liam

Page Forty-five

Liam died eight years ago, on Thursday 3 October 2002. He was someone I loved very much, so of course the death was very hard. Added to that was the weird date of his death. There have only been two palindromic years in my lifetime, and that’s all there’ll ever be. Palindromic years are rare. My grandmother Liz had died on Thursday 3 October 1991, the first palindrome year of my life, while Liam died on the same day and the same date in the second, eleven years later. A lot of people with Asperger’s have a sort of obsessive thing about dates and times, and I’m one of them. The deaths of Liam and my grandmother falling the way they did has always been spooky to me.

I have no photos of Liam to put here — the few I do have are hiding somewhere in the storage unit. Maybe someday I’ll be able to reclaim them. I took many pictures of Liam in his time with me, and the reasons most of them are gone come down to a mistake that I made with a bunch of them, and the viciousness of the psychotic landlady who threw four years’ worth of my photos into her dumpster.

Liam adopted me on 15 May 1996. He was a homeless guy who had shown up in our neighborhood about a month earlier, and certainly I’d seen him around when I was out and about with my own cats. He was the most laid back, non-aggressive, homeless, non-neutered male I’ve ever seen. In April of that year, he would tag along sometimes when I was walking the canal with my cats, coming slowly up behind them to sniff their behinds and get their personal scent. He never made any move to fight, as you’d expect from a free-living tomcat. He was just curious. And yet he was afraid of me. If I tried to approach him he’d turn and run.

But this only lasted a couple of weeks. One grey, drizzly day at the beginning of May, my cats and I were out there walking. I hear a piteous, plaintive meow. I follow the sound that keeps repeating itself until I find this damp, large, grey and white cat, our sniffing friend, crouched under a tree looking desperate. I hurry back to my apartment and get him food. He wolfs it there under the tree and then looks up at me as if to say: Got anymore? I go get more.

After that day he knows, naturally, who to go to when he’s hungry. And of course he’s hungry every day. More than once. This is a big cat. I feed him large portions wherever I happen to run into him. Usually it’s the canal, but sometimes it’s in front of the highway department. I deliberately don’t feed him in my yard, being dumb enough to think that if I don’t do that, he won’t find my yard. To this day I don’t understand how I could have been silly enough to hope this.

It wasn’t dislike of him that led me not to want him in my yard. It was simple finances. I had all the animals I could possibly afford. In fact, more than I could easily afford. I couldn’t keep another animal. And I knew that if he found my yard and started hanging out there, my heart wouldn’t be able to turn him away.

He found me, of course. But the day Liam informed me that I was his mother, he didn’t do so in my yard, technically. He did it in a wooded lot across the tiny street from our yard. This lot served as an additional yard to me and my animals, and to the offspring of the infamous Tippi Gritt as well. There we are on 15 May 96, my cats and I hanging out in this wooded lot, and out from the back bushes comes Mr. Liam. Walks directly over to me at the center of the lot, rubs against my leg, purrs, makes flattering little meows. This cat who has never let me get within five feet of him suddenly is touching me all on his own, rubbing me, purring at me. He wanted food, and I knew that, but it was a very huge change for him to ask for that food by making physical contact and purring. He was all of a sudden abandoning his fear of me. He had watched me and my feline family for over a month, and he wanted in. He wanted a mommy, he wanted some cat friends. I went and got him some food.

After that day, Liam lived in my yard. From the middle of May to the middle of September. His favorite places to sleep were on top of my plastic yard table, and on top of the bale of shavings I kept on the porch. There were days when I went out and he wasn’t there. Off on a tomcat jaunt, or chased away by some other animal. I’d wait hours for him to show up, checking all the streets to see if his body was lying in one of them. I realized I loved him as much as I loved my own, the ones who lived inside with me. Still I advertised to try to find him a home. I asked neighbors if they would take him. No sale, ever. I still was afraid to squeeze one more animal into the budget.

During those yard months, Liam came down with things. One was that he suddenly lost a good deal of his hair, and the bald skin was white and crusty. Then there was the drool. He developed these two dark, red-brown lines coming down from either side of his mouth. I couldn’t imagine where the hell this was coming from, was very slow to realize he was drooling out the sides of  his mouth when he ate, and the drool was this menacing color. I thought maybe he was going to die there on my porch, and was comforted by the fact that he wouldn’t die alone and unloved in the bushes along the canal.

