My cat died yesterday. His name was Newman. He was old and very sick, and it was time. But that doesn't make it any easier. He was my baby before I had babies.
We got Newman when I was newly pregnant with our first child. We already had two cats - Fonz and Buzz. Fonz, who was a girl despite the name I gave her, was my cat from college. She had extra digits on her paws, which made it look like she had thumbs. So I called her The Fonz or Fonzie. After college I moved into a one-bedroom townhouse with Fonzie. Stupidly, my then-boyfriend (now my husband, Bob) and I decided she needed another cat to keep her company while I was at work. She had lived with other cats in college and didn't particularly enjoy it, but we went ahead and got Buzz, a boy kitty. Buzz chased Fonz and tormented her, and she took to living outside for part of the day. So Bob and I decided what we needed was a third cat in our one-bedroom, one-floor little home home. You know, to take the pressure off of Fonz.
For fun back in those days, we would visit a local pet store. One day there was a litter of fluffy gray kitties. We asked to hold one and fell in love on the spot. But one more kitty in that small home? What were we thinking? Plus, I was newly pregnant and we didn't have maternity insurance. Oh, and we had to buy me a car because mine had conked out. It was not the ideal time to get a cat. And I was all about getting a cat from a shelter, like we did with Buzz, or a litter from someone's house, like I had done with Fonz. So we left the little gray kitty at the pet store.
But we couldn't get him off our minds. He was just so sweet and absolutely adorable. Our other two cats had short hair, and now we could have one of those luscious fluffy cats. Plus, we already had a name picked out - Newman. Yes, we were Seinfeld fans. So every day Bob would mention little Newman from the pet store, until I (happily) gave in. We went to pick him up, and he was less money than I had expected. Apparently my husband had already put a deposit down on him, just in case.
We brought our ball of fluff home and he was the cutest, sweetest thing ever. He and Buzz became best buds almost instantly. They'd cuddle and they'd play. Newman took to grooming Buzz. When Buzz wanted the top of his head licked, he'd hold it just so under Newman and Newman would take care of him. Fonz was relieved, unless they both decided to target her. Our plan had worked.
A few months later I had our first child, a boy. Once he was walking, he'd toddle over to the dresser where Newman would be sitting, and Newman would whap him on the head. Sometimes pretty hard. We told our son he was trying to give him a high five, and he believed us. Once our son was taller than the dresser, Newman softened and became his pal. But he never was too fond of the toddler stage. Newman gave lots of high fives over the years that ended in tears. Both our daughters got whapped until they grew taller than the dresser.
Newman's kitten stage was was a lot of fun, and unfortunately our kids never knew him as a kitten. Or else they would have seen him get his little head stuck in a ball jar trying to get the last bits of milk. Bob called for me to get a hammer and I showed up with a rubber mallet (shows what I know). Once I located the hammer, my husband broke the jar and saved Newman. And Once, when Bob took Newman to the vet, he let him ride on the top of the headrest in his little car. He's riding along with this little ball of gray fluff on his shoulder, and a guy pulls up next to him in a big truck with two big dogs in the back. The guy looks down at Bob and his little friend and busts out laughing.
None of our kids are really old enough to get why we named our cat Newman. They'll find out after they watch some reruns, and they'll think it's a funny coincidence that the annoying letter carrier on Seinfeld has the same name as their cat. His name came in handy - when Newman did something bad, like knock over one of the kid's milk cups and we'd walk in the kitchen and see milk dripping over the side of the table, we could do a good Jerry Seinfeld imitation and say, through clenched teeth, "Newman!"
Newman was the kind of cat who would bombard you with affection. He'd rub his head on you forcefully, whether you were trying to sleep or reading a book. When he wanted love, he made sure he got it. His purr was loud and sweet, and he purred up until the very end.
We miss you, Newman.