MORTI AND ME

Morti and Me
Slice Of Life
  By – Sheri de Grom 

Four decades ago, on a Thanksgiving morning, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.

It all started as “let’s play a joke on Sheri” and ended twenty-seven years CAT IN WINDOW later with my being a better person for having been loved and owned by a tabby cat with the name of Mortichi Muffin Mouse-Catcher Bowser-Brown. (Morti for short).

My first paid writing gig came about from my being in the right place at the right time and being high on life. Mortichi filled my life with love and laughter.

I’d hired into StarKist Foods on Terminal Island, California (across the bridge from San Pedro, and near Los Angeles harbor). How I convinced the head of the accounting department I’d make a great addition to their department I’ll never know. I’d never bothered to balance my own checkbook and I’d never taken an accounting class. My first day on the job I was assigned an account for a large tuna fishing fleet. I was scared. I’d never met a number I’d liked.

At the time, I was in the stage of life where a party every night was an ordinary occurrence. I didn’t want to hang out with the accounting and investments crowd. Prime interest rates simply weren’t that interesting to me.

I’m not sure how it all came together but I started hanging out in the production department that shot the ‘Morris the Cat’ commercials. What fun they had every day and even more fun after work.        CAT - MORRIS      

However, some days Morris wasn’t fun to work with.

As expected, Morris didn’t always want to cooperate with the script and a certain number of hours of polished commercials were a requirement.

I found it an amazing challenge coming up with revised scripts for Morris that would fit his mood for a particular shoot on a given day. We never knew if he was going to be sassy, mellow, or lazy. One thing I learned early on, don’t rearrange Morris’ fat!

I’d joke with the crew that the only cat I’d ever met that I’d really liked was the cat I dissected in zoology in high school. They still let me write lines and the handler remained on the set as Morris’ protector.

Come Thanksgiving morning, about a year after I’d transferred to advertising, we received instructions for ten sets of new dialogue. Morris’ voice man needed our work first thing Monday morning.

I hadn’t made special plans for the weekend. I was single and instead of rotating between several parties—the norm for the single crowd living in the Los Angeles beach communities—I volunteered to work on the scripts over the long holiday weekend.

Building at NightThe huge office complex was eerily quiet. My shoes created echoes in the lonely halls. I didn’t spook easily but I wasn’t going to take the elevator to my office. What if it stuck between floors? I’d be there for four days. I’d take the stairs thank-you-very-much. (Back then, ten flights seemed like nothing at all.)

Unlocking my office door, a creepy glow cast a shadow across the props we used in shooting commercials. A morning fog hovered over Los Angeles harbor. It should have been daylight but it wasn’t happening. Before I freaked myself out, I decided to turn on the lights.

Approaching my desk to power up my word processor and turn on the coffee maker and my desk lamp; I heard the softest meow.

Where, how, when? It can’t be!       CAT - SLEEPING BABY MORTI

Not a cat!

In my in-basket was the tiniest ball of pale orange fur with five small dots on the end of his nose. Picking him up gently, I studied his nose close-up and realized the black dots were perfect; the angels must have painted them.

Upon further exploration, I discovered a litter box had been set up. How would this little guy ever get in it? How old was he anyway? This was pre-planned.

I located a tiny water dish and some cat food.

It was time for me to get to work and the office was cold. How could kitty not be cold? I worked the next four hours with the kitten wrapped in my Camouflage_kittencashmere scarf.

We had a break for lunch. Kitten wasn’t interested in cat food but I did find white albacore tuna in the cafeteria and, while I made myself a sandwich, I gave the kitten flakes of the albacore. No one was in the cafeteria with us. Had it been open, I could have had lunch for thirty-five cents if I’d ordered the daily tuna special. I’d never known there were so many ways to prepare tuna until I worked for StarKist!

Back to the office with the kitten who by this time I was calling “Little Guy.” Fortunately, he’d figured out what the litter box was for and, with a full stomach, he did his business, then curled up and slept in my scarf all afternoon and evening.

