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Lily came to Galen along with a table she had bought. I think that was in 1980. I met Lily and Galen the next year. She (Lily) was a small, highly athletic, and limber black cat who, we discovered some years later, was actually a tabby with deep red stripes that showed only, very slightly, under bright sunlight.

I was allergic to her (Lily, that is) and would sneeze uncontrollably whenever I was at Galen's. But she (Lily, again) was enamored by my beard and loved to rub her face in it. I didn't mind. I loved the attention and fell completely in love with her.

I doubt Lily's memory will ever fade. But I've decided to commit these moments to word as insurance. What follows are vignettes, each a short paragraph. It's not a story. Instead, in some small way, it's a celebration of a life well-lived.

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Galen had a small garage apartment on King Street. The bed was a loft with a desk underneath. Next to the bed was a window, an old-style sash window, the top of which you could pull down in the same manner you'd pull up the bottom window. There was no screen and there was a tree outside. Galen would crack the top just a bit at night to get some fresh air up near the ceiling where she slept. To get in, Lily would climb the tree, dig her front claws into the top of the window and free-hang, her body limp, using her weight to pull the window down. She'd then hop into bed.

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When we went for a walk, Lily would often sit on the white picket fence two doors down from our Water Street house and wait there until we returned. Once we did, she'd run across the two front yards to the driveway and greet us, "chirping," as she ran down the driveway toward us. But one evening in 1884, as we rounded the corner of the house from the street, she again greeted us chirpily, then saw Boney for the first, who had followed us home (with my encouragement). She stopped dead in her tracks, looked at him, looked at us, then turned and walked away. She never again waited for us on that fence and she stopped chirping -- forever. Weeks, perhaps months, passed before she came into the house for a reason other than food.

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Lily loved to climb the big avocado tree in the backyard. She'd go high and fast and turn to see whether we were watching, expecting, of course, to be praised for her display. She'd also shoot straight up one of the redwood trees, perhaps as high as 15 feet, again, looking back down at us to see if we were watching.

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If she didn't like the food we put out (perhaps it was leftovers from the fridge) she'd turn her back to it, look us straight in the eye, then scratch on the floor as though she were covering up a pile of shit.

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Often after bringing a new item home, Lily would claim it as her own by sitting on it. (The red Persian-style rug, for example.) She'd do the same every year with the Christmas paper, strewn all over the floor. And if she was on her red rug while we vacuumed, she'd refuse to move.

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Refusing to move was one of Lily's favorite tricks. She hated it when we left the house and would often sit behind the car to keep us from backing out. Invariably, one of us would have to get out and shoo her away. She'd then sit in front of the car, facing the garage with her back to our faces us as we pulled away. (Turning her back was another of her favorite -- and effective -- modes of expression.)

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Like virtually all cats, Lily loved to scratch on furniture. She stopped only after we got rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting and replaced the old, cat-tattered furniture with stuff that had fabric that didn't appeal to her. Before that, we tried the squirt-gun trick. It worked initially, but she soon caught on and would scratch deeper, staring back at us as we ferociously shot water at her. It was about this time that my friend, Armon, commented, "Don't you know that you don't train a cat. It trains you." It's true, but I later learned from other cats that hard-won compromises are often possible.

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A friend's parents stayed at the house while we traveled to Vancouver in 1988. They'd put her out every night, which greatly displeased her. Leaving the house one morning, they found cat shit on the hood of their car. No one had any doubt that it was one of Lily's unique messages.

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Boney loved Lily and, being still a kitten when he came home with us, wanted to play with her all the time. She didn't like that. She didn't want a brother. But he'd persist and would wait for her around a corner and ambush her when she walked by. Sometimes she'd slap him or sometimes just ignore him. And they had a routine they'd go through while waiting to be fed. As I'd crank the can opener, she'd nudge her head toward Boney, which he took as an invitation, and he'd eagerly, lovingly, groom her forehead. After enjoying that for several moments, she'd lift a paw and slap him across the face. He'd rear up, swipe back and they'd both get up on their haunches, paws going every which way. I'd yell, they'd scatter then slowly amble to their bowls. Boney would fall for her little "invitation" every time. And yet, after all that, he'd often wait to eat, like the gentleman he was, until Lily had her fill. He'd just sit and watch with what can only be described as great affection and admiration.

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Cats like to eat grass. Lily loved asparagus. We sat out two bowls one evening for her. One had chicken, the other asparagus. She sniffed at the chicken then went for the asparagus.

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Although she was a great lap cat, Lily hated being held. I'd insist, of course, and would pick her up almost every day, as I've done with all my cats since. She loved high places, so I'd often reward her patience by holding her up high and carrying her around the house so that she could poke and prod into places she'd normally not have access to, such as the top of doors. She loved that. More than once I helped her get at a spider near the ceiling.

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Saturday afternoon, 13 January 1990: We'd returned from our three-week Mid-Western genealogical tour several months earlier -- my last vacation before I left my management job at the Nickelodeon Theatres. It soon became apparent that she wasn't the same cat. (Surprisingly, she had acquired feline leukemia. The vet said it was probably transmitted to her through the food bowl via Boney, who managed through it off due to his youth and strong immune system.) She'd kept herself inside for two weeks. One morning, a couple of days earlier, she simply slid of the clothes hamper and laid motionless on the floor -- one of her favorite spots. Her day had come. So, on this Saturday, I picked her up and carried her to the backyard for one last look. She tried to wriggle her way out of my arms, as she had always done, but she had virtually no strength. The wriggle was nothing much more than a shrug. She quickly relaxed and looked longingly at the arms of the avocado tree. It had just rained and the air was filled with scents of kinds that only cats can recognize. Her eyes opened wide while her nose twitched, taking in the various smells. We weren't out long. But it was one of the most memorable few moments I'd ever spent with her.

We returned from the vet's about an hour later with Lily wrapped in a towel and placed inside a cardboard box. I set her outside as I fashioned a small coffin from whatever wood was on hand. We kept looking and calling for Boney so he could know what had happened. But, as we had often said, Boney was nowhere to be found when there was work to be done. (Lily loved to hang out and supervise during yard work.)

Galen and I each held her one last time then buried her along the back fence. It was dark and cold and wet. Boney, we figured, was down by the river oblivious to the passing of his dearly-loved sister. For months after wards, he'd startle whenever he'd hear a small sound around the corner. His eyes would get big and he'd look and wait in anticipation of Lily emerging from the hallway. He became dejected and spent a lot more time inside the house and sat more frequently on the couch beside us as we watched TV, often with an outstretched arm, his paw touching one of us. But, from that day on, virtually every day, we'd wake up in the morning to find him sleeping on top of the bench we had placed above Lily's grave.

See Boney's page.