Friday, August 12, 2011

Lights are shut down

My parents in the 70s. Part of an ongoing series of familial photographs.

My cat may be dying. He’s not exactly my cat, but a cat that I’ve lived with, off and on, here in Maine, for almost eight years, so he feels like mine. I’m one of several humans whose lips he deigns to claw while I sleep. Not anymore, though. Now he curls up in various corners, beneath end tables, on door steps, in front of bathtubs, and doesn’t eat. I bought him the fanciest cat food I could find, and he exploded all over the house. He nibbled at steak chopped in little pieces, but eventually turned his nose up. This morning, he threw up raw tilapia.

He’s an old cat, an old tom, and he’s had a fair share of adventures, and is almost into his third decade. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to watch his bones jut out at every step, to feel his scapulae distinct beneath his dense white fur. He weighs barely three pounds now.

It’s a peril we take, loving things, people, animals. Danger lurks all around. I remember the muriatic acid we kept on the boat, for what purpose now escapes me, but I felt morbid terror when I cushioned that gallon of toxic chemical against our hull. What if it leaked? What if it corroded a hole in the hull while I slept?

But every moment we live, we cradle muriatic acid against the hull of our hearts. Every being we love can hurt us, can sink us. Buddha spoke of desire causing suffering, a philosophy that I’ve struggled with for years. It’s patently true—every thing I want can cause me pain. But to absent myself from that risk, the risk of pain, feels inhuman. In loving, in desiring good for other beings, I risk suffering.

I want Schafe, the cat, to live forever. It’s a desire that will not be fulfilled.


Ellen D. said...

I am sorry about your cat. I've been through that with my cat that live to 18. Sometimes they'll recover for a while. However, I LOVE that photo of your parents. I've never met your dad, but I adore that look on his face as he listens to your mother!

Melissa said...

My cat is exactly 18, at least as far as I know. He spent all night out last night, and I was convinced that was it, but today he's back in and eating and seems a bit stronger.

I'm glad you like the photo, too. I'm planning to post a whole set of photos of them that I scanned in Michigan...