I’d planned to work straight through the night until I was finished with the project. No one was waiting for me at home. But what was going to happen when I did go home? What did I do with Little Guy then?

The StarKist kennel was closed for the long weekend. A caretaker came in on holiday hours but no one answered the kennel telephone and I had no idea when someone would be there.

I’d brought snacks from home to get me through, but certainly nothing appropriate for a kitten. Without another choice, we raided the cafeteria once again for tuna.

Little Guy and I worked Thursday until Saturday evening when I declared the work was completed to my satisfaction. By that time, I realized I was going to have to take the kitten home with me. I couldn’t leave him alone in the cold office building.

I explained to Little Guy on our drive home that the sleepover was a temporary arrangement. He’d be going back to the kennel on Monday.

Little Guy ignored my warning with a purr as he curled up beside me and blinked his big green eyes. He knew he’d already won my heart, forever and a day.

Please join Little Guy (now Morti and me) for another ‘Slice of Life’ soon.

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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94 Responses to MORTI AND ME

  1. Hubert writes says:

    One thing I learned early on, don’t rearrange Morris’ fat!

    I’d joke with the crew that the only cat I’d ever met that I’d really liked was the cat I dissected in zoology in high school.

    Oh Sheri! Im laid up in bed with a flare up been here most of the day, and then I read this. its so funny! ha ha ha.

    great post.

    • Hubert, I’m so glad you enjoyed my story of meeting Morti. He turned out to be one of the greatest loves of my life and each time the gov moved me, Morti moved along with me. He’d become a world traveler (always first class with his pace maker and all) by the time he was five. There I was in coach and he was up front in first class with the shrimp cocktail! There’s more of Morti to come.
      I know about those nasty flare ups. They aren’t fun. Take care, my friend, and God Bless.

  2. Sheri, I really loved this tale about Morti – as you may remember this was the year we lost our 18 year-old pussycats, so I know what a gift Morti’s love must have been. And what a loss. 27 is a record I would think – he must have been so frail. And he didn’t want to leave.
    Sheri, meeting you blogwise has been a highlight of my year.
    I know I’ve been unable to live up to expectations—reading and writing a blog has been more demanding than I realized. And more rewarding, too. But I have so little energy even on my good days.
    I am in awe of the amount of feedback you give as well as your advocacy for the disabled while also looking after your special loved one.
    And maybe even singing, on some enchanted evenings.
    I have a lot to learn and very little time in which to learn it. I wish I hadn’t squandered all those years when I thought things other than love were important.
    But there is so little of it , love I mean. All the issues we both write about come from a lack of love for each other.
    Thank you Sheri, for being in my life.
    Seasons Greetings to you and Tom. xx

    • Barbara – Some days singing at the top of my lungs, I enter into the back-yard gardens with nothing to offer the heavens but “Fa-la-la-la-darn it weeds, this is winter [take a deep breath] and weeds you are to be dead, pox on you.” Then I normally look up continuing with my fa-la-las as I’ve never been a morning person and say, “Hey there, Barb, can you hear me? All together now. Fa-la-la-la!” My shit tzu refuses to get out of bed when I do and now refuses to go in the back yard at all! See what you’ve started.
      I’m so happy you’re here. It’s interesting to me that part of the comments to my Nov 19 post showed up here and part of them showed up on the Nov 19 reblog where I told everyone I was going on break and did a reblog of this post.
      It’s interesting to me that Morti at 27 wasn’t frail. At 26 he developed thyroid cancer and I told the vet I didn’t want anything heroic. Morti already had an artificial bladder and a pacemaker. Tom liked to tease me that the only thing original about Morti was his name by the time he met Mort.
      Mort spent the summer of his 26th year sleeping in the warm soil of my rose and wildflower gardens. I didn’t care how many wildflowers he smashed to the ground. He still maintained his weight at around 25 pounds. That winter he really slowed down and spent most of his time in front of the fireplace.
      When we’d arrived back in the states from our last tour of duty in Europe in Dec of 1980, I promised Morti we would live on the Central Coast of California forever. I could make that promise to him – just not to myself.
      Morti passed in the spring of his 27th year and 3 weeks later my career moved me to Washington DC.
      Never doubt, Barbara, you are a most important person in my blogging world. I’ve been to your blog several times and there for awhile I really worried as I didn’t see you for long stretches of time and honestly worried about you. I worry anyway, but this was the worst worry of all.
      Please take care of yourself and Morti will return in early 2015. In the meantime, Morti Part 2 is at: https://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/morti-and-me-part-2/
      and Part 3 is at: https://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/morti-and-me-part-3/
      Merry Christmas

