Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sleeping in the Middle

SLEEPING                                      IN THE


        So, which side of the bed do you like to sleep on? Years ago, when I was married, I slept with my left side on the edge, which means I sleep on the right side. Having been divorced for over 20 years, I really haven’t had a steady sleeping partner except for my cats. For some reason, they prefer the left side of the bed, so I am still sleeping on the right.  I do have a “sometimes” sleeping partner and he sleeps on the left side, probably because I automatically took the right side the first time he stayed over. You are probably wondering where this is all heading?
        It started when my friend Mustafa came and stayed for over a week. Now, I absolutely adore this man. I have known him for only 2 years, but I feel so at ease when he’s around and almost like he is my other half. While he was here, he helped me out in my garden and yard since I had my knee replaced about 8 weeks ago and my yard and gardens have become a jungle. He even cooks! When you live alone and are suddenly “co-habitating” with someone you really have an attachment for, and they leave, it can be devastating. The morning he drove off, I managed to keep it together, but that evening, getting ready for bed brought the worst lonely, heart-wrenching, achy feeling I have experienced since my Mom died 2 years ago.  That is until I watched my cat, Spice re-established herself on the spot she had considered hers until the invasion by that foreign beast. Her warmth against my body and her gentle purring soothed away my longing and I slowly pulled my emotions back through the hole I felt was surely in my soul and began to heal.
        A week passed with me waking in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and gently petting Spice as I returned to bed.  Sometimes she acknowledged me, other times she slept on really deeply, actually snoring. It was Wednesday evening, August 14. I was watching TV and Spice was sitting in the dining room window which was open to the screen since the weather had cooled down considerably and I was letting some fresh air into the house. A stray, scruffy gray male cat was chasing a little white cat with a black moustache outside in the driveway and Spice growled, got down from the window and followed the cat as he passed by the screened patio doors. She threw herself against the screen at the cat as if she could fight him.  Spice is a runt and weighs maybe 8 pounds. That huge gray scruff-ball probably goes 12-15 pounds. I got up and closed the patio doors and Spice followed the cats around the living room windows till they passed by the front door and disappeared. I picked her up and carried her into the bedroom and started to get ready for bed. She snuggled in beside me. The bedroom windows were open. I remember petting her after a trip to the bathroom at 3 AM.
        Spice has problems digesting food and gets a lot of hair balls and throws up.  We now have this little ritual in the morning. As soon as I get out of bed, Spice runs to the dining room table and waits for me. I get her comb, her hairball medicine and her Greenies. I comb her hair, she licks the medicine off my finger, then she gets 3 Greenies.  Spice was not on the dining room table that Thursday morning. I called to her, but she did not appear. I wasn’t that concerned.  Her litter boxes are in the basement and this is an old house.  Sometimes mice get in and she stalks them till she catches them.  I got dressed and spent the day running errands and was gone until after 2:30 PM. When I came back home, no Spice greeted me. Again I called her, but she did not come.  I started to look in all of her favorite places. I went to the basement to try and find her. I did not notice it then, but I believe the basement door was open and the screen door does not have a catch. My other cat, Simba, could get outside quite easily by pushing up against it. I never thought that Spice would do that.  She was an indoor cat from the day I adopted her and had NEVER been outside! I was getting concerned and went and looked in all my closets and drawers and cupboards. I checked the crawl space. Nothing.  Her food had not been touched. It was late Thursday evening and I was getting frantic. I called my neighbor JC to come over and help me find her.  He brought a flashlight and we put up a ladder and looked up in the eaves of the basement and under an old rotten wood floor that partially covers one side of the basement floor. Nothing.
        I tried to sleep that night, but could only cry and worry. I kept thinking I felt her jump onto the bed.  When the hole in my soul returned, I could no longer stand the pain of an empty bed and I decided to sleep in the middle. Finally morning came.  I put a notice on Facebook and tried to make some posters with her picture on them.  My friend Hope called just as I was getting ready to go to Animal Control and the Humane Society. She offered to drive me because I was really in a state of hysteria, unable to stop crying. Animal Control had said on the phone that they had picked up a calico cat on Thursday.  I was so hopeful.  When we got there and they showed me the cat, it was not Spice. Such disappointment! I left a poster and my contact information and we went on to the Humane Society.  As I waited at the desk, my eyes wandered over to the cat cages and I noticed the back of a calico cat and it looked exactly like Spice! I ran over to the cage and there were 2 calico cat sisters in adjoining cages named Faith and Hope. When the cat turned around to look at me, I could see she was not Spice but my heart warmed for these two darling cats. I halfway decided that if Spice could not be found, I would return because I could feel the hole in my soul growing larger and larger and I knew it would take a lot to fill it up.
