I made the classic mistake of thinking they disliked each other just because they were always fighting.
Our 15-year-old cat, Delilah, went to that Great Fish Feed in the Sky last week. And I was surprised when Sterling, the surviving cat, spent the next few days wandering around the house yowling, apparently missing her.
I would not swear that it was ordinary grief. It may be that we have been slow to fill his food dish and he was fearful he would never see food again, which, in his case, would be a form of grief. The truth is that, if Sterling loves anything on this earth, it is a good meal.
Indeed, he used to clobber Delilah with regularity if she attempted to join him at the feeding dish during his two-hour evening snack. He is twice her size and would suddenly lunge at her with all his weight, throwing a body block and knocking her end over end. And if she didn't leave after that, he would chase her all over the house.
From all outward signs, she was no fonder of him. Sometimes, with no apparent provocation, she would reach out and swat him in the face as he walked by.
Fighting was their only communication, their only contact. They didn't sleep together, the way most cats will. And though it pains me to tell you, I fear Sterling is a racist. He used to snuggle up for warmth next to another Siamese we had. But he wouldn't sleep with Delilah and I suspect it was because she is nothing but a tabby.
Of course, cats don't sleep together merely out of affection. Cats can't afford blankets. So they use each other as blankets.
People do the same thing. You need more blankets if you sleep alone than you do if you share body heat. Thus sleeping together is not only friendly but economical.
Sleeping together also makes America less dependent on foreign oil, less likely to be victimized by some foreign despot, less likely to go to war. Those who sleep together are doing more for America than those who hog a bed all to themselves. So if you consider yourself any kind of patriot at all, you'll sleep with somebody tonight.
Most cats are patriots. But not Delilah and Sterling. Frankly, it was more his fault than hers. Siamese are monogamous. They don't like to share people with another cat.
And if forced to share, they become belligerent. That makes sense to me because I would become belligerent if my wife brought another husband into the house. I would run him away from the table and not mourn his passing if he croaked.
Nonetheless, Sterling, who never showed Delilah a moment's kindness, is showing signs of grief. He appears to be looking for her, mourning her absence. And now I am beginning to understand:
He and Delilah must have been one of those strange couples who show affection by fighting. I don't understand such people but we all know they exist. They yell and holler all day long. They lunge with words, throwing verbal body blocks into each other. They snarl and hiss and quarrel for 50 years and more. People who get along better can't keep a marriage together but these fighters do.
In gentle moments, you can tell they like each other. Fighting is some unusual form of intimacy, some kind of rough love, some bizarre version of touching.
They chase each other around the house all day. But they chase only each other. They wouldn't pummel anyone else. Nobody else is so much fun to fight with.
From a distance, their relationship looks exhausting. But it works for them so who am I to question? Nonetheless, they are a marvel. They give every indication to an outsider that they get on each other's nerves, that they irritate each other, that they drive each other up the wall, that they were cursed the day they met.
And then, when the inevitable day comes that one of them goes to That Great Fish Feed in the Sky, the survivor wanders through the house, yowling with grief, suddenly aware that the nastiest quarrel of all is the one you have with nobody, with nobody at all.
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