Sunday, December 03, 2006

Seeking nurturing

Our Siamese cat, Bede, is nearly eighteen years old. He and his brother, Benedict, became members of our family in 1989, shortly after we returned from a year living in Sri Lanka. “Bene” was the more energetic of the two, When we moved to the country, he became our hunter. Bede’s disposition was more placid.

This summer, Bene declined visibly. His hearing and eyesight failed. He found it difficult to jump. He lost his appetite and, eventually, control of his bladder. He and Bede remained close companions, however, as they had been since they emerged from the womb. Often they slept together and seemed to be a single being, rather than two. As fall approached we made the difficult choice to give Bene a death with dignity and buried him in a copse of trees where he had loved to roam and hunt.

We wondered if Bede would survive the loss of his brother. He did After a couple of months – regular readers will know this – we reprieved “Mickey” and “Sherman” from a nearby animal shelter and invited them into our family. At first Bede reacted to the new arrivals with characteristic Siamese aggressiveness. Now he has accepted them, but they have not bonded. Bede sleeps alone.

What Bede now seeks is bonding with my wife and me. Many times a day, he demands attention. Siamese cats do not ‘meow’. Their speaking is a deep throated yowl. This accompanies Bede’s demands, especially if we do not immediately respond. He jumps on our desk or lap and will even step gingerly on our computer keyboards to get attention. He is seeking, even demanding, nurturing.

We have learned to accommodate a cat on our lap in more activities – reading, writing, morning prayers, composing on the computer and after meal conversations. After five or ten minutes of lap time, with periodic hugs, Bede will climb down and pursue other activities that comprise an increasingly bounded life – mostly sitting by the fireplace, sleeping and an occasional trip outside.

When Bede’s demands for nurturing first began, they were a bit of an annoyance. Now they are simply part of our lives. One of us stops what we are doing, accepts his presence on our lap, hugs him closely for a few minutes and feels good about it.


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