23 October 2011

Nutmeg and Raleighdon

When Mimi and I first met, I tried to get her to spend the night with me and she wouldn't, saying she had to go home and feed her cats. I said, "Well, I'll go with you then." for some reasson, I'm still not sure why, she let me. Heck, I'm not evern sure why I wanted to. She had a gazillion cats, she wouldn't let me smoke in her car and didn't even like to drink my wine. This relationship obviously had no future.

She was awfully cute, though.

3 months later we were married.

I was NOT a cat lover. I tend to favor dogs over cats since they just have a way of always keeping life entertaining. Our dog Mooch was a great example of this. When our friend Jim was teaching Josiah about roping calves, Mooch had a calf of his own in mind.

mostly, though, I'm just not really into being caretaker to critters. Too much work, can't leave when I want, all the usual excuses. Over the years, we've had many of Mimi's beloved pets (and my goldfish) pass on to the great on beyond, and it is always sad.

Like Lumpy. Mimi took the boys off to Florida, leaving me behind to take care of the cats. While she was gone, the pregnant mama decided it would be a good time to give birth. Could she wait a day or two until somebody got home who actually knew something? Hell no!! She had to do it with me, the one who doesn't like cat puke, cat screeching and all the attendant difficulties to tend to her every need. the result? This litter of furballs that crept all over the house making a general nuisance of themselves. The boys fell in love with one (well of COURSE they did!) and named him LUMPY. Lumpy was the biggest of the litter, and his name fit like a nurse's rubber glove. Unfortunately, he was about the same color as the bedroom carpet. I, of course, wear glasses and don't usually put them on to go to the bathroom. As I walked across the room, I stepped on Lumpy. Poor Lumpy. Poor ME!!! I've never heard the end of that one, to be sure.

We recently lost our 16 year old Barbie Q, who was a lovely little kitten until some of my nieces kids terrorized her and she was never the same after that. We miss her terribly, though, as she was always the one who welcomed new kitties into the house.

During the past 33 years, I went from resistant acceptance ("Love me love my cats" was the operative phrase at our engagement) to peaceful co-existence and even to limited friendships with a few of these furry beasts who always like to puke up hairballs on my side of the bed as a "gift" to me when I get ready to crawl into bed at night. Lovely! And then, too, they also like to bring "offerings" into the house. Enza, the mighty hunter, loves nothing more than to bring her kill in to share. I'm not sure, but I think she wants me to make rat soup.

About a year and a half ago, we were on our way to the Co-op. The lot was full, so I parked across the street in front of the pet store. BIG MISTAKE. She got out of the passenger's side and said, "Ohhhh, they have kittens. Can we go in and visit them?" "Sure. Why not?" I said, somewhat begrudgingly.

We entered the store and there was a huge stack of metal crates. In the upper one, was a little tabby kitten, nothing spectacular or particularly unusual. I looked at her and said, without any aforethought and totally unprepared for what was coming out of my mouth, "We'll be taking that one home." Mimi and the clerk (who knows us) sorta laughed it off, and Mimi said, "He's just kidding."

But I insisted, for some reason that we were going to adopt that kitten. I didn't understand what was coming out of my mouth. It was very confusing. Why would I do such a thing? She was just a plain, ordinary, kitten, like every other furry little beast I'd been forced to go in and look at over the years.

But, for whatever reason, adopt her we did. The tops of her ears were a brown much the color of ground nutmeg, hence her name.

I'd told Mimi for many years that if I ever had a cat, I'd want one I could train to jump up on my shoulder and ride there like a pirate and his parrot. I also told Mimi shortly after bringing Nutmeg home that I wanted to try to get her used to riding free in the car, so we could take her with us easily. We traveled to Portland car shopping once and took her along. We took turns driving as we headed down the highway. Nutmeg decided the safest place was to climb up on whichever of us was not driving and wrap herself around our neck.

She rode that way for a long, long way. A few months later, out of the blue, she "pounced" Mimi, jumping up on her shoulder. She doesn't particularly like being picked up, and the only way we can carry her is over the shoulder. She will, however, jump up onto our shoulders (especially if she thinks we'll give her a piece of dehydrated chicken breast ($17/3 oz pkg). Hell, I'd probably jump on your shoulder if you'd give me a steak for a treat!

