Thursday, July 21, 2011

Booney: the rescue cat, part 2

Booney is my cat now. Thank you, God. She is grateful too. Sometimes she appears at my feet, and she’ll stretch out her paw to my knee. As I look down at her face, I say “What’s up Boo?” Are you missing Daddy?” Something in her eyes and a little chirping mew tell me that she is. I scoop her up and hold her tight. She purrs loudly in my ear and I tell her that everything’s okay and I miss him too.

For the last two years of Mom’s life, Booney took care of her. She kept an eye on Daddy too, alternately annoying and entertaining him, but she seemed to know that the focus of her attention was Mom. That is when she wasn’t outside climbing to the top, the very top, of the tree in the front yard. She didn’t go up there and get stuck; she went up there and hung out. I think it was her “Booney” time.

All of my Mom’s life, she was allergic to cats. She loved them, and so did Daddy, so we had them anyway. She built up a certain level of tolerance, but we always knew that if she touched the cat and put her hands to her face before washing them, she was going to need her inhaler. Her face would swell, her eyes got red, and her nose would run. Sometimes she would start to wheeze. I used to have a cat with huge furry feet that Mom couldn’t resist touching. The cat didn’t like have her feet touched. “She clawed me!” Mom would exclaim in utter astonishment, for the thousandth time. Then she would go wash her hands. 
Mom was not allergic to Booney. I’m sure there is some sort of scientific explanation for that, but I don’t know or care what it is. It was a miracle. Mom needed not to be allergic to Booney, and she wasn’t.

My mother, Barbara Jean Buckner Grizzard, was an amazing woman. She graduated from UCLA, in spite of her father’s opinion that it was a waste of time and money for a woman to get an education. She did double acrostic word puzzles that spelled out a quote from a book and the author’s name. Occasionally she’d ask me a question about a clue, and I’d say “Why are you asking ME that? You know I never know the answers to any of those things!” “You might,” she’d say, ever hopeful that I’d know something about something. She and my Dad would play a “game” during lazy Sunday breakfasts; listening to classical music on the radio. They would try to guess who was conducting whatever piece was playing. I would listen, in awe, wondering what I was doing with these two people as my parents!

Gradually, over the last years of her life, my articulate, opinionated, well read Mom (She read “Soul on Ice,” by Eldridge Cleaver, for crying out loud!) lost her ability to see to read, due to Macular Degeneration, and her ability to speak due to Multi-Infarcted Dementia. Conversation became increasingly difficult, and then virtually impossible. Except communication between Mom and Booney. Mom’s life eventually consisted of sitting on the end of the couch, watching television. Booney sat on the arm of the couch and watched with her. She would “talk” to Mom, and Mom would talk to her. Booney took naps with Mom, and slept with her and Daddy at night. No other cat had ever been allowed on their bed. Toward the end of her life, Daddy arranged for in home hospice care, which eventually included a hospital bed in the living room. Booney stayed on the bed with her all the time then; her constant companion and comfort until her death.

When Mom died, Booney devoted herself to taking care of Daddy. Thank you, God. I don’t know how Daddy would have gone on for the next ten years, without Booney. He’d dedicated himself to taking care of Mom, and now that job had ended. I know that they grieved their loss together, but Booney also gave him a reason to get up in the morning. She kept him company at night and got him up in the morning. She insisted on being brushed while he watched TV at night. She told him when it was time to eat, in case he forgot. And sometimes he did. She was his constant companion and comfort.
And now she is mine.         

