I run into a young woman almost staggering across
the street. I’m surprised to see it’s someone I
know. She seems pale. Then I see she’s lugging a
cat carrier, and when I ask if the cat is OK, she says
no, a tumor. Seventeen years old. I think of my own cat,
just as old, how she has been drinking so much water,
and how this past year’s been a gift, after the vet said
a year ago she was dying. A reprieve, an extra four
seasons. I think of how, when she doesn’t eat, I’m
afraid, how it reminds me of my mother’s last
months. I shopped wildly for treats, something that
might tempt my mother as chocolate no longer could. I
bought her popsicles in exotic flavors — blueberry,
mango, apricot — but still she kept shrinking until
we no longer weighed her. All winter, coaxed and
spoiled, my cat thrived, too heavy to jump up on
the bed. Now, with the air conditioning on, she chooses
a chair where it’s warm and some days seems to be
slipping from me as my mother did, no longer worrying
about me when I drove home from the mountains
or caring what I ate or where. On her good
days my mother and I sat in the jade light outdoors,
and I brought her watermelon, and strawberries and
cream, two of the few things she still longed for. Today
I opened extra cans of food for my cat, and she ate a bit,
but she feels lighter. When I brought my mother to my
house, I knew how her visit would end but
not how we’d get there, and I wanted to feel as if each day,
however it went, was a gift; I wanted to feel grateful, but
those last weeks she was like a kite whose string I’d lost
hold of, getting smaller and smaller.