His eyes are golden saucers, one-way mirrors that stare at me through time.
That is of course when he’s not sleeping. Which if you’re a 17 year old cat you tend to do. A lot. Sometimes when I walk in the room and find Shayde the British Blue cat sleeping – I prod him to make sure he’s not dead. He has perfected the art in looking dead.
In fact he should be dead, having outlived most others of his species. He has conjunctivitis, arthritis, endured an operation for bladder stones, and suffers kidney failure. When his patient records were sent to a new vet, they were the size of a phone book. He has a cyst that grows to the size of a golf ball on his back, which needs draining monthly. This same new vet gave the options – either risk putting him through a serious operation he may not survive, or here’s a syringe and needle – ever used a needle before? Recreationally?
I chose the latter.
Shayde snores, grunts, belches and farts; vomits food on blue carpet, yet he lives and each day comes without complaint or complacency.
I was brushing him today and in a dazed sunny afternoon moment wondered what it must be like to grow old like him?
To have lived well past your expected lifespan.
To outlive your friends, companions.
There must be something I can learn from you.
This cat has a bit of a back-story.
He was my pet for the first 3 years of his life. I left him with my parents when I went to film school, not wanting to drag him into unfamiliar surroundings. When I returned with the intention of taking him back, to my shock and horror Shayde had forgotten me! He had become very attached to my father and followed Dad, like a dog, up and down the back yard. I just didn’t have the heart to take him away. So there he lived for another 13 years. He lived and outlived 2 budgies, 3 other cats (including his own younger brother), and finally outlived both my parents. Shayde is quite possibly indestructible.
So here he is – with me again.
It’s entirely possible Shayde the cat will now outlive me. I have accepted this. Perhaps he in is in fact a vampire cat? Perhaps Shayde drinks more than milk?
When he is not pretending to be dead.
Shayde walks but sometimes it hurts to rise
to do almost anything.
When I look at him I can but wonder.
I wonder what I can learn from him?
Perhaps it is this:
To live a long life brings a myriad of indignations.
But if you live long and well – you carry memories that are like photos on a wall reflecting behind pale yellow eyes.
You see them now passing through your vision like flickering ghosts.
It has been a good life you reflect.
You cannot smile but you can purr.
And you do. Very loudly
(Shayde purrs louder than any cat-friend I have ever known).
That’s the lesson. To live well and purr every day you are alive.