Sunday, December 30, 2012

In Memory of Henri

She teaches art so when she named her kitten ‘Henri’, her students just assumed his name was spelled with an ‘i’ as in Henri Matisse, the French artist. 

 I never met Henri. He hid when I visited her place in Colorado Springs. I know he had a feline buddy, Lola, and a canine buddy, Cai, a Welsh Corgi. And Jenn, my friend, the one who fed him and cleaned his litter box. 

 Henri died the other day. 

 I cannot imagine losing one of my cats. 

They’re not dogs – creatures who come running and wagging when you enter your home. They might come. They might not. The occasional welcome is a grand occasion. 

They don’t do tricks. They will chase toys. Or not. Depending. When they do, it is enchanting. 

They make trouble. Occasionally knocking over a vase. Too often scratching upholstery. Stealing snacks from forbidden counters. 

And they are rude -- wandering, uninvited and without averting eyes, into the bathroom. 

Still. When the world overwhelms me and one of my cats climbs onto my lap (or shoulder) and I stroke his softness, feeling the responding purr, I am comforted, soothed. And when the other unexpectedly pounces out from behind a door, I laugh, delighted. 

To lose one such creature -- a being from an entirely separate species-- who places his whole being in your hands with absolute trust – is to lose a part of your heart. 

 So my friend mourns Henri. And I understand.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Memorial Christmas

My sister-in-law died October 17, 2011.

 Somehow, we managed Christmas. Christmas was hard for my brother – not just because of his immeasurable loss but also because Jayne had always done most of the Christmas stuff – buying the presents, wrapping, baking, decorating, addressing and mailing the cards (Bill put up the tree and created the cards). We all muddled through.

 I didn’t expect much this year. On Christmas morning we gathered in my nephew’s home to open presents. None of us thought Bill would give us anything extraordinary.

 We were wrong.

 Bill gave his younger son the beautiful porcelain cup and saucer that had Jayne had always kept on her dresser to hold her best necklace. Michael had long admired them and the story Jayne told to go with them. When my nephew opened the box, he knew immediately the significance. His thank-you was laced with tears.

 My two great nieces – Emily and Iris – each received one of Jayne’s necklaces – ones that they ‘visited’ every time they were in Bill and Jayne’s home. Now they both have a Jayne memory to cherish and wear. Emily, the oldest – the one who had more Jayne memories – burst into to tears when she saw her present and dissolved into a hug on my brother’s lap – the love and memory of the wonderful woman overflowing (and filling the living room).

 My older nephew’s wife opened a package with the pin Jayne always wore on her coat. Later, Bill told me the story of the pin. Lance (my older nephew) was premature, born when Bill was stationed in Germany. Too small to go home, Lance was on life support in a Munich hospital, 45 minutes from Bill and Jayne’s. Every day for six weeks, Bill and Jayne would drive the 45 minutes to visit their firstborn son, then, later, drive the sad 45 minutes back, with Jayne crying all the way. It was so incredibly hard for both parents, but especially for Jayne. Searching for something to cheer her up, Bill saw a pin with a star sapphire (Jayne’s favorite stone) in the PX at the base and bought it for her as a way to hold the promise that Lance would be okay and, soon, be out of the hospital and home where he could be held forever.

 Bill gave me a beautiful locket that I will cherish but I think the greatest gift of all was being in that living room when all those lustrous mementoes were given to the people who loved Jayne most.

It was a privilege and a memory I will treasure forever.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Feline Advent

Like most women, I find this time of year exhausting: decorating, shopping, wrapping, writing cards, mailing packages, and cooking comprise endless (but joyful) chores. Plus everyone feels obligated to stage some event that will fail utterly if you do not attend. 

 But I am surviving (so far) because of one of my cats, Guinness. At least once a day, I spend about five minutes with this feline meditation tool. 

 Sometimes the moments happen when I am at the dining room table (when he jumps up onto the morning paper) or when I am at the computer (when he walks in front of the screen) or when I am addressing Christmas cards (when he sits on the greetings). 

 First, he climbs onto my shoulder. He stays there, purring, for a while then maneuvers around so he is lying upside down in my arms like an infant. Purring. 

 His tail modestly covers his privates. His hind legs contract and extend in ways that only mammals with excessive joints can bend appendages. His front paws bend charmingly. His golden eyes look deep into mine. 

 So of course I pet him, stroking his tummy, under his chin, on top of his head, and behind his ears. 

 He closes his eyes and purrs. 

And I don’t do anything else because it is not possible to do anything else. And nothing could be better for either of us – a few moments to just be. Together. With at least one of us purring. 

And the stillness settles as a blessing.