I lie very still trying not to move. I don’t want to break the illusion that I am sound asleep. I feel eyes boring into me, watching the rhythm of my breathing, waiting for the sign that I am awake. It’s not the kids. Their sense of self preservation tells them not to rouse their napping mother. There’s only one with the intestinal fortitude to poke a sleeping dragon. It’s the cat, curled tightly beside me, hopeful.
I open one eye, and she greets me with a little chirp that is half-purr, half-meow, all hopeful. I close my eye and remain very still. She is onto me, however. After a moment or two, I can’t take the pressure and open my eyes. Again the friendly little greeting, but she doesn’t yet leave her post. I make eye contact. That’s all the invitation she needs. She is in my face in the blink of a sleepy eye. I feel her Friskies-breath as she bumps my chin. Impatiently she curls her head under my hand. “Pet me!” she says clearly. “Pet me NOW!” How can I resist?
She’s an ancient animal, a relic from the beginning of our marriage, our first baby. The little bag of bones, all eyeballs and distended belly, that followed us out of the woods, crying hopefully “Please don’t leave me!” The waif who bit me in her haste to get to the proffered food and sent us into rabies quarantine. She was my only company that first long year when my husband worked residential shifts two hours away, returning home every 3 days if we were lucky. What adventures we have had!
The old girl senses my weakness and begins the purr and pace routine that ensures that every one of her itchy spots receive attention. If I flag, she’s more than willing to nudge my hand, to remind me what I was put here for.
I think of all the water that has passed under my bridge in the years since this cat found us. 7 moves in 2 different states, college graduation, three kids, two other cats (for which she has never forgiven us completely), reptiles too numerous to count, several dogs, all of whom learned their place within the first 24 hours. She has forever been my nap-buddy, quick to curl up on my chest as a kitten, or beside me when she grew too big. I can’t bear to think about the day when I wake up without her. She has always been there. I wish she always could be.