  3. Pingback: MORTI AND ME | Paws N Reflect

  4. inesephoto says:

    Sheri – what a beautiful love story! God bless his heart, he lived a long life indeed. It is so wonderful to have a companion like him – cat or not 🙂
    Inese

  5. timelesslady says:

    I love my two cats…also loved reading this post. Blessings.

  6. mihrank says:

    Hello Sheri – this is an amazing story well written with its details that brings a message and value. My English professor reminded me of such story when I was a student at my Master Degree in London and stated the following:

    Memento morti (Latin ‘remember (that you have) to die, or also memento mortis, “remember death”, is the Latin medieval designation of the theory and practice of the reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.

    Congrats on sharing it!

  7. Lynn Garrett says:

    Wow, Sheri,

    Every time I hear about Morti, he gets more adorable. And I’m definitely not a cat person. (Great active verbs, by the way!)

  8. What a wonderful story, Sheri. A cat person? Hurrah! I’m a cat person, but if a dog was in trouble , I’d cave as well. You rescue sounds adorable. 😀

  9. cindy knoke says:

    What an amazing story! How well written and engaging! What an adorable kitty-boo! ❤
    You intro reminded me of when the Navy asked me to teach personal financial management courses for the military. I came home and told my husband and he laughed so much I thought he would become ill.
    I called and canecelled the next day explaining my husband's reaction.
    Next they asked me to teach human sexuality.
    I responded with relief saying I was pleased they recognized this was as a course in which I was a subject matter expert.
    My husband thought that was pretty funny too.

    • Cindy – It drives Tom crazy that I keep my check book rounded to the next $10 whenever I use my debit or enter a check amount. I’ve done this for 40 years or so. I always write the real amount under the higher amount just in case I need it for my records but there’s a method to my madness. At the end of the calendar year, I subtract the amount of money the higher ten added up to and that becomes my bonus for the year. Normally I can garner something significant from money I never missed. I don’t think Starkist would have appreciated my creative bookkeeping.

  10. willowdot21 says:

    Lovely beautiful ‘cats tale’ xx

  11. That’s a long time to have this beauty in your life. How wonderful. I just loved reading this, seeing the photos, and envisioning the love affair. We who love animals know how it is. Absolutely purrrrrrrrfect. ❤

  12. Reblogged this on Sheri de Grom and commented:

    November is National Caregiver Month and I find it’s the perfect time for me to take a break from blogging. I’ll still be around reading blogs, commenting here and there and I have some housekeeping chores to take care of on my own blog. I also plan to spend time with Tom, organize parts of my pile management along with coming up with an idea of how to handle the 30,000+ messages in my in-box. Many I’ll delete of course but others need to go into folders for later research and on and on. I also may pop in with some blogs I’ve stumbled across and simply leave you the link. These are blogs I believe are worth reading (but that’s simply my opinion). The gardens need additional preparation for winter and I want to curl up with my precious shih tzu, our afghan, a great book and something delicious to drink.
    I’m wishing you wonderful holidays and I’ll see you around the blog. Love to all, Sheri

    • Marie Abanga says:

      Sherri, Mortti’s story is cool and cute just like you! I wish you the best of the break. Hope you’ll be reading my posts which are to resume tomorrow up till the Christmas bells ring hahaha! Hope Tom is better!

