It’s not a sign, it’s a coincidence!” this from an ex-boyfriend.” I hate when you start with that sign crap.” Yes, ex. Need I elaborate? And yes, I have always believed in “that sign crap.”
Omens, messages, synchronicity, Call them what you will; those guiding lights that appear at arbitrary times in the most common of places. To the rest of the world it may be something ordinary, barely noticed, if noticed at all. But to the one for whom it is meant, it illuminates and affirms the path.
I saw my first New York sign on the very first morning in Harrison. Fifteen years of settling for the San Jose Mercury News with my Sunday morning coffee left me ravenous for the Sunday Times. I bounded out of bed the next morning, intent on finding a deli where I could get the Times, a hard roll with poppy seeds, and coffee. Just the idea of once again having a NY corner deli made me giddy. I’d asked my brother the night before when he picked me up at the airport where I might find one and he’d said “probably on Halstead Avenue,” the main shopping street.
Jet lag or no, I was up bright and early the next morning and raring to go. Fremont was in the linen closet where he’d be hiding for a few more days until he realized this was his new home. I dug up the baggie full of kibble I’d packed in my suitcase, poured some in his bowl, then went off on my quest. I started the car, and headed off in what I hoped was the right direction.
I found Halstead, as well as a church, the post office, a car dealership, a drugstore, the VFW post, but no deli. There had to be a deli. Maybe that initial right turn I’d taken onto Halstead should have been a left. so I turned into a side street to make a U-turn. Of course I picked a one way street. I’d have to go around the block to get back to Halstead. I continued to the next corner where the street sign brought me to a complete jaw dropping stop.
Fremont Street. It was nothing out of the ordinary. People living there had most likely rendered it invisible to their consciousness. But for that one moment, for me, it was a sign. Everything was going to be alright. I had no job, no prospects, and no idea of when or where I’d find one, but I’d followed through on my long-held dream, pulled up all my California roots and moved back to New York. How could things not go my way?
The years brought success, adventures, many new friendships, and rekindling of old ones. Things couldn’t be better and then along came Spring 2004. While petting Niles, I felt a lump on his side. Both he and Fremont were due for their shots so I made a double appointment. The vet did a quick needle biopsy and thought it looked like Sarcoma. “It’s your decision,” he said “but this cat is only three years old. You can let it progress and see what happens or remove it and give him better odds. I’d remove it if he were mine.” While I was digesting all this, he examined Fremont and sighed as he felt his leg.
“Him too?” I cried. “Both of them?”
And so both Fremont and Niles underwent surgery and we entered into wait and see. I was terrified to pet either one of them for fear I’d feel a lump. And my fear was not unfounded in Fremont’s case. His lump reappeared with a vengeance. There was no need to feel it, It was apparent to the naked eye.
I think my mind became unhinged at this point for one Saturday morning in May, I set out on my morning run and came upon one of the ubiquitous yard sales that bloom every spring in Putnam Valley. This one had a second sign on the fence. Free Kitten to Good Home.I stopped and inquired of a small boy sitting on the stairs and was told the kitten was a female. “Oh, too bad,,” I said, “if it was a male I’d take it.”
Sunday morning, I took the same running route. Free Kitten to a Good home was still on the fence, and there standing in the yard was a little girl with the cutest bundle of striped orange.
“Is that the kitten in the sign?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said with the drama inherent in seven-year old girls.”I love this cat so much, but my mom says we have enough animals so I can’t keep him.
“Him?” I gasped. It was a sign!
But in this case it was a sign I should have passed right on by. I think my reasoning followed a line that having a kitten in the house to play with would bring new life to my boys. I say think, because I have no idea what the hell I was thinking. And so Dino became a resident of Fremont’s World. Unfortunately, Dino was a rough and tumble kind, let’s wrestle kind of guy,not what I had in mind, but I kept him. And a good thing I did for Dino turned out to be the crucial link in the Mars landing.
I do not want to dwell on a sad time so let’s just say Fremont’s lump returned. On July 30, 2004 Fremont left his world to Niles and Dino.
But the journey that began with the black and white cat who appeared out of nowhere in that parking lot eleven years prior, the one my brother, Jim, in his final days on the planet, may or may not have foreseen, had one more mysterious turn. I’d say it was a sign but it’s going on eight years now and I still don’t know what to make of it.
My first two cats, O.B. Brat and Joby Cat, as well as my brother’s, dog, Duke, are buried in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery I make it a point to plant flowers every summer and place wreathes every Christmas. Now I’d being decorating a third grave, Fremont’s. Straight from the vet’s I drove Fremont’s remains to Hartsdale. This is no simple case of dropping off the animal and being done. No, the staff affords you a chance for closure. You may come back for a very private good-bye and a respectful burial. I completed all the paperwork and scheduled a day to return
I had every intention of driving straight home but a few miles into the drive, I had an urge to visit my dad’s grave and tell him Fremont was gone. Now my brother, Jim is buried in the same cemetery not far from Daddy’s grave but it was Daddy I wanted to tell and so I stopped at the cemetery.
My usual routine is to park by Jim’s grave, perhaps out of habit since his death preceded my fathers, visit it first, then walk over to Daddy’s. But on this day I parked near my father’s, said what I had to say, and walked through a row of graves in the direction of Jim’s.
About halfway there, I looked down to my right and gasped at what was lying there. A stuffed animal. It was bedraggled and mud covered but here was no mistaking what it was. A black and white cat. Luckily there was no one around on this beautiful hot summer morning to hear me but I don’t think it would have mattered anyway. I scooped up the toy and ran the rest of the way sputtering aah, aah, aah. I held it out to Jim’s headstone, asking “did you do this? did you do this?”
Of course I got no answer. I visit that cemetery at least four times a year. I walk through the same row of graves. I see flags, flowers, Christmas ornaments, statues, but never a stuffed animal. Yes, maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe someone placed it there for some other departed soul. In that case I guess I should have just left it there. But I didn’t. I brought it home to Fremont’s World.