We hadn’t been a family very long, just a few months. When Serena and
I married, I had moved from “my house”, that I still owned, to “Serena’s house”, that she owned. I moved in to “her house” where she and “her kids” lived. I brought “my cats” and they already had “their dog”.
We were a family but, at the same time, we were as separate as separate could be. Now over time, this changed as we grew closer and closer and everything became “ours”. But it might never have ever happened at all, but for a little ball of fire, named “Bruce Lee”. For a reason I never learned, Serena’s three boys had gone to the animal shelter. It seems that they wanted to get me a gift. If you know me at all, you know there’s nothing better you could get me than a cat. They told Serena that they had found a cat that “looked just like Smoke!” (This was a big deal. Smoke was my first cat, whom I loved deeply and anyone who knew me at all knew all about the special relationship I shared with my “Smokerboy”).
Now my boys love animals like I do, so this was a win win for them, they could make me happy by getting me a cat that looked like Smoke and get themselves a new kitten in the process. But the best I could say about Serena, and I am being charitable, is that she is “not a cat person”. But she wanted to make me happy, and she knew that the boys were so excited about it, that she said they could adopt the cat that “looked just like Smoke”. Serena and I went away for a few days and the plan was that the kids would adopt the cat while we were away and surprise me with it when we returned. But when the boys went back to the animal shelter, the kitten that ‘looked just like Smoke” had already been adopted. It was here that they decided to make an executive decision. One for which I will always be grateful. Serena had said that they could “adopt the cat that looked like Smoke”. They decided that the important phrase here was “adopt the cat”. Whether it “looked like Smoke” was an issue, in their opinion, best left to the eye of the beholder. So they returned with the most adorable puff of orange you have ever seen (Smoke was black and beige).
They presented me with him upon our return and Serena and I were both stunned –me, because they had actually got me a cat, of all things, when I already had 4 at the time and Serena, because he looked NOTHING like Smoke. We were both dubious, but she relented because of their excitement and I because once an animal is mine, even for 2 seconds, it becomes under my care forever.
Something happened in that moment that forever altered our history as a family. This beautiful little kitten wasn’t “my cat”.
He wasn’t “their cat”.
He was “OURS”.
It was maybe the first time we were ever truly able to say that word.
He was fast as lightening and would dart here and there so quickly
that he reminded us all of the Kung Fu master Bruce Lee. And so we named him, together, as a family, “Bruce Lee”.
Much more depended on Bruce than was apparent to the eye.
Getting me a cat was a big risk for the kids and Serena. What if he didn’t get along with my Dune, Frisco, Annabelle and Max? I was loyal to them and would have been so annoyed to have to deal with this addition I didn’t ask for. What if he infected them with some shelter sickness, some so deadly? It would have been a blow difficult to handle in a family situation that was already so difficult and fragile.
There was so much beneath the surface that fell upon the shoulders of this tiny orange/beige little creature, a shelter cat, valued at the exorbitant price of…..nothing.
Unless you wanted to make a donation.
So he had to be really good.
But he wasn’t.
No. He wasn’t good.
He was perfect.
He was the happiest, most energetic, joyous little guy you could possibly imagine. He had no cat hangups (they are famous for them), I never once saw him hiss at anything or anyone.
And we all loved him, we talked about how fast OUR Brucie was, how
cute OUR cat was, how special OUR Bruce Lee had turned out to be.
I believe strongly in the power of intention. By taking an act as a family,
we took ourselves to the edge of making ourselves one.
Bruce helped us to the other side.
He became quite famous among our friends, he was so friendly and cute. When you picked him up he would put his arms around your neck like a person. He was extremely concerned with good auditory hygiene and would perform a close inspection of your ear canal to make sure all was well. I used to call him my little ear doctor. And when he was younger he loved to sit on your shoulder or your back and many a guest would be quite surprised to suddenly find a little orange puff ball on his or her shoulder.
All of us were so proud of Bruce, we were unified in our love for him,
even when we were unified in little else.
Time went on and we grew as a family and we weren’t so fragile
anymore and Bruce was there, the continuing symbol of the first time
we were truly a family. Joel and Josh moved to California and Serena, Brandon and I were home. We lost my beloved Dune cat in 2011 and
our Golden Retriever, Kallon, left us in 2012, each having graced
our lives for 15 years.
Bruce was relatively young and we looked forward to him being
with us for many years to come.
Every day he was there, happy, loving, consistent as a clock.
On Saturday, December 7, 2013, the clock stopped.
I had no warning, no chance to say goodbye.
He was seemingly in perfect health, his last “senior wellness” a
few months before was normal
And he was only 11 years old. But when I went downstairs to feed
him that morning, my Frisco greeted me with a plaintive cry and Bruce
did not look up at me, was not right there waiting for me, which was
nearly impossible. And I called his name. And he did not look.
And I knew.
I screamed and I cried and I held him and kissed him and I told him
how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, to us.
This went on for quite some time.
And then I buried him along side Dune and Max, his big brothers.
And silently and invisibly, I also buried the piece of my heart
that died with him.
How much is a shelter cat worth?
Not much in this world.
How much is a family worth?
5 million dollars? 10 million dollars? 50 million dollars?
No, not even. A family is priceless.
That’s the problem with money, it tells you the price of everything,
but the value of nothing.
It can give you everything you want, but nothing that you need.
All the money in the world could not have helped us as a family.
But Bruce did. And he cost nothing.
Except our hearts, of course.
This is not a diatribe against money, at all, but it has always bothered
me that so many people find animals valueless and dismiss the special bonds of love that can exist between us and these special friends.
I embrace this love. It doesn’t need to be validated by others.
Love is its own validation.
It is what my song “Good Friends Are Hard To Find” is all about.
At the end of the piece I wrote about my first cat, Smoke, for the
Bella Moss foundation and the “Good Friends Are Hard To Find”
video, I said that after 15 years it still hurt so much, but I said that
I didn’t mind the pain, because Smoke was so worth it.
Well, I am in deep pain right now as I write this.
I know that I will never really get over it. But its OK.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because Bruce was so worth it.
I always called him my “Bruce Juice”.
And I will love him with my last breath.
Because he was so beautiful and perfect.
Because he was always so sweet and loving.
And because he wasn’t mine.
He was ours.
December 10, 2013