Sorry to report that our ageless wonder, Rocky the cat, has passed on just weeks before what would have been his 20th (!) birthday. He only slowed down in the very last week or so of his life, managing to stay inexplicably healthy despite his knack for getting into trouble. His life was a long series of moments where he ran into things, fell off things or got stuck in/on things. This included getting stuck in an air duct at a campus science lab, getting stuck on the roof of our house, getting stuck in the drawers of a bed frame… the list went on and on. Just a few weeks ago I had to rescue him from the closet in the basement, even though we had walled off the entire area because we knew he’d get stuck in there. And he got stuck anyway.

He showed up in my life two days before my wedding. I was on the porch of my soon-to-be in-laws’ house, talking with my almost-relatives, when this little gray cat walked over and sat on me. I already had a cat at my apartment – Schmooshy, the most paranoid tortoiseshell who ever lived – but decided to take him home anyway. I named him after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who was only beginning to hear the millions… AND MILLIONS… of his fans chant his name.

I want to make it very, very clear that the moment where he sat on me was also the last moment where he was interested in me existing at all. He spent the next 19 years snickering at me behind my back as the sucker who took him in, while also charming the heck out of the rest of my family and friends. Me, he had no time for.

And yet I had to spend a good deal of my time and energy watching out for his worst impulses, of which there were many. Rocky and Schmooshy literally could not be in the same room together, or they would attack each other, rolling around on the floor in a ball. Until Schmooshy’s passing in 2008, we always kept them in separate parts of the house – one lived in the basement, the other on the main floor. They switched places every 12 hours. Rocky got the main floor at night, or he’d stay up all night in the basement howling.

The other sound he often made in the night was a crunch-crunch-crunch sound, when he found a plastic bag and started chewing on it. We figured this was a callback to his early days as a stray, though I’ve since read that there’s a chemical in most plastic bags that cats like (which seems like a big design flaw, honestly). You couldn’t just drop a plastic bag on the counter, or leave it out for more than a second, or he’d start in on it. No matter how careful we were, he’d find a way to get to the bags.

And we had to get used to running – I mean running – in and out of the house, or he’d bolt for the door. Never mind that the few times he got out, he picked fights with the legit outdoor cats and always got his head handed to him. He’d slink back home with scratches all over him, somehow convinced that next time he’d show everyone how tough he was.

You could call him an eternal optimist, but honestly he was just rock stupid. There wasn’t a piece of furniture we ever owned that he didn’t fall off, never a wall he didn’t smack his head on just looking around. He survived on his knack for doing cute things around people that weren’t me after doing things that drove me up the walls he’d just bonked his head on.

Oh, and he went out of his way to “miss” the litterbox. I’m not saying any of us were the most conscientious cleaners in the world, but it got to the point that one time I asked my oldest if Rocky might want to join us for a game, and he answered, deadpan, “The only game Rocky likes to play is ‘Let’s pee on everything.’” He knew at age three that Rocky was a pain.

Is it mean of me to call my newly-deceased cat a rock-stupid pain in the behind? Maybe, but I don’t want to pretend he was anything other than what he was. It’s ok to love someone who was flawed – otherwise who would there be to love, right?

It’s ok that he made me curse out loud and under my breath more times than I could ever count, who always found a new way to be in the way, who spent most of our time together pretending I didn’t exist, who was adorable and charming to everyone except me while being an irritating little monster to me. All of that is true, but he was my irritating little monster.

So au revoir, Rocky. I love you despite my better judgment.