There he was again. That darn cat. And right underneath her birdfeeder too. The last of the bluebirds were just about to fledge. She felt a twinge of guilt but knew she couldn’t have it. The children had waited too long to see those baby bluebirds.
Kaitlyn had waited too long.
She grabbed the broom and ran out the back door.
Shoo! Shoo, you!
She waved the broom menacingly. He was gone in a flash, a streak of yellow through the neighbor’s fence and off to whereabouts unknown. But she knew he would be back. Just as he had been every morning for six weeks.
She stood for a moment, looking after him. He was a pretty cat.
Back inside, she trudged through the kitchen into the addition. To Kaitlyn’s room. At this rate she would never have the child ready for school on time.
She lingered in the doorway of her eldest child’s room, studying the beauty of the girl’s sleeping face. The dim morning light kissed her chubby cheeks and highlighted the blond hair cascading over her shoulders. It looks like a halo, she thought, and tried to stop her mind from going any further. But it was no use. The thought came before she could stop it: You can’t even tell from here, it whispered.
She shook Kaitlyn gently and planted a kiss on her forehead. The large eyes opened–blinked, but the covers remained motionless.
Time to get, sweetie, she said, as she leaned down and lifted the way the nurses had shown her.
When Kaitlyn was sitting in her arms she used her legs and hips to move the child’s lower extremities over the edge of the bed. She dropped her own legs onto the floor, squatted slightly with Kaitie still in her arms and shifted the girl’s weight cautiously off the bed into the wheelchair that sat ready and waiting.
She wheeled her daughter into the large bathroom. As she plaited the girl’s hair she chatted mindlessly about the coming school day.
Kaitlyn bobbed her head up and down excitedly.
After ten minutes she kissed her daughter on the top of the head and ran upstairs to get Joey started. Piggyback ride back down, bowl of rice crispies, and to Kaitie again. She’d let the baby sleep a little longer.
After wrestling her daughter into her clothes for the day, she grabbed the pop tarts and they headed out to the curb. She broke the sweet pastry into bite-sized pieces and fed them to the girl with one hand.
They had just finished the second pastry when the bus came around the turn and stopped in front of them with a low screech of brakes. The aide wheeled Kaitie’s chair onto the lift. As she rose up into the vehicle, the child smiled sweetly at her mother. Kiss blown into the air, caught with her eyes…those eyes that said everything.
She watched the bus drive up the street.
She turned and went back into the house. Joey was almost done eating when Caleb awakened. She sat with the two year old on her lap as his five year old brother talked baby talk to him with a full mouth.
Upstairs. Brush teeth. Pull the clothes on. Much easier this time. Only supervision is needed. She had some difficulty realizing his capabilities at first. Now she was so thankful for them.
Again, out on the curb, this time with attachment on hip. They both wave frantically to the small face in the window.
Life slows down now. On the floor with Caleb she feels young again. The tiredness leaves for a while. But when he sleeps she longs to as well. The laundry can wait. She cradles him in her arms…
She didn’t want to answer the telephone. But no one ever calls. So she knew.
Everything’s ok. She’s stabilized. Another Grand Mal seizure.
She placed the receiver down in its cradle. Brushed her hair and put on some mascara. Called her husband. Gently picked up the baby and tried to ensure his continued slumber. Drove like a bat out of hell to the Med Center.
Her insides were trembling as her daughter smiled sweetly up at her. She knew the day would come…
She squeezed Kaitie’s lifeless hand and tried not to cry. Caleb reached for his sister–unaware the girl would never embrace him.
Ki-tie, Kit-tie, he cried in his baby voice.
Daddy will come tonight. We’ll all be here. You’ll be home tomorrow.
Joey knew before she told him. Kaitie was always there to smile him off the bus.
Where Kit-tie? Caleb asked over and over.
She wanted to stay but knew it would be impossible. Caleb needed her still in the night. John stayed with their daughter instead. Katie loved having Daddy to herself. Even if it meant hospital food for dinner.
So hard, this being away from her child.
She cried herself to sleep that night, telling herself she should be used to this by now. But it never got any easier. And it felt so lonely in her bed without John there. When Caleb woke at two a.m. she let him fall asleep in his daddy’s spot just so it wouldn’t feel so cold.
They had cake after dinner to celebrate Katie’s homecoming. The girl smiled her happiness. They were all right there; there in that moment. This happens so rarely, she thought, and laughed at the cake on Kaitlyn’s nose.
After they tucked the kids in they made love. She had missed him. Though she was tired she felt the belonging. And it was right. It felt like it did in the beginning. So far away…
It seemed like they always needed milk. As she reached for the gallon she vaguely tried to calculate how many they had already consumed this week. This is number four, I think. Kaitie loves milk. And Joey loves the chocolate milk. Caleb doesn’t care.
