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Unexpected Gifts

2013 September 30
by Ann L. Carter

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I thought one of our cats, Stripes, had  died on the road Saturday night.   He is my favorite outdoor cat, though I don’t tell that to the other seven.  We raised him from a surprise litter, calling him Emily until we realized we had our gender wrong.  There’s a picture in my book of Rose holding him as a kitten, the markings on his face giving him the nickname”Pigface”.   He follows me around the yard while I garden, wanting me to pick him up, not even caring if the hose gets him a little wet.

 A knock on the door from a neighbor late at night in the country is seldom good.  “There’s a cat on the road…a gray and white one….he isn’t moving.  I think it’s one of yours.”   And so it seemed to be Stripes, with only a flashlight to tell, the coloring and marking right, the open blank eyes giving him a strange look.  My friend Jenell was there.  She lifted the body I had wrapped in a towel and we carried him back, put him in a cooler with ice.   That night I tried to imagine burying him, thinking about how the towel I had grabbed up was blue and white striped, a fitting burial cover. 

 I woke up not wanting to feed the cats, not wanting to think about the one missing.  But when I stepped out the door  there was Stripes, waiting with the others for breakfast.  A very miracle, as Rose would say.   Then I remembered another neighbor, how she had recently adopted a stray that had a very similar look.   I left her a message and later that morning there was a knock on the door, another knock I dreaded answering.  She lifted the cooler lid and pulled back the towel, and said indeed it was Tommy, her cat.  She had brought a small flower with her and laid it on him, saying how she’d grown so fond of him in such a short time, how her young son had included a photo of him in a poster about their family, how she had a vet appointment for him just this next Tuesday.  And why did he find her, only to be taken away so soon?  And why was it so hard?  Thinking back now, it all seemed like a scene in a detective show where the parents come to the morgue.   How much they want to say, “No, that’s not our son.”

Even when you know the time is right, when a person or animal you love is ready to go, you are saying, “No, not yet, not now, give me more time.”  It is a selfish wish, but one that is so very human. One of the last things I took from my mom’s home was her sewing basket.  She had very bad veins in her legs and would  take a break every afternoon to”put up my feet”,  often reaching for the sewing basket kept by the couch, using this time to do some mending.    I associate that sewing box and mending with a peacefulness, a time of rest.   I took it out this past week, planning to sort the half used spools of thread,  the iron-on patches for jeans, the hooks to mend bras.   One night I pulled it close and put my feet on it.  It  felt good.   It now sits in front of my den chair, ready for mending or, much more likely in my case, a spell of “putting my feet up”.    It is a kind of unexpected gift.  I have had others:

Strange those gifts

the dead give us.

I was driving to Kansas City

for my aunt’s funeral,

the cause of death

a tumor blocking her air passage.

Though a bitterly cold day,

the sun was shining,

with traffic freely moving on I-70,

finally clear of construction

after years

of restricted flow.

I listened to

NPR’s Morning Edition,

no one to interrupt me,

the whole car to  myself,

the whole prairie to myself.

Heavenly

I remember thinking,

this is heavenly.

 January 29, 2004  (Kansas Day)

 

By last night I was weary from the weekend, drained from the cat thought to be dead and the one that was.  I don’t know why things are so hard, but there are gifts to be found.  Gifts of prairie skies and places of support for weary feet and minds.  Gifts from the other side. I hope my neighbor can find one soon.  I know that she is looking.

One Response Post a comment
  1. Terry from Michigan permalink
    October 26, 2013

    I miss driving across the prairie–my favorite was always the drive south from 36 into Manhattan.

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