  13. Oh what a precious story! Morti is so lucky! *(purrs)!*

  14. mooonalila says:

    How moving ! I would have fallen in love with Morti too ! I’m glad he lived for 27 years. You have a gift to tell the story. 🙂

  15. atempleton says:

    Great story about how you two found each other.

  16. Joel says:

    We share our bed with a 21-year-old torti named Shadow. I may have to write a little story about her now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Jane Sadek says:

    Don’t know how I missed this before, but I LOVE it!

  18. Pingback: MORTI AND ME – PART 2 | Sheri de Grom

  19. That sweet post makes me smile and hurt at the same time. I miss a cat so much. My 100 pound Lab has the best of intentions, but it’s not quite the same.

    • No, I don’t imagine the lab is the same although he gives his unconditional love expecting nothing in return. Is there a possibility that you might get a cat also? My husband and I have talked of getting a cat again and the pros and cons. We’ve had cats since Morti and loved them dearly but we presently have 2 shih tzus and one of them would make the life of a cat miserable. He (the dog) was abused himself and we love him dearly and we had a strong alpha cat when he came into the household and she held her own against him, but we’re afraid another cat might not. Oh how I miss that purr against my neck when I’m reading!

  20. JK Bevill - Lost Creek Publishing says:

    Loved that story!

  21. What a beautiful story Sheri! Inion has an orange tabby, (Peachy) nine years old, whose spoiled rotten. We are big cat fans. Although you say you weren’t, it’s clear Morti changed all that! But an amazing pet can do that to us. And it’s clear that you and Morti were destined to meet. Have you ever thought about writing a book about Morti? Seriously, it’s stories that are unique like that, which end up being the great ones. When I think back at the animal stories I’ve read and loved, they were always more about the extraordinary relationships between the pet and human/owner, rather than the animal themselves. You should think about it.

  22. Pingback: Oh, those Fluffies… | The Long Way Home

  23. Denise Hisey says:

    Ohhhh…that is such a sweet story!!! Can’t wait to read more about your cutie pie!

  24. Kelly says:

    Beautiful, beautiful story. And beautifully written. How incredible you had 27 years together. Can’t wait to hear more about the adventures of Morti. I know there’s a book in there somewhere, too.

  25. wow that really looks like the beginning of one hell of an adventure! 🙂

  26. what a charming and love- filled story! Wonderful !

  27. Uzoma says:

    Oh Sheri this is such lovely story. Though I’m not much of a cat person, I love their pics and your story only brought me closer to them. IMO Morti is a superstar! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  28. words4jp says:

    what a wonderful story and an incredible experience. animals are just the most wonderful ‘people’ aren’t they? i wanted to say thank you for stopping by my blog and following me. i look very forward to reading and learning more about you. Kimberly:)

  29. Sheri, they say that the little souls of certain critters find and capture us. This seems to have happened to you. Morti knew you needed him and was gracious enough to wait until you saw it too.

    Oh, please, please do more about Morti and tell us how those skits you worked so hard on were received 🙂

  30. Len – Hello my friend and thanks for reading with me. You are so right in that the powers that be knew Morti and I needed each other. We spent 27 wonderful years together. Isn’t it funny when I had no idea that a small ball of orange fluff could break through my barriers and help me recognize that the world was not such a bad place after all. Thanks for reading with me.

  31. Patrice says:

    What a beautiful story.

  32. Oh I sense the powers that be knew just what you and Morti needed…each other what a blessing. Love this thank you sheri for sharing!

  33. susielindau says:

    It was fate! How wonderful that you adopted each other!

    • Susie – Great to see you here. And, yes – it was fate indeed. Once I realized what was happening, I became Cinderella and Morti was my prince. It was a tough time emotionally in my life and Morti was a real cross-roads back to humanity again. I’d lived in grief for 3 years before meeting him. Little did I know an orange kitten could bring me so much love and laughter.

