Robert Simpson: Life with Mirabelle

March 17, 2013 

Although we've known each other for many decades, former Columbus mayor Bob Poydasheff and I are not related by blood. We are, however, related through the Burmese branch of our families. Our Burmese cat, Sable, dead these many years, was the grandmother of Bob and Stacy Poydasheff's Burmese cat, Mirabelle. Mirabelle was the niece of our deceased Satin. Our deceased Triple Grand Champion, Sabrina, and Mirabelle were cousins.

Mirabelle died recently, at the incredible age of 20 years and four months. The longest any of our Burmese cats lived was our first, Queen Koko, who made it just past 18. But, as with beloved humans, exceptional longevity of a pet doesn't erase grief.

There are people who don't like cats. Among other reasons, some say they don't like cats' independent attitude, and others don't like the way they move. To each his or her own, of course, but those are attributes that appeal to me. I like the feline gracefulness of a cat, and while I love dogs as well, I admire that special self-sufficient air that cats so often display.

I was fortunate to grow up in a household that always had both cats and dogs, so both were natural members of my own household in adulthood. The first member of my family to meet my bride-to-be was my German Shepherd, Misty, who was quietly jealous but willing to accept my choice. One of the first purchases we made as a married couple was a black kitten my wife fell for on sight. Later we added our first Burmese cat and then a Korat, followed by three other Burmese. The cats are all long since deceased, as are four German Shepherds, two Saint Bernards, a miniature Schnauzer, a Yorkie, a Rottweiler, and an indeterminate but beloved mixed-breed. All are still mourned and remembered with great affection. The care we gave each of them, they repaid many times over.

While we loved all our animals, the Burmese were notable for their special affinity for humans. Their close attachment, devotion, and loyalty were… well… dog-like. Burmese don't just belong to your family, they consider that your family belongs to them, and they prefer to be near you, or better yet, on your lap at every possible moment. Most cats, even though they care, would just as soon not let on that they do. Burmese, though, gaze at you with undisguised adoration.

Pets that live their lives entwined with ours add a reassuring rhythm to our existence. Our world may be crumbling, but they must still be fed and cared for, and they still expect, and give, little tokens of affection. War, famine, pestilence and death may threaten, but they go about their own routine, demonstrating that life will somehow continue.

I often awake in the stillest, darkest hours of the night, and I hear from another room the faint, high-pitched sound of one of our Yorkies snoring. He's sleeping peacefully beside his brother, free of fright or worry, secure in the knowledge that he's safe and all is well with his world. No embarrassments to remember or sins to regret. No worries about sickness or mortality. Listening, I can for a moment indulge in the illusion that my world is equally peaceful. It's a treat to hear him.

I must admit, though, that I miss the familiar sound of a cat purring. No doubt the Poydasheffs do too, especially so soon after their loss. If fortune smiles, though, they'll one day hear the sound again, a new purr from a new being that shares its own pleasure at belonging to the family, and whose comforting sound brings back memories of life with Mirabelle.

Robert B. Simpson, who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."

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