One Harvey at a Time – #Crazy Cat Lady Memoirs

I confess to being a crazy cat lady, having obtained my crazy cat lady starter kit years ago. Since I do admit to being a crazy cat lady (having more than a few during my lifetime is understood) choosing one feline out of many precious pets should be difficult. However, it wasn’t. “What a guy, what a guy, what a guy” describes the sweetest, most beautiful, loving cat who ever lived. Harvey.

When my kids were in the early years of elementary school and I was still a stay at home mom as soon as the school bus departed I would lace up my sneakers, walk down my lane, and begin my daily five mile trek over hills and occasional rugged terrain. We live(d) across from a state lake which often seemed deserted – if you didn’t count the birds, the wildlife and unwanted, frightened stray cats who had been dumped out. (Don’t get me started on the inhumane treatment of any animal.) My daughter and I fed them but were never able to bring any of them home. Until Harvey.

Since the area around the lake was desolate I quickened my pace as I strode by, always glad when I reached civilization in the form of a few houses.

One autumn morning I thought I heard soft meowing, but even after slowing down and gently calling out, I didn’t see a cat. I continued my walk, went home, and thought no more about it.

The next morning, when I heard another meow and called out, I was rewarded by a cat – not, no “a” cat, but “the” cat – running up to me and jumping into my arms and onto my shoulders. It was love at first sight.

We already had two cats, two dogs and a strained budget, but even if I had been able to find a home for him, we were keeping Harvey.

Harvey was a Morris lookalike but even more handsome. His fur was long and silky, and he was one of the sweetest guys I had ever known.

My daughter, a first grader at the time, wrote in her journal for school, “Every morning when I brush my hair, Harvey The Wonder Cat jumps on the counter so that I will pet him. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll miss the bus.”

My son, in third grade, coined the term, “Harvey, what a guy, what a guy, what a guy.”

We were Smokey Robinson fans and when singing one of his greatest (of many) hits, we made one substitute and One Harvey (not Heartbeat) at a Time became our family anthem.

An impulsive person, one morning I grabbed Harvey along with several pieces of pork and drove to the kids’ school, interrupting their classrooms as I demonstrated Harvey’s special trick: eating ham. Both teachers were gracious and the students loved Harvey. They were allowed to get out of their seats and stand in line to pet The Wonder Cat. Some were even able to feed him (until the meat ran out).

Although Harvey loved us all equally – he was that kind of guy, loving and fair and kind, excluding no one – I liked to think I was his favorite. In my entire life only one pet has ever made a nest in my hair and slept on my head. Harvey.

Harvey would often jump in my lap for an evening of petting and gentle rocking in the same chair from my kids’ infancy.

One of my favorite family pictures features our cars at the time, but The Cat lounging on my son’s skateboard in the foreground is the showcase. Harvey.

One afternoon while I was outside a strange (as in unfamiliar; I have no opinion about her personality) woman walked up our lane. “He looks just like my Lawrence!” I grabbed Harvey and held him against me. “This is Harvey!” Ms. Unknown calmed my kitty-knapping fears by agreeing that Harvey was indeed my cat, not hers. She never did reveal the reason for her visit.

Harvey became listless about the same time a feral cat gave birth and we brought the kittens inside, and we assumed, wrongly, that he was jealous of the attention the new babies received. When he stopped eating, we took him to our veterinarian. Diagnosis: antifreeze poisoning. Condition: terminally ill. We had him put down that day and it was difficult for me to forgive the carelessness of the person who had poured the concoction onto the ground instead of properly disposing it.

I would have loved to have been able to have had a “grandcat” in the form of one of Harvey’s offspring, but that was not possible as every domestic animal that sets foot into my life is taken to the vet for The Big Fix.

Although it has been many years since we lost Harvey and I have had other cats that are sweet and loving, there are tears in my eyes as I write this.

Do you believe in Heaven? I do, and there are at least as many pets as humans awaiting me on that faraway (I hope) day. Do you think he will jump in my arms the way he did the first day of our life together? I’m going to hug him and sing One Harvey at a Time and this time my tears will be tears of joy.

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