Monday, March 29, 2010

KEEPING WATCH

8 p.m. and all is well (Bobo Ramadan on the right)

On his favorite perch, listening for critters (since he can't
see them now) - Summer 2009


Snoozing on the summer porch - last summer (2009)

Strutting his stuff at home on the summer porch - July 2009


KEEPING WATCH

This has been a long week for Ian and me. Our old cat, Bobo Ramadan, is getting ready to pass on. Slowly. Reluctantly. Or maybe that is just how I imagine it. Even our young boy-cat is confused by how much his companion is avoiding him now. It is a difficult time.

Bo is 16 years old now. He has slowed down in the way all things slow down as they grow old. But, with him, it's more complicated than just aging. He has diabetes and must have daily insulin injections which he's not pleased about. He's also blind now and tends to walk into things or stumble down the stairs, his green eyes thick with cataracts now.

We thought he was on his final leg when we brought him back home a year ago from my son's home. He was pitifully thin despite eating maniacally at every chance, first devouring his own food then moving over to the other cat's bowl and devouring half of his portion too. The young cat had never seen such debauchery and stepped back to watch the gluttony with what I might call a kind of reverential wonder. The old cat continued to eat ravenously AND to lose weight in the first few weeks, but then the veterinarian upped his dose of insulin and he evened off for a while, plumping up a bit, and leaving a good portion of the other cat's food to the other cat. "Even so," the vet warned us back then, "he probably won't be long for this world." And even as it saddened us, Ian and I both think that there's a kind of rightness in him coming home to die quietly, among those who love you. So we prepared ourselves for the worst even as we, secretly, hoped for the better.

And he did make a recovery, of sorts: once he was here in the quiet of our old farmhouse. He spent all last spring, summer, and early fall sitting out on the summer porch all day, dozing off on his cozy perch and watching the squirrels and birds – or trying to watch them, as much as he could, given the cataracts. But, even when he did manage to "track them" by following the direction of their noises, he lost interest quickly and settled back to doze in the sun. Baby birds were hatched in the low tree limbs last spring and he didn't have any inclination to plunder the nest or frighten the mother bird. They came and went as near to him as they wanted and he just stretched and yawned and settled back to sleep. Spiders and bugs, which used to be his daily "kill" obsessions as a young cat, made their nest and webs near him or, on occasion, crawled right over him and he didn't seem to mind. He has gone, in these late years, from being a fierce stalker and killer to being a genial resting-place where even the oldest enemies can come close again. And that is, perhaps, the lesson the elderly have to show us: how it is possible to grow in wisdom even as we shrink in stature.

Now, he is beyond eating and takes in only a few laps of water at a time before he exhausts himself and must crawl back into the warm closet alongside my flats and tennis shoes and the beautiful, expensive high heels I once loved and keep now though I can no longer walk in them. He likes to lie curled up on the wooden floorboards there and to feel the heat that builds up from the copper pipes running through the back of the closet. It's as close as he can get to that "womb-feeling" again. And he clearly likes the fetal feel of it there in the warm darkness.

The old cat cannot make it over the lip of the litter box now sometimes and just relieves himself as close as possible to the box so, even as we gather the cleaning rags and sponges, the disinfectant and the green apple spray, we praise him for getting close. No heroic gesture goes unnoticed in this house. And when he jumps onto the bed with us at night, making that little cat-cry of pain that he makes when he puts all his effort into leaping up, we let him curl against us and we whisper to him in that old way we used to when he first came to us from the pound as a five-week-old kitten. We drop our voices to barely audible and coo at him in baby-talk as he tries to "fix" us, once more, in his sight: Good boy, Bobo Ramadan. Good boy. What a pity sing you are. . . .


**A note about this posting: I had to reload this posting today in order to fix some of the photos which weren't showing up and, when I did, I lost the two comments by Christine and Ernie. I am still learning how to manage the digital world of print and the learning curve is steep. Many apologizes to Ernie and Christine!