  34. lignumdraco says:

    Looking forward to the next episode.

  35. OMG, Sheri, that’s such a sweet story. And I just cannot fathom having a pet for 27 years. That’s a really great thing about cats – living WAY longer than dogs. When I think that none of my dogs have lived past their 12th birthday, I want to cry.
    I loved, loved the pictures.
    Patti

    • Patti – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Morti had such a special influence on me. I was truly alone when he came into my life and he provided the bridge I needed to cross over and face real life once again. We spenet many a night talking philosophy, curled up with a book reading (he insisted he had to be between me and the book), and so many other things that made him the perfect companion for me as I was definitely in a place where healing was taking place.

  36. christicorbett says:

    Sheri,

    I’m now eagerly awaiting the next installment!

    Christi Corbett

  37. terry1954 says:

    that is the most romantic story I have ever read…….I just loved it…..thanks for sharing this with me

  38. Mae Clair says:

    I love your slice of life stuff, Sheri. The looks back are always so interesting, learning more about you. And I adore cats. I’m a feline fanatic even though I’m presently without one. Loved this story! And I had no clue you were part of the Morris team. I can’t wait to see the next part of this!

    • Thanks, Mae. I remembered you were a cat person and thought of you as I wrote this story. Morti was my first cat but I’ve had several since then. Like you, I’m currently without out a cat. We adopted three very close in age and all within a month of each other. It nearly killed us when we lost all three of them within a month of each other. Never will we do that again. There will be more Morti stories. He was a big part of my life for 27 years.

  39. Emma says:

    Aw, what a lovely story. I am a cat person.

  40. Glynis Jolly says:

    Sheri, that was a fabulous story. Thoroughly enjoyable. Cats are great companions.

  41. I can’t wait for the next installment! Who gave him to you? WHY did StarKist have a kennel? So many unanswered questions!

    Great story, Sheri. I love reading ‘behind the scene’ tales like this. I’ve heard that Morris wasn’t always fun to work with, but now I know it for fact. Just look at his face. Don’t move his fat, that’s a scream.

    • Hi Tameri – My co-workers thought it would be a hoot if I had to spend a weekend with a cat. After all, I wrote dialogue and worked with Morris (I knew enough not to mess with his fat) – I always wanted to use that in a line of dialogue fof him but it was cut everytime. StarKist maintained a kennel the same way Purina and many large makers of animal foods do, it provides an automatic test kitchen. They were alway developing new flavors and some were great and others . . . well you get my drift.

      My co-workers were always after me to adopt a kitten from the ‘Morris Family’ and I maintained there was no way I was allowing a cat into my life. But – the story gives it away – we had 27 wonderful years together and I wouldn’t trade a single moment.

      Just like Lassie, StarKist had seven Morris cats that I’m aware of. It’s a certainty that a cat refuses to be a ‘star’ forever. There comes a time in there life that they demand to spend their days in the sunshine and no under hot lights.

  42. Doug says:

    Seems like you have genuine purrr-suits and good fur to refer you with a song of meow.

  43. A heart warming tale indeed and in the right settings too. So as you reflect back on this “slice of life” experience, what triggers within you do you recognise?

    Shakti

    • Good question. I wanted to establish for my readers how Morti came into my life. We were together for 27 years and he travelled the world with me as my career moved me often. I reflect on the many things Morti taught and shared with me: unconditional love, that it was okay to want routine in my life, I watched him become fiercely protective of me and I of him – I think he thought he was a dog at times and it was okay that people thought I was a little nuts over my love for Morti, and most of all we never gave up on each other. Ours was a mutual love affair.

  44. Adorable! Such a nice Thanksgiving guest.

  45. lisaelskerarvid says:

    😃Så vakre😃

  46. 최다해 gongjumonica says:

    Oh, how cute! I am not a cat person, but I adore looking at cat pictures. Haha am I weird?

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