Expensive tastes, this cat. She really MUST be "my" cat. Next thing, she'll be wanting a custom bicycle......

But here's the real story I wanted to tell.

I came home the hospital after my second round of chemo and the next morning, Sunday, I woke up not feeling very well. I was planning to ride my bike to Sunday Starters in Fremont (breakfast NA meeting). Not feeling very strong, and barely awake, I thought I had better take a shower and see if I could get woke up. Chemo tends to leave me feeling pretty crappy for a few days afterwards, and I go on some pretty intense emotional roller coasters from time to time. As I stepped out of the shower, I saw my image in the full length mirror and suddenly my legs looked like strands of spaghetti. I suddenly felt very weak and puny. I've worked so hard over the past few years to build strength, and here I was losing ground. Mimi tried to console me over "first breakfast", but to no avail. I found myself in tears at one point, and my way of dealing with the world when I want it to kindly stop so I can get off is to curl up in a ball and put a blanket over my head. It only ever lasts for a moment, and that is about as much feeling sorry for myself as I ever allow.

Then I start my surrender/acceptance/gratitude routine and the world comes back into focus. I was having THAT kind of a moment. I left the breakfast table, went to the sofa, and crawled under a blanket. I was snorting and sniffling and having a very productive pity party when Nutmeg came over, sat down in front of the sofa and began to cry. I lifted up the edge of the blanket and she climbed in under it with me, stretched out the full length of my chest and began to purr. I could feel her healing energy through the ribs and right into my esophagus, the cause of all of this crap that was draining me of my strength and energy. As I lay there with her radiating her warmth, my world was made better in that instant.

I suppose the moral of the story for me is that even in our darkest moments, we can find some peace, solace and comfort if we are open to it. Sometimes, we don't even need to reach out and take the hand that is trying to comfort us; we just need to let that hand of love embrace us and not run away from it.

Since that morning, I have thought a lot about this weird little kitty and wondered what she knew that morning when we walked into the pet store. Did she sense something? Did I sense something? I've thought about Steve Jobs and what he said about connecting the dots. I've been doing that for a long time, knowing that every one of life's experiences brings me to the exact momennt in time I am living. I think a lot about the interconnectedness of everything around me and am filled with wonder.

Life is very interesting. Especially if we can somehow spend just a moment or two reflecting on what makes it special for us right now. Today. This minute. Just this one brief moment in time. What surrounds you that makes you feel special? What or who is there, reaching out their hand or their paw in friendship to give you the boost you need? How can you give that back? What little thing can you do that will let that person, that pet, that teacher, that nurse, that whomever, that you know and appreciate them?

Mimi really was cute, and I know how very special a person she is, and am grateful today for the gift she gave me as, over the years, I have come from resistance to surrender, from surrender to acceptance and finally from this acceptance into gratitude, allowing me to love back. Over the years, she has been the constant companion in my life adventure. She has shared her self with me, and shared her love of her faithful companions, never wavering, yet never forcing. As a result, today I have another loving companion in this silly little cat who knows me and knows when she needs to nurture me.
Every day, when I look at the love of my life, this is still the girl I see:

Excuse me, I need to go give Nutmeg some chicken.


megan west said...

That's really lovely.

carmen said...

Wonderful photos -- first of all -- but a wonderful heartwarming story. Awww gee -- what a CAT!

Mai Li said...

You are an adorable, awesome man. Thank you for sharing yourself and your wisdom. :)

Unknown said...

thanks for including some of my very favorite old photos.
Your growth as a gattero has really astounded me. From the early years of "I just tolerate cats" to the rapport you have with formerly feral cats today, I could not be more pleased and proud.

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors said...

argh i wasn't done yet. Answer the questions..
What surrounds me that makes me feel special, quite frankly, you and those cats! So many times I have felt down and lonely and a little cat has changed that sadness with a little meow or maybe the decision to snuggle in my lap. And then there is THAT person... who every day in SO MANY ways does so many things to make me feel special.

Al Hall said...

I just finished reading "The Alchemist". My nephew has has arrived at the same place Santiago found. i am pleased for him and very proud of him.

Uncle Al