Goodbye, Twinkle

Tabby cat lying in a cat bed.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky…

Those were the lyrics that my grandfather—Papa, as we call him—were teaching my then two-year-old niece. It was early 2020 or so.

A tiny kitten, who had no name at the time, had only just appeared on the scene. She had been dropped off by the side of the road, abandoned. But she found her way into our lives. She was a runt at the time (and never did put on much size after that).

Cat lying on old chair.
Twinkle's first photo.

My niece and grandfather would sit on the back porch swing, reciting the lyrics, and the furbaby would eagerly await her head scratches from my grandfather.

This became routine. And my niece, armed with new and exciting words in her vocabulary, bestowed upon the kitten her name: Twinkle.

Twinkle should have never been mine. While I had taken care of the costs of her routine vet visits and food, she was just as much my Papa’s cat. He had grown attached to her, mostly because she spent her early days on my grandparents’ back porch, waiting for those daily head scratches.

When I bought my new home later that year, I asked if Papa wanted to keep her. But he told me to take her home. This also meant that she could also stay with Simba, her best friend.

She was officially a part of my cat family. I had become solely responsible for her daily head scratches.

And she really liked her head scratches.

Like clock-work, she would come into my office during the day, sit on the arm of my recliner, and tilt her head back until she got what she had come for. At night, she’d come into the TV room for a second go.

She quickly became accustomed to the new home, sleeping next to me those first few nights on the pallet, a makeshift bed from a piece of foam and old bedsheets.

Cat lying on her back on a pallet on the floor.
Resting comfortably.

It didn’t take me long to realize that “cat TV” was not meant for my household. Twinkle would attack every bird she saw pop up on the screen. Once, she nearly knocked my 65-inch TV off its stand.

She had fun while it lasted.

Cat on a TV stand, large bird shown on the screen.
It doesn't matter that you're bigger than me.

She also taught me other important life lessons. For example, the built-in kitchen desk was not meant for storing recipe books. No, it was for kicking back and bird-watching through the window.

I never made the mistake of putting books on the desk again.

Twinkle seemed OK with a real bed when we finally got one. At least I never heard her complain about it.

She was always the youngest and smallest. The eldest cats always took the “good” spots around the house.

But when the new couch and loveseat arrived, she quickly moved in and claimed the territory.

She truly became a part of the family in her short time with us.

As I dig through the dozens and dozens of photos from these past few years, I realize that I have countless stories. Some attached to images in my phone. Others only live in my memory, and I’ll have to hold onto those as long as my mind will allow.

Saying Goodbye

On Saturday, July 1, my family lost the youngest of its members. Twinkle drew her final breath a little after 10pm.

She had been to the vet on Friday, gotten some meds, and even seemed to have perked up earlier on Saturday. By late that night, it became clear that she wasn’t going to make it. But I continued to cling to some hope up until—even after—those final moments. Maybe the universe would provide some miracle…

I won’t focus too much on the last two bad days of her life. They came at the end of so many good days. I am merely recording the date and time so that I can look back at this moment in some distant future when my own memory begins to fail me.

In that future, I’d always imagined that it’d be me, Simba, and Twinkle remaining (my other cats are a decade or older). I just had this vision of myself as an old man with my last two old cats just enjoying each other’s company. Each of us old and gray. And that’s the most painful part of all this—Twinkle didn’t get to live out the years that she should’ve had.

Well, and Simba doesn’t really have a friend anymore. He’s a bit of a bully, so that’s mostly his fault. But Twinkle was the only new animal that he willingly allowed into our lives when she first appeared three years ago.

I wish I had more good photos of the two of them together, but if I had stopped to take them, they would’ve been blurry action pics of the two chasing each other around the house. So, these will have to suffice:

My dad and I buried Twinkle this morning. She went with her favorite bed (pictured in the first photo in this post). I gave her a final head scratch before lowering her into the ground. There’s a part of me that wants to believe she could still feel my fingers running across her soft hair.

I suppose no goodbye post to a cat would be finished without the obligatory cardboard-box photos. Here are a few to remember her by:

Goodbye, my sweet girl.