Saturday, October 9, 2021

Keep your promises.


My father never liked cats.  He grew up in Brooklyn, New York with a large Dalmatian dog named Brigadoon.  My mother also liked dogs, but she loved cats.

In 1960, when I was a child, she discovered Siamese cats.  She found Gato at a cat shelter in the Shippan Point section of Stamford, Connecticut.  He had a chewed off left ear, a bump in his tail and was completely cross-eyed.  He became my cat.  But more than this, Gato became my best friend, my confidant, my soul-mate.  He tolerated it when I dressed him up in baby clothes and took him for a walk in the baby carriage.  He let me carry him on my shoulders while I marched down the street announcing that he was "The King of Cats."  He kept a vigil when I was sick and feverish.  He listened to me when I told him secrets (and he kept my secrets!)  And when I watched "Now Voyager" with Bette Davis and couldn't stop sobbing, Gato stayed by my side, the whole night through.

My mother moved on.  She began buying pure-bred Siamese.  Seal point, then blue point and lilac point.  She joined the Nutmeg Cat Fanciers of America.  Actually, I confess, I was a member too.  We showed her cats (the pedigreed ones) in cat shows around the Northeast.  We showed at Madison Square Garden and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria.  Kitty Callan of Honeyhill--our prize seal-point ripped up the curtains the night before the show by grabbing onto the fabric and crawling up using his claws as crampons for leverage.

In 1997, on her deathbed, my mother made my father promise to take care of her three cats.  There was her favorite Siamese, plus two others--strays that had come to her door looking for a handout and when winter arrived and the weather grew cold, well, they moved in and never left.  My father, the man who did not like cats, agreed to my mother's request.  And then, my mother died, peaceful in the knowledge that her cats were in good hands.

The cats lived for a long time.  After a while, nobody could remember the names of the cats.  And my father began calling them The Brown One, The Black One and The White One.  The Brown One, the Siamese developed diabetes.  My dad took the cat to the vet who said that my dad would have to inject insulin into the cat twice a day.  My dad (again, the man who did not like cats) dutifully grabbed a hold of the cat's scruff and injected the insulin twice a day.  All three cats lived for another ten years in which my father kept his promise and took care of those cats until the day they shuffled off this mortal coil.

I admire my dad for this act of kindness.  And now, today, I am taking care of him.  No one made me promise, but I often think of my mother and her three cats.  I think of the ten years of insulin injections and I think about the fact that he didn't even like cats.  This is particularly moving to me, because to care for a creature you don't even like involves opening one's heart and soul.

And this brings me to your creativity prompt for the week, dear friends.  I believe that art--stories, paintings, dances, music--comes from a deep place of deep confusion, even discomfort--and that it pushes us into discovery.  With this in mind, I would like you to embrace discomfort this week.  Travel into someone else's country and struggle with the language (metaphorically-speaking).  Have the courage to do something you are not good at. And if you like dogs, pet a cat.  If you like cats, pet a dog.  If you're afraid of birds, paint them.  If you hate raccoons or mice or turtles, write a song about them.

The idea is to dwell in the place of confusion and discomfort, because this is also the place of change, metamorphosis, becoming and truly--it's where the magic lives.





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