In memoriam: Sasha
It all started in the misty dawn of time.
Sasha was born in April 1997 and died on Dec. 7, 2013. She saw the rise of the Internet and the meltdown of the economy. She survived 9/11 and the wars and marriages that followed. She moved several times, with her best friends, Elizabeth Peters and Laura Engstrom. I have very few photos of the three of them together from those times (Eliza, Laura, and Sasha), hence the following juxtaposition:
Sasha and I met for the first time in early 2011, about a day after I met Elizabeth, which was about a day after I decided to marry her (Elizabeth, not Sasha). So here’s the thing: I had already decided to marry Elizabeth when I met Sasha. “‘Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggg…..,” she said (Sasha, not Eliza, and although Sasha didn’t really sound like a pirate, there are only so many letters in the English language).
“Does she always sound like this?” I asked.
“What’s this bump on her head? Is this a tumor?”
So she sounds like a high-pressure steam release valve and has a bump on her head that feels like a tumor, but isn’t a tumor, I thought. That’s not so bad.
Then I found out there was another cat, Miltie. Elizabeth had two cats. So Elizabeth and I went out and bought a tree for them for my apartment in Parsippany, NJ. It was a mad, romantic, crazy trip to PetSmart in Parsippany, NJ.
I think I met Miltie and Sasha before I met Laura, Elizabeth’s daughter. Laura did not have a tumor on her head, nor did she sound like a rattling automaton needing oil. So it was easy to fall in love with Laura.
But this is about Sasha. Sasha was not beautiful. Sasha made a very annoying sound frequently throughout the day. Sometimes it was one syllable; sometimes it was two. Sometimes it sounded strangely like “Hello.” But the point is, I knew that everyone in my life at that point loved Sasha. And furthermore, they had all heard and come to terms with the sound of Sasha.
I was confident. I had previously proven myself capable of loving cats. Between 2001 and 2008, I took care of 7 to 9 cats in my barn in Oak Hall, Virginia.
And an early encounter I had with Sasha cemented our relationship:
In my apartment in Parsippany, and later in Lafayette, NJ, Sasha and I became friends. I was going to say quick friends, but no, we became friends the old-fashioned way—slowly. Not helping things, she would wake me every morning.
One Saturday morning, shortly after we moved to Lafayette, I heard someone calling my name. I was convinced, as I struggled back to waking consciousness, that an old lady had crawled up the stairs, perhaps with a broken leg or rib, by the sound of it, and was sprawled outside in the hallway. Perhaps an elderly neighbor lady who had overheard my name. She knew my name! She was quite plainly saying my name. As she lay in my hallway with her body broken who knows what way.
I enlisted the aid of a friend to reenact the conversation I had with Sasha at that point—yes, Sasha the cat. It went something like this, but about 30 seconds longer. And I must have said “What?” five times..
As I reread this eulogy, I realize that I haven’t emphasized enough how annoying Sasha was. She mewed (or something like it) an average of every 30 seconds for the whole of her life. But after sending you near the edge, driving you to the brink of insanity, it would become clear: She was here. She just wanted you to know she was here. And part of her being here was that you had to hear her. That was the covenent.
But she wanted all this every 30 seconds for the whole of her life.
I’ll let history judge Sasha’s ultimate place in the universe. Here’s an image I’ll remember: Sasha and Miltie just lounging around. And the fact that Miltie didn’t kill Sasha showed that even he understood her basic message: Yes you are annoying. And yes, you deserve some attention.
And even now, if Miltie hears a recording of Sasha’s voice, he goes looking for her, freaked out. So I’ve learned to keep the audio down.
Elizabeth was so brave that day. She made the right decision. And I couldn’t believe how much it affected me—and not just because it affected Elizabeth. But that Sasha would no longer be here—the one thing she wanted more than anything. Every 30 seconds of her life. Just to be here. And I sort of promised her at that point: I’ll keep her here. Always.