My mom called this morning with the sad news that Caesar the Cat had passed away. He was 21 years old; his kidneys were failing, and he had to be put down.
The gravity of that didn't really hit me until after I got off the phone. It was the loss of a family member, and while it was certainly expected, I found myself caught unprepared.
Caesar came home as a kitten the summer before my sophomore year of college; he was, in some ways, my replacement at home. A flufy Persian, He came to rule the street my parents lived on, defending his turf from larger, less furry cats ferociously. Even just last summer, he persued an interloper into the street and tore into him.
Caesar came and went pretty much at will; my father would banish him from the house at night lest he awake my parents at 4 am to go out. He was alternatingly sweet and sadistic, climbing up on laps for petting and purring loudly when he recieved attention, but dispensing swats when his mood changed. He coexisted with two dogs over his lifetime, and made sure they knew their place in the pecking order–below him.
When I came home from college, or the Navy, or later in life with my family in tow, he always let me know that he recognized me, and lavished his royal attention on me. He set the bar for every other cat I have shared a home with.
My mom said the house felt strangely empty without him. It's no surprise; he had such a larger-than-life presence. He was housecat sized, but he had the bearing of a lion.