It’s been anything but a quiet weekend at Shady Acres.
Certain Man has been in a fit of getting things done around here. On Saturday morning, he propped a ladder up against a rather precarious limb to trim several other limbs from the Thornless Honey Locust Tree that were getting too long. While he had the ladder out, he propped it up against the side of the house to fix the topmost gable end of the house where a tree had bumped against the soffit and pulled up the roof and damaged the siding. He scares Certain Man’s Wife spitless when he does these things. CMW is very uncomfortable with a man on a ladder perched anywhere that is higher than her head. She was in the middle of doing the usual Saturday “catch-up” laundry and baking bread, so she didn’t stand out there and hold the ladder or holler. She didn’t figure there was too much that she could do, anyhow, with a ladder that is 30 feet long and a full grown man on the other end. I guess she sorta’ thought that if it was gonna’ go, it was gonna’ go and she didn’t want to be there to see it happen.
He came down, then, eventually, with his mission accomplished and asked CMW if she had any more of the “Mr. Clean Erasers®” that have been found to be very effective in washing off siding. Certain Man’s Wife happened to have a whole box of them from Sam’s Club, and he proceeded to inform her that since he had the big ladder up on the deck anyhow, he was going to wash the upper part of the house where the moss and green deposits had built up. CMW got him a bucket of warm water and the dozen or so Mr. Clean Erasers®, he got himself a hook to hang that bucket upon and he set out to clean the house. Certain Man’s Wife went back to her bread.
In the middle of CMW’s periodic checking on Certain Man’s progress, the family cat, Tatters, who has been a part of the family for almost nine years, made a mad dash for the slightly opened door and disappeared under the deck. This did not trouble CMW inordinately since she sometimes does get out, and seriously heads back inside at almost her first chance.
After a time, Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter returned from the Festival at Central Christian School and the Hospital Fair at the Hospital where Middle Daughter works and set about to help their beleaguered parents. Middle Daughter got up on the ledge of the roof and helped to wash the siding and Youngest Daughter helped CMW in the house. No mention was made of the missing cat.
In the afternoon, Certain Man’s family headed out for the wedding of Eldest Son’s friend, Matt and his girl Dorothy. It was a lovely wedding. The bride was beautiful, the groom’s eyes were so full of love and happiness, The sermon was well done, the vows were traditional and sweet, there was not an unduly long wait between the wedding and the reception, and the food was excellent.
Certain Man’s Wife’s Sweet Mama sat with Our Girl Nettie and Cecilia whilst the family was gone, and when they returned, the almost first words were, “Have you seen the cat?”
Sweet Mama said, “No, I haven’t seen her at all. She has been nowhere around.”
This was when Youngest Daughter realized that Tatters was missing. “She’s gone for good,” she stated emphatically. “I know that she is. She will never come back!” This was followed by a great treatise on people who didn’t watch properly, didn’t care whether the cat was out or not, and a great trembling of the lip.
Certain Man’s Wife didn’t share this view. “She has always come back. Don’t worry, Rachel. She gets out alot, whether you know it or not, and she always comes back”
“But she comes back right away. If she’s been gone all day, she will not come back. She’s probably dead somewhere.”
Then the whole family got involved in the looking. They looked in the basement, in all the bedrooms, in the side “dungeon” space. No Tatters. Middle Daughter, who is, by far, the most involved with this capricious animal, went up and down the road, calling and looking. She got down and looked under the deck. She went out and looked in the dog pen. (We have an Australian Red Heeler, and he has killed many a cat that has ventured into his domain.) No Tatters. She and Certain Man went out to the barn where there are myriads of cats that have been dumped off here over the years. There is a barn cat that looks like our Tatters, but when it ran away as fast as it could go, they knew it wasn’t her.
Certain Man’s Wife’s heart got increasingly heavy. Usually, when Tatters has been gone for some time, CMW can go to the sliding glass doors and call her, and she will dive for the open doorway and slither past like a banshee is after her. Though there were numerous callings made at all the doors, there was no sign of Tatters. Midway through the evening, there was this thunderous descent from the upstairs by Middle Daughter. She bolted through the family room and through the kitchen, past Certain Man’s Wife.
“Deborah! Whatever is –”
“Sheppie is barking and I heard a cat scream!” She threw over her shoulder as she pounded through the laundry room and out the back door. This set off a whole new round of looking for the cat; Searching through the dog pen, getting down to look inside the dog house to see if the body of the unfortunate beast had been drug into the dark confines of the canine abode. NOTHING!!!
