Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Year With A Cat

"Get Really Close To Another Human Being This Lifetime" - Graffiti at Pratt Beach in Chicago

  A cat lives in my apartment. Her name is Ozzy. She is about 15 years old. Almost all of her fur is black, but she does have small tufts of white on her belly. Her legs seem unsteady at times. And she only has a couple of teeth left. But from time to time, she stills bounds around the apartment hunting for imaginary prey. So she doesn't appear to have let go of her youth entirely.

  I picked her up from the shelter about a year ago. I've lived alone for nearly ten years now. I don't have much interest in sharing my home with another person, but a cat seemed like a good fit. They seem like low maintenance animals on the whole. So I figured an older one would just be that much more so. I'd provide her with a more comfortable way to spend her golden years, and in exchange I'd have something to pet on winter nights while curled up with a book. Nice and clean and neat.

  The truth is that I often find her obnoxious. She's needy and she meows constantly. She is usually the last thing I hear before I fall asleep, and the first thing I hear when I wake up. When she's asleep, I tip-toe around my own home like a parent that's been granted a moment of respite from their newborn baby. If she had her way, she would only leave my lap long enough to eat and poop.

  The truth is also that I like her anyway. I can't even say why. Sure, she's warm and fuzzy and its nice to have her in my lap sometimes. But against everything else, that just seems on the surface like a lousy trade.

  But I've gotten to know her. And like an ornery grandparent that makes a habit of saying mean things to people, her drawbacks are also part of her appeal. They take her from being an object that I can only see as she relates to me, and they help me look at her as a living breathing creature that exist for her own sake.

   It can be more difficult for me to look at a person this way. Unlike my cat, most of us have the ability to be so much more than what we are. So it isn't always easy to see a person's drawbacks as part of their appeal. It isn't as easy to forgive. But it does get easier with time. Time spent listening to people. Time spent allowing people to reveal themselves as the dynamic creatures that they are. Time enough to allow yourself to get close.

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