This is my very first photograph of Francesca Marie (Frances, for short) , not long after I unknowingly adopted her in 2002. I was a student at Western Michigan University. She was three years old and just about the heftiest I'd ever seen. I hadn't wanted a cat. My previous experience with two cats in another apartment hadn't gone so well and at the time I was highly conscious of my security deposit. My girlfriend at the time had talked me into it, saying that I was just babysitting her for a few months while Frances's mother moved to New Orleans for Law School. Eventually she'd return for her. But in the meantime, France's experiences with previous owners were short lived. A highlight being a former drug dealer who used to lock her in a Tupperware tote and blow weed smoke at her face through a hose. Not wanting the poor, defenseless cat to end up in a similar situation I agreed to keeping her for a few months.
Truth be told, I almost didn't keep her. The first two nights I had her she spent the entire time meowing and pawing at doors, trying to find a way out. I got a collective three hours of sleep over several days and left several message with my girlfriend to please help me find another temporary home for this cat.
Thankfully she didn't call me back.
It took a bit of time, but Franny eventually settled in with my roommate, Nate, and I.
A fascinating thing about her was that she always had to have her paws hanging over edges. I never understood why. Whether she was lying on the couch, a bed, or even one of my college textbooks, one paw was always hanging down.
It didn't take long for her to start getting a bevy of nicknames. Fran, Franny, Franny Fatty Fat Fat, and Triple Chunk were favorites. Sweet Pea developed somewhere in there.
Somewhere in 2002 I got my first digital camera. The first two pictures taken with it were of her. The first one, Frances walking away from the food dish made me think the camera was broken. Or she was possessed by a demon. I really didn't know enough about cats and digital cameras at the time to draw a conclusion with any degree of certainty.
She was always a wonderful cat. Lazy, aloof, quirky, and beautiful.
The few months I was meant to keep Fran slipped into a few months more. And then a year or so. By the time we concluded nobody was ever coming back for her, I'd have killed them if they tried.
Between Nate and I, Nate was more of the alpha in the apartment and she took to him a little quicker than me...
...Which made me incredibly jealous. Thankfully I discovered that her nuzzling into people's heads was entirely a hair fetish. Franny loved to use heads as pillows and I never understood why.
It was the hair. She loved nuzzling into people's hair. At least I still tell myself this.
Along came Fe. One summer Nate was away for a month and a coworker, Malissa, talked me into adopting a kitten from her litter. Avid fans of Cowboy Bebop, I named her Fe and gave her to Nate as a gift.
Franny was less than thrilled with a kitten in the apartment and took to hiding in places where she couldn't be reached.
It didn't help that Fe brought with her an eye infection that led Franny to several visits with the local vet. Along with fleas.
Fe also started eating from Franny's food dish, which was met with disagreeable glares.
Eventually they became buds.
Franny never did warm up to the helicopter. To be fair, they only knew each other for an afternoon before it crashed into a wall. If she could've, I'm sure she'd have taken credit for its death. While it lied their, propeller twitching, she slowly crept up and bat at it.
Franny's one and only trick, I was told when I adopted her, was "cat yoga." I by no means ever made enough videos of her stretching like this. For years she'd flop in front of me, roll over and put her paws out, waiting for me to help give her a stretch.
Here's a fun tip for cats in summer. I learned this from a local blogger, Kendra, who swapped cat stories with me. Keep a wash cloth or hand towel in your freezer. On a hot day, if your cat is trying to cool off, drape it over your cat. (Or your own shaved head, although this doesn't aid the cat).
A freezer blanket creates instant purring. Especially in Franny.
Seriously. She always had to have a paw hanging down.
In 2008, I decided I wasn't getting anywhere trying to make a living in Kalamazoo. Forever broke and after bombing about a million attempts at finding better work, I decided to return to school and explore other fields. It was hard to separate Franny and Fe, and Nate and Franny, but she was coming with me at costs. So I moved back into my mom's house in Grosse Pointe, where three other cats and a dog were living. I was nervious Franny wouldn't get along with the other pets, but was greatly mistaken.
Beagle had a habit of randomly attacking everyone and everything. Surprisingly he and Franny took to each other pretty fast. Probably because they were both enormous and their eyes glow in pictures.
