EmptyNesting


"I suspect that those magpies will miss that cat every bit as much as I will."

The Muse and I escorted Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat out of this shop-worn world. Rose, skittish to the end, peed all over The Muse's lap on the drive over to the vet's. I'd pleaded for just wrapping the cat in a towel to save her the indignity of riding in a cage, and The Muse assented. Her's was a tearful parting for us, huddled as we were like refugees over her silken body. We returned to an EmptyNest, a house demonstrably less home than the home it had been a short time before. The Muse was working from home. She returned to her laptop and I retreated to the master bedroom to read or pretend to read. My reading companion, my lap robe, was no longer there, a catnip mouse in the middle of the floor evidence of her recent tenancy.

She'd imprinted on a calling cue. I'd tap twice on my lap and she'd show up, yawning and tousle-haired from some semi-secret lair, and mount my lap, there to survey the surrounding territory as I read or fitfully reflected trying to connect with another elusive idea.
We were a heat exchange, or so I suspect she perceived our relationship, for her life was spent in pursuit of warmth. She always was a solar cat, preferring whatever corner sunlight had staked out. The Muse found a fancy cat tower at a garage sale, but Rose would have nothing to do with its carpeted heights. She preferred hard floor to elevated pedestals, bed tops to parapets. Over the last year, she'd grown to sleep about forty hours out of each twenty four, an inexhaustible napper, waking only to relocate into a sunnier spot, visit her litter box, or, increasingly infrequently, nibble. Her wet food invariably went dry and scabby before she would finish it. I'd each pre-dawn place the residue out on the deck for the magpies as part of our regular feeding ritual.

Rose owned the foot of The Muse's side of the bed and an aisle separating us in the middle. She'd crawl, crying, between us at bedtime, submit to a few minutes of vigorous belly petting, then retreat to her foot of the bed where she'd survey territory before falling into deep sleep. She'd return to the middle space when I woke up sometime just after three, there to seemingly beg for breakfast until I'd rise. The routine seemed to be her great relief. She seemed unconvinced that a great mistake had not been made, that each morning I'd forget to feed her and certain starvation might result. Following me around as I'd light the fireplace and turn up the thermostat which I admit I've never figured out how to program so it automatically drops the inside temperature to sixty overnight, she was an endless complainant, crying plaintively until I finally revealed that fresh can of food and had improved her dry food supply. Then, she'd no more than sniff at the replenishment before collapsing before the fire to rest up for her actual breakfast, taken surreptitiously some time later.

She followed me wherever I'd go through the morning. If I shifted rooms, she'd be right behind me. I grew to expect her shadow. She remained my sole companion through innumerable isolated days. I admit that I'd seek her out if her absence extended beyond a few minutes. Ours was a symbiotic relationship based, I suspect, upon some mutual need to not be overly alone. She'd roll seductively around the floor whenever I'd slip into my outside shoes, as if to convince me not to leave her alone in the place. Our more extended absences, when Emily The Cat Sitter would stop by only once a day to check her food and water the houseplants, took the greatest toll on her. For a week after we'd return, Rose would be glued to my lap as if to simply hold me in place. She filled up the space that feels simply empty in her absence.

Being a responsible anything sucks. Being a grownup must be a mythical state. I confess to no more than inhabiting a big person body. I will forever remain no more than eight years old inside. Pets never mature much, either. The state of being a pet guarantees an eternal adolescence, which ultimately results in the loss of a child. Or, the loss of two children, maybe three. The Muse and I managed a first supper without our resident mooch begging for bites, an accomplishment of sorts, I suppose. I managed to rise without Rose's hectoring me to hurry up and switch out her desiccated food. The magpies conducted a wake on the deck in a snowfall yesterday after I'd set Rose's food dish out for their perusal. A full murder of magpies attended, swooping and swearing, recreating Rose's favorite performance one last time. I suspect that those magpies will miss that cat every bit as much as I will.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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