My Old Cat, Miss Frances Calico
October 16, 2007
My Old Cat, Miss Frances Calico
Miss Frances grows weaker now. Day by day by day. Or, am I imagining things? She’s been asleep in that wicker basket under the light next to my telephone, right here on my desk. She's been there all day and hardly stirred.
She has been up and down now and then, awakening with a start and squeaking, walking toward me, eyeing the green pottery bowl Audrey sent on my last birthday, the green bowl up on the shelf near the lava lamp, the green bowl that’s filled with Temptations.
She is senile, my old cat. I know that for a fact. She cannot recall she’s eaten or not eaten and always thinks she’s hungry, looking for more food, to ease just some, the ever-present hunger, enduring it, no matter how soon ago or how often she does eat. I have come to keeping water nearby in the antique carnival glass bowl.
She throws up on some days. Others not. Some days she howls out loudly, announcing earp-time is nigh, and up comes partially digested tubes of brownish food from, I'm always thankful, from the front end. How I’ve come to accept these gifts left on the rug, just as once I accepted what a child left me during years of changing diapers. Today, I am mom to an ancient cat with renal failure. In truth, how surprised am I she’s lived this long? She who almost lost an eye, her jaw, her life to someone’s car on the dead end street?
She was a kitten once. Her first time in the backyard, we sat in lawn chairs, watched her dash across the fresh cut grass. Levitating, I said, was how it seemed. Kitten levitates, a flying calico puff of white and spots of black and brown. All a blur, a flying flash of furry whizzed by. I sobbed the day we found her at the City Animal Shelter and they made us sign our lives away that we would take good care. Now, maybe, some 17 or 18 years hence, maybe I have proved devotion. Tonda said it is a sin to throw away a pet. I have not, this one.
She lies there in that basket, twitching, twitching, twitching. A ribcage outlined beneath her still beautiful, mostly white coat. She, the litter runt, always the runt here in my world, where most everything and everyone else is jumbo.
She has, though, a personality, like mine, that would fill a room, and thus, would be my cat for all these years, dominating the house, sitting, a majestic regal creature, presiding in the living room, more than a decade from her white couch where perennially crumpled pillows show she's slept, or if not crumpled, soon to be. Presiding. Welcoming. Watching all. Trying to run out the damn front door to play a game called simply Street. How many times, Miss Frances, have you and I played Street?
She’s certainly a friendly thing and claims as her own all she does survey, with a wipe of a squiggling tail, against you or me or anyone else close by. Marking you to be her latest subject find, she rubs and prances, prisses and says hello, hello, hello! Welcome to my domain. Welcome! Welcome all, and you are mine!
She who one time came striding in a room filled with women sitting together in a meeting. Miss Frances looked around at us. The meeting stopped. Just stopped. We looked her and each other, then watched her jump on the bench against the window seal, lie back and I swear, she joined the meeting.
She lies there in the basket now, weak and skinny, next to me, almost all day without stirring much. I am moved to tears once more, here, years and years later, just as I was seeing her, the kitten in Arlington, Virginia’s SPCA. Moved to tears today by an old cat who has loved me and I’ve loved for longer than anyone would have thought possible.
She who climbed up on my chest as I lay there, one time, my life in disarray that year. She, who climbed up and sat on top of me, looked me in the eye and said meow. I said I am glad you're here to look at me and smile.
She who came west with me one morning on Delta Airlines, before dawn, we left Dulles International Airport in the First Class section. My nurse anesthetist neighbor gave me drugs to calm her, but no, Miss Frances was wired instead. Howled all the way, there in her box under the seat in front of me, howled at least to St. Louis. I was not very popular in First Class that morning. We changed planes in Salt Lake City where she howled her way from one concourse to the other. It was holiday season and the traveling kids, the kids going to see grandsomebody, the kids wanted to see the kitty. Howling kitty. I just rolled my eyes and let them see the kitty. Next time, one of us goes in baggage.
Frances, I do admit: You rock! Even as you are dying slowly, I swear you rock. Even as I have no idea really how much longer you can be with me, I am your servant still, your servant with salty tears, like sweat, rolling cheekward toward the floor. I swear, I am your servant still.
(Betty's List Photos)
Entered by BettyS: 7:00 AM
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