(Or, What my schizophrenic Siamese taught me about love)
Her grandfather was a regal and dignified Siamese. Next in the genealogy was a long-haired black cat with green eyes and a Siamese meow that had been driven away from human society with stones and curses when she got “in the family way.”
The wild beast that would become my cat was born in tall grass between two wooden fences on a rainy October morning. A tiny silver kitten, she had feet that looked like oars, with extra toes. “Supernumerary digits,” someone said. Her tail had a kink in it that made two 45-degree angles.
Within days her eyes opened, silvery blue orbs that turned toward her darkening nose. A cross-eyed cat. There was a bump on her rib that the veterinarian said was probably caused by healed-over fracture during her first 12 weeks of life.
The neighbors decided that all the wild cats and kittens had to be rounded up and taken to their desert acreage, far from the city. On Christmas Day they caught two of the Siamese kittens and offered them to me. Both were hissing and snarling, but I chose the least-nasty-tempered one and took her home in my father’s leather jacket. I wore leather gloves. She fought, kicked, scratched, and even bit through my fingers, until upper fangs met lower fangs in a locked jaw.
Through the next weeks I taught her house manners, fed her tidbits from my fingers and tamed her to my commands. She slept in my arms or under the bed, or on a sunny patch of carpet. She was afraid and contemptuous of men, so I named her Circe, after the goddess who turned Ulysses’ crewmen into swine and attempted to serve them to him for dinner.
Circe was always eccentric, and for years I thought it was because she had been a wild kitten and had no tame feline role models, or maybe that I was a bad cat-mama. She hated other cats and was paranoid about the tabby I found at the library, telling me, as only a Siamese can, how she was going to torture and kill him. With her crossed eyes, she probably saw two of him anyway.
But I came to realize that the inbreeding that produced her physical defects had also given me a mentally-ill kitty. This cat was born with issues that had nothing to do with me.
People would tell me I should get rid of that cat, but in my family, animals are family. You don’t take your annoying little brother to the pound, do you?
She’d beg to play with string and learned to fetch toys like a dog when I was laid up from an accident. We’d wrestle and tickle and purr and snarl harmlessly until something snapped in her twisted mind.
She’d tenderly lick my nose at bedtime. And then bite. No matter how many times she was scolded or punished she never stopped biting. And scratching! With six toes and seven claws on each front foot, plus six toes on each back foot, she could do some damage. What would have happened if I’d chosen the really feisty sister kitten!
But I learned from Circe. Every tawny little hair I scraped off the furniture and swept from corners was a miracle. Have you ever looked at the gradations of color, from soft silver to beige, to warm cocoa, all on the same hair fiber?
A master artist had created my cat. Leonardo da Vinci said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”
During the year before she had to be euthanized, as I cared for that crazy, misshapen little cat, I stopped to wonder why I loved her so much. With all the bites and scratches; the cleaning up of messes; the rescue when she broke a bottle of pesticide and had to be washed in the sink; the mental terrors she suffered from people and other animals…
Circe was mine and I loved her when she was good, and I loved her when she was bad. In fact, I think I cherished her because she had so many problems, and she had no one else to love and care for her. She needed me. When I looked at her I saw only beauty, and the relationship we shared.
I belong to God. Even with all my problems, all my sin, and maybe even because of my dependency on Him, He loves me. Not because I’m accomplished or brilliant, or obedient or disobedient to His word. He simply loves me.
Where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful. Romans 5:20 CEV
When He gives me blessings, He loves me. When I turn around and snarl at Him, He still loves me. He chose me. He tamed and taught me how to live. When He looks at me He sees my future, not my past.
All this for no other reason than He is my Father, and I belong to Him.