“Daddy, Ebenezer not sick anymore?” “No sweetie, he isn’t sick anymore.”
Ebenezer was more than just a pet cat. He was a symbol of my developing adult life. I got Ebenezer when I lived in Dallas. My Aunt Debbie and Uncle Rick knew of a neighbor who had a new litter of kittens. They knew just the animal lover that would make a good fit for one of them. I was a sucker for the little orange tom’s spunk and loud caterwauling.
That first week was a trying one, as all young animals prove to be to their human caretakers. One evening after work, he had managed to get himself completely wrapped up in small gauge solid-strand antenna wire. As I was carefully cutting him free of the snare, unwrapping the wire from his throat and body, I knew then that I loved him. I knew that he depended on me for his life and happiness. And I was glad then that I had this little creature to care for. It felt good to give joy, as well as shelter and sustenance.
In a sense, I feel Ebb was a good foreshadowing of my future family life. He gave me good training for what it means to be a dad: he was my first dependent mouth to feed.
He was also my first pal. He moved with me at least eight times (one of which was across multiple state lines!) between many apartments, townhouses, and houses. He successfully integrated well into an already bustling animal family when I married Sarah.
I nearly lost Ebb shortly after he and I made the long trek to Colorado. He was always fond of wandering outside, and I was a pushover for his pleading. One such night, while I tinkered in my workshop, I let him have a lay of the land. I heard a slow scuffle and came running out.
I found him, caught firmly between two young coyotes. One had his tale, the other his throat. I had interrupted the fight before major blood was spilled and lucky Ebenezer held onto a couple of his remaining lives. It was such a close call; he and I learned some lessons that night.
The origin of his name was simple. I had always liked it from the Dickens story. And when Ebb was just a kitten, it was hard to see how the name could possibly fit his personality. But over the years, as he became more cranky and less mobile, he seemed to settle into his namesake. Aunt Deb sometimes mistakenly called him “Nebuchadnezzar,” which is a greater name by syllables, but a lesser by Biblical standards 1. Iris, you can imagine, had a very hard time with his name and early on became content with the shortened “Ebby.” Later, she fancied his full stately name, and it had a sweet ring to it from her mouth.
As with so many things in my life now as a father, I can’t help but see the world through my kid’s eyes. And this event was certainly no different. As I came home from the vet, with an empty carrier under my arm, Iris greeted me at the door and immediately asked:
“Daddy, Ebenezer not sick anymore?”
It’s a funny thing to experience great sadness simultaneously with happiness. I smiled behind tears and said, “No sweetie, he isn’t sick anymore.” And because Iris doesn’t yet fully grasp the sorrow of loss, she was happy for me.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home. 2