“If one of the kittens is a gold tabby,” said Rick a little over a year ago, “I’m thinking of keeping it and naming it Theo, whether it’s a boy or a girl.”

“Are you asking my permission?” I queried.

“Well, if something happens to me…” Rick’s voice trailed off. He paused and cleared his throat. “If something happens to me, I’d like you to take my cat home with you.”

“You have a theoretical cat, and already you’re moving him into my house?” I furrowed my brow. “Have you forgotten that I already have two cats?”

“Alvin and Simon and Theo.” Rick smiled. “That would give you a complete complement of chipmunks.”

And sure enough, one year ago today, the first kitten of six was born under Rick’s bed in Hillsboro, and sure enough, it was a gold tabby.

As planned, Rick named him Theo, though I was thinking we should name him Little Loudmouth, as the tiny tot had quite a set of lungs on him right from the get-go!

A lot has happened in the past year. Early on, Theo became a seasoned “commuter cat,” bouncing between my house and the apartment in Hillsboro as often as Rick’s health allowed the kitten to visit.

Less than an hour before Rick died, Theo was curled on his lap. I covered Rick’s hand with mine and rested it on Theo’s fur.

Today, as much as I didn’t want or need another cat, Theo has settled in as the top cat on the cat tree. And sometimes, when he’s misbehaved, and I’m threatening to squeeze the stuffing out of him, he looks up at me, all sweet and innocent, with that white nose stripe of his, and I think of Rick’s white goatee, and smile through my tears.

And while Theo makes a great third chipmunk, these days I often find myself hugging him close, and calling him “Little Ricky.”