Cat on a hot tin roof

It was time for my evening walk and Bailey accompanied me as is his custom. We walked past the care home where a nurse is always on duty to tend to any patient who is in need of care. We passed the visitors’ quarters and the Wilcox House both of which accommodate those visitors who come to experience this special settlement for a few days or for a weekend. We passed the Bayiew Home which now serves as offices for some of the National Park personnel as well as sleeping accommodations for others. When we got to the next intersection, we paused at the memorial Celtic Cross erected by the English in 1893 to the memory of Father Damien, just four years after his death. Bailey seemed very interested, even curious.

Next we turned back toward my residence and St. Francis Church, passing on our right Mother Marianne’s grave and on our left the ruins of the old hospital which was replaced by a new building in 1980 and burned down 10 years later. Then it was on toward the volleyball court where Edwin Lelepali organizes games and serves as “whistle blower” on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Across the street from the volleyball court is one of the most “sacred” places in town, the Fuesaina Bar. It was here where Bailey broke ranks and decided to drop into the bar while I continued on home to my house. I figured he would come home later.

It was much later and already dark when I realized that he still had not shown up. So I grabbed my flashlight (it gets quite dark here) and retraced my steps to the bar. Gloria and her sister were sitting there chatting and watching television and there were three or four cats lounging around contentedly, but there was no sign of Bailey. I exited the bar by the rear door and called out, “Bailey, Bailey, are you here?” I thought that he might be sloshed and laying down but immediately I heard a little voice call back, “Meow, Meow!” I shone my light on the highest point of the roof and there he was “on a hot tin roof,” Babyface Bailey, the younger of my two cats. 

Cats as well as dogs are a primary feature here in Kalaupapa. One could indeed say that they are revered. They serve as companions and friends to patients and workers. In a manner of speaking they take the place of youngsters since no one under 16 years of age is permitted to live or visit this settlement. While some residents like myself feed a couple of cats, others feed several cats which make their home in that particular neighborhood.

I succeeded in talking Babyface down off the roof that evening since there was no way that I was going to climb up there and possibly fall through the roof (I do weigh a few pounds). He then followed me home, rather reluctantly I must say, and he has not been back to the bar since, as far as I know. He is my adopted cat and a lovable little rascal and seems to be quite comfortable with King Reilly, my older cat, who adopted me some time ago. So go get yourself a cat. 

Aloha and meow.

Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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