Two days ago, my two grand fur babies departed after 10 intense days of staying with us at my house while my daughter vacationed in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. During this time, I experienced an intense mix of emotions: fear of the indoor cats escaping into the wilds around our house, happiness at seeing them so content and playful, angst when they tried to tear apart furnishings. On the other hand, I felt deep sadness knowing that our time together was coming to an end yet, paradoxically, counting the days until they left.
Both of my daughter’s kitties are rescue cats. The newest addition, June, is deaf. Now, I’ve had my share of cats over the years, but I must say, none of them had come close to her fiendish personality. From her mischievous antics to her friendly demeanor, she is a one-of-a-kind feline. Just imagine Spider-Man’s slow crawl up, as he relies on static electricity to attach to walls and ceilings. This is how she looked when she climbed up the living room window’s brand new screen. She set out on a mission to capture a bug and prove that there is indeed a method to her madness. Unfortunately for her, the bug flew free. Fortunate for us, the screen remained intact.
She may look like a pure white angel with a sweet face, but beware! She is living proof that appearance can be deceiving. Perhaps, it is because she is still young, around 18 months, or because it was her first experience at my house or maybe her deafness played a part in her behavior, but here’s the nicknames I and my daughter’s godmother came up with: House Wrecker; Demolition Crew; Hellish Hellion; Loonie Junie and Loon June.
When June first arrived, she hissed at everyone, particularly Gemini, or shortened form, Gemi, who is a real Gem. My daughter rescued him from a New York City shelter, and he rescued her, and their bond is unbreakable. Over the years, the sleek, black cat, that can be cast as an Egyptian model, has “shed” many of his idiosyncrasies. One particular habit that remains a constant is eating plastic and then throwing up. His favorite type of plastic is the white Amazon mailing bags. His second preference is the loud, stiff, crunchy clear plastic.
A week prior to my fur babies’ arrival, I not only hid the plastic, I spent no less than four hours “June” proofing my house by storing vases, breakables and finding alternative space for my houseplants. Then there was shopping and getting litter pans and food and toys, so many toys, prepared.
Why even bother? Why can’t she hire someone to come to her place? You have other priorities. Sure, I heard plenty of objections from “concerned” parties and some interesting self-talk discussions that I conducted on my own.
Why do it? During trying times when I over-extend, inconvenience myself and, truthfully want to pull my hair out, what helps me is calling to mind: Faith without works is dead. Without getting too esoteric about the idea, it is merely my way of saying, “thank you” to the universe. I use the acronym: FAA. Faith. Attitude. Action.
The cruel blows from my life have been difficult to bear, but they should not blind me from the lucky strokes that have found their way through the pain. It is these lucky strokes that give me hope and courage to keep going, no matter how hard it gets. For example, people who love me. A safe neighborhood to live in. Clean water to drink. Nutritious food to eat. And music, OMG, music. I’ve never had such an appreciation before for it as I do now.
Before my firstborn was born, I was the most self-centered person on earth, and I loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong. Even though I had to juggle my own commitments, I never failed to make time for charity work, which is why people called me Sister Stacy in the 80s. The difference was that the charity work was done on my own schedule and at my convenience. When I felt like it. Inconvenience was incomprehensible.
In 1993, after my son was born, I had to be ready at any given moment to tend to his colic and medical issues. Luckily, I had a tight support group. Every week, I would mouth the same thing to the members, “My son is teaching me how to love.”
Twenty-one months later, my daughter was born and by then sleepless nights and putting my life on hold became the norm. This was particularly true since my then husband was not as flexible about not having the ability to enjoy himself.
In the end, I was the winner. This crash course in parenting taught me the importance of having flexibility and the ability to drop everything at any point in time.
Keeping my faith in times of difficulty and having the right Attitude and Action to show unconditional love have been two of the most important lessons I have learned in life. My children have taught me the most important lesson of my life – how to love unconditionally. Without their help, I would never have welcomed these furry creatures into my home and my heart.
There’s another reason I like to have the open door policy at my house (as long as June and Gemi don’t spring outside of it!). I learned it after grief stripped my being to a bare minimum. The lesson is that I must take advantage of every moment that I have with my loved ones and strive to build strong bonds with each other through communication, understanding, compassion, kindness and make it as meaningful as possible in light of the fleeting moments.
Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom reminds us that life should be lived in the present moment and encourages us to make every second count. By understanding and embracing this concept, we can make better use of our time and focus on what really matters in life.
His love of the place is tinged with a sense of impermanence and an acceptance that nothing lasts forever. In the following passage, the author paints the picture of his native northern-Swedish landscape and perfectly illustrates what I refer to:
When I return to the same landscape every summer, part of what makes it so poignant is that I may never see it again. Moreover, I care for the preservation of the landscape because I am aware that even the duration of the natural environment is not guaranteed. Likewise, my devotion to the ones I love is inseparable from the sense that they cannot be taken for granted. . . . Our time together is illuminated by the sense that it will not last forever and we need to take care of one another because our lives are fragile.
In this vein, I survived the ten days albeit exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed, but it was worth it, and my agreement and follow through to cat sit for my daughter’s fur babies reinforced just how much I love her, and I hope one day when I am no longer around, she will be able to draw my feelings for her out of her memory bank. You see, in each funny, silly, harried and dastardly moment, I was in the process of carving a legacy for my daughter that is framed with the words: I loved you then; I love you now. I will love you always and forever, and my love reaches farther than the moon, stars and infinite catwalks through eternity and beyond. It is a reminder that my love for her transcends time, distance and even death itself.