Love, like chocolate, comes in many forms. Sometimes it's rich and thick. Other times, it's sticky and messy. Still other times, it's sweet and satisfying. You never know where you'll find it. After my father died, I craved love (and actual chocolate, but that's a topic for another column). Little did I know my family would find hope and solace in the unlikeliest of places. I kept waiting for a sign from my father - one of those earth-shattering moments like a lightning bolt from the sky in which I felt his presence and knew he was watching over us. My moment didn't come crashing down from the sky. And it didn't come as a feeling that my father was close by, either. Instead, my guardian angel came in the form of a tiny, orange tom cat.
My family members have never been pet people; the closest I got to having a pet growing up were two goldfish named Silverware and Moon Beam (the name Silverware was my sister's doing). And I definitely wasn't a cat person. I pictured a 60-year-old woman in a tiny city apartment rocking in her rocking chair with her 10 cats vying for her attention. That was the stereotypical cat person. I certainly didn't fit the bill.
Then Harry came into our lives. A family from our church was looking for a nice home for him. A few weeks passed. And then a few more. We'd been toying with the idea of taking Harry in, and when we found out he still didn't have a home, we took it as a sign. Something just seemed to feel right about the whole thing, so we claimed our new family member. He came to us on a crisp fall day in September. He was named after Harry from the Harry Potter series, and we didn't really consider changing his name. We liked the idea of having a little wizard in our house to watch over us.
But we soon learned that no magic wand could give us an instruction manual on caring for this creature. We felt like new parents bringing an infant home from the hospital. This time, our baby was small (6 pounds), with green and yellow piercing eyes, delicate paws and a shiny coat of pumpkin-colored fur. I called him a little fur ball as he curled up in the corner the second we entered the house. Those eyes dilated, darting around the room looking for something, anything, familiar. As he planted himself behind the couch, we spent the evening trying to coax him out. But he stood firm. He was scared. We were scared. Finally, I realized, my family and Harry had something in common, even if it was something small.
Life moved at that snail's pace for the next couple weeks. Harry spent most of his time feeling us out from the comforts of my bedroom closet. From his cozy little nook under a desk chair, he'd poke his head out whenever we came in the room. As we crouched down on the floor next to him, his eyes studied us intensely, trying to decide who exactly we were. But it was clear he had no intention of moving from that spot. He just wasn't ready yet, so we remained ever patient and gave him all the time he needed.
While we waited for Harry to warm to us, we jumped headfirst into this cat-owning business. We went to Petco to get everything we thought he'd need: dry and wet food, toys, a pillow bed. And the big treat: a $90 cat condo that would eventually become his bachelor pad. On the inside, though, we were just as scared as Harry. This was completely new territory for us, but something just kept us moving forward, like an invisible hand guiding us along on this new path our lives began to follow.
Then one day, everything changed. Things just clicked all of a sudden. Instead of hiding in the closet, Harry started following us all around the house. He became our little shadow. I'd be washing the dishes, and there he'd be, perched on the sink right next to me. Or I'd be sitting at the computer trying to get some writing done, and Harry would sit atop the monitor, those eyes glued to my every keystroke.
We've cared for Harry, but he's taught us so much in return. Cats eat when they're hungry. They spend lazy days relaxing in the sun. They sleep when they want. And they find an endless source of amusement in the simple things, like a ball of string. Harry likes to sit on our kitchen table and stare longingly out the window. Everything seems so new to him, so fresh, and he looks as if he's watching his own private television. He simply enjoys life, no strings attached. We'd all be a lot happier if we adopted the innocence of cats.
We were a perfect match. Harry came into our lives so unexpectedly and changed it in extraordinary ways. In our quest to give Harry a home, he gave us one in his own cat-like way. We all were looking for a place of peaceful comfort to heal our hearts and souls, and we found it in each other. I picture my father looking down on us and smiling; he would have loved Harry. A little cat saved us, but something tells me my father had a hand in our healing as well. I can't help but think that Harry was meant to be our cat. He sometimes walks past that closet now. It's almost as if he remembers that place, like he knows that's where he started his journey. We're still on our journey, but we're enjoying the scenery, thanks to our little orange fur ball.