Not that I needed another sign of how old I’ve become, but I received a sad one this past week: My parents informed me that they had put their cat Chuck to sleep.
Chuck was the last of the pets that my parents owned while I still lived with them. And with his death, that pretty much severs the only remaining tie to my childhood.
I was primarily responsible for Chuck’s adoption. In the summer of 1995, I was working in my father’s store when I noticed a sign advertising that a black and white kitten named “Max” was up for adoption.
My mother had always been a fan of black and white cats, so I suggested that my father bring him home as a surprise present. He called Max’s owner to ask if the cat was still available, and then warned my mother that we’d be having a surprise guest for dinner the next night.
The next night, my mother was surprised – and thankfully pleased – to see who the guest was.
We decided to give him a new name, and I suggested naming him after the Philadelphia Phillies’ third basement at the time, the immortal Charlie Hayes. And so, the cat was rechristened as Chuck.
I’d also sometimes refer to him as “Mister Whiskers,” although there wasn’t any real basis for that nickname. (You know, aside from the fact that cats have whiskers)
You may remember Chuck from when I interviewed him. As I mentioned there, the two of us never got along all that well.
There wasn’t any one particular reason why we weren’t close. He certainly didn’t like it when I’d bring him back inside the house at night, or pull him away from the rodents which he had hunted down, or move him out of my room when I wanted to sleep.
Maybe he sensed that I have never really been a “cat person.” Maybe with my sister moved out of the house, he filled the sibling rivalry void caused by her departure. Or maybe he simply wasn’t all that social. He didn’t get along particularly well with our other pets either.
After I went off to college, our relationship actually got worse. I think Chuck got used to having the run of the house, and didn’t appreciate when I’d come home to visit and encroach on what was now his territory.
It wasn’t until 2000 when I truly began to torment him. That was when I started doing “Here Comes Chucky Cat.” I would pick him up, and run around the house singing to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
I enjoyed this little game much more than he did.
In recent years, his health began to worsen. He lost a significant amount of weight, and would become dehydrated to the point where he’d require an IV of fluids.
Worse, his mental condition deteriorated into a senile state. It got to the point where my parents didn’t want to let him go outside, fearing that he might wander off and not find his way back.
Last week, he stopped eating. Once that happened, my parents knew that it was finally his time.
At 19 years of age, Chuck certainly wasn’t shortchanged. I just hope he’s having a good time up in kitty heaven. He’s probably having a ball, chasing all the rodents he wants, and never having to worry about someone picking him up and singing “Here Comes Chucky Cat.”