SpeakEasy

Missing Tang, Our Therapy Cat

By CYNTHIA INMAN GRAHAM | Oct 16, 2019

In 2008 I wrote a few stories that were published in The SandPaper. The stories recounted the adventures of our “new” cat, Orange Tang Lorenzi, and readers often asked me when I was going to write another. His previous owner, Michael Lorenzi, a much-loved teacher at Southern Regional and a business owner on LBI, had passed away in July of that year, leaving Tang to be adopted. We were lucky enough to spend the next 11 years watching him thrive on North Union Street in Manahawkin. As a neighbor told me, “It was his ’hood.”

Tang left us on Sept. 9. Here is his obituary.

Tang spent part of his last night lying in the bathtub. It broke my heart. I was used to him hopping up on the side, his toe pads balanced on the bathmat curved over the porcelain. He would lean toward the dripping faucet, pink tongue extended to catch the drops. He taught me this was good water, infused with more oxygen, better than the regular water in his many bowls throughout the house. But that night he lacked the strength to balance, so he stayed in the tub and rested before he was able to get out and lie on the hall rug a few feet away.

It had been a hard week for both of us. For him because he was dying. For me because I was watching him.Tang did not have the spirit of a house cat; he longed to be outside in wind and sun. He came to us a 4-year old and for 11 years he walked our neighborhood, checking for chipmunks near the foundation of our neighbor’s Victorian home. We woke in the morning to find their bodies, soft brown apostrophes, on the piece of slate at the bottom of our back step.

Around 8 a.m. and then again around 5 he crossed North Union Street to meet Bob, walking to or coming home from work. Often Bob or his wife, Christine, walked Tang safely home. Bob called Tang his “therapist” and never complained about Tang using a spot in his yard as a litter pan.

An indoor litter pan had no place in Tang’s life. His first owner, Michael, left his back door open for Tang to come and go, so soil served as his toilet of choice. Never deterred by snowstorms and hurricanes, he wanted out. Back inside we dried him with his own dragon towel I purchased in Chinatown.

Early each morning he greeted me with loud meows, requesting food and answering my questions about how his night had gone. Satisfied, he and I walked the backyard as I pulled weeds or checked on the growth of the trumpet vine and lilies. In younger years he scampered up trees, glaring down at me in triumph. And a few times he walked out on a limb to get to the very peak of the neighbor’s garage and looked down on his world.

We talked, Tang and I, as if in conversation, as I raked leaves in fall or shoveled snow in winter. This past summer, our daily walk concluded when Tang nestled in his catnip plant, stretched out on top of the leaves, and nibbled the fragrant tips. Our neighbor, Cindy, gave him his first catnip plant. She knelt in our garden, dug the hole, and brought a plant from her own garden.

When Don and I traveled, Tang was a problem. We couldn’t leave him in the house and we wouldn’t leave him out in case of storms. Don’s sister, Mary, came to spend nights and feed him Fancy Feast and baby food. In nice weather neighbors kept a check and provided snacks and in bad weather opened the door for him. Francisco, who lived a few blocks away, often dropped by to visit and make sure all was well. It was Francisco who dug Tang’s grave.

Never a lap cat, Tang’s eyes lit up when Don stretched out on the living room rug to ease his aching back. Tang climbed on his chest, burrowing his face in Don’s white beard. Claws slightly extended, Tang began the rhythmic “kneading bread” of contentment.

The backyard has been empty for more than a week now, no flash of orange and white. When the rain began in the dark of early morning, I didn’t jump out of bed and rush to the back door as I have for years to let him in. I am sleeping better without the worry of his comfort. But I miss the glint of his eye and the heaviness of his body on my shoulder when he allowed me to hold him for a moment, his deep purr vibrating on my ear lobe.

Cynthia Inman Graham lives in Manahawkin.

 

 

 

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