And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Muse is the only pet in our household who has been with us since her babyhood. She is eighteen years old, going on steadily to nineteen. And I can already hear my husband, Michael, saying, “You’re writing a moment of happiness about the Demon?”
Muse has always been a challenge.
Muse came to us after I mentioned in a workshop I was leading that we had an overabundance of testosterone in my house. There was Michael and my two boys. There was the dog, a Chihuahua named Cocoa. And there were two male cats, Einstein and Cornelius. The only females were my two daughters and me. The next week, a student came in to class with a box of teeny kittens. They’d been born in an RV traveling from the west coast to the east coast, and the owners were trying to find them homes so they could return to traveling with just one cat. Of all the kittens, there was only one female. She looked up at me from the box and blinked with a calm that was the direct opposite of her tumbling brothers. And so she came home.
Where she was instantly not calm.
She climbed into the eaves in the basement and disappeared under the floorboards. We despaired of ever getting her out. I had to place a kitty carrier on top of Cocoa’s dog crate and stuff Muse in it every night, because otherwise, she would insist on sleeping on my head. She tore things apart. She climbed things. She was wherever your foot wanted to be.
But she also was a champion mouser when our house was suddenly overrun with field mice. And she was tolerant of little Olivia putting her into a basket and carrying her around the house.
When we moved here, to our industrial style condo with the exposed rafters, she immediately climbed up and wandered above our heads. The developer of the complex warned that there were spigots up there that controlled our sprinkler system in case of fire, and if she bumped into one, we would have tons of water careening into our home. I hung items on the floor to ceiling beams on either side of our island, to prevent Muse from getting up there. Instead, she jumped from the floor to the counter to the fridge to the tops of cabinets, and then wandered around the spigots again. We gave up. At eighteen, she still does this.
I long ago started a photo series, called, “Because No Day Is Complete Without A Cat On/In Your…” If there was a piece of paper, she found it. She sat in my printer. The bathtub. On top of the shutters in a window. On a stack of three pillows. On top of Ursula’s raggedy pink blankie. On my computer. The other day, I found that Google had searched, seemingly on its own, for references to the word “pppppppppppppppppink”. Apparently, Muse needed to know all about the music star.
When Zoom became a daily presence in my life, Muse visited with my students and clients whenever I was trying to work with them. She made an appearance at my book launch last week. Lately, she’s become obsessed with sticking her head in any bowls or cups. She’s lapped up my coffee. She’s eaten my oatmeal. When I don’t have time to run my cereal bowl down to the dishwasher before I meet with a morning client, I have to stick the bowl on the highest shelf behind me. Muse will sit on the back of my desk chair, hunched, preparing to leap from the chair to that bookshelf. More than one student has shouted out, “No! No, Muse!”
Something that non-cat owners may not know is that as a cat ages, she loses her ability to retract her claws. Muse now sticks to everything she touches. Including me. The other night, when I finished meditating before sleep, Muse had one paw resting on top of my hand. When I moved, her claw stuck under my skin. She began yanking to try to get it out, but it was stuck. I was trying to reach across my body with my non-cat hand to disengage her, but try to do that from the flat of your back while you are in incredible pain. Eventually, she got out and I just quietly bled myself to sleep.
This week, when she was in the way during a class, I picked her up from my desk, intending to set her on the floor, so I could have ten seconds of peace before she returned. As I lifted, she set her paw on my forearm. I was wearing short sleeves. She stuck with four claws. Ever try not to scream while teaching a class, with a cat stuck to your arm, dangling in midair, with no possible way to get your other hand where you can disengage her?
I have. And I have the wounds to show it. Please send bandaids.
But this morning. Oh, this morning. I woke a few minutes before my alarm went off. Curled into my side was this teeny gray cat. She has never weighed more than five pounds. Her gray face was resting on gray paws, and her gray tail curled over her gray nose. I smoothed her fur, somewhat raggedy with age, from her head around the curve of her back. And she began to purr.
A much better sound than a bleating alarm clock.
What a wonderful way to wake up. For eighteen years.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.