On the way to the register she made a sudden turn. She put the cat food in her cart without even thinking about it.
Are you feeding that nuisance?
Jill looked accusingly at the small plastic bowl she had just filled with cat food.
She made no reply.
That darn cat has been defecating in all of my landscape beds. They’re a mess! The smell is disgusting too. I’ve half a mind to call animal control.
The neighbor looked disapprovingly at her out of the corner of an eye.
I know, Jill, I know, she said wearily. But I’ve chased him away too many times. At least if I feed him he may not get my bluebirds. He’s a stubborn little guy.
Jill grunted, obviously unconvinced, and walked back into her own yard.
Her eyes threw daggers at her neighbors back. He was just a little kitty. What harm could he do?
I don’t like you feeding that cat.
John’s face was set.
What if one of the kids came upon him and he scratched them? He could have rabies and Lord knows what else. We don’t need him prowling around. Think of the mess we’d be in.
She tried to hide her disappointment at his lack of sympathy for the creature. But he was right. What if one of the children was to get scratched? Or even bitten? She felt foolish for creating the problem. She said nothing.
They all crowded around the window.
Here comes the last one!
She clapped her hands excitedly. Kaitie managed to rock back and forth in her chair a bit. Joey’s eyes were glued to the spot. Caleb was sucking his thumb intently.
He teetered on the edge of the doorway for a brief moment. Then a small blur of brilliant blue flew into a nearby tree. They let out a collective cheer. All five of their charges had not only survived, but had successfully fledged the nest.
Caleb pressed his hands and nose against the window, smearing the glass with syrupy sweetness. They all watched their last tenant fly away into the nearby meadow and disappear in the distance.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a yellow shadow. When she turned her full gaze on him he boldly returned her stare with feline eyes. After a moment he blinked his eyes knowingly. He was waiting for his breakfast.
Every day was much the same. She sent the kids away and spent the rest of the day holding her breath until they were all safely back together again. She hadn’t the time or the energy to think about herself. Was she happy? What did she want from life?
The other mothers at the school talked about their dissatisfaction with their husbands, different ways to clean their kitchen floors, and the sale on chicken at Kroger’s. How do you do it? They always asked. The same way you do, she wanted to scream. But that wasn’t true, was it? Instead she smiled and said very little.
But today she sat on the back deck and drank her coffee in the warmth of the autumn sunshine. How lovely it felt on her face, the rest of her body chilled by the frost in the air.
He was watching her watching him. Slowly he crept forward, never taking his eyes from her face. He sniffed around the carrier. It was new. Unsure, he sat beside it for a moment, looking up at her with those occasionally blinking eyes.
The surgeon said there would be some risk to the procedure. There was always a risk, it seemed. But if they could remove the mass from the base of Katie’s skull, the seizures may stop. The MRI’s did not reveal how involved the cervical spine was. The fear being that the child’s mobility may be further compromised.
How? She wondered. If Katie lost the movement in her neck and shoulders she would lose such a valuable means of communication. John was adamant that they go through with the surgery. But she was so frightened. She stared away at the distant hills. It was so far away over there.
A movement caught her eye.
He gingerly stepped inside to consume the bits of meat and food she had placed there. The bait.
Just as agile as her yellow ghost, she descended the stairs and in a flash had the door closed to the carrier. She was careful to carry it arms length so as not to feel his fear. She placed the hissing cat in the back of the van and ran upstairs to get Caleb. After placing the sleeping child in his car seat she ran back in the house briefly. The vet had told her to call before she came and he would be ready with the anesthesia.
They were all packed and ready to go. John had taken a week’s vacation. He would return with the younger two after the surgery. They didn’t want either Joey’s or Caleb’s schedules to get too off. She didn’t want Joey to miss a whole week of school. Kids fall behind so easily these days, she thought.
She would stay with Katie the whole time. There was no other way she could agree to the whole thing. The recovery would be arduous. The treatment team would fly their daughter by copter back to a local hospital for most of it. There would be hours of physical therapy and rehab. She knew it would be taxing for both of them. They had been through this so many times before. Katie bore it better. But she had to be there for her little girl. Katie needed her mother with her.
She walked around back to fill the dish before their departure. John had begrudgingly agreed to fill in during her absence.
Here, kitty, kitty, she called softly.
She smiled at his interest in her approach. He would never eat another of her birds. He moved a bit slower and more cautiously than before. The vet said the discomfort would only last a few days. She still felt sorry for betraying his trust. Now that he was neutered, she would only have to do so every couple years when the shots were due.
But she had to take care of him. He was her little kitty.
Besides, he needed her now.
**Inspired by a true story. Well, ok, two true stories. 🙂