Old Man Grey was the patriarch of the colony. The other cats respected and adored him. He was their protector. A sweet, handsome gentleman, he was also a favorite among neighbors. His appearance alone elevated the spirits of anyone (almost anyone) who laid eyes on him. We know he had several other homes that he frequented and he was know by these families as Slater and Bunny. The family who named him Bunny gave him warm milk every morning in their kitchen. He was such a friendly cat (undoubtedly a stray), we are certain our grief for Old Man Grey is shared by more than a few.
Of the colony of 8 kitties, Old Man Grey was closest to Black & White. Every day Black & White waited for Grey outside my back gate and when he came into view she dashed over to greet him. Their daily display of tail winding, neck rubbing, and entwined bodies brought joy to us. They were in love, which was clear not only from their public displays of affection, but in everything they did: they shared an abode, they ate from the same dish, they basked in the sun together. They were almost inseparable.
But Black & White was not the only one who loved Grey. Almost all of the other females looked for any opportunity to give him a head bump or neck rub. They often had to be sneaky about it because Black and White could be quite jealous. And Grey was so patient with the younger cats, allowing them to the play with his tail while he lay sprawled on my patio. He was a sweet and affectionate cat, and the only cat that I could really pet (back of the head only) and who would purr loudly as I scratched his ruff.
Though I refer to him as Old Man Grey, I respectfully addressed him as Mr. Grey or sometimes just Grey. My neighbors referred to him as Gentleman Grey, a name definitely more befitting. There was something about Grey that told you he was a gentleman through and through. First, he was extremely charming, well- mannered and always immaculate. Grey was a Gray Tuxedo, with perfectly symmetrical markings. He literally looked like he was dressed for a white tie affair, missing only a top hat.
But it was more than just how he looked. Our alleyway is grassy (which I love), but after a rain or on a dewy morning, Mr. Grey would enter the alley with this ridiculous high stepping walk showing his distaste for getting his impeccably white paws muddy. He carried himself with great dignity, accompanied by an expression that was at the same time serious and inquisitive. There was something about Grey that was uncanny—captured so beautifully by the photo on our homepage, taken by one of our neighbors (thank you, Joe). A photo best described by my sister as a window into Grey's soul.
Not very long ago, I had conversations with my husband and sister about the definition of debonair. We started to compile a list of men who defined the term. It turns out that this is a much shorter list than one might expect. At the top we all agreed belonged Cary Grant and George Clooney, and there were several other men who we thought could be considered debonair, though most fell short in one way or another of the ideal. That is until my sister mentioned Grey. We all agreed Mr. Grey was debonair, and of the first order. He was the Cary Grant of cats.
In his daily rounds, Old Man Grey crossed streets and avenues to visit other families and friends. For years he was able to avoid injury or worse. It is possible that he used up all of his nine lives during these excursions, but it is unthinkable that this wonderfully dignified, profoundly pensive creature fell prey to some cruel trap.