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I’m With Stupid – January 6, 2017

by Todd Hartley

Before we get to the sappy part of this column, I want to explain a few things having to do with my relationship with poetry and cats. I feel a deeper understanding of both subjects will make it easier for you to forgive me for the sappy part when we finally get there.

First of all, I am not a poet. I’m more of a sonneteer. To me, a poet is someone who gets up in front of six people in a coffee house and recites some gobbledygook about their feelings, and that’s so not me. That sort of brutally honest, stream-of-consciousness stuff is beyond my capability. That’s why I work almost exclusively in sonnets.

You see, a sonnet is more like a crossword puzzle than a poem. You already have the framework for it — 14 lines, iambic pentameter, some kind of rhyme scheme and a closing couplet — and you just have to fill in the blanks. The only reason sonnets sound poetic is because you have to come up with obscure words to make the rhyme and meter work out.

The other reason I write sonnets is because Shakespeare wrote a bunch of sonnets, so that makes me pretty much exactly like Shakespeare. I’m not trying to brag, but the facts are what they are.

Now, as for cats, please understand that I haven’t had the greatest history. When I was a kid, my family had a cat named Digits who had six or seven claws on each foot and would sink them into you at the slightest provocation, including turning over in your sleep.

I was gifted a cat of my own once named Winkles, but unfortunately, Winkles was developmentally challenged — and I’m saying that in all sincerity. Whatever the feline equivalent of Down syndrome is, I’m pretty sure that he had it. He was not bright and needed to be with someone who could take care of him. That wasn’t 9-year-old me.

In college, my roommates and I had a cat named Slapshot. He liked to pee in my room and once peed and pooped on my bed and then covered it with the comforter so I wouldn’t see it. He escaped from a car headed for the Bay Area and was last seen sprinting across the Utah desert. I didn’t participate in the search effort.

Anyway, on to the sappy part.

Our family cat, Blue, passed away last week at the ripe, old age of 20 and a half. He predated me in my wife’s life by nearly a decade, and he’d never not been a part of our son’s life, so he was a very valued family member. He and I had our differences, admittedly (he peed in my shoe — not on, but actually in — on two separate occasions), but he was always a friendly, personable fellow. I dare say he was about as nice a cat as you’ll find.

So to mark his passage and add to my lifetime sonnet total (score: Shakespeare, 154; me, 29), I wrote a sonnet for my wife and son. I’m warning you in advance: It’s pretty syrupy, but essentially that’s what sonnets are for, isn’t it?

You’ll note that I didn’t put myself into the poem or mention anything about peeing. Other than that, though, it comes straight from the heart. And though some may call me a hypocrite, I think I really will miss him.

With that, I give you this:

Farewell sweet cat, your nine have reached their end
Calm, peaceful, in the arms of mother fair
Both blessed with love of such a special blend
That other moms and kittens can’t compare
You showed up at her door out of the blue
And forced your merry way into her life
Before she up and moved a time or two
Before she said she’d be somebody’s wife
And for her birth child you have proved to be
A perfect brother from the very start
No inter-species animosity
Just warmth enough to win another heart
And so a fitting epitaph for you:
“Your soul was pure, your love always true blue”

Todd Hartley isn’t really not a cat person; he just seems that way most of the time.

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