We scattered Grandpa’s ashes the day before our second wedding anniversary. He joined his sister over the rose bushes and in a saltwater lake, and got his very own section of gentle waves on Crescent Beach.
“Last year on his 90th birthday he was walking out over these jagged rocks,” my aunt told us. “I was just praying ‘God don’t break your hip out there.’”
The ashes went in and my dad said, “Welcome home, Dad.” Those gentle waves beat the South Shore of Nova Scotia like a call to prayer to the generations of my family, gelled together by blood and choice. Together we scattered him one spoonful at a time.
Grandma explained it, “He spent his boyhood summers here. He brought me to it. Everyone always felt at home at this house, even if they weren’t from here.”
“His own grandfather built it,” his daughter added. “And the one down the road.”
“We all still feel more at home here than in the city or anywhere else,” my father added. His own artwork covers a wall. My great-aunt’s souvenirs from the north cover the shelves.
The rest is old framed black & whites, scrapbooked letters from people like my great-great-grandfather the seafaring captain who was the first to sail the Panama canal. “I trust my daughter’s judgement,” he wrote to my great-grandfather, his new, unmet, son-in-law. He reminded him that he wasn’t marrying a rich man’s daughter, that his house was humble, that he missed it. He was glad that she wasn’t marrying into the lonesome misery of a sailor’s life, that though my great-grandfather was a mere farming man, there was no shame in it.
It’s the history of the place that makes us feel welcome; its ghosts welcome us, turn out the lights to conserve power, for the sake of our future.
“Are you sniffing your butt?” my young cousin-once-removed asks her puppy as the sacred part begins, and some of us giggle. Grandma explains to her plainly what this is all about, and she nods. She too, and the ones that follow her, will feel welcome in this place.
The next day it's our two-year wedding anniversary, and that history beckons me, tells me it’s safe to bring new Benjamins here, that as an elder cousin I may soon be entrusted as a sharer of knowledge and family stories. So will be my wife. Though I may be foolish and human, I am never alone, nor shall be my wife, nor my children. They too shall feel welcome in this place.
I met him in early April 2005. Our wedding was just a few months away but we were more excited about the kittens.
We must have taken the bus all the way to McCowan and got a ride from there with Miia's mom or brother. Then we drove to the house excitedly.
The mother was out and about, taking a break, so we feasted our eyes on the litter of three.
I noticed Bosh first because he wandered right out of the box on shaky legs and tried to climb the stairs. "I want that one," I said. He was an adventurer, a wanderer, a kindred spirit.
I looked over my shoulder at Miia to make sure that she had registered my selection, and there she was with LG in her arms. She was smiling like a schoolgirl.
"Can we take two?" she grinned, and so it was. There was no point arguing, we had fallen in love with them as fast and hard as we had with each other.
The following Saturday we were back, this time to take them home with us. They were still shaking.
LG short for Lieutenant Governor, hid under the front passenger seat while Bosh explored the dashboard. We stopped at the petstore for kitten food and a kitten owner's manual. The woman in the petstore told Miia that five months was too young to take them from their mother. But the owners had been anxious to get rid of them.
I stuffed Bosh & LG back into their cat carrier and poured through the manual on my way home, sharing interesting tidbits with Miia as she drove.
At the house LG found a hiding spot up under the pullout couch and Bosh explored the living room shakily. We gave them a bowl of kitten food and they paid it no mind. We gave them milk with the same result. We had to put the milk on our fingertips so they'd suck it off. For the first several months they kept looking for nipples in our hair. And still LG could often be found up under the pullout.
But because they were raised more by us than by their feline mother, and because our house was full of housemates and visitors, they quickly became people cats. LG loved nothing more than snuggle-time, and his purr could power a city block.
Bosh used to follow us around in and out of the house, and when we weren't around he visited all the neighbours, including the elementary school. Sometimes he'd be gone for days before we got a call from a neighbour with an uninvited guest. The school principal seemed to think nothing of carrying him home, plopping him into our front door. As Boshie rambled, LG would look around the house for him, missing him.