The first time Franny saw Clohe (the typo is intentional. That's how they misspelled her name on her dog tag at the pet store), she discovered two things. One, there are dogs in the world. Two, attempting to run away on wooden floors doesn't always work out for cats. She ran in place for several seconds before colliding into a kitchn cupboard. Thankfully it didn't take her long to adjust. These piles of Franny, Harper, and Clohe, along with other pets, weren't unusual.
But she still had to get away from everyone sometimes.
This isn't a hot day, but Franny requesting cat yoga.
When I published Siren Night in 2010, I really had no idea how to sell books on the Kindle. Many people would probably point out that I still don't. If there was ever a pair of eyes that could help though...
If you scroll back up to my college WMU pictures, you can see this same crappy shelf in my old apartment. One of Franny's favorite spots was the bottom shelf. No matter where I moved, she was always home when she could sleep there.
Actually Franny was at home pretty much anywhere she found herself.
And she grew incredibly used to Clohe.
And me. I assume. I hope. I'd had her for a decade at this point.
Franny and Beagle took to filling up my bed, pretty much all day. They'd lie together like this constantly.
But whenever I got in bed she'd still curl up near me. Over the years it was always by my feet. She actually always had a habit of lying just out of reach, where nobody could pet her. One night I started picking her up and placing her by my head. It took a couple of months, but eventually she figured out that I could give her yoga if she slept near my face.
This was incredibly cute, and I wrote about it in a previous blog. But this also gave me pink eye. If I teach all of you one thing in this world, let it be that cats shouldn't stick their paws on your eyeballs.
My love, my muse, Crissy, kept telling me how amazing Sobakawa pillows were. And they are. They're like beanbags for your face. I bought one mostly just to impress Crissy, but Franny took to it almost immediately. The sobakawa became her bed.
Although she still hung out with the other cats at the foot of the bed. She was no snob.
In the summer of 2014 I noticed that Franny had been throwing up pretty often. This wasn't actually too new of an issue. For as long as I've had her, she'd always been a pukey cat. She'd eat too fast. She'd fling her food out of her bowl and eat it off the floor (Scroll back up to the picture of Fe eating out of Franny's food dish. Notice the mess). Throwing up was pretty much a hobby of hers.
But for the most part, she was herself. So initially I didn't worry too much about it. She was lying on all the furniture and purring constantly. And I supposed she was a little older than usual, so puking a bit more might be natural for her.
Finally I took her to the vet for a check up. They didn't notice anything initially wrong. She was at a healthy weight. They told me I was probably right and she was probably just a little older and needed to slow down when she ate. They gave her a shot for her nausea to see if it would help.
It didn't and we were back at the vet a week later. They took x-rays and discovered two things. One, her intestines were inflamed. And two, she had an enormous tumor in her chest. Three different vets told me the tumor was in an unusual location (most tumors grow on the left lung. Hers was on the right). Also, it was surprisingly large for a tumor in a cat. All three of them said that at her age, or even if she was a kitten, trying to remove the tumor would destroy her quality of life and the chances of her making a full recovery were pretty much none. Also her tumor was probably secondary to lymphoma, so even if we removed it she'd still have the disease. There was nothing to be done but keep her as happy and comfortable as I could for as long as possible.
My mom blamed her previous caretaker, the guy who blew weed smoke through a hose at her while she was locked in a tote. I blamed myself for not catching it sooner. And for being a smoker for the first few years I had her. I'd quit smoking years before, but was it my fault? Did I do this to her? The vet told me she was a senior citizen and cats her age get tumors. I was reassured by a couple of my brothers, but a lung tumor kept the thought in my head.
For the most part she still seemed happy. I promised to keep her that way for as long as I could.
Vet visits were frequent enough that she felt comfortable sleeping in her carrier all day.
But she was still very much herself, hanging out with the other cats. She wouldn't play as much as she used to. And when she did she'd start having coughing fits.
She'd started coughing after I gave her yoga too. That never stopped her from requesting it though.
Franny had curled up in bed with me every night for years. She was always at my side, purring away.
