Memories of Lester

Lester, one of our two cats, died last week.
He started to seem a bit not-quite-himself last weekend, and we kept an eye on him. Then on Monday morning we couldn’t find him anywhere in the house. He eventually turned up in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which for him was extremely odd. Some cats are keenly interested in cabinets and will become quite adept at opening them, while others will not, and when cats–especially older cats–suddenly start nesting in places that have never apparently interested them before, it’s generally not a good sign. So we took him to the vet on Monday, where they kept him in an attempt to help his breathing (which had become labored) and get fluids into him.
Lester got a little better over that day, but then he started relapsing, and we received a phone call from the vet at 4:00am that he was doing significantly worse. When The Wife returned that call, the phrase “it’s time to make some decisions” was uttered. We went to the vet’s office at 5:00am Tuesday morning, prepared to have Lester ushered into death as painlessly as possible…but somehow, improbably, he waited until we got there, and then he twitched a single time and was gone.
Lester lived with us for thirteen and a half years, along with his brother Julio, who remains. When we adopted them, they were roughly a year old, but we never had any way of knowing exactly. These two cats turned up one morning outside my parents’ back door on a cold winter morning. I suppose they were left there by someone who decided they were too much to handle, as my parents were well known in their small-town social circle as enthusiastic cat lovers. My mother has told me often of waking up to a cat howling and scratching at that back door, and when she proceeded to open the back garage door (which opened to the same part of the house’s exterior), in came a big gray cat who was quickly followed by an almost-as-big black cat.
My parents were at a bit of a loss as to how to deal with this sudden arrival of two cats. They already had , I think, five cats, all indoor cats, all Persians, and they weren’t prepared to suddenly have to deal with these two big lummox barn cats-without-a-barn. Even more, my mother was shortly to undergo surgery, which would leave her unable to really deal with these two energetic yo-yos properly.
Thus we stepped up and took possession of them. By this time my mother had named the big gray one Lester, and the black one Julio. We only had a single cat at the time (Comet), so now we were up to three. We had to play dumb about this because our apartment complex specifically only allowed a single cat. (Suck it, Quakertowne Apartments!)
Lester and Julio’s first days with us were rocky. In their first eight hours they broke two drinking glasses, got into a lot of stuff, and were generally quite naughty. They also ganged up on poor Comet, and finally one morning they came very near to getting the boot. But calmer heads prevailed, and we kept them.
Over the years, Lester and Julio would be almost joined at the hip, to a degree that was sometimes kind of gross to behold. (They would often wash each other simultaneously, down there.) But they developed personalities of their own as well. Lester was a big goof who would chew on plastic bags his entire life and who would, for a time, come crying to me at night if he decided that it was time to go to bed and I hadn’t come yet. Both cats adapted fairly quickly to the new house when we moved in. Adapting to the presence of dogs? That was more of a struggle, but eventually Lester developed a strange kind of “sibling rivalry” with Cane. Until Carla arrived, the cats and Cane shared a common water dish, and one time Cane saw Lester going to get a drink and ran over to slurp up all the water in the dish, just to piss Lester off. Of course, within half an hour Cane had to pee very urgently, so that plan kind of backfired a bit.
Lester and Julio are the only cats I’ve ever known who were literally litter-mates, so we often wondered what might happen when one inevitably died before the other. So far Julio seems to be his normal self, but we’re keeping an eye on him and we’re giving him dollops of yogurt more than just once a day now. Will we ever get another cat? Undoubtedly we will. Except for the time I spent in college in Iowa, I have never lived outside of the presence of cats and I see no reason to start doing so now. Of course it will be a challenge to figure out now that we have dogs in the mix, but eventually I think we’ll want another cat.
But there certainly won’t be another Lester.
He was a good cat, even when he wasn’t.

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