Seven, eight, lay them straight. Remember this nursery rhyme? Old-school, maybe no one under fifty-five has heard it. I didn’t until I started kindergarten in 1967. I lived in a progressive household. We laid them straight, gay, crooked or in a circle.
Yes, this is the nonsense that ran through my brain at three-thirty this morning. Awake for fifteen minutes, annoyed with my thoughts, underfed because we ate eggs for dinner—my stomach rumbled uncomfortably—I fought for sleep. Tommy, my brown tabby, clawed the underside of the bed. He knew I was awake. Bored and hoping to get fed, the more noise he made, the higher my likelihood of getting up. I put him out.
Out, but not outside. Just out beyond the glass door that separates the bedrooms from the rest of the house. It’s winter. Cold this morning, subfreezing, but not by much. This winter is mild with lows bottoming out in the mid-twenties. Piece of cake for a cat, he would be fine. But would he really? I’d worry about him freezing. So not outside; just locked away from my sleeping family and his litter box. The litter box tugged at my mind. What if he needs to pee? Would he just go on the floor? I’m sure he’s pissed about his banishment. Peeing would be apt revenge. He’s a smart cat.
A couple of years ago, this crap didn’t happen. Whenever we passed the food bowls, we scooped out some extra kibble. A never-ending meal. Sure, the cats were a little fat, comfortable, I’d call them, but they never woke us up. Then Roz got diabetes. It’s never been clear to me if she got sick because of how we fed the cats, but Spooky, Roz’s predecessor, got diabetes too. The vet told us we did it wrong, feeding them. Twice a day, she said, a quarter cup each. The cats eat their meal in about forty-five seconds. And then they complain.
Breakfast and dinner, six a.m. and six p.m. The schedule can’t vary too much, Roz needs her shot. A micro-dose of insulin. She’s a tiny cat. Well, kind of fat but otherwise tiny. We didn’t medicate Spooky. Too many barriers. Little kids, erratic schedule, tight budget. Spooky was already old. We made him comfortable, kitty hospice. Lilac, Spooky’s litter-mate, lived only a year longer.
Roz timed things better. We’re old now. Homebodies, And she’s young… ish. The expense is minimal. A bottle of insulin costs twenty-dollars. We throw away half a bottle every two months. It gets old before we use it up. And the syringes are practically free. The vet diagnosed her a couple of weeks before we left town for France. We couldn’t delay her medication, she lost too much weight already. It went like this: “Hey, Roz is actually looking rather fit these days.” Two weeks later: “Hmm, does Roz look a little skinny to you?” Two more weeks: “I think we should call the vet!” If we waited on her insulin until we got back from France, she might disappear altogether.
As a vacation expense, France was huge. Two weeks, air fare, rental car, lodging, meals, currency exchange. And pet care. Our unpaid help wasn’t comfortable giving the shots. We brought in a pro. We haven’t taken a vacation since. Sometime last year we recovered financially, but now it’s just too big a hassle to work out the logistics. Eli’s friend John would do it, but he doesn’t drive yet.
Fifteen minutes later, still awake, stomach still growling, still worried about Tommy, I got out of bed. A few years ago, I instructed spin classes two mornings a week. Back then, getting out of bed at three-forty-five was a regular occurrence. Now I consider it the middle of the night. A conversation tonight at dinner: “You got up because you were hungry? Why didn’t you just have some chips and go back to bed?” There’s no sense in explaining it. My kids won’t understand until they’re fifty. I found having nothing to do at four a.m. rather relaxing.
When I first started blogging, I woke up each morning ninety minutes before everyone else to carve out a quiet chunk of time to write. This morning reminded me how much I loved that. Tommy didn’t get any food. I’m smart enough to not reward his behavior with an early breakfast, but he joined me on the couch while I wrote. He seemed quite content. I’ll be surprised if tomorrow morning isn’t a repeat. He catches on quickly and what works once, he always tries again. Four o’clock is an early hour to start the day, but I’m thinking I might not resist it so much tomorrow. Tommy and I might make this a habit.