And so the evening passed with no sign of the missing cat. Just before going to bed, Certain Man’s Wife stood again at the darkness of the sliding glass doors and called for the furry little beast that has lightened many a heavy heart over the last nine years. “Lord, there are so many things out there that are heavy and sad. People are dying without a Savior and there is earthquake and war and famine and cyclone. A lost cat is pretty inconsequential in light of all the terrible things going on. But could you watch over our Tatters tonight? And if it is your will, could you bring her back to us? But if she is hurt or suffering, could you just allow her to go quickly? And would you comfort the hearts of Youngest and Middle Daughters?”
Morning came, bringing with it drizzle and cold. “If anything will bring her back,” said Middle Daughter hopefully, “it is the rain. She HATES being out in the cold and rain.” But there was no sign of the missing cat.
“I just want some closure,” said Middle Daughter for the fourth time. “We need to call the neighbors and see if they have seen her. Maybe one of the barn tomcats chased her away. She doesn’t have any claws so it would be difficult for her to defend herself.”
“Do cats fight to the death?” wondered CMW aloud.
“Not usually,” said Middle Daughter, “but usually if there is a fight, one of them will run away. And if Tatters ran away, the tom could be keeping her from coming back. She might have just gone to a friendly house and stayed.”
When Certain Man came in from the morning chores, CMW looked at him questioningly. He shook his head. “Nope, I didn’t see anything of her,” he said softly to CMW.
“Do you think she will come back?” Queried CMW.
“Nope. I think she is gone for good.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, too.” Said CMW sadly. “I think if she could come back, she would have by now. I suspect that she is dead somewhere, or at least severely injured.” CMW began to think about a cuddly little kitty or a cat that would be more friendly and less independent.
“NO!” Said Youngest Daughter. “Tatters was the kind of cat I like. She wasn’t so “needy” as some cats are.”
“NO!” Said Our Girl Nettie. “I don’t want another cat. I think it’s better not to have a pet in the house.”
“Alrighty then!” Thought Certain Man’s Wife. She wasn’t going to ask Certain Man. Back when Tatters had first appeared on the doorstep, he had been thoroughly against her staying.
“If you keep that worthless bunch of fur,” he was heard to say on more than one occasion, “you will have to call it ‘Daddy’ ’cause both of us can’t live in the same house.”
The pleas of his children, and their offer to help pay for some of the cat “needs” finally won him over, however, and he and Tatters entered into a guardedly peaceful co-existence, though “affection” would not be descriptive of their relationship. In fact, CMW heard the words “Worthless bunch of fur” and “ugly fleabag” thrown about with random indignation.
Sunday morning was filled with the usual last minute church preparations, getting lunch into the oven, checking family schedules and such, and then it was off to church — but not without CMW looking intently one more time around the perimeter of the garage and flower gardens to see if maybe there was the familiar furry friend.
And so Sunday passed. CMW took a nap while Certain Man prepared the sermon for the Communion Service in the evening. And she dreamed mixed up dreams of cats that looked like Tatters in the dumpster with wild claws and teeth, and of injured cats in the grass. And since she overslept there was a mad rush to get everything done before leaving for evening church. She did call at the basement steps and the sliding glass one or two times, but was chided by family members. “Mom, she’s gone. You might just as well accept it . . . ”
There is nothing quite like communion at Laws Mennonite Church. It is warm and personal and encouraging and strengthening. There are always a number who hang around late and talk and fellowship long after the meeting is over. Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter went home fairly soon, but since Certain Man has a creed (The 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not leave the church parking lot until there are only two cars remaining, one of which is thine own.”) it was over an hour before Certain Man and his wife had finished talking to good friends, cleaned up the communion remnants, and headed home.
As they pulled into the driveway, CMW commented about the number of cars parked around the circle and on the grass. “It looks like the boys have some company,” she observed. Youngest Son’s Girl had come home from college, and several of their friends had come to rejoice with them.
CM and CMW unloaded the van, and came into the house to be greeted with the words, “The cat is back!”
“What?” “How?” “Is she alright???”
Here Middle Daughter took up the story. It seems that Youngest Son came into the back door to find her waiting patiently on the floor inside the entryway to get into the laundry room. And of course there was no explanation for her whereabouts for the past 36 hours. Youngest Son was mad because all the emotional energy had been wasted when she was “just in the basement.” But Certain Man and his wife think she may have found a way to get from the crawl space to the outside, or that she may have eaten something when she was out and didn’t feel good for a while and just slept it off. She seems a little subdued, maybe less energetic, but we cannot find any cuts or scratches or such. Whatever happened, and where ever she has been, she has been welcomed with a great deal of affection and relief. I am so glad that she isn’t somewhere injured or dying with no one to watch over her.
And then it occurs to me that there are plenty of humans out there tonight in that very circumstance — dying. With no one to watch over or care.
Do I seek them with the same heavy heart that I had when I was looking for my errant cat?
Does anyone care?