One afternoon I just watched him sadly through the kitchen window. He was lying on the shavings, just having had a good meal, and the afternoon sun was streaming over him. He was having himself a good long groom, and obviously enjoying it. Here he was… overweight, largely bald and crusty, two long ugly stripes running down the sides of his neck, and in spite of it all he was the picture of feline happiness. The window was open. I could hear him purring as he washed up. He had almost nothing, in point of fact. No real home, only my porch and my yard. No one to love him but me, a foster-mother. Physical issues running wild. And yet I’ve never seen any cat look more happy or more content than pathetic Mr. Liam did that sunny afternoon. I cried. I was beginning to accept the fact that I had to keep him, that he deserved more of the happiness he’d found with me and my cats.

Very soon after those moments at the window, maybe even the next day, I named him. He was sitting on my front steps. There was a nastily dangerous street in front of the house, and I was telling him not to even think about crossing it. Ever. He sat there and meowed back at me. Except for his beautiful eyes, he looked terrible. You’re not pretty, guy, I told him. Not right now, anyway. Maybe that’s why none of the neighbors will take you. You’re not a pretty kitty. So I’ll give you a beautiful name. I was still in my Irish period then, and the beautiful name I gave him there on the steps was Liam.

In September I brought him into the house. This wasn’t an easy adjustment for a tomcat. In the night while I slept, he’d tear open a window screen and go off looking for women. A couple of these tricks and I learned to put the windows down low enough at night that he didn’t have enough room to tear them. His hair grew back and the dark stripes went away. In January of 97 I got him neutered. Often if an animal has a disease that is mild, it will become worse after being given anesthetic. This is what happened to Liam. He was apparently already a diabetic, but after the surgery it got much worse. He went on insulin in the middle of March. Needles, needles, needles for Liam, and special foods, until his death in 2002.

I return to his glamorous eyes. My cat Maman had had the same kind. Big, for one thing. And the edges of the eyelid skin were black all the way around, giving the effect of expertly applied eyeliner. I used to joke with them about their eyeliner, about their beautiful eyes. Maybe Liam didn’t have much that any observer would call physically beautiful, but those eyes were dazzling. I miss his eyes, his purr, his fat belly… everything about him. I miss his adorable devotion to food.

While most animals really enjoy their food, gustatory delight was one of the altars at which my Liam worshipped. To watch him eat was to watch a creature in perfect bliss. And while bliss attended on every single thing Liam ever ate, the greatest delight was taken in my home-made food. I often cooked up what I called a mixy-meal for my cats in the Liam years. Chicken or liver cooked with some veggies. Then I’d throw it into a bowl to mix canned and dry cat food with it, and interesting table scraps if I had any. These invented concoctions sent Liam into raptures, and he would stuff himself to bursting. This is not a good practice for a diabetic, and sometimes I found the strength to take the community dishes away from him before he went too far. But there were of course those times when that strength could not be gathered. I would watch him in his pleasure, tears in my eyes, loving him so much, loving him loving his food, and think of him back in the days when he had nothing but my porch and the food I would bring him, and how happy even that little bit had made him. Liam was born with a soul that wanted to be happy, now matter how difficult things might have been for him at times.

In the last year of his life, he developed a yen for pure sugar. Not such an uncommon thing among diabetics. He informed me of this by grabbing at the frosting on my cupcake one day when he happened to be lying on the table not far from my plate. I gave him some, expecting him to taste and reject. But he ate it purring and asked for more. Ever after that, I shared my frosting with him whenever I had some. Just a little. I couldn’t completely deny him anything that he liked to eat.

I miss everything that was part of his Liamness, even giving him those daily needles.

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2 Comments
  1. Babs said,

    October 7, 2010 at 9:40 pm · Edit

    Since no photo, can you describe him? Was he one of those Big Orange fellas, or sedate grey like Mitty?

  2. braon said,

    October 8, 2010 at 6:52 pm · Edit

    He was BIG. Biggest cat I ever had. Big-boned, not just overweight, which he was. Half grey, half white, short hair. Beautiful big eyes with “eyeliner” all the way around, like Maman’s. One of the many factors that led me to decide he was somehow related to her.

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Published in: on December 3, 2011 at 10:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. thanks for the like, Kitty.


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