Sunday, January 10, 2010

Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida

Young Ida

In July 1992, Zed, a cat belonging to my neighbor Peter in Chicago, had a litter of kittens. A couple of months later, one of them made her way across Seeley Avenue and entered my life. My ex-husband and I at first thought we'd choose one of Ida's brothers, but we soon realized he was a little too rambunctious for us. Then one day I came home from work, and there in our living room was a funny-looking kitten with a head that seemed way too big for her body and an adorable stripe down the middle of her face.

Thus began 17 and 1/2 years of happiness.

It took us a little while to decide on the right name for this special cat. One day while at the Art Institute of Chicago, I passed by a painting by Ivan Albright called Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida. I stopped and thought. It was not a favorite painting of mine; I found it rather creepy and depressing. But I liked the title, and so we named Ida not after a painting but after the title of a painting.

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while know how helpful Ida always was with blocking or modeling my knitwear. She wasn't much interested in playing with yarn, though, and never messed around with any of my projects. A perfect knitter's cat!


Ida and Mimosa



Ida was a one-person cat, and I was that lucky one person. She was shy and easily alarmed and generally hid in the presence of anyone but me. This habit earned her the nickname "Hide-a" from my nephews--they never did see her anywhere but hiding under the bed or hiding under the bedcovers.

She had lots of other nicknames: Funny Face, Miss Ida Mae, Tuna Girl, Little Lovey, Sweetie Pie. She had a thing for rugs:

Ida and Rug_1

Ida and Rug_2

And for sheets or towels warm from the clothes dryer:

Ida and the Warm Sheets

Several years ago, when my friend Doreen and her husband Don threw a combination housewarming and Halloween party after buying their first house, I decided to go as Ida. I found a scarf that had exactly her colors, carefully painted a beige stripe down the middle of a black cat mask, and brought some cat treats to share. Here's me as Ida, with Doreen as a model suburban hostess:

Me as Ida, with Doreen as a Suburban Hostess

Last summer, Ida was diagnosed with diabetes. I began giving her twice-daily insulin shots (which, thankfully, she didn't mind getting). But over the course of the last few months it became clear that Ida was insulin resistant. She had several tests during November and December, but they didn't reveal why the insulin wasn't working.

Meanwhile, she kept losing weight and her arthritis got worse and worse. She was stumbling, falling, and having a hard time getting into a comfortable position. She began losing interest in the things she still enjoyed--her knitted catnip toys, the birds at the suet feeders, her pot of cat grass. Even warm laundry was no longer an enticement. She stopped grooming herself and spent much of her time curled up in the bedroom closet.

Last week I took her to a specialist and, after a thorough examination and discussion of her health, I made the decision to have Ida put down. I was with her during her last moments and was glad to see how peacefully her soul left the world.

Thankfully, we were able to spend a lot of time together during Ida's last few weeks. I'll never forget how loudly she purred on the day before she died, snuggling next to me on the bed and licking my hand. I think she was saying goodbye, and saying it in the most beautiful way she knew how. How lucky I was to have such a sweet and loving companion for 17 and 1/2 years.

Ida's Cat Grass

Ida's pot of cat grass still grows. It will wither soon, as it always does. My sister Betsey gave me this little Eggling yesterday, in which I planted tiny thyme seeds this morning. If the thyme grows and thrives, I think I'll transplant it to Ida's pot.


I'm exhausted after writing this post and out of words. So I'll end with those of one of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass:

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

Ida on New Year's Day, 2010