        All day Friday, I made flyers and put them up in my neighborhood: the Laundromat, the gas station, Dollar General, at the playground; and gave them to neighbors I saw out in their yards. I could barely get through my speech without a sob and everyone was so kind and promised to help me if they saw her.
        I came home and although I had my knee replaced only 8 weeks ago, I decided I had to go down into the woods behind my house and search for her.  I got my trekking poles and set out at the end of my driveway through poison ivy and briars and spider webs, covering the whole hillside down to a small creek.  It made me feel good to see the water in the creek.  I knew Spice had had nothing to eat or drink since Wednesday night.  It was now Friday afternoon. The lump in my throat and the pain in my soul grew with each passing hour she was gone.
        My friend JC tried to get me to play some music Friday night but I refused.  I put out some cat food and water on both of my porches and tried to go to bed.  I even took 2 pain pills to help me sleep.  At 3 AM I got up and decided to sleep on the pergola in my chaise lounge.  I went and got my BB pistol in case raccoons or other critters appeared. When I reached the patio, the food was gone. It was gone off the front porch too!  I refilled the bowls, grabbed my blanket and the pistol and settled into the chair.  It was so quiet.  It had gotten cooler and was only in the high 60’s. I sat there about an hour and then the mosquitoes arrived.  As I was contemplating going inside for some bug spray, the raccoon appeared, a big fat thing that must have weighed 100 pounds!  That critter was not giving up on getting that food!  I decided to call it a night and went to bed, taking another pain pill and sleeping in the middle.
        Saturday I made my rounds in the neighborhood and came home and tried to make some soup. It was starting to cloud over and it was in the low 60’s and we were supposed to get rain. My friend Mustafa said not to give up hope, but I have to tell you, it sure seemed hopeless to me.  I was not able to eat or sleep and the pain in my heart was so persistent and heavy. My eyes were swollen and sore.
        I put on some meditation music and began to pray to Artemis Diana to put a protective ring around Spice and keep her safe. I asked that she be brought home to me, but if that was not possible, I asked that she be safe and content and I let that be my mantra: “Spice is safe and content.”
I went down in the basement and turned off the dehumidifier and decided to sit there and listen quietly.  I thought maybe she was under that old wooden floor and maybe she was sick.  She hides when she doesn’t feel good. I sat silently and listened. I imagined my ears as big as a rabbit’s ears, standing straight up.  Then I started to whisper her name and tell her she was a good girl.  That always makes her purr really loud. Nothing.
        JC called and I just cried and told him to let me be, but he insisted on coming over and bringing a video that was supposed to be a comedy. It was about 7PM and I put the video in and we started watching it. I couldn’t pay attention to it. I almost fell asleep and I was wishing it would end and he would just leave. Besides, it had started to rain a steady downpour and I could not imagine my little kitty out there in the cold and wet without food or water.
        All of a sudden JC jumped up and said, “There’s a cat looking in your door!” and he started over to open it up. “No!  Get away! Let me go! She is afraid of other people!” I screamed and jumped up from my chair.  I opened the door and the cat kind of disappeared into my flower bed, but I recognized her meow.  It was Spice and I called her name and bent down and she came to me, all soaking wet.  I picked her up and took her inside and just held her close calling her name, feeling that hole in my soul fill to overflowing. She was struggling to get free and when I put her down, she ran right to her food bowl!
        It is now Tuesday and she still has not told me where she was or what she was doing.  She is scratching a lot and has some fleas. She stays very close to me and seems to like to be on my lap more. And at night, I cannot sleep in the middle any more. She is back on her side of the bed, but by morning, she is more in the middle as she scoots closer and closer to me. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night to be sure she is there. I have closed the cellar door and latched the screen. I have checked all the screens in the windows to make certain they are secure.
        This morning we had our little ritual with the combing, medicine and Greenies. I think we are back to normal.  I sometimes think of those two calico sisters at the Humane Society and my heart aches to offer them a home, but I am near retirement and don’t know where I want to be after this school year and I am not sure Spice wants to share me with another cat or two. She seems to be sleeping in the middle now.

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