Sunday, September 7, 2008

The return of Abbie

Abbie arrives after work Saturday, and I sense a little "click," as a missing piece of my personal puzzle falls into place. My young friend Hope--who will not eat or wear anything animal--has taken superb, loving care of my cat for the past 2 months while I roam. In her honor, I've decided to post Abbie's chapter in Just Between Us, my latest book in progress. Enjoy.

I must at this time introduce Abbie, my companion and counselor since I read all my writing to her first. Abbie, now 13, all but rolls her eyes when I relate the story of our early life together. Growing up, we have two calico cats in succession, both from the same mother—and both named Snowball. OK, so we're a little short in the imagination department.

After my dad’s unexpected death, I think my mom might enjoy the company of another calico and bring her two tiny sisters from which to choose. She declines, and I can't bring myself to part with either one. Since I am in no position to name any babies after my dad, as is Jewish custom, I name my baby cats after him: “Abigale (Abbie) and Rose (Rosie)”. This is what I wrote back then.

What remains
I’m writing this with a ball of fur tickling my nose. Abbie, one of my two 8-week-old calico kittens, is fascinated by the computer. She climbs up onto my shoulder, which would be kind of nice, except she insists on constantly walking by my face. Maybe I should be grateful that her sister, Rosie, is a tad more aloof, as she is quite a bit pudgier with longer hair and would make seeing the screen even more difficult.

The little girls have been living here for two weeks and I’m not exactly sure why, except that it feels right. I was half-musing about getting a pet when I chanced upon this litter. The two calicos were impossible to resist, even for someone who is allergic to cats.

Rosie is straight off a greeting card. Playful and plump, with rabbit like silky hair and a round, pushed-in face, she is the picture-perfect kitty. Wiry Abbie is slighter with pointed features and shorter fur. Although not as conventionally beautiful, she is the one I connect with immediately—maybe because she resembles Snowball, the small calico I
had in my youth.

Abbie seems to think she’s a puppy. She cries if you leave the room, waits by the bathroom door for you to come out and complains if she is not picked up and played with. She likes to be cradled like an infant and is not above muzzling your mouth and

Sitting on a couch, Rosie might well curl up alongside me for a nap. But Abbie insists on sleeping curled up by my face, softly purring into my ear. It’s really a delightful sensation and has the effect on my psyche of waves lapping a beach. Now I understand why therapists say pets add to one’s mental—and possible physical—health.

I took them both with the intention of giving one away, but after seeing them together for a few days, I didn’t have the heart to break up the duo. So here I sit, a middle-age woman who can barely afford to feed herself taking on the expense and responsibility of two animals—just when I was freeing myself from the care and feeding of my own offspring.

I guess it’s time to face the truth. I’m well along that path of becoming one of those eccentric old ladies living with cats. Oh, well.

Just like a pair of small children, they have turned this house upside down. Nothing is safe. They climb and wrestle on every couch and bookshelf, disconnecting the fax machine and teaching the answering machine to do bizarre tricks by scampering across its buttons. At night, they push open the bedroom door, romping across the bed and making it impossible to sleep.

And the decisions: to feed wet or dry food, to cover or not cover the litter box, to spay or not to spay, to keep them indoors or allow them to roam?

Working from home can be a solitary business, sometimes too much so. It’s certainly hard to feel alone, though, with the patter of eight little paws chasing up and down the stairs. I find myself sitting quietly and watching them at play, the way you do with young children. It’s possible to lose oneself for a short period of time, which is akin to meditation. Not having had a pet since childhood, I had forgotten the pleasures.

In the intervening years, I had focused on the expense and work of caring for an additional creature. Frankly, I’ve had my hands full trying to raise two little humans.
But as trying as youngsters can be, caring for them when they are small is very intimate. There is all that hugging and touching involved in day-today life. As they grow, the need sharply diminishes and then almost disappears.

Children grow and leave; partners, parents and siblings age and die. However, the need to touch and be touched, to feel the warmth and live vibrations of another living being, live on. And one cannot always depend on another human to fill that hunger. Pets, I posit, are Mother Nature’s way of ensuring her children are never alone.


Barbara said...

Hey, Roberta, I am glad you are keeping up with your blog posting. It is a good way to keep in touch.


roberta said...

Thanks, Barb, It's great to know someone reads the stuff from time to time..esp someone like you.