Monday, August 03, 2009

Making me happy

Back story on this post: When we were at Mimi and Papa's house this week (E's parents), E's mom told me something really nice and simple about marriage. She said "I heard someone say one time that a good marriage is where we each want each other to be happy--I try to make him happy, and he tries to make me happy."

Coincidentally, we were watching TV the next day when out of the blue, the show that we saw was a rerun, and the host shared the same sentiment. Neat.

But this story is really about my ancient cat, Marmalade. I received Marms for my 15th birthday present from my parents. She was a barn kitten whose mom had been killed, so my dad brought her home to me. She was so teeny and loving. She's been with me through every stage of my teenage and adult life--slightly longer than E. When E and I got our first apartment, she moved in with him for the month before we got married. She lived with us in that apartment, our first rental house, the first house we owned, and now the second.

Marmalade was an indoor/outdoor cat, but right around the time I had Addie, both of our cats (Stan too, but he's mostly unrelated to this post) started rebelling by using the house as their bathroom. Ugh. Not okay, kids. It just got to be too much. E hates indoor animals anyway, so my fight to keep the cats coming inside just got to be too much. They got reassigned to the "outdoor" category, and they actually took to it just fine. Stan never goes in the backyard because of the dogs--but he is content to live in the front yard and act like a stray to anyone who will listen. Stan tolerates us with all his heart. Marms, though, loves dogs because she's grown up with them, so she used to snuggle with Gus all the time. She was comfortable in the backyard until this past summer when we got the puppy, Cal.

Even with the puppy issues, Marms managed to keep living in the backyard; she'd just make herself scarce when he was around. This winter, when E and I were separated, I let her back in the house to keep me company. I started to notice that she can't jump anymore. She basically can't push off of her back legs. She couldn't get on and off the bed or on to the bathroom counter. Sad. Marms seems to be happy in all other respects, though she stopped being able to groom herself about five years ago.

I feed Marms behind our shed because it's her own little space and the dogs can't get to it. I don't typically see her every day, but often a few times a week I will go out back and sit with her and pet her for a while. She's still that same loving cat, and there's just something so soothing and pleasant about the unconditional love of an animal. For the last month, I didn't see her at all. I kept going outside, whistling for her, and filling the dish, but as is the way with outdoor cats, you don't really know who you're feeding. I didn't see her at all. I started to try to accept the fact that she probably went off somewhere to die. Hard to accept. I know her time is limited, but I hate the thought of her just going off somewhere.

So this week on one of the days I was home to see E after the test, I heard her crying. She was in the next door neighbor's backyard, and she couldn't get over the fence. Their gate was locked, and they weren't home. I went back that night. They weren't home. Then, Marms was gone again. I hadn't seen her in three weeks, I thought she was dead, and now she was probably inside their house. I just wanted to hold her. I was so upset. I don't understand what it is that makes people feed other people's cats. If you feed a cat, it's going to think it lives at your house.

So I was pretty excited when our next door neighbor called E last night about something else. "Talk to him about Marms," I pleaded while he talked on the phone. E asked him if he'd seen her, and then explained that she's my cat and she's pretty old and that I've been missing her for three weeks, thinking she was dead. Our neighbor said he's been feeding her, his kids have been brushing her, and they've been letting her in the house. He said they didn't know whose she was. I call shenanigans. We've lived here for five years, and she's been here the whole time. E told him how I've had her since I was young, and I was really sad, and could they please set her over the fence into our side on the trashcans since she can't jump. He agreed, and they hung up.

I was so upset. Not with E, but with the fact that I just knew that his country-boy self couldn't take the idea of cats in the house. I was upset with the whole rock-and-a-hard-place situation. Mad at my neighbor, mad at the fact that this little animal who I love so much is knocking on death's door. She has to be--she's fifteen years old, and outdoor cats just don't live that long. I was afraid that if we left her outside, we'd just be back in the same boat before we knew it. I went out back and found her curled up on the side yard. I put her in my lap and just sat there petting her matted old fur, not sure what to do.

E came out and said to bring her inside. He said he was going to my parents' to get back the litter box we'd given returned to them. I brought her in and she's currently snuggled up on a towel in my room.

That's love. He just wanted me to be happy, and my happiness comes at his own sacrifice. I'm going to try my hardest to return the favor.


  1. That is so sweet! I'm so happy for you!

  2. We have a cat in our neighborhood that everyone feeds. Sometimes it sleeps under my car, sometimes it sleeps under Joe's. I fed it a few times, but then I stopped because I started to think it belonged to a woman who lives a few doors down ... I feel compelled to ask her, but she's a hermit so I never see her.

    The cat comes around every so often looking for food and I feel crappy about ignoring him, but I don't want to ... you know, have a Marmalade situation on my hands. :)

    Sidenote: My parents have two cats. (Well, they were me and my sister's cats growing up, but then we all moved away and the cats stayed.) My father hates these cats. In the summer he sticks them in our old playhouse, a wooden structure on stilts that he built for my sisters and I when we were kids. He even converted the "house" into what he calls a cat condo. It's a ridiculous thing, actually. In the winter, the cats come in the house because it's too cold in Buffalo to keep them in the condo, not to mention I'd sick PETA on him...

    But in the summer, the cats go back and forth between the house and "the condo."

    It's a sore subject with my mom because she wants them inside, but my father claims that they shit and shed everywhere. I've even debated relocating them to Florida, but they're old!

    None of us want my folks to let them roam outside because every cat we've ever owned that roamed outside got hit by a car. (The rural roads by my parent's house are notoriously littered with roadkill.)

    Bah. You've opened a wound, Heather!