I panicked whenever she'd stop eating or start puking again. The vet gave her steroid injections every few weeks and they did the trick to keep her going. The first time she ate after getting one, I'd always break down and cry a little. I got my Franny for a little bit longer. I was going to the grocery store multiple times a week to buy cans of food. She'd only ever eat part of them, but I'd give her a fresh can every time. It was all I could do. Keep her eating and keep her going.
Every night when I'd get home from school or one of my jobs, she'd be waiting at the top of the stairs. I fed her in the bathroom right behind her. If I started walking up and she darted for the bathroom, I knew she'd be okay a little longer. If she didn't, I knew we'd be taking another trip to the vet.
I spoiled her at Christmas. All the cats really, but I wanted to make sure she had plenty of new toys. She didn't play with them much but would lie by them and purr. It was enough to be near them.
I don't know what compelled me. Pictures of my girlfriend's ferrets all snuggled up in their extra soft blankets, I suppose. Shortly after the holidays I went out and bought a micro fiber blanket to make sure Franny had that extra bit of comfort.
Crissy took an old picture of Franny and had this beautiful and hilarious painting made of her. I currently don't know the artist, but when I find out I'll post his name. I love how he captured her fur and fat rolls from when she was a little bigger.
She stayed close to me every day. Whenever I wasn't home, I'd start to panic and worry that she wasn't all right.
This is the last picture I ever took of Franny. I was sending Crissy pictures of the painting, trying to decide on which wall I should hang it on. I made some lame comment about how the painting dwarfed her when she used to be such an enormous cat.
One night a few weeks ago, I was at my brother's apartment, meeting some cats he recently adopted. My mom called, saying that Franny couldn't walk and I had to get home as quickly as possible. I heard Franny meowing and screaming in the background. I panicked. I was nearly an hour away and Mike had to drive me home. I knew it was time. I knew immediately that I wouldn't be given another night with her purring at my side while I was drifting off to sleep.
When we got home, Mom was trying to calm Franny but she didn't really settle until I picked her up. She couldn't walk and was furious for it. She kept attempting and flopping over, frustrated. As I held her, she nuzzled her face into the pit of my elbow. She quieted down and let me pet her. At least for the most part.
A few times she tried to get up and panicked. She bit my hand a few times before I got her to settle down again.
I wrapped her up in a towel and Mom drove us to the vet. They gave her an examination and clipped one of her claws on her hind leg. No blood came out of the vein there. They took her temperature and she was ten degrees cooler than she should've been. I pet Franny and rubbed her ears, and then we said our good-byes. She passed away resting her head in my hand her little paw wrapped over my wrist. We watched each other as the doctor gave her an injection. She passed quietly and peacefully, and I kissed her on the forehead one last time before they took her away.
Beagle spent several days curled up by her Sobakawa pillow. He got up to eat a few times, but wouldn't purr when I pet him. The other two cats, Polaris and Harper, paced around the house, howling. Our dog, Shadow, hopped up in bed with me; something he'd never do on account of all the cats on my bed.
On my pinky, I have a scar from my childhood cat, Mack. I thought it fitting that Franny had punctured that same hand when she bit me, but I doubted any of her bites were deep enough to scar. So while driving around, and stopping twice to let myself fall apart, I had three of her bite marks tattooed. Three little freckles for my Triple Chunk. Two are different shades of gray for her stripes. The third is green for her eyes.
I received her ashes and have them over my desk. Right behind that plastic effigy Crissy made (which like the painting was overwhelmingly moving). Near enough that she still feels close. When I get in bed at night I'm still fluffing the sobakawa pillow for her. And when I wake up it takes me a minute to adjust to her not being on it. I know this will get easier with time, and I was hoping that writing this out and chronicling her life would help. I'm kind of a train wreck without that furry little presence at my side. I gave her the best life I could, and all these years later still regret making that phone call after my first day with her. The truth is that every day I had Franny was a gift. She was a wonderful cat, truly one of a kind. I love her and although I certainly don't understand enough about life to speak about this world or the next, if we ever do get to meet again, the chance to rub her ear, give her yoga, and listen to her purr... That would mean the world.
Until we meet again, Franny.
Sleep well, kitty.