Gay Louie is beloved in our family. He is an old, curmudgeonly queen of the highest order. He is given to pouting, hissy fits, screaming when attention is diverted from him and withholding love and affection for days should the need arise. And he is on his way out. We will lose him soon and our hearts are breaking. In attempts to make him comfortable, we make special meals, sit together and retell family stories. We hug when he will allow. He is frail. He is tired. He is weak. He is a cat.
Seventeen, almost eighteen, years ago when Gay Louie became a part of our family, we knew of his preference and it made no never mind. In Minnesota, the land where obesity is genetic and homosexuality is a choice, we kept Louie’s business to ourselves. He, and we, were in the closet. For 17 years we lived in the tundra known as Land of 10,000 Lakes, most of them frozen. It took all those years to wrest The Norwegian’s frozen grip from the hinterland to Arizona. He was offered many jobs but how could we leave his family? How could we depart the only place he’d ever known? How could we venture forth? What if they aren’t like us? The argument replayed frequently; every winter as my lips turned blue and I wrapped myself in puffy coats and snow boots of all things. Unfortunately, there comes a time when warmth trounces fashion–it’s a matter of life and death. No worries dolls, there are no photos. I hail from Chicago, a land cold enough to feature beautiful coats, scarves and boots but not so cold as to interfere with making fashion statements of such things. I knew there was life outside the flat, desolate, frozen land and it’s collection of storied characters.
So storied are they that during the film Fargo I inquired as to whether The Norwegian was all right. “Why” he answered. “Because they’re making fun of your family and the way they talk,” said I. “No, they aren’t,” he answered, unaware of the existence of a Minnesota-North Dakota accent. I sat in a darkened theater knowing my escape was a never wish–the kind of thing you wish for deep down in your heart but know it is so improbable that it is a virtual never wish. Never wish for something you may never have. You will only become miserable. I accepted my fate–to love The Norwegian so deeply that my cross was to live in a land where Ya and You betcha became phrases that left my lips. We ate potatoes with every meal and thought fancy folk from the city are just kinda silly. We knew for sure those folks out in California smoke dope. You betcha. The things we do to fit in. But not Gay Louie.
Gay Louie cared not that the neighbors called him a homosexshall. Say it like that, letters all smooshed together and in a hushed tone. He wrapped himself around his friend Fred, spoon style, constantly, in front of company. He loved Fred truly, madly, deeply. We knew of Lou’s gentle soul, his love for all men, his charitable work, his inability to kill mice and his general lack of cerebral ability. We loved him anyway. That he was, and is, a proud gay man changed none of our feelings for him. Yes, when Lou joined our Minnesota family, we became positively progressive.
But now, Gay Louie is old. Very old. He is eighteen, grumpy and he hates the female cat living in our house, refuses to acknowledge her existence. So distraught was he when his beloved Fred went to the great beyond he never accepted the interloper. He makes no move at pretend patience. She enters a room, he leaves. Someone pets her. He tosses a disgusted look and leaves. Gay Louie has known nothing but tolerance and yet he possesses none of his own. He’s such a bitch.
He was very ill just before the Norwegian died. In the car on the way to Colorado, The Norwegian and I knew it would likely be his last summer. The Norwegian pretended to be deeply moved. He’s Norwegian–a cat’s a cat for God sake. Middle Chicken believes after The Norwegian’s death, Gay Louie’s miraculous return to vigor was due to the Norwegian’s arrival in heaven and pronouncement, “Oh hell no. She can’t lose me and the damn cat.”
Twice since, Gay Louie has sputtered and resurrected to full gay glory. He has even donned a glittery pink cape for parties. But now, I fear the end is near. He is bedraggled, losing weight, silent mew and slow moving. It was much worse when Baby Chicken left after Thanksgiving. He drew himself into a funk sad to witness. He didn’t eat for three days. He did not clean himself and demanded lifting onto his precious seating spots. He then took root on Baby Chicken’s bed and would only eat if fed by hand. I prayed to whatever to keep him alive until Baby Chicken arrived for holiday break. Two days before her promised arrival, he rallied again. She walked into her room, he perked up his head, gave a string of loud meows and bounded around for a couple of days. He is down again; losing weight, kind of rank and demanding to be lifted onto couch, bed and laps.
We wish for him nothing but kindness and acceptance on his journey. And no pain. And that Fred is waiting for him. And a glittery pink cape to announce his arrival.