Today’s post comes from Steve.
Timothy Gruncheon Grooms, born in a barn in Iowa, was adopted into my family in 1946. He was officially my sister’s cat and always seemed to understand that. Although she did things to him that were beneath the dignity of any cat, he slept each night in the crook of her arm.
Timmy was a fighter. My parents had never heard of a cat being confined, and they would have been appalled at the suggestion pets should be neutered. So Timmy was a free-range tomcat who roamed the neighborhood fighting with other cats and filling the world with orange and white tabby kittens. All the fighting he did caused Timmy to have a fat face because so much scar tissue built up on his cheeks. His ears were riddled with cuts and holes. I did witness one epic encounter in our backyard, Timmy relentlessly chasing another cat, and I was shocked by the violence of it all.
Timmy obviously lost some fights. Once he came home with a chunk of tissue the diameter of a nickel missing from his left cheek. Our vet gave us a spray to keep the wound clean, but our dog had a better idea. Danny, a sweet golden retriever, began following Timmy, licking that wound. Danny and Timmy never had physical contact before or after that incident, but Danny licked Timmy’s wounded cheek until fresh skin formed over the hole.
My sister bonded with Timmy as if he were her child. As I recently wrote, she dressed him in doll clothes, including a bonnet. She plopped him on his back in a baby stroller and went about the neighborhood with him that way. The set of Timmy’s ears were a clue to how he felt about this, but he accepted it all. When Nancy’s fascination with medical issues led her to subject Timmy to some treatments, including an enema administered by eyedropper, he put up with that, too.
Timmy was the most remarkable athlete I’ve ever known. Two stories established his legendary status.
Once our family was in the dining room watching television (eating Swanson’s TV dinners on our TV trays). A bat entered our home and began flying from room to room. Timmy was sitting on a braided rug in the middle of the dining room. As the bat wobbled through the dining room a second time, Timmy shot off the floor like a jack-in-the-box, snatching the bat midair. To my eye, Timmy’s leap took him five feet into the air, and it could have been higher. With the bat in his mouth, Timmy went to the back door and asked to be let out.
In our last home in Ames my mother kept her precious chinaware in a cabinet by the front door. Timmy’s way of letting us know he wanted to be let out was jumping to the top of that cabinet. One afternoon he did that, just as he had countless times before. Timmy, from the floor, could not see that my mother had filled the cabinet’s top with stacks of china. My mother screamed in terror when Timmy walked to the cabinet and launched his leap. Once he was in the air, Timmy saw the china and performed a desperate midair gymnastic maneuver. He managed to land with his four paws in the tiny openings between the stacks of teacups and plates. Standing there, Timmy was unable to move, and he let out a dismayed yowl so we could rush to his rescue.
By 1964 our family, Timmy included, was living in Wayzata, Minnesota. He acquired one annoying habit late in life, crawling around inside the family Christmas tree in the middle of the night, eating tinsel and knocking glass ornaments to the floor. Timmy still lived much of his life out of our sight, and he still got in fights. His health declined. My sister, who was then a student at the University of Minnesota, fell in love with a young man, and they soon got married.
In 1965 Timmy disappeared for four days. We feared we would never see our 19-year-old cat again, but at long last he dragged himself home in terrible shape. He clearly had lost a big fight. Stroking his scarred old head, my mother had a heart-to-heart talk with him. “Timmy, old guy, you have been Nancy’s baby all these years. She is now married and will soon have a baby of her own. You look like you’re at the end of the line, but I’m asking one last thing of you. Can you keep it together a few more months? Can you keep alive until Nancy’s new baby arrives?”
Nancy’s baby arrived in August. A few days later, Timmy died.
Timmy was a vivid character in our family life for nearly two decades. Have you ever had a pet with a distinctive personality?