Months ago I was sitting on our screened-in porch with my two cats.
This pair arrived in my life right before my son’s fifth birthday. Aidan, my son, is now 19 and wrapping up his Freshman year at University. I suspect I am in good company with a slew of other moms out there who also thought that was a great age for their offspring to experience the joy of family pets.
“by five my son was no longer satisfied with goldfish nor mice”
I worked hard for the first few years of my son’s life to avoid the added obligation of a full-blown pet. But try as I might, by five, my son was no longer satisfied with goldfish nor mice. It was time to bring in the big guns. O. K. the little guns, I did not go the puppy route. As a single mom in an urban loft (yes, this means no backyard), the notion of a dog was untenable.
How I ended up with a pair rather than just one is its own story. Suffice it to say that wasn’t the intention. Of course, I love my kitties equally, even the surprise one.
Feeling The Feels:
“over the last 14 years the two heartbeats I have spent the most time with were theirs”
Back to the screened-in porch. This particular morning I was in a “feel all the feels” state. Women, you know what I mean. As I sat there in the early pre-dawn hours sipping my pour over coffee, it occurred to me. At 14 years of age, they both have less runway ahead than behind them – just like me.
Then the flood gates opened. The visions came at me in rapid succession. I found myself doing the math. I don’t exaggerate when I claim that over the last 14 years the two heartbeats I have spent the most time with were theirs. Constant shadows, they silently witnessed the most tragic, as well as the most glorious, moments in my life.
Fig and Elphaba navigated nervously the dangers of a young boy’s erratic and clumsy existence. They stoically endured weekend invasions of guests and their tag-along pets. Kindly they forgave me for countless episodes of abandon. Silently (ok not so silent) standing by, pacing with fret, each time the big empty suitcase appeared on the bed. Both watching carefully as I filled it with all the items necessary for running away. Neither ever missing a day at the office – not even a Sunday. Always providing warmth to my feet or a radical ergonomic lesson on the little known benefits of placing a kitty on one’s lap between yourself and your laptop.
“There is so much loss to endure during midlife that it can be overwhelming.”
And within seconds the tears began to flow. I don’t live alone any longer and so “getting caught” doing things is a common occurrence for me. This moment was no different. My boyfriend innocently stepped out on the porch to find me in full crying mode.
Of course he asked what was wrong. My response? “I am practicing,” “For what?” he innocently inquired. “Grieving the loss of Fig and Elphie” I sniffled back. “Do you really think you need to rehearse that?” he drolly responded.
I am seeing it all around me now. As if aging parents and empty nesting aren’t enough to handle, now we get to add the passing of our fur babies. I often talk about how complex and varied the challenges and opportunities are in this season of life. There is so much loss to endure during midlife that it can be overwhelming. But like everything in life there’s the other side to the coin.
The Way To Reinvention:
“the shedding of responsibilities (whether we like it or not) leaves behind a beautiful empty canvas for us to begin anew”
It’s fascinating, to me, that in the midst of all this loss lies a season of re-birth. A cracking open of novel thought and opportunity. As our well-known life unravels and disintegrates, the shedding of responsibilities (whether we like it or not) leaves behind a beautiful empty canvas for us to begin anew.
Up to now, it seems to me that I had little, to no, say about many aspects of my life. I think many of us found ourselves hustling during our 30s, 40s, even 50s. Raising kids, managing households, working long hours, navigating extended family obligations and members – the list is long. And now, as that life is dismantled, – obligation by obligation –, eliminating many of the external factors that kept us anchored to a course for so many years, what does that leave us?
And while I may not need to practice the overwhelming grief that will consume me when my four-legged companions depart, I do feel like I need some rehearsal time and space to figure out the full extent of my debut.
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou.