Monday, April 30, 2007
When Mary’s beloved grandmother, Babci, passed away, Bourka was bewildered. She and her sister, Shifka had come to live with Babci on Easter many years before. When Shifka, (the pretty white one) died, Bourka (the mottled brown one) was left alone with Babci. As Babci got weaker and spent more time in bed, Bourka would sit with her for hours at a time. Babci would talk to her in Polish and stroke her head.
Babci’s daughter, Mary’s mother, also lived in the house. Not long after Babci passed, her daughter decided that the house was too much to care for. She moved to a nursing home. But Bourka and her friend Patches were left in the house. No one in the family could take them.
Mary knew that I had lost my cat Jackson a few months before. She came into my office and told me about the 2 cats left alone in the house with only a caregiver. I decided to go and visit them. (You know where this is going, right?) Bourka came right up to me, I was able to pick her up and pet her. She was beautiful. The other little cat was more skittish. I only saw a black streak of lightening as she headed to the basement to hide.
About a week later Mary and her family came to my house with Bourka. She came right out of the carrier and strolled around the house like she owned it. Patches had to be trapped and would not show up for a few more weeks. In the meantime, I had gathered up another cat whose family left him behind when they moved to Florida (they took the dog.) So I went from 0-3 in a month. (I’ll tell his story another time.)
After Bourka had been with me for a few weeks, I decided to change her name to Babka (the sweet cake). I thought it was close enough to Bourka that she wouldn't even notice. She immediately had an identity crisis. She stopped eating. She moped. I rationalized that she could not possibly care. She hung around the house, not responding to anything I said. When I said something to Mary, she told me that Babci always spoke to her in Polish. (That would explain why she would not get off the counter when I asked her to.) I reverted to calling her Bourka. She started eating again. Well. Alrighty then. Do I need to learn some Polish? I went out and got Polish language tapes. I finally gave up trying to learn even the most rudimentary baby Polish. Bourka on the other hand, still sits in front of the boom box with I put the tapes in for her.
One last story, Belle, the wife of my neighbor’s brother is a nurse and works with some Polish women. She has learned a few phrases in Polish. She came over to see the house and Bourka came out to see who had come in. I explained that Bourka only knows Polish. Belle spoke to her in Polish and the cat came running across the entryway to get petted.
I have had Bourka for 4 years now. I still don’t know any Polish and Bourka still mostly ignores me. If you know how to say "Get Down" or "Stop that!" in Polish, let me know.