The Simple History of Mario

IMG_0492I’ve gotten quite a few emails about Mario. People want to know where she came from? Why is she so important to me? Why does she have a boy’s name?

When things started to collapse for me I was walking home from work one day. I found this little kitten stuck in a chain link fence. I could tell the poor thing had tried to move through it, gotten stuck, had been there long enough for a pile of poo to amass behind her. The cat had probably been eating whatever it could find crawling by its path to keep it fed. So, I knelt down, pulled a wine key out of my back pocket (I was a server, remember?) and twisted this way and that to loosen the chain link and let the cat free. I patted it on the head and said, “There you go, little one. Take care,” but that little kitten followed me. “No, you need to go chase mice and……”

No, the little bugger found its way to my front door. I called a friend and said, “So, I saved this kitten and it followed me home. It’s just a kitten. I mean, maybe 8 or 9 weeks old.” He said promptly, “Keep it! That cat trusts you. He’s being loyal. He knows you’re good. And he wants to help you the same way you helped him. He will always be by your side. No matter what. Name him Mario.”

“Why Mario?”
“Why not?”

I let the kitten in and said, “Your name is Mario. We’ll get you a cat box and food tomorrow. I’m off to bed.” It plopped under the covers with me, in the crook of my knees.

It was six months later that the little kitten was rolling around on the ground with belly up that I realized Mario was actually a Maria. But, the name had stuck and I never stopped calling her that. She answers to it. She responds to it no differently than had her name been Charlotte.

Then things took a turn for the worst. I was vacating my apartment and I was going to be homeless. I had a duffel bag filled with my clothes and a back pack that had my laptop and some other personal things. I had resigned myself to knowing that cat would be fine without me.  She’d find a way to survive. She seemed like a survivor.

And just before I left that apartment I stared into those big golden eyes and realized what my friend had meant. She was going to be loyal. She was going to save me. You see, I snagged that little cat and stuffed her in my duffel bag and went on into my uncertain future. But, there was a lesson learned. You NEVER hit rock bottom, when something relies on you. You always find a way to prevail when there is a mouth to feed. And you NEVER EVER feel like you’ve lost everything when you have something to hold, to comfort, to shift your sadness from yourself.

That little cat and I went through hell. People telling me they wouldn’t take me in because I had a cat, and I would refuse. People telling me to give her up, because she’d be better off in a shelter. I telling them that was going to be the last conversation we ever had.

And when we lived alone in the woods, we protected each other. She killed rats and snakes. I gathered pennies to be able to buy cat food for her. She was companionship in the woods. No voices around. No people. She was all I had to talk to. To spend a Christmas with. To fight off loneliness. She clung back when I cried in fear and worry.

We became a team. She reminded me of how strong I needed to become in order to feed not just me…..but, her, too. It would be ok in some way if I fell through the cracks and disappeared, but no……I had something that counted on me every day. Not just for food, but for compassion. For companionship.

It has been a few years now and we’re doing so much better than we were when we were homeless and she was tucked in a duffel bag….and that little cat is still the thing I can’t stand to be away from. We stay out of each other’s way when we need to, and cling to each other when it’s necessary. Had I lost that little cat, or given her up, I would have admitted to losing everything, for which I was not prepared to do in my darkest of moments. I had her. I still had something. I had nothing and no one…..but a simple little cat proving its loyalty.

So that’s the simple version of how Mario came into my life and why she means so much to me. Had I lost her? I really would have lost everything.

IMG_0250It’s a touch before 11pm in Central Florida. Got a roof over my head these days. I got a bite to eat. I got my yarn and my little cat……

I have everything.

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23 comments

  1. Thank you so much Greg for this beautiful, luminous story that made me cry.
    My dog, a gorgeous rescue who was abused before I got her, saved me, too. She has been with me for the past 3 years, though not in situations as difficult as yours, but all the same, she has kept me going through rough patches and I cannot contemplate being without her.
    Animals are angles, spirits watching over us as we watch over them.

    Thank you for your blog. It is one of my favorites. I have bought your patterns and am looking forward to try them.
    Wishing you light and love and warmth and safety.

  2. That is so beautiful and touching. I have felt dispair lately, but my 3 cats have given me love and companionship when I dearly needed it. I can’t imagine all you have gone through. You are such a strong, loving person to have come so far. Hugs to you and Mario!

  3. Cats have the ability to tell when you are at your lowest. They climb into your lap, look deep into your eyes and let you know that it will be ok and life looks much better after some mutual loving. “So please scratch my chin and I will help you to start to feel better.”

  4. Dear Gregory

    I’m sobbing into my keyboard now. We lost our cat recently after many years of companionship. Your devotion has made me realise that I am not silly to still be grieving, but acknowledging all that time we spent together, all those conversations between pet and human which are so hard to explain to anyone else but which are, nevertheless, real.

    Thank you for this

  5. Wow Gregory, What a story of you and Mario. Tears in my eyes. I was homeless on the streets of Phoenix 20 years ago. It was the hardest time of my life. When I arrived in Michigan I had the clothes on my back, my Bible and my prayer book and one red cent I found on the bathroom floor of the greyhound bus station. Years have passed and I have struggled. I am planning on returning to Phx within a few months with my faithful sheltie. Everyone asks how old he is. I always say 5 but in reality that was years ago. We will drive the 94 Chevy Van cuz I don’t know how he would handle flying. People say what if yur transmission blows that’s 3000 dollars. I simply said, “Then, I guess that’s where Shoe Shine Boy (Shoe for short) and I will settle.” Yur story made me cry, as I too remembered many lonely homeless nights not knowing where my next crust of bread was coming from. Hugs, Tobias…Frankenmuth Michigan

  6. {tight hugs for both of you, if either of you want them}

    I’m SO glad you found each other, and stayed with each other. One of my cats kept me from losing myself, in just that same way, that responsibility for someone else who counts on us. He’s gone now, but I still miss him like I will never miss another cat, even though I will have cats until I move into an old folks home, many years from now. May you both have many more good years together.

  7. What a beautiful story. We all have to have something to keep us from completely losing it. When I divorced my ex, it was my daughter that kept me going. I knew she needed me to take care of her, even if I didn’t take care of myself. When my husband died in December, it was my faith and my children that kept me going. I went through some very, very dark days and my faith and my children kept me from falling off the cliff. I am so glad that you had little Mario to help you. She’s just repaying what you did for her. She may have died if you hadn’t saved her. HUGS

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