The Messenger

A Cat Tale

I pride myself at being efficient and organized—good traits for a new late-in-life writer. But I must admit, the older I get, the more obsessed I get about how I spend my time. I live by schedules and To-Do charts. Each morning I say a quick prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for this day. May I use it to your glory!”I’m also a recovering Class-A workaholic, due to intervention by Truman, a four-legged guest with less than purr-fect manners. One day my friend Rosemary called. “Linda, I need help. Bud and I are leaving town for two weeks…I desperately need someone to watch my beloved cat, Truman.” I put my thinking hat on… No candidate came to mind…surely she’s not asking me to watch her cat!

I’ve never cared much for cats. As a kid on the farm, I asked my dad for a kitten, and he said, “Cats are for catching mice in the barn.” The only cats I know are my daughter, Susan’s: Dobbie and Mulan. Dobbie’s an okay cat, but Mulan comes out of hiding twice a day to eat. On her way to the kitchen she stops and hisses at me! She does the same thing on the way back to her dugout. Sometimes I hiss back.

As I began to tell Rosemary, “I couldn’t think of anyone…,” a thought crossed my mind: How hard could it be to cat sit—they sleep all day. I’ll still be able to get my work done.

“Rosemary, cat-sitting is not on my resume, but I’ll watch Truman.”

“You’re an angel, Linda. Come by and meet him before we leave—it’ll make it easier for both of you.” That afternoon I met Truman—a large cat with long silky black hair, amber eyes that could slow down traffic, and a tail fluffy enough to dust an end table with one swipe!

Truman feigned sleep when I attempted kitty talk and stiffened as I rubbed his back. This could be a long two weeks for more than the cat, I thought. A few minutes later, Truman brushed against my leg. “I
think you two will become great friends.” Rosemary said. Friends? Hardly! I’m just doing you a big favor!

Rosemary dropped Truman off in his travel crate, along with his litter box and scoop, bowl for water, bowl for food, placemat for bowls, dry and canned food, scratching pad, catnip mouse, and treats (for
hairballs), and a hand-written essay, “Cat Babysitting 101.” As Rosemary hugged Truman goodbye, she said, “Truman can be a pest. If he gets in your way, just rub him under his neck like this, softly, with long strokes, and he’ll leave you alone.”

That afternoon Truman roamed the house, marked all the upholstered furniture, nosed up to every window, and pushed his food bowl to where he wanted it. A snoopy and picky little character, I thought, and put the bowl back on the mat. A half hour later, the bowl had slid off the mat again. Looks like I lost this battle…

During dinner, I said to Glen, “Truman’s got a mind of his own.” In return, he grinned, and I caught the farmer look in his eyes. He said, “You’re the cat sitter. I’ll stay out of his way.”

After dinner, I headed to the loveseat for my scheduled time with Glen to watch a movie. Truman sat next to Glen, snuggled up closer than I do! One paw rested on his leg, and when I attempted to sit down, I got a lesson on cat-eye talk:“Just try to move me …” and the same look from Glen! My guys were content, so I took out a Sudoku puzzle and began to fill in the numbers. A few second later, a paw batted at the pencil. After penciling outside the lines a few times, I gave up, “Okay, Truman, you win—again” I put the puzzle away.

By day two, Truman owned the house—and my life. Before the sun rose, I awoke to the sound of paws scraping against my bedroom door and a scratchy, morning meow—worse than an alarm clock! “Dear God, doesn’t that cat know I don’t get up until the sun does?” I got out of bed, and Truman raced me to the kitchen. Glen had already fed him, so I made myself a cup of strong black tea. With my tea and basket of meditation books, I headed to the screened-in porch for quiet time with God. As I opened the door, Truman slipped between my feet and jumped on a ledge, hunched down, and stared at the quail, lizards, and cottontail rabbits. That should keep him occupied for a while,I thought.

I opened the daily devotional to the lesson for the day, Psalm 145: “One generation shall laud your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.” As if Truman could hear me turn the page, he leaped off the ledge onto my lap and head butted my Bible. Then he stretched across my stomach and pinned my arm to my side. I sat stunned–agreeing to care for Truman should qualify as a mighty act in God’s eyes!

I freed my arm and said, “Okay, Truman. Now is when I pet you under your chin, and you’ll go away, right?”I stroked him gently, just like Rosemary showed me. Then I put him back on the ledge. Now, I can continue. Wrong! Truman jumped back on my lap, meowed, and nosed me away from reading. “Another rub, rub, and down you go.” After three attempts to read the scripture lesson and write my Daily Meditation Moment blog, I slipped Truman through a six-inch opening in the sliding-glass door and quickly slammed it shut.

That afternoon I went to my office to read my e-mails, write, and do research on my HP TouchSmart PC. Halfway into the e-mails, a furry bombshell landed on my desk. With one swipe of his tail, the screen began to scroll out of control.

“Truman, you can’t sit here,” I said, a bit sharper than my morning-porch tone.

“I’m working, and you’re messing up my computer.” A few more, less gentle, rubs under the chin, and I tossed him onto the floor. “Please, take a nap—like you’re supposed to!” I guess I don’t have the right touch—the rub-under-the-chin thing isn’t working.

A few minutes later, I heard the jingle, cleverly embedded in Truman’s collar, heading toward my office. The hair stood up on my neck, and I thought, Some favor—Rosemary’s walking on a beach somewhere, and I’m falling behind in my work! I picked up Truman and pinned him in my lap. On the search engine, I typed: “Cat behavior.” Up popped pages of information. I opened one called:

Four Common Cat Habits:
“Maybe this will help me understand you, Truman!” I kept reading …no explanation to all the interruptions in my life. I closed the article and prayed, “Dear God, why is Truman such a pain?”

By the end of the first week, I’d learned to ignore Truman’s whiny meows and cries from the other side of my office door. My stomach turned when I opened the refrigerator door and I got a whiff of “Trader Joe’s Ocean Fish, Salmon & Rice Dinner.” Don’t even mention kitty-litter duty to me!

One day before Truman went home, he sat on my open Bible (keeping me company) while I wrote my blog, I noticed how peaceful he looked, and I said, “Truman, you are a good cat—content. I wish I could be more like you, sometimes.” Then, a thought surfaced. Maybe this little pain is God’s messenger tying to tell me something:Stop and smell the roses (or pet a cat). Interruptions, especially during a creative process, can freshen your brain! Playing—now that’s a new concept for you, Linda, you’re such a workaholic!

Truman hid when Rosemary came to pick him up. Like the rest of his behavior, I’m not sure what that meant, either. I sort-of miss him, but I’ve tucked a picture of him in my Bible (next to the black hair bookmarking Psalm 145), and another by my computer desk—to remind me: There’s more to life than keeping a tight schedule (except when I’m up against a deadline)!

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