At six months it was time to get them fixed, vaccinated and otherwise checked up. The vet took Boshie's temperature first. When she put the thermomete up his anus he freaked and yowled and struggled under our four hands. It took forever to get a reading, prolonging his agony.
When she gave the same treatment to LG, his body just froze. His lips curled back over a jagged snarl that said, "I don't like this at all." It was over in seconds.
Their opposite personalities complimented each other like yin an yang; together they presented a unified front. At parties they'd pull up a chair each, across from one another, and no one dared kick them off. Human friends would pull up a piece of hardwood and stroke a fury chin.
The first time they experienced snow it was Bosh who awkwardly led the way while LG following close behind, delicately seeking warm spaces with his paws. He loved to go out for brief morning constitutionals before jumping and clinging to the kitchen window screen when he was ready for breakfast. Every meal was LG's favourite.
Like us they had their disagreements, usually in the form of no-rules wrestling matches. LG may have been the gentle one but he was bigger and just a little stronger, so when push came to claw he often got his way.
They made up more easily than we do, usually in the mornings by grooming one another and snuggling up like a two-headed cat monster. In the evenings LG would sleep with us and Bosh would doze with one eye half-open at the window, making sure the school-grounds were safe.
LG never let us forget love.
When we faught and the argument became heated, he'd find his way in between us, purring and rubbing and snuggling in the moment of greatest possible tension. And we'd laugh. And pet him. And calm down, ease our tones, get to resolving our differences.
Just before we left the country it was Bosh we worried about and LG who peed himself in the car en route to the airport and puked in the plane. They both looked shocked and haggared and pissed off when we retrieved them in Halifax.
We knew we were putting them into the good hands of the cat-loving parents, but there were other worries: coyotes, dogs, endless woods to wander and get lost in, and the semi-highway running by the house. For a wanderer like Bosh, anything could happen, and without the density of a Toronto neighbourhood there weren't so many neighbours to bring him home safe.
As expected, Bosh took to his new home quickly. He shied away from the fast moving cars, but dove into the long grass and watched fish jimping in the lake.
LG, always the more vocal of the two, cried a lot and hid inside. Slowly slowly he adjusted, but it wasn't until several weeks after we left that he dared to cross the road.
By then Bosh was already spending his nights wandering the wild woods and sleeping it off in the daytime.
Eventually LG caught up with his twin, and they hunted and played together by night, groomed each other at dawn, and slept the day away, the two-headed cat monster.
The whole 14 months we were gone, Miia and I missed our cats like a blowing empty nest. We carried pictures of them and cheered each other up with stories of them in our weakest moments. We had to restrict the times when we were allowed to talk about them beacause it was causing too much homesickness. We thrived on every story and picture my parents sent us of them. I think we missed them more than the humans we left behind.
As expected Bosh got to know the few neighbours around. As expected he hurt himself a few times, once quite badly - he needed several stitches in his belly and a conehead to keep him from scratching and biting the wound.
Also as expected, LG avoided such troubles and growled at his coneheaded brother. SOme mornings he fretted and cried until Bosh finally came home.
When we finally saw them just over two weeks ago, we scooped them up. LG cuddled and purred, Bosh jumped away but came back to say hello in a more dignified fashion. They kept their routine of frollicking at night but took to snuggling up to us in the sweet early morning.
On the night of August 29 LG was killed by a car on that stupid fucking semi-highway, where the stupid fucking cars always go too fast. We cried and cried and cried, and sometimes I still cry from him.
Dad put his body in the studio and locked it. Bosh went sniffing all around it, then around the road where his brother was hit. He came home in the morning with none of his usual zip.
We buried LG in the yard the next day, made a nice little gravesite with flowers. We raised a toast to him and left the beercaps on his grave. Beercaps were his favourite toy. He'd send them flying and cahse them for hours, as if they were alive.
He was more than just cat. He was pure, unadulterated love. He was a member of our family. And he was Bosh's other half.
"He was the handsomest cat," I told Miia. "Tied with Bosh, as always."
She cried and said, "I guess they aren't tied anymore."
But really they are still tied. Every time I look at Bosh I'll remember LG. LG will always be a part of Bosh.