Written January 2016, published January 2, 2018 — I am buying Metamucil for our cat as instructed by our veterinarian. Fala, our aging Tom, has gastrointestinal distress.
I’m hiding behind the magazines in the drugstore line, like the pimply-faced teenage hero of “Summer of 42.” I’m stacking random items, a greeting card, razors, gum, and toothpaste, like Herbie in the iconic coming-of-age movie. Can I refocus the clerk from my purchase of a constipation cure, like Herbie hid condoms from his clerk? I don’t want anyone to see me buying Metamucil, even if it is for Fala.
Sometime in the last eight years, our Empty Nest turned into a palace for this rescue cat. Fala and his littermate Sisy joined our home the day before our son’s eighth birthday. When they came to live with us, they behaved as pets. We were not their servants.
When our only son left for college 1,100 miles away, my husband and I gained a hole in our heart as wide as Texas. A year later, Sisy died. We were two sad people left with a lonely cat.
Now our son works in the city where he graduated from college. He has a fulfilled, happy life. We don’t want him to return to our nest; that’s not what’s best for him. And we support his choices.
But something has seriously changed. Since Sisy’s death, we’ve crossed over an imaginary line to a place where Fala presides.
Was it when Fala’s arthritic legs could no longer jump on our king sized bed, where he sleeps with us? We bought pet stairs, just his size. Now he can quickly come up to the bed and find his uber-comfy, memory foam bed complete with a plush kitty-sized blanket.
Was it when he cried for food, and we moved his bowl up from the basement to the master bath, along with his water jug that looks like a tiny water cooler?
Or was it when he was just too tired to walk the ten feet to get a drink, and I started giving him a drink from his own plastic glass marked by a Sharpie with “Fala.”
Or was it last week when his Daddy took him to the vet, and we learned that Fala was gassy and constipated? Fala is eighteen; in human terms, that’s more than eighty years old. Perhaps the grand old man needs extra tender loving care.
Or maybe we’re just completely over the edge, awash in grief over our Empty Nest, humanizing this ten-pound ball of fur.
Despite his lack of verbal skills or opposable thumbs, Fala clearly makes his wishes known to the management. We oblige and pamper.
Isn’t that what good parents are supposed to do?