Several years ago, my late husband and I visited a local farm in search of a kitten to fill the hole left by our legendary pet, Mo. There, a tortoise shell kitty with hazel eyes claimed Mel’s affection. Mo’s opposite, this little kitten cuddled into Mel’s arms and would not let him go.

A blue-eyed Siamese-tortoise shell mix with a curled tail and mittened paws caught my eye. She seemed to possess more of Mo’s independent personality than the cuddly kitten. Mo, short for Mozart and his musical meowing, never came anywhere near cuddling.

“Another female,” the farmer said.

“You sure you want two sisters? You’ll be outnumbered again,” I said.

“What’s new?” Mel replied.

We referred to my four sisters and our three daughters, and our younger household’s former female cocker spaniel, Sweetie.

Approaching retirement from a career as a salesman, and a household to accommodate two cats, the time seemed right to drive off with Mittens and Cuddles.

Having lost Sweetie, our first cat P.J., then Mo, after loving, long lives, I expected the same natural rhythm of life with our new pets. As Mel did with Mo for eighteen years, I felt certain my husband would enjoy abundant afternoon naps on the basement sofa with Mitty or Cuds.

Not so. Our two cats, six hens, and I are now five months without the man of the house. I’m learning to take afternoon naps for the cats’ sake, and not mine alone.

For instance, Mitty and Cuds disappeared about a month ago. I searched every nook in the basement and outside. All their favorite hiding places.

Nada. As it was a nice day, I reasoned they were tramping our neighbor’s back acres where they run to hunt when I let them out in the morning. Inevitably, I’ll find their beheaded rodent somewhere in my gardens-their gratitude for scratching their backs and feeding them, particularly a handful of their favorite dry kibble.

One day, for a reason I cannot remember, I walked into the bedroom where Mel took his last breath. There lay Mitty and Cuddles asleep on some of Mel’s folded clothes I’d chosen for a friend who offered to sew them into a keepsake memory bear.

The cats awoke, looked up to me and meowed, as if to say, “We’ve been here all along.”

Yes, those little kittens have matured into a devoted duo that remembers Mel’s scent as I do. The masculine fragrance of his cologne when we pass his bathroom, for instance.

Yet, when the cats whine for me to let them out at sundown, I hear Mel’s quick, sharp order, “Don’t let them out! I’ll be up all night watching for them!”

I know Double Trouble’s trick. Cuddles cries for me to open the door while Mitty waits to escape with her sister.

Dear Reader, I recently moved Mo’s tombstone from where Mel buried him in the back forty to view it in a backyard garden. Now, there was a cat who caused no trouble whatsoever.

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