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Our cat Martin, as the Matias family and friends called him, was always all smiles whenever someone mentioned his name, “Meerteen” or summoned him to come closer for a hug. My older sister Sharon Kubets gave him his name to honor an artist and a relative known in the community for being a nice, hospitable and animal-loving gentleman. Standing at 7 inches, our Darling of the House, a yellow tabby, originated from a far-flung barrio in our municipality of Claveria, Masbate – Barangay Nonoc, where he previously resided under the loving supervision and caring affection of my deceased grandaunt, who, just like I, was fond of cats. At Nonoc, grandaunt treated him like a true family member, provided with excellent cat food, and taught with acceptable manners. It was my grandaunt’s son in Nonoc, Uncle Johnny, who started the practice of letting Martin slept beside him or in his stomach during sleep time in the afternoon, evening or at any time of the day. My cousin M persuaded grandaunt to have Martin transported on a motorboat to the town center for adoption at the Matias family.
Young Martin had had a difficulty of adopting to his new home. Naturally outgoing, he brought with him his usual habit of sleeping with his masters; thus, he started to sleep at night at the same bed beside my sister Sharon Kubets, who until then disliked cats’ smell. Soon, he was able to win Kubets’ heart, my dad’s, mom’s, and ultimately everyone’s in the house, which means he had experienced sleeping beside almost everyone at home. Unlike other cats in the neighborhood, Martin was exceptionally sweet. Every morning or afternoon when my father played cards with buddies, Martin silently entered the scene, and without any prior warning, lay on my father’s lap to rest and later on, sleep. Or when his spirits were high, he jumped into the playing table, moved the deck of cards, checked opponents’ arrangement of cards, patiently watched players’ clever movements, and slept.
Many years had passed since Martin left to rejoin his Creator, yet his memories are still fresh in my mind. During semestral breaks in college, I customarily went home in Masbate to refresh my tired mind, breath fresh air, and bond with Martin. As I was greatly interested in learning and studying the Spanish language, my country’s former national language, I tried communicating with Martin in broken Spanish, beginning from common daily expressions like “Como Estas?”, “Buenos Dias”, “Bien”, and “gracias” to more complicated sentence constructions such as “De donde eres?” or “Cuantos Años tienes?” For every Spanish expression I uttered, I could sense Martin’s deep appreciation as he tried to repeat everything I said. Only that every word he said sounds very monosyllabic, as evidenced by his usual “Meow”. When he is no longer interested to listen, he just slept on my lap.
I guess Martin’s most endearing influence in my life was his ability to make me smile during the most difficult moments of my life. When I was still schooling from high school to college, our family was inefficiently ruled by my mother and my oldest sister Tsar. I have nothing against matriarchal rule, but to be subjected to degrading, dehumanizing and alienating treatment is not only unfortunate but downright despicable. I remember my mother sternly castigating me and expressly prohibiting me from socializing and befriending with my childhood male friends because she wanted me to be more effeminate than masculine. In her estimation, I must become a she-male, whatever objections I might have. My fascist oldest sister was even worse than my mother. Lacking understanding of humanity and easily angered by small problems, my insensitive oldest sister is the bossiest and most un-friendliest person I’ve met and seen in my entire life. I could not concentrate on my college studies back then because when she and I gathered at the boarding house after a day of school and work, she spent all time threatening, intimidating, and harassing me with her usual invectives and unkind utterances, even if I did no wrong at all. In her eyes, I was and still, is a slave that must obey her orders without any complaints, resistance, objections or oppositions for the simple reason that she is the oldest among us, her siblings. I still remember the time when she forced me to starve and humiliated me before public eyes and the coarse words she said urging me to sleep in the streets or go anywhere so that her eyes will be free of parasites like me. In school, pupils were taught that when one helps another, his/her act of helping must come from the heart and should not expect something in return of what he/she gave.
Unfortunately, for my oldest sister, helping others meant something in exchange or if none is exchanged, those who asked for help deserved invectives, rough treatment and all forms of harm. In fact, my brothers and other sisters, who experienced the same rough treatment, defied and rebelled from my mother and oldest sister’s undemocratic rule; it was only me who was so subservient for fear of not finishing my studies. As a result, I was heavily victimized of their severely-damaging reign. I almost quit college just to stay away from my oldest sister’s excesses and abusive behavior. I was glad Martin was there to cheer me up, look forward to a good future and lighten up my spirits. Martin represented a relief, a break, a sunshine after a heavy storm, and a diversion from those battering and debilitating abuses inflicted on me by my mother and oldest sister. Martin temporarily redeemed my tarnished soul, even though technically speaking he is an animal, a grinning cat who loved to sleep on my lap. Martin was indeed a gift from God for without him, I may have stopped college or committed suicide because of severe emotional pain, psychological trauma and maltreatment I got from my mom and my oldest sister. He was an angel friend sent from above, who provided me comfort at my most difficult times and lent his little shoulders when I badly needed refuge.
Martin, wherever you are today, you will always remain in our heart. Thank you for the love, affection, laughter, and everything you gave me, Kubets and the Matias family. We will always remember your broad smiles, and cherish the moments we shared together. Personally, I would to thank you for being my forever-sweet and smiling feline angel. — From your Papito with LOVE. For Comments and Suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
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