FrankieMy cat, Frankie, died today. He was about 13 or so; probably 14. He was the latest in a continent-spanning dynasty of Frankies, named (if memory serves me well) after one of my grandmother’s early beaus. For many a year there’s been a Frankie in the Coffey household, terrorising pigeons (or in the New Zealand version, Kakapos and rabbits). I don’t remember my grandfather ever objecting to this naming scheme, although I do remember him putting the boot quite firmly to an earlier Frankie, when it had expressed its displeasure at being ousted from my grandfather’s favourite chair a little too forcefully.

The decease of a family member, furred or otherwise, is a slightly weird occasion. My mother went into overdrive, ensuring that Frankie passed on with dignity and in no minor luxury. He sort of stopped eating a while back, the response to which was to provide him with a bewildering array of foodstuffs, such that his slightest, most passing whim might find itself fulfilled on our kitchen floor. When last I went home, there were separate plates of poached fish, red meat, cream, beaten egg, dried biscuits and water on the floor opposite the oven. There can’t be many cats who spend their last days being fed tapas, but he was lacking only chorizo, to be frank (and he was).

A couple of weeks ago, convinced that Frankie was about to shuffle off, my mother spent the whole night on the sofa, keeping him company while he slept by the fireplace. Then last week, seized again by the conviction that tonight was the night, and aware that an early morning shift at the hospital awaited, mum wandered down the garden at 10pm to pick out and dig a small plot for the dear boy. Initially overcome by emotion, the inherent absurdity of the situation soon took hold, and thus the neighbours were treated to the sight of my mother cackling maniacally in the darkness while digging a child-sized grave next to the syringa. I’m sure they understood.

Anyway. Goodbye, Frankie, you grumpy old curmudgeon. May the pigeons be slow, and the roast dinners left unguarded. We’ll miss you.

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