It’s almost midnight and I’m sitting in my living room, quietly sobbing. The sobs become a whimper and finally stop. I’m totally drained and my heart is skipping beats; it’s been doing that off and on, ever since the pandemic started.
The gas fireplace flickers and warms me as I sit beside it in my recliner. I usually find this relaxing, and will sometimes fall asleep. But tonight, I’m despondent, as the pandemic enters its third month. Last night, I dreamed that I was trapped in a large room, as a crowd of strangers came toward me. Terrified, I quickly headed back the other way, looking for a door. But there was only a wall.
When I awoke, the words “I want my Mommy” entered my mind. I thought about how the longing for one’s Mommy was perfectly justified under these circumstances.
I look over at the photos on the piano. In one, my parents are beside each other on the couch. In another, my Dad looks up from his dinner plate at Thanksgiving. There is a picture of my mother and me on the couch, holding hands. And as I look at my mother’s smiling face in the photo, I call out, “I miss you so much. I need you!”
My cat (who has been asleep in my lap) rolls over and eyes me, upside-down. Her vivid green eyes search my face. “It’s OK, sweetheart,” I say. “I love you!”
She continues to meet my gaze, as if to make sure I really am OK, and then resumes her previous chin-on-paws position. Her favourite place is my lap, and she gives me unconditional love and a reason to hope that things will get better.
Pets uplift us during stressful times
I know that many others are feeling anxious during this time, and like me, their moods have been up and down. I’m fine when keeping busy with writing, cooking and cleaning, but not so much when I start with the pity party. Meditation helps, and so does exercise, but I miss my friends and family.
I do feel lucky that I have my husband and my cats, since I realize that many are suffering right now from the lack of human contact. I think about how pets help to fill that void, giving their owners comfort and even a reason to get outside for some exercise.
My cat stands and yawns, arching her back in a stretch. “Did baby girl have a good nap?” I ask. I rub the soft fur under her neck, as she purrs. “I’m so glad you’re here with me,” I say. She’s a beautiful medium-haired calico, and because she has one black ear and one mostly orange ear, my husband has nicknamed her “Orange Ear.” I chuckle every time he says it.
Throughout my life, cats have uplifted me during stressful times. There was my childhood cat—an all-white, long-haired female with a pink nose and hazel eyes. I pestered my parents for years to let me get a kitten, and they finally relented when I turned 10. At the time, I was like an only child, since my brother was usually away at school. I was often lonely.
My cat kept me company on the bed while I read or did my homework, and she sat in my lap while I listened to music on my parents’ stereo. We had to give her away when we moved overseas, and I was heartbroken. I vowed that when I became a grownup, I would get a cat for keeps.
After graduating from college, I adopted a four-month-old calico that I named Spunky. She would greet me at the door when I came home, tired and often stressed-out, from my night-shift work. She’d jump in my lap, place her front paws on my chest and gaze into my eyes like she was looking into my soul. She was my baby, and when I met my husband-to-be, I told him that if Spunky didn’t like him, we were finished. Thankfully, she adored him!
After she passed away, my husband and I adopted an eight-week-old female Maine Coon cat mix and her grey tiger brother. And we now have a male “dairy cow cat”—white with black patches—and the calico with the orange ear.
I think about how all these cats have entertained me with their funny antics. The grey tiger liked to lie on the kitchen table and play with the shade on the pinup lamp, until he succeeded in unscrewing the bulb. And sometimes, he’d even reach over and turn off the light switch on the wall. He also loved to open the cupboard door and pull out almost every box of trash bags. I smile as I recall his quirks.
“Dairy cow” cat lets us know when he wants to play by dashing across the floor, and then looking back at us as he puffs up his tail. My husband calls it his fat tail pose. “Orange Ear” amuses us by playing “catch” when we throw her a small toy that she immediately hits back to us.
Reminiscing about the past
My mother would’ve loved all these cats, I think. I glance again at the photo of her and me on the couch. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s been gone for almost 30 years. She passed away at 70 after a long illness, which left her unable to walk or communicate. She was trapped in a body that no longer worked. It made me sad to visit her in the nursing home, since she couldn’t talk and would tire easily.
But, I smile as I remember my wedding day. My Dad had arranged for my mother to attend, by hiring a wheelchair van. He and I were worried that it would be too tiring for her, or that she wouldn’t totally know what was going on. But at one point during my vows, I looked over, and she smiled the most beautiful smile.
The photo on the piano, of my Dad at Thanksgiving, is one of my favorites. He looks surprised, and there is a hint of a smile. I’d snapped the picture just as he was about to take a bite of his dinner. He’s been gone now for almost 20 years, and while I miss him so much, I do believe that he and my mother are watching over me now.
And so tonight, as I sit in my recliner and reminisce about the past, I don’t know what the future will bring. But as always, I’m comforted by my cat, who only knows of her love for me. And for that, I am grateful.
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image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Pixabay