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Boonie: The Rescue Cat

Booney was a young cat that I gave a job. Little did I know how well she would take to it. She didn’t ask for it, but she stepped into it magnificently. My Daddy had begun to eliminate things from his life; his and my mom’s. He was saying things like “These are the last pair of shoes I expect to need to buy.” Don’t say things like that to your kids, unless you want them to give you a cat.
One day, when I was talking to Daddy on the phone, I asked how OJ was doing. Orange Julius was a cat who had presented himself to my parents. He was all bedraggled, with a half gone, abscessed ear. They tried ignoring him, hoping he would go away, but they were cat-less, and he needed them. And they needed him. That’s how OJ came to sit on Daddy’s ottoman every night at 9:00, year after year, to tell him that it was time for ice cream. “We had to have him put to sleep.” “What?” “Why?” “He had AIDS,” Daddy said. He hadn’t told me because he didn’t want to talk about it. I asked him what they were going to do about finding another cat. “NO MORE CATS!” He said, “We’re not having any more cats.” And he meant it. He even bought a water cannon, to run off any cats that came around looking for a home.
I wanted to scream! And cry. Not just because OJ was gone and I didn’t even know about it, but because my Daddy was telling me that he was done. Checking out.
I was scared too. I called my sister and we talked about what a terrible idea it was for our mom and dad to live without a cat. Seriously, it was a terrifying idea! She said, “I don’t know what to do about it!” I said, “I think we have to give them a cat!” She said, “I think you’re the only one who can do that.” Okay. Okay, I’ll find them a cat…
I started plotting how to give my Dad a cat. Oh, I forgot to mention; he explicitly told me that I was not to give him a cat! Had to keep telling my self to ignore that order. His birthday was coming up and I’d already planned to visit him then. My brother and sister would be there too. I decided, completely disregarding his edict, with much trepidation, to give him a cat for his birthday. And blame it on my sister. And name her Booney, after him. His name is William Boone, so I figured it would be harder for him to reject her if she was named after him. I think I decided all that before I actually found “Booney.” I wanted a young cat, not a baby that could keep him up at night crying for her momma, or get lost in the house. Female and shorthaired. Finding her turned out to be a piece of cake. Friends had kittens, juvenile cats, just the age and type I was looking for. (for which I was looking. Sorry Daddy, it just sounds weird that way.)
Booney was a sleek black and white kitty. Perfect.
Now, how was I going to get her to Daddy’s house, and successfully present her to him? I didn’t have a cat carrier. What I had was a deluxe chicken “carrier” that my son made for an exhibit in the county fair. It was big, in the shape of a barn; a work of art. I fixed it with bedding, a small pan of litter, and attached a sign that read, “Happy Birthday! My name is Booney. Love, Barbara” My sister’s name. Blaming it on my sister had become an integral part of my plan. I put Booney in, lashed the barn doors together, and we hit the road, for the seven hour drive to mom and dad’s house. It was immediately clear that Booney wasn’t at all happy with the arrangement. She told me so in no uncertain terms. As I drove down the freeway, I tried to assure her that she wasn’t going to die; that everything was alright. After about thirty minutes, she became quiet and I breathed a sigh of relief. In the next breath, I heard a sweet little “meow” at my right elbow! Alarm ran through me like and electric shock. The little Houdini had escaped and was loose in the car! Now what am I going to do? That’s when she decided to explore, of course. She climbed over the top of my seat, down the side of the door, under my feet, and up onto the dash. I shooed her off the dash, while trying to get out of the left lane, where I was doing seventy miles an hour, telling her as calmly as possible “You can’t go there!” By the time I was able to pull over; she had curled up on the seat next to me. I decided to leave well enough alone. There didn’t seem to be much point in trying to stuff her back into the chicken palace. Instead I spent the rest of the trip working on presenting the cat I’d been forbidden to give.
It was dark when we arrived, so I scooped Booney up and knocked on the front door. I never went in by the front door, and I never knocked, so it was kind of a diversionary tactic. Daddy opened the door and I thrust Booney into his hands saying, “Here, hold this! Fine thing, I drive seven hours for your birthday and you don’t even have the porch light on for me!” Nothing like any of the scenarios I’d been rehearsing. He laughed and that was that! I’d given him a cat!
Booney sealed the deal the next day, with a paper bag. My mom was sitting on the couch and the bag lay open, on its side, in front of her. It was facing away from Mom, an irresistible invitation to Booney. Mom watched as Booney snuck up on the bag. As she started to go in, my mom tapped the other end of the bag with her shoe. Booney jumped straight up in the air, backwards, about four feet! My mother, who had lost most of her ability to speak, laughed out loud. Daddy looked at me and said “You did the right thing.”
It was meant to be, of course. It would never have worked out so well if it hadn’t been. I gave Daddy the cat, and I gave Booney the job of taking care of him, and my mom too. She did her job to perfection.