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.