by Rick Reineke
(Toms River, N.J.)
My dear old mother now almost 85 told me a story about a cat that had wandered onto their porch apartment one day as a very young, cold, and wet hungry kitten. My mother was one of four children and took pity on the cold wet kitten, and immediately ran upstairs to ask her mother if she could have something to dry the cat and feed it.
Well these were depression days, and most people didn't have enough to feed themselves, but my grandmother who had grown up on a farm in Ireland always took pity on starving men or beasts, and gave my mother an old towel and a can of sardines. The kids dried off the kitten and she ate those sardines as if it was her last meal. With that my grandmother who had watched from her kitchen window told her children to bring the "wee" thing in here (in her Irish brouge) and warm the poor beast by the coal stove. My mother said my grandmother who was making chicken soup cooled some off and gave the kitten a saucer of it which again she lapped up with gusto. And so little Tilly became a member of their family.
My mom says the cat pretty much became my grandmothers cat preferring her over everyone else. Tilly came and went during the day unless there was very inclement weather with which Tilly would be back at the door early. I commented that I thought a cat growing up in the city had a good chance of getting run over by cars, but my mom said the cats were pretty street smart.
My mom said they moved three times before my grandparents bought their own two family house. Of course the cat came with them, but my mom told me with one of the moves Tilly was out, and they had to move.
When the kids came home from school there was such crying and carrying on for Tilly that my grandfather had to go back to the previous apartment house area and look for Tilly. My mom laughs when she tells the story because my grandfather combed the neighborhood for about a half hour yelling Tilly. Now what was so funny was that my grandfather was known at the time to take a little whiskey, and the neighbors watched and thought he was drunk walking up and down the side walks yelling Tilly. He found Tilly and all was well again. By the way, my grandmother heard about my grandfathers cat search by not less then six or seven of her old neighbors who thought my grandfather had lost his mind on the whiskey.
Tilly's diet consisted of a small amount of canned cat food and mostly table scraps and of course sardines which Tilly had grown very fond of. During that time canned sardines were very inexpensive. Occasionally Tilly caught a mouse or rat and a couple of times a bird or two, but mostly stayed close to the house and slept on a few old rags in a back hallway, that led up and down between the two apartments. My mom said Tilly was with them over 16 years when one evening she began to meow loudly in the hallway. It was a cold January evening and my grandmother who was always fond of the cat took pity on it, and brought the cat inside. They were listening to a radio show when Tilly jumped into my grandmothers lap and began purring very loudly while my grandmother stroked the cats fur until it was asleep. When the radio was over my grandmother went to put the cat down, and found that Tilly had passed away right in her lap as quiet as could be.
Poor old Tilly must have known she was dying and wanted to be near the one whom she trusted the most, my grandmother.
Now on a little lighter side the kids buried the cat in the small back yard they had, and while out there a neighbor came by, and took a look at the cat and informed them that Tilly wasn't female but was male.
With that information my mother walked in the house and told my grandmother who laughed and told them she knew that for years!