Elegy for Agate (Has it really been four years?)

agate and me

Cats are hard to figure. They’re indifferent to humans, except when they’re not. They’re alternately fascinating and maddening. People who like cats really love them. People who dislike cats really hate them. I was in the indifferent (that word again) category on the matter for about 40 years, until one found its way into our house. My wife is a cat-lover so I became a cat-tolerator when we got our first one — Agate — in the spring of 1998, a few months after our marriage in 1997. When Agate passed away in September of 2013, I found out I was a cat lover all along.

I wrote this upon Agate’s passing four years ago. It seems like so much longer.

Agate Papandrea Taylor of Burlington died peacefully Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 10, 2013) at Plaza Veterinary Hospital after a period of declining health. She was 15.

A native of Jacksonville, N.C., she was a brown tabby and the daughter of the late so-called “Mama Kitty,” also of Jacksonville. She was born in the spring of 1998 at 704 Bell Fork Road and was believed to be the smallest of her eight to 10 siblings who made their early home in the parking lot of the Daily News of Jacksonville.

Agate was spared a harsh life of avoiding careless drivers and finding sustenance from the fast food leftovers of newspaper employees when she was adopted by Roselee Papandrea Taylor and Madison Taylor, themselves newlyweds. She was the first of her siblings captured in a program developed to save and move this particular colony of cats out of the parking lot and into quality homes. Agate exposed her lifelong interest in consuming tuna by gleefully walking into a cat trap and consuming the bait with vigor, completely unaware that the door had closed behind her.

She remained a fan of tuna until her final days. She also remained blissfully unaware of most obvious things as well.

Upon completion of her adoption in the summer of 1998, she moved to Cape Carteret where she was given the unusual name “Agate” as a nod to her newspaper roots and because, like the type used for sports box scores or stock exchange listings, she was small and difficult to read. She more than lived up to this name all of her life, even though she had many aliases including “Baby,” “Boo,” “Boobie,” Bo Peep,” “Bink,” “Stinky,” “Stinky-Binky” “Linky-Lou” and anything else Roselee could think to call her.

After a short but trying adjustment period to her new and posh surroundings, Agate was nurtured and tamed by her adopted mom. They enjoyed a special and loving relationship for the next 15 years — Roselee providing food, health care, a daily brushing, loving words, hugs and clean toilet facilities while Agate, in return, pretty much did as she damn well pleased.

A minor nuisance from birth, Agate developed into a real pain in the ass in her formative years. At different times she tormented her adoptive dad by swinging from lamp shades, breaking a porcelain antique lamp, interrupting his pizza consumption and bringing live mice into the house. Each time he forgave those transgressions when Agate would climb onto his lap and begin to purr.

Agate worried Roselee and Madison during her first four or five years by disappearing for a day or two at a time then returning as if nothing happened. It is still not known where she went during those periods. She was also known to occasionally race up a huge pine tree in the front yard and reach a height so far from the ground she became afraid to move and would then meow for hours before eventually crawling down. Eventually, Madison ended this practice by having the tree removed.

She was a constant companion for Madison on the front porch where he used to go and light up a cigarette in the days when he still did such things. She seemed to enjoy second-hand smoke. On one occasion, she brought a live bird to the front porch and dumped it at Madison’s feet. When the bird flew away, Agate seemed shocked by this development.

In 2007, after surviving five hurricanes, Agate moved with the Papandrea-Taylors to a new home in Burlington. It was a difficult adjustment but Agate soon found her groove and developed into a pain in the ass worthy of professional status. She frequently jumped the large privacy fence in the back yard and would spend hours in the woods before returning at odd hours. She also developed an irritating habit of meowing incessantly and usually for no reason at all. She was especially adept at doing so at 4 a.m.

Agate never worked a day in her life, slept like a teenager, hated all music and lived in mortal terror of the vacuum cleaner and lawnmower until she became deaf in her final few months. She was a holistic healer who could make human beings feel better just by sitting upon them. She ate kibble with her paw. She usually refrained from playing with cat toys, but did enjoy batting around plastic mice as if they were hockey pucks. Roselee and Madison will likely find those in dark or covered corners of their home for the next few years. She didn’t care much for strangers but grew friendlier to house guests in her declining years.

She was known above all for having a sweet disposition and enjoying the company of Roselee and Madison.

She was a member of no known civic or fraternal organizations and eschewed public education for home schooling. Her hobbies included eating tuna and making sure no one in the house got more sleep than she did. She also enjoyed first sitting on Roselee’s lap, then moving to Madison’s lap before going to Roselee’s lap again. She could go back and forth like this for hours.

Survivors include her adoptive parents of the home who will miss her terribly.

A private celebration of Agate’s life will be held.

In lieu of memorials, the family requests that folks be kind to animals, even when they’re a pain in the … well, you know where.

RIP Agate. You were a damned good cat.

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