On Friday, “Grumpy Cat,” the internet sensation, died from complications of an infection. It made me think of this cat that I met in Ireland. These two cats might have been able to tolerate each other if they had ever met. It also made me think our grumpy cat.
The cat that I shared a house with while growing up was called Tippy. She was almost completely black except for her paws which were mostly white, and a face patch that was white leaving enough space for a dark black mustache. She moved in to our lives and took over when my parents lived in Germany. My mother found her clinging to the back screen door. Mom freed her and then fed her and Tippy assumed she had found an obedient servant, which she had. I was born into the house she ruled.
We got a dog when I was three. The puppy came bounding into the house. The cat swatted him on the nose instantly. The dog hid and the pattern was established. Tippy never walked, she always stalked. She never purred, she grumbled. Her tail never swayed, it always slashed. When I was little she seemed to get enjoyment out of riding in the car and was an occasional guest in our tips. One day, she was standing on the top of the back seat and my Dad had to slam on the brakes. Tippy reached out and grabbed my brother right behind the ear and nearly tore it off. We rushed to the doctor for the stitches to reattach it. He had that scar his whole life. It was Tippy’s last joy ride. All the rest were in a cage to go to the vet. Tippy had two rules: “Feed me on time,” and “Leave me alone.” We complied with her wishes.
When she died we all cried. We longed to have a better relationship with her, but were never able to break through to her. Her death meant our dreams died. We always hoped she would mellow with time and enjoy coming to sit by us on the couch. One time, we found her in the living room sitting right in the walkway. we thought this might be the moment. It was the winter and for several days we gathered in the living room around the mantle my father had made and the warm glow of a fire. There the cat sat in our midst. I got down on the ground to see if Tippy was in the petting mood (which she rarely was). I quietly laid down next to her. You had to approach her very slowly. As I lay on the ground I noticed it was very warm. I invited my Dad to come feel the floor. The hot water pipe had broken in the slab. Tippy was looking for warmth, but not from us.
Being grumpy is a path that many people take. They decide to complain and gripe and see the worst. They treat people with disdain and slowly over time that get more and more alone. Proverbs 29 tells us, “A fool lets it all hang out; a sage quietly mulls it over” (Pr. 29:11 Message). Grumpy cat could not help what her face looked like. We, however, get to choose our response to the world around us. Choose joy and thankfulness over grumpy.