Remembering Harmony the Cat, 1993 – 2011
I found out yesterday morning that my cat Harmony passed away.
I first met Harmony while I was in college, I’d say it was sometime around 1993 or maybe 1994. I lived in a house with four other guys, and one of my housemates (Ben) was dating a girl named Kim (who was living in a house with several other girls). Someone over there got Harmony, but then their landlord found out and demanded the cat removed… so she stayed with us. Eventually, my housemate Ben and Kim broke up, and Harmony was left in our place. I ended up being her de facto caretaker, and she followed me from place to place.
While in Bloomington, Harmony was a total outdoor cat. We had, at various times, a lot of large dogs in the house as well. Harmony would come in, eat some food and hang out… but the presence of dogs made it a hard place to stay. She’d sneak in and out of the house via a window in my bedroom (I lived in one of the two basement rooms), which was at ground level. I’d slide the window up, and she’d slink in. Whenever she had her fill of the indoors, she’d wait until I opened up the window again.
One day, our landlord had the some painters work on the side of the house – unbeknowst to us. When Harmony came up to the window, I tried to open it like normal… but found it stuck. When I tried to force it open, I put my hand through the glass. I ended up cutting a decent sized gash in my wrist, and got taken to the hospital. It’s hard to see, but the scar’s still there.
After Bloomington, Harmony followed me to Columbus, OH, where I went to graduate school over three years and two apartments. After that, she followed me to Chicago for another two apartments. All in all, Harmony had been with me for over a decade – an impossibly long time, when I stop and really think about it.
When Harmony fell into my care, it didn’t feel right changing her name. It was what her previous owners had named her, and who was I to change that? I stuck with her name, but sometime during my graduate school days… I ended up giving her a slight nickname. From time to time, I’d call her “Harma,” or sometimes “HarmaWarma.” It’s a thing I think most of us do with longer names of people we love – we come up with shorter, quicker versions so that we can start talking to them even faster.
Fast forward bit to 2007. When Liz and I decided to move in together, we had several tough decisions to make. One of them involved what to do with Harmony, given Liz’s allergies. We tried everything we could think of – different allergy medication, exposure treatment… we even tried having Liz go through immunotherapy shots. Sadly, none of it ended up working.
Liz’s allergies were such that, if I pet Harmony and went to see Liz and hour later… her face would break out into hives. Surprisingly, she’s ok with rabbits but cats tend to cause her asthma to flare up after an hour or so.
Giving Harmony away was a really tough thing to do, and I ended up emailing everyone I knew. I had a lot of responses and a few plans that fell through, and ended up posting about my dilemma on Twelvestone.
Luckily, things worked out for the best, and my friends Jeff and Michele were incredibly generous and offered to give Harmony a new home. Knowing she would be with good people put me at ease, and as an added bonus… she had the chance to become an outdoor cat again.
I had a really hard time yesterday morning, writing up a response on Twelvestone. I did it in short bursts, crying a little, trying to blow my nose quietly at work. I’m better today, but still feel that tug happening if I stop and stare at an old photo for too long. When I look into her eyes, it makes me want to reach into the computer monitor and stroke her head. It makes me well up a little right now, as I’m typing this. The more I’m staring at this photo of her, on my old computer, the harder it is to write.
When we lived together, I used to scoop her up and cradle her in my arms. I’d hold her in the nook of my left arm and she mostly put up with that. Somewhere along the way, I made up a tune that I would hum to her… whenever I’d hold her like this. I got it in my head that I’d sing this quiet song to her, and it would be something that would be imprinted. I wanted her to be able to recognize the tune (and in turn, recognize me).
One of the toughest moments I had, yesterday morning, was the realization that I would never be able to hum that tune to her again. For the past fifteen years, it’s a song only the two of us knew about. And as of yesterday morning, I was the only one on the planet who knew the song.
Though I said goodbye to Harmony many years ago, yesterday was a different kind of goodbye – one that, honestly, I hadn’t really even thought about or considered. The fact that she’s gone gone is something I’m still slowly getting used to. Hearing about her final moments made me wish I could have been there, but I’m immensely grateful both Jeff and Michele were there – at the end.
Here is one of my happy memories of Harmony. Back when I took her to Indianapolis for a week-long visit, she got to meet my niece Jasmine for the first time. Jasmine, in turn, got to meet a cat for the first time:
Harmony – you were a wonderful cat to know, and lived a very long, long life. I’m happy to have met you, and to have shared so many years together with you. I’m thankful Jeff and Michele got to know you, and were able to give you a loving home. More than anything, I’m happy you were able to become an outdoor cat again, in the last few years of your life.
My Cat Harmony Needs A New Home
Harmony the Cat: Closure
Harmony Gets a New Home
A Can of Tuna Fish
Weird Sleeping Habits
Lasagna and an Interview
Cat on a Monitor
Today Was Not a Day
Napping While Sitting Up
A Blog Without a Cat is Not a Blog