Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love You, Binks

This is Mr. Binks.
Hard to tell from this photo but he was
my 25-pound best friend
at a time when I really needed one.
He died today.
And I'm really, really sad.

He had an unbelievably interesting life.
Found, as a kitten, by my son when he was doing PT on a Marine base.
Hidden in the barracks for a few days.
He lived on the East Coast, the West Coast
and the Midwest; five different states.
He lived in an old brothel in Missouri for a year.
He loved to jump up into my lap where I would
wrap him in a blanket
and he'd sleep for hours
while I watched movies over the weekends
in a city where I didn't know anyone.
He got old.
He got sick.
He got weak.
He's at peace.
I am too.
Just really, really sad.
I could use a hug tonight so sooo bad.
Losing my buddy makes me think back on a very important life lesson I learned from cats.
That sounds weird, I know. It's not, though.
When I was about 13 years old I had a cat named Princess.
(Original, huh? Back then every cat was named Princess.)
She was fairly dainty, long-haired and not particularly social.
She had that royal air about her.
Didn't sleep on our beds.
She accepted attention and affection one way: on her terms.
But my sisters and I loved her.
One night she didn't show up for dinner.
We ran the electric can opener.
(The one sound that would make her come running from anywhere)
and she was no where to be found.
The next morning we discovered clumps of cat hair and blood in the driveway.
My sisters and I were hysterical.
No Princess, but clearly something bad had happened.
We searched to no avail.
Then we heard a very faint whimpering.
The weak little sound came from deep within a huge hedge of the prickliest
evergreen bushes you could imagine.
They were thick and gnarled with age
roots and branches twisting about from the ground
Impossible to see beyond the first few inches of the outer branches
but we could hear a faint little meowed response
to our calling her.
Princess was in the bushes.
Deep, deep, deep within the bushes.
And there she stayed.
My stepdad told us not to worry.
Sometimes when living creatures are hurt
they need to crawl off by themselves and be alone.
He said they instinctively knew what was best for them
they would tend to their wounds
and when they were strong enough
they'd crawl out of their hiding place.
It was a hard sell.
Days passed. Rain fell.
No Princess.
Although every now and then
to repeated calls
pleadings, really
we would hear a faint meow.
Each night my step-dad would put a tiny little dish of food near the bushes.
Every morning it was gone.
We couldn't be sure if it was our cat
or the raccoons and 'possums eating it
but it made us feel like we were doing something to help.
He would toss a few little bits of the food into the bushes in her direction.
And at night my sisters and I would cry.
He would reassure us.
"She'll be ok. When she's better, she'll come out."
And that's just what she did.
It took about two weeks but our beautiful kitty eventually emerged
from the bushes.
Pathetically skinny
Gaunt and weak
But alive and hungry.
We carried her into the house
and she got better and better and better
from that day on.
I've looked back on that experience many, many times
throughout my life as I believe it holds a deep truth about
human nature as well as the nature of animals.
People get hurt, too.
Sometimes when people get emotionally hurt
they need to crawl into their own evergreen hedge
where they can rest and lick their wounds
and go about the business of recovering
away from any of the fussing those who care
are likely to offer.
It's self-care.
The most primal sort of recovery process
one that is instinctive:
the need to be alone.
I'm a fusser, by nature.
There is nothing I love more than to come alongside someone who is hurting
put my arm around them
hug them
stand close to them
listen to them
care for them
just be near them
so they don't have to be alone.
What I've learned through the years
is to reflect back on how Princess knew best.
She knew she needed to retreat
and take care of herself.
People are like that too.
When someone says they need to be alone
I leave them alone. But I remember what my step-dad did, too.
He checked on her often from a distance.
He put little dishes of food where she could find them.
That's what I try to do with people who are hurting, too.
I respect their need to be alone
I pray for their healing
and I push the smallest little offerings of caring
close enough so they can find them
Healing will come
in due time. People know
by nature what they need the most.
Sometimes the very best way to come alongside someone and love them
is to keep our distance.

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