At this time of my life I am not overly enthused about having animals to care for. Let's face it, pets are expensive. It costs to buy cat food and litter that clumps. The money spent over the years on flea medication and heart worm pills could have been used to buy a condo at the beach or at the least, a cruise to Alaska.
For years I didn't have to worry about cleaning out the kitty box. Our twin cats, or "the boys" as we call them, were perfectly content to do their business outside while living down south. Even though they preferred nap time inside their Alabama home, everything else took place outside. That meant hunting, exploring and pooping were activities that took place somewhere far removed from the house. They were pleased to oblige, and I was naturally pleased that they saw it my way.
The boys went through quite an adjustment in South Carolina. Where as they had been of the "indoor-outdoor" variety for their first 10 years or so, they suddenly found themselves unwelcome in the inner sanctum. It wasn't us. We invited them to join us, but it was clear they wanted nothing to do with this new place. It wasn't the town; it wasn't even the house. It was the strange three felines that came with us from Alabama who didn't even know what the outdoors was. They belonged to our daughter Angela and had been "apartment" cats. Now they were "house" cats, and the boys wanted nothing to do with them. On the few occasions they ventured in, the hissing and flying hair sent them scurrying back out the door. Their water and food dishes sat on the front porch, and they found warmth in the garage on the coldest of days. But there was a hanging swing on that porch where I often sat to read or work on crossword puzzles. One or sometimes both would crawl onto my lap eager for human contact again.
Two years went by and another move. This time they found themselves up north in a little house on the corner of a fairly quiet street. They were naturally wary during those first days in another new place. But it didn't take long to settle in, especially with "the others" no longer posing a threat. They became more confident about venturing outside though they rarely stayed for long. And when winter came, it was only occasionally they would go to the door, and that was just to peer out for a moment. Not interested, they would return to their sleeping perch or food dish or litter box. When that first spring arrived, their bravado returned, but it will never be what it was. After all, they're old men now and have nothing to prove.
I complained a bit earlier about the cost of having pets. And then there is the constant cleaning of the litter box that the boys have come to prefer. After all, the yard is tiny in comparison to the fields they had all around them in the South land.
Yet when I settle onto my couch for the evening to read or watch a little television, there is always one of the boys ready to climb up and keep me company. He prefers to lie as close to my heart as he can, and his body seems to vibrate right through me. Sometimes his brother joins us, and I feel a bit overwhelmed at all the attention.
So I guess I'm grateful for these identical cats that share what little space we have, sitting politely at the foot of the dinner table side by side, hoping and silently pleading for leftovers to enjoy. But I'm especially glad for the reminder they bring of times past with children still at home, calling for them to share their beds. Yes, they connect me to those times, place and people that at times seem so distant. And as the boys nestle close, they are like the memories, never far away.