Dad was in the US Navy for 21 years. A little over 10 of those were in MY lifetime.
I was born on Guam; I have a couple fragmentary, isolated “memories” of our stopping off in Hawaii on the way into the mainland–of Dad holding my hands (I would’ve been 3 or 4, maybe?) and “walking” me into the ocean a bit (like that edge of the beach where the sand is soaked but you’re only really getting a couple inches of water).
(And another isolated fragment of memory is Mom dumping my bucket of shells, which makes total sense to me as an adult but as a wee lad disappointed me such that I later collected a small bag of shells from a beach with Katie and Emily when we shared a spring break trip in 2002).
Yet another isolated memory of being taken to a pool with cousins when we stopped off visiting family in Texas at the time, I think.
ANYway…born on Guam. Moved to Michigan in…must’ve been 1984. When Dad was sent to “the Detroit area” at least. We lived in military housing “on base” or something, in a complex that was originally Kaypart Quarters or something and later Sebille Manor; like a gated community, but for military; same place but it changed names partway into our time there. I’ll expand on those some other time, most likely (and don’t cite MY spellings right now; probably “off,” and that physical community no longer exists; I’d looked it up years ago when Google Earth was “new” and all that)
Sometime in 1988 Dad came down to the Cleveland area; he lived in some apartment for at least a few months with a roommate–we visited him a time or two while he was there–but he was here for work AND house-hunting. That, I guess, will ALSO be something for another time.
Point being: Guam, Michigan, Ohio…moving all the time. And with various travel things for animals, we never had a pet to that point.
But Dad retired from the Navy in 1991, and the subject of a pet came up more; and by late 1991 it’d been decided that we WOULD get a cat.
I remember having ZERO “expectations” except I wanted a KITTEN. I’d had very limited “experience” with actual kittens (or cats, even) but wanted a kitten.
But Dad had wound up fascinated with the “Himalayan” breed (I think they’re officially “Pointed Persians” now). Long hair, main body one color, ears/face/tail/feet another. And in with the classifieds (I don’t think we were as aware as we should have been of shelters) he found a listing for a Himalayan and ended up taking us to at least “check out” this cat.
I have vague memories PROBABLY across two visits to that house; between an initial visit to “meet” the cat and then actually going to pick her up and take her home with us, as we’d decided to take her in. Of that cat curled up on a wooden chair tucked in under a table. A story from the owner of their other cat–a male–having gotten out once and making a racket to get back in, etc.
I suddenly think as I’m typing here that it must have been a Thursday night; Mom was working, whatever night it was. But having picked up the cat, Dad handling whatever official stuff, I remember getting to be the one to HOLD this cat in the car for the drive back to the house. And the cat was not happy. (Who WOULD be, suddenly leaving the home you’ve known for all 15 months of your life and going away with strangers?!?)
I’m sure Dad came around to the passenger side and would have carried the cat inside; my sister and I hot on his heels, eager to be inside with this new cat.
And this entire post to this point to get to this “memory”: the cat disappeared under the couch immediately. And I remember watching dad get down on the floor (!!!) and managing to “sweep” this cat out/pull her out. (We probably should have allowed her more time, but this isn’t about judging or what we “should have” done, etc).
And I’m pretty sure I was the one holding the cat when Mom got home from work and also got to meet the cat.
The cat “came with ‘Papers'”…she was a “purebred” Sealpoint Himalayan female.
“Miss Kayla Krystal” was the official name…but other than the “fact of it” and remembering to this day….geez, we’re days shy of THIRTY YEARS since that night she came into our lives…she was always “just” KAYLA to us. The formal name was just that–some formal name. But she was Kayla.
Kayla-kitty; Night Kitten; Kayla; Poof(er)…sooo many nicknames. And so many other memories of HER over the years; from those earliest days to the end; Kayla was with us for just over EIGHTEEN YEARS; from January 1992, until May 2010.
Dad brought her into my life; was why we wound up with that particular cat; he was there with me and my sister when we MET the cat and brought her home and all that.
And he made the difficult phone call, and he drove, and HE handled the paperwork and all that and he was in that room with me that awful May morning in 2010 when we had to help her cross the Rainbow Bridge.
I remember the tone/generality of some of his words, about what a special relationship I’d had with Kayla; never once did he make it about HIM or HIS with her; and as I’m typing this I’m realizing it was yet another selfless part of him, so much greater than me/mine, in that. I was living an hour away in Cuyahoga Falls at the time and only “visiting” on weekends. Dad and Mom were with Kayla every. single. day. Day in and day out. And after we lost Christy, it was “just” Kayla and all that.
I was the one holding Kayla when we brought her home; and I was the one holding her at the end. Dad was there both times; and he was so supportive and just…there.
And when we lost Christy; when we lost Kayla; when we lost Ziggy…I still always had HIM.