Thirty-One years ago today, I put a mask on my cat.

I had only been reading comic books for a couple of years, if that, but had fallen in love with all the super heroes. One of the earliest books I picked up was a reprint of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #100 which had dozens and dozens of heroes in it. I reread that story over and over, and I tried to learn about all of heroes.

I had only begun to draw them. (I’ve long destroyed those pictures.) Once I drew a hero I called “Captain Combo” (dumb I know), whose costume was made of every single one of the super heroes I knew about.

In my childish thoughts, Captain Combo needed a sidekick. What better partner could there be than my cat Sunshine? So I drew a mask with all the hero emblems on it, cut it out the eye holes and tried to put it on the cat’s face. To say Sunshine didn’t like the idea would be an understatement. Don’t know why the cat wouldn’t wont a secret identity. Wouldn’t you?

I never got a second chance at putting the mask back on Sunshine because we had to take my grandfather to the doctor’s office, and that day would change our family’s lives forever.

The day was already strange, and for those of us who believe in the supernatural side of the universe, sometimes things happen all at once and you wonder what else is going to happen.

We had been living down at my grandparents house to take care of Dad for a while, as my grandmother had passed away only nine months earlier.

That was the day of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana; it was also the day that our cousins left to become missionaries in Taiwan. It had two major things happening, for us a third thing was about to happen.

We took my grandfather to the doctor’s office. Being my mother (his daughter), her brother, and my father. My sister and I were basically tagalongs, we went everywhere as a family.

Less than a mile away, us kids waited in the waiting room. As stated, I was on my way to becoming a comic book artist and so had a pad of paper and a pencil.

The doctor examined Dad and even said something like ‘this is the best I’ve seen you in a while.’

Then we guided him back out to the car and my father and uncle helped him get into the car. That’s when it happened. My father, who had his arms around my grandfather at the time and half way into the car, swears he could feel the soul leaving. My grandfather was dead.

What was I suppose to do? This was now the third family death in a very short time.

I was angry, but didn’t have the strength to even break the pencil I was holding. I so wanted to, but couldn’t. It was like my hands were numb.

So with the world celebrating a royal wedding, our family had very little to celebrate. Yet we did celebrate in a way, that my grandfather was now reunited with his love. For nine months earlier he had told her “Keep the gates open.”

He died of a broken heart.

I couldn’t draw a super hero to save him from that, I couldn’t draw one to save us from the pain of loss.

We would have to be each other’s heroes to get us through the days, weeks, months, and years to follow.

Sunshine the cat never did wear the mask, but became a source of comfort as I held it and it purred back. So in a way he became the perfect sidekick when needed.