, she was simply announcing a wish just to be let in.  I slowed my footsteps a little, sensing that
this was a moment of catharsis; one kitten’s resolve to share a cat lover’s
devotion, with unambiguous singularity, was about to be tested.  Not surprisingly, Liz, possessed empathy for
the unique moment. “Uncle Gnarley”, it sure looks like you have a new admirer.
Are you ready for a new love”? 

The
question, both in content and structure, hit its mark with precision.  Liz was not one to voice a demand which
could not be answered, except in the affirmative.  Her face allowed less a hint of amusement than a
slight glance in the direction of Gnarley. A raised eye brow delivered
power to the urgent plea for an immediate and favourable reply.  Gnarley’s head nodded in agreement at the
same instant his hand reached for the door knob.  The anxious and instantly grateful furry
black kitten practically sprang inside.

As Liz and I
drove back home, I thought of the questions of mental telepathy which were left
hanging after the drive down the Shore. 
The little kitten, too, came to mind and I realized that, even by the
high standards of a feline owner, she had just won the lottery.  She had loitered for days possibly possessed
of the knowledge that one of her kind was going away; knowing that a heart and soul needed a
new home.  



How had she known? Perhaps, I
thought suddenly, there was no need to ask Uncle Gnarley about telepathy.  Likely, I had just witnessed a fine example of
this inexplicable connection.  



Rosie had
been aware of it all along. 

Rosie
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. A tear from my eye for your great loss; a drink to your fine prose will end my day. I instructed Einstein, my cat of eighteen years to give a few smacks to the Great Dane in the form of a "seven gun (paw smacking) salute" to mark one of his having passed. The Dane took it well.

  2. Just an added note – my drink to your lost soul mate is complete – I wish all it takes with the Universe to ensure you find each other again. I know it to be of great possibility,Clearly, I have found YOU again – the universe is much wiser than me, so you know what I might find on my small level is but a minute construct of what results from the designer.
    May the gods bless you, may the spirits visit you often, may your soul find all that it must see.

    • Russ: How do I respond to such a heartfelt message of poetic empathy? A simple thanks will have to do. To be sure the Great Dane must be aghast at your treachery, though likely still feeling secure he is presided over by a fine feline.