By Katharine Lowrie
You just sorta put up with the ruckus
How we felt when Magneto left us, well, you cannot fathom our grief. So young, less than two years old, so full of promise, he was gone too soon. Granted, he could get on your nerves, especially his stepbrother Wai’s nerves. Wai (Hawaiian for “water”) tolerated him well enough-up until Magneto decided to torment the hell out of him in the late afternoons. The fights got so bad at times we had to hold our ears. Few had the gall to chastise the boys. Daddy Fred, who spoiled them rotten, wouldn’t hear of inhibiting exuberant youth.
But when Fred got sick with cancer, a funny thing happened. Both boys became extraordinarily protective-especially Magneto, a mischievous scamp no one had ever accused of being the least mature. Two weeks or so before Fred died, in fact, the two hardly left his side. They lay there on his rented hospital bed, cuddled up at his feet, two guardian angels: Magneto, a slinky coal-black cat, and Wai, his longhaired, gray-and-white stepbrother.
Keep the kids together
Fred’s dying wish, he told us many times, was that his kids be kept together. Both had been rescued from shelters and-despite their occasional differences-would be heartbroken without each other, he said. To be perfectly candid, the request made things a bit dicey. Neither Fred’s daughter nor his caregiver could adopt the two orphans. And few friends were prepared to take in two cats. Wai, so sweet-tempered and adorable, was no problem; Magneto, arrogant, anit-social and often destructive, was quite another. Take the hole in the screen.
Unlike Wai, imbued with the wisdom of middle age, adolescent Magneto was strictly an indoor cat. Apt to drag in live critters, he couldn’t be trusted outside. But just about the time Fred got sick, Magneto (sensing the worst, perhaps) decided to take a hike whether we liked it or not. He tore a hole in the screen door and disappeared into the foothills. The all-out search lasted into the wee hours, all of us frantic with worry. True to form Magneto strolled in when he damn well felt like it, around 3 a.m.
From then on he roamed at will and often. No one had the heart to stop him. Except when Fred got too sick from cancer to care about living anymore, both cats, as if attuned to mystic forces, ministered to their dear patient with licks and kisses and purrs. Just minutes before Fred died, however, Magneto and Wai scampered off to other parts of the house and stayed there. After three days or so, Magneto-alternately needy and aloof-walked through the hole in the screen and never came back.
He elected to vanish without a trace
Legend has it that cats often depart with a loved one. All we know is we searched for weeks, hung posters, called all over the neighborhood and waited, hoping someone would discover the phone number on the medallion dangling from Magneto’s collar. No one did. Aware he routinely wiggled out of his collar, we finally decided the kid had elected to vanish without a trace. Clearly morose and bewildered by the sudden loss of his entire family, Wai eventually relocated to the country home of one of Fred’s dearest friends.
We all share in Wai’s grief.