You're Not A Stranger To Me
Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has wedged himself into a spot in my hall closet I would not have imagined was cat-size. He disdains my company and I do not blame him. We have had quite a day, which neither of us would relive on a bet. Though I know him pretty well, I'd be hard pressed to say if the cat was a betting man, but I know I'm not. Today proved to be a test of my courage as a thinking person who endeavors to live an examined, humorous life. So let's start with this morning.
The recent ritual: I wake up, utilize the modern indoor plumbing, scratch the cat, medicate him, place him gently on the floor, and entice him into the kitchen, where I give him fresh water laced with arnica montana for pain, and prescription kitty kibble over which I pour tuna fish water. Then I undertake the tasks involved with caring for me. This morning, when I gently put down Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, his legs seemed unsteady. He took a few steps gingerly, then his legs appeared to give out. I placed him gently on the heating pad covered with a cushion and some crunchy paper. I brought him water, some soft food and his catnip mousie. Fifteen minutes later, when I went to work, he was still there.
At work, I was useless. I would start tasks and forget where I was. I did things, then undid them in self-defense. I called the vet's office and found a substitute veterinarian in office. We talked things over but the nice man couldn't infer anything, he said, "without seeing the animal." The last visit to the office was traumatic for everyone, so I was reluctant to drag out the cat of his home. I said I'd probably be calling back. The doctor mentioned the office would close at noon.
I stopped at home at 11:20 to assess the situation. If the cat were obviously healing up, I'd let the wheel spin. If not, I'd have to make a quick decision. I found the pussycat behind the couch and put him on his feet. Then I lay down to scratch him, to see how he behaved. I looked at him all over. His face was swollen on one side. My courage wavered. I hesitated. Then I called the vet's office, we quickly considered what would happen and I agreed to bring the cat in. I called my job and said I didn't know what was going to happen but I wasn't coming back right away.
It is at this point that, in retrospect, I become very funny. As I put the cat into the cat carrier, my face starts leaking. I'm not even aware of it as I drive across town but I'm dabbing tears on my coat sleeve. The staff at the vet's office is used to seeing all kinds of things and so no one says a word as my makeup runs down my cheeks while I'm talking in a level tone of voice. I cry like this in the waiting room, while we're weighing the cat, during the examination, while the substitute vet administers an antibiotic, and while we talk about the protuberance on the side of the feline face. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, needs his head xrayed while I need mine examined. The xray will have to wait until Monday morning. If the problem is infection, teeth and absess can be removed. If the problem is a tumor, we put him to sleep.
I have known for five years this was coming but it's painful. The trick now is to keep a lightness about this, to handle him gently. When my grandmother was dying, all sorts of strange ideas were in the air. I learned a lot about devotion the months I sat in her hospital room every day but one, and somewhere I got the idea that I would be as brave as I had to, she would die, then we would all go home. Our lives - including hers - would pick up where they'd left off when she got sick. When she did die, the family became confused and never really got its bearings again, not to mention I'd left my husband, found a comedy troupe and become Me.
Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has a toothache. He has had a happy life. There's no need to be sad for him; he may even pull through! It's selfish to be sad for myself; it would be arrogant not to be. That is what love of all kinds is: a promise, sorrow later, but it's worth it. Love of all kinds comes to us as a way to understand our lives. When that changes, our lives change, and how we visualize our lives also changes. The cat is now the last real tie to my old lives. It looks as if I will soon have a new life again. I am very sad, but in a Hindu sense he and I will both be free.