I have written about our journey with Thomas: from the first chilled evening in November when he mounted the front steps (and, as a dutiful tom, sprayed the railing) and looked cautiously through the storm door at Paul, to the months that passed, resulting in more and more sightings until I could sit on the grass and he would approach me, flinging himself on the ground a foot or so away and wriggling closer and closer, begging for a chin scratch.
We forged a devoted bond. So much so that, bizarrely, he knew exactly where I was sleeping at night.
To explain: When Paul’s snoring begins to rattle the rafters, I generally grab my pillow and descend the stairs to sleep below in the guest bedroom. And like clockwork, around midnight, I would be roused from my sleep by plaintive mewing and, without turning on the light, I would peer out the window to see Thomas, on the ground below, staring up at me.
How on earth did he know I was there?
When Thomas died, I grieved heavily. Less than a week after his passing, I was wakened by one of our cats spitting at a glossy black cat on the other side of the French doors. When this episode occurred, I half-joked to Paul that “Thomas has sent one of his friends to check on me and see if I’m all right.”
This was met with a chuckle and an expression that said, “If it makes her happy to believe such nonsense, I’m not going to say anything.”
This black cat has been seen a couple of times since his first visit, and I hadn’t thought much more about it until reading my neighbor’s post on Facebook this past week. Ironically, it was in front of his house that Thomas, who had crossed two fields and a few acres of woods to get there, had been found, hit by a car.
Jay wrote about the squirrels going after his bird feeder and his efforts to keep this mob away, then added a passage about a black cat who was now getting in on the act.
Naturally, knowing that Thomas and his siblings had originally come from that area, I good-naturedly teased for him to leave the cat alone, as he had come to comfort me while I was mourning.
“That *%! black tom is the father of several black-and-whites in the area as well as the foundling you took in!” he wrote in exasperation.
This made my heart leap. The father of Thomas!
“Then don’t you dare lay a finger on his head!” I typed feverishly. “He’s mine!”
And now for the goose bumpy part of this story:
Later that same night, seeking a quiet refuge downstairs, once again, to sleep, I thought I was dreaming when I heard a rather girlish meow behind my head. Glancing at the clock which read 4:18, I rose in bed and kneeling, looked over the headboard and out the window. There, illuminated, by the light of a resplendent, full, moon, sat the black cat, staring up at me from the other side. A few moments later he disappeared into the shadow of the woods.
Just as with Thomas, I shall have to assume the posture of a desperate woman waiting for her man to make a commitment. I shall feed him when he appears, talk in low, quiet tones to gain his trust, wring my hands with worry when he disappears for days, and scold the terriers when they try to chase him from the yard.
I will be content with scraps of affection thrown my way that might, or might not, lead to a charming relationship filled with quirks and humor and abiding love. And, like Thomas, I know these feral males will never consent to remaining steadfastly indoors for the rest of their lives, so there will be another chance of him venturing off the farm and being lost to a coyote or car.
But how can I resist? As the father of Thomas, he needs to come home and, after all, to quote Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”