Friday, July 29, 2011

So Are the Cats of Our Lives by RD Hartwell - Essay

So Are the Cats of Our Lives
by RD Hartwell

Gibbs and Jamie

“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Now that is a nice maxim, but not one to which I can attend as guidance. My life has been far too filled with the jolts and boredom, joys and tribulations to think of it as one of smooth regularity. I am sixty-five, one of those ages that supposedly define one’s life, but I find that that maxim does not really mean much to me. I do not number my life in years, but in cats.

How do you quantify your life? Notice that I did not ask how you qualify, or analyze, your life. That would be far too personal and subject to much deep consideration. I will ask again, “How do you quantify your life?” It is one of those questions you encounter all the time and it appears on almost every form you fill out. It is a question asked of you so often that it is probably only surpassed in number by “How are you?” or “How have you been?” These are rhetorical questions, questions of a type that no one really wants or expects an answer. Anyway, “How do you quantify your life?”

Now wait a moment! Before you answer, truly or falsely, with a given number of years, stop and think about those years. I would venture that, upon reflection, some of those years you were “older” than your chronological age and for other years you were considerably “younger.” What makes that so is highly individualistic? For me, it is cats. Yes, CATS!

It would be a tremendous understatement for me to say that the cats that have owned me (small giggle for those in the know) for sixty-five years have given me great excitement in their acquisition and great joy in their lives and equally great sadness in their passing. For me, it is these cycles of catdom that define my age. Recently, Gabriel and I have been ninety-eight, or thereabouts. Gabriel is the last of his generation and the oldest in our family of ten felines and seven humans. Both of us had been feeling and acting a bit long in the tooth and short on the energy. Well, colluding with her sister, my wife took care of that. It seems that about three or four weeks ago one of my sister-in-law’s cats gave birth to a single kitten, possibly her first litter. So, of course as she has quite often, my wife decided that we needed that kitten to make a nice, rounded eleven cats!?? I do love my wife, but she sure counts funny.

So Leroy Jethro Gibbs (his naming is another story altogether, with a foundation in the television show NCIS) has joined the family. All of a sudden Gabriel and I are teenagers again. Some of you may have encountered just such a fluctuation in your “days of (y)our lives.” Anyway, Gibbs has served to make most of us in the family younger and a couple of the previously dominant cats a bit older. It is a strange phenomenon how this has occurred; however, I’ll wager that this system of marking age is not unique to me.

It is much too glib to say, “You are as young (or old) as you feel.” My feelings towards this concept of age, my regulator or emotional thermostat, is calibrated by cats. We currently have eleven cats from five different generations allowing us to stay here. In the backyard are cats from three other generations. We have been in this house for twenty-four years. Allowing for some error in my computations, or perhaps my memory, it appears we are acquiring a stray or a litter every three years of so. Now if that won’t keep you young, I just don’t know what would.

Gibbs and Sally


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