Thomas Henry James rolled over for the last time while I was too young to remember him. My grandma’s cat was in her kitchen every morning while she flipped the breakfast pancakes. He knew she would make one small but tasty pancake for him. All he had to do was listen for her to say, “Thomas Henry James, roll over.” Then he rolled over, and Grandma flipped his pancake into his bowl.
The first cat I remember was with us in Jamestown, NY, when we moved 104 miles away to Coudersport, PA. At age 4 I was younger than the cat. My mom had arranged his adoption by friends in Jamestown, but about a month later he appeared at our door in Coudersport. The saturation love of cats for humans, and vice versa, is a happy mystery, like the Trinity.
Some may think it is a confirmation of my brain disease that I keep a polished wooden box of ashes in the room that’s stuffed with my computers and books, printers, pictures of upbeat memories, things like that. The ashes recall Abraham, my Titusville/Orlando cat for 16 years.
Abe was succeeded in Orland Park, IL, by Thomas Henry James II, known to his friends as Tom. He arrived at my condo as a young adult cat and has stayed for more than 12 years. He’s never been outdoors and lives like a cheerful puppycat, although in cat years he may be close to my age, a few weeks short of 89.
A couple of weeks ago he started acting the way Abe did in his last days, sneaking off to quiet corners, ignoring tuna treats, crying out in loud meows every now and then. After a lifetime of living with cats I chose not to expose my elderly housemate to treatment by well-meaning veterinarians. I thought he was dying.
This coincided with a loving invitation from my daughter and son-in-law to leave the isolation of my condo and move into their large home one mile away. My five grandchildren who grew up there are sometimes home, but more often away at college or enterprises. The household includes one with a severe allergy to cats, and so any cat is, for good reason, felina non grata.
My driving is limited to my power wheelchair and my four-wheel electric scooter. Standing up is an adventure. Winter weather keeps me from crossing the street to the mailbox. I wear a Rescue Alert button, but punching a number into a telephone or into a garage door opener can be a challenge.
Marie and Mark are looking into the installation of a stair lift, because a head packed with dizziness and feet that dance jigs to their own tunes rule out the ordinary use of stairs. The reason for all this is called olivopontocerebellar atrophy/multiple system atrophy, a form of parkinsonism.
While we’re getting organized for my move into the household of a grandpa’s dreams, I’m formidably anxious about Thomas Henry James II. What to do?