I met Mike through my cat. Of course. I had fallen in love with Ray from a picture on the FurryDance website. His name was Raisin, and I had just lost my old Burmese named Raisin, so I saw it as a sign. I filled out an application that would have gotten me into Harvard, had dozens of phone and email interviews with Teri, until finally she was reassured that I was the right person and agreed to send him to me, FedEx. I tracked Ray like a package as he flew all the way across the country to New York City.
Teri and Mike were living in Oregon then, and when I was out in the Northwest on business I made a detour to come see Ray’s “birth mother.” How would I recognize this woman I had only spoken to on the phone? Easy. She was sitting next to a vintage jag with a Cornish Rex on a leash. My kind of gal.
“I hope you don’t mind sharing a bed with 12 cats,” she said. To me, that was about the best offer I’d had in years. We drove to Teri’s little house where I got to meet the whole mishbucha. Ray’s mom, Bella. Teri’s very first Rex, Bo. Spot, Mike’s Turkish van. We talked endlessly about our cats. Is there anything more interesting? Then, when it was time to go to sleep, Teri insisted that I would be more comfortable in their bed and graciously took the hairball...I mean sofa...Mike said that he would sleep in the van because he was working the night shift and didn’t want to wake anyone when he came in.
Shall I underline this last sentence? That was my introduction to Mike.
Not long after, Teri and Mike packed up the cats and headed east, to just outside DC. This was great for me, because we could hook up at the cat show at Madison Square Garden, and I could act as tour guide during one of Teri’s shopping sprees at Christmas time. Now, being at a cat show with Mike was a special kind of treat. Sitting by the cages while he held court, patiently answering the same dumb questions over and over, pouring drinks, fetching hot dogs.
Away from the show ring we had some fabulous meals. Indian. Korean. Middle eastern. I loved showing Teri and Mike my favorite haunts because they got such a kick out of it, and I loved introducing them to my friends because we always had some off-the-wall conversation that sooner or later left everyone gasping for breath.
Yes, we had laughs. I remember Mike taking one look at Ray, the first time he came to my apartment in New York, and proclaiming, “He’s a horse!” This offended me mightily, which in turn delighted Mike. But when I decided on a whim to enter poor Ray in the Feline Agility competition at Madison Square Garden, Mike took me in hand, explaining everything—and tried his damnedest to keep a straight face while Ray sat in the middle of the ring and did NOTHING.
Lots of food, lots of laughs, what else is there? Well, there’s kindness, and integrity, and friendliness, and depth…
Right before I got that horrible shocking heart-breaking email, I had been thinking that I should get in touch with Teri and Mike and go down to Virginia and see them. They hadn’t come up to New York over the holidays, and the prospect of a house full of Rexes and two of my favorite people was tempting. And I was thinking then, too, how strange it is that you can have known someone for such a short time, and have seen them on so few occasions, and still feel such a real connection. It’s like what Spencer Tracy said about Katherine Hepburn in Pat and Mike: “Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce.”
Mike was a uniquely beautiful and dear person. I will miss him.