One Year Later

A week after Mother’s accident, I met Vanna. I had seen glimpses of her before, darting through doorways or disappearing under a bed, but I had never really met her. She was a fearful, shy cat who rarely ventured into the open, even around Mother.

When Vanna finally allowed me to pet her, I discovered that her hair was dry and loose, falling out in handfuls. She had not been taking care of herself, and her matted fur felt like a physical manifestation of my own distress.

For the first time in days, I knew exactly what to do. Here was something that I could actually fix. I found Mother’s cat brush and went to work, laughing at Vanna’s ecstatic response to my grooming efforts. She purred and drooled, rolled and kneaded the air. And I fell head over heels in love. Three months later, when I announced that I would be taking Vanna home with me when I returned to Virginia, no one objected.

The drive was too long to cover in a single day, so we stopped at the Holiday Inn Express in Emporia. Mother would have laughed herself to tears over the thought of Vanna sleeping on a hotel bed.

Now it’s been a full year since our long drive together. Vanna has settled in and taken over the house. Her two housemates are too lazy to protest as she claims the warmest pools of sunshine and the softest pillows. They move aside as she bolts past them in the hall, as she chases her favorite toys or races to get there first, wherever she is going. They are patient, gentle cats, amiably dodging her jealous swipes and ignoring her touchy temper.

Some of their ease is rubbing off on her, and she is learning to share food bowls and favorite perches. Best of all, she rarely hides anymore. I seldom find her in a closet or under a bed. Instead, she sleeps in front of the windows and sprawls across the beds.

Every so often, usually after a poor night’s sleep, I catch myself indulging in a moment of grief as I watch Vanna. She is Mother’s cat, not mine. Or at least, she should be Mother’s cat. What if Mother had survived her injuries? Would she have consented so readily to my taking her neediest cat?

Such moments are lessening in frequency and intensity. I’m learning to file these questions in the unanswerable category, alongside a litany of other questions that start with “why?” and “what if?” I may as well ask why is there sunshine. Or why are there cats to enjoy the sunshine…

8 thoughts on “One Year Later

  1. bardessdmdenton December 12, 2012 / 3:53 PM

    So, poignant, Rae, gently offering the give and take of life. As with the comment above, I could really relate. During a time of loss for myself and my mother, at the end of the summer, a wonderful kitty came to me and let me know that he needed a home. Oscar is now such a part of the family, blending so well with our other boy kitties, and letting us know every day how grateful he is for our love. I am so glad you took Vanna in. I know your mother is so glad you did. Thank you for sharing from the heart!

  2. CMS December 2, 2012 / 9:05 AM

    This post touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing this experience. The connection between Vanna, your mother and you is sacred. I wish you peace.

  3. jean November 30, 2012 / 11:27 AM

    Those who are loved have no need to hide.

  4. Gillian November 29, 2012 / 8:04 PM

    I love cat stories, and this one is poignantly sweet. I think your mom would be pleased that Vanna is doing so well and no longer feels the need to hide.

  5. lynnwyvill November 29, 2012 / 6:50 PM

    Beautiful post. Vanna knew how special you are to let you pet her. She is a beautiful cat – love those eyes! Yes, those “why” and “what if” questions can be very difficult..

    • Rae Spencer November 29, 2012 / 8:38 PM

      I often refer to my first meeting with Vanna as an “any port in a storm” moment. Mother had been in the hospital for a week, and my sisters had been staying in the house between visiting hours at the ICU. Previously, both of my sisters had earned Vanna’s trust during various vacations, but circumstances kept them focused elsewhere this trip. So I think she was ready to cling to someone, anyone, by the time she let me pet her. I just happened to be the one in the room when her desperate need for attention finally conquered fear. Also, I needed a distraction, so I was more than willing to provide undivided attention for as long as she was willing to sit with me… (Which is still the case, many days.)

      • lynnwyvill November 30, 2012 / 10:32 PM

        Sounds like you needed each other, so it was a good thing you were brought together.

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