Independence As It Slips AwaySaturday, September 17, 2011
|Alex & Mosca 1992|
Just a few days before my female cat Plata went AWOL for 24 hours I was looking at her with affection. I was also glancing at Rosemary’s male Casi and realizing how much those cats depend on us in spite of the fact that cats are known to be independent (self sufficient?). They depend on us for food and water although the latter they can get from our garden pond. They depend on us for their precise status quo/routine. They come to our bed in the evening (and even sleep on it during the day). Plata is extremely affectionate (only when she wants to) and in the evening she will lie by the side of my back and in the morning she will be on me applying (I believe with purposeful intelligence) pressure on my bladder for me to get up and feed her. I have no doubt that Casi is in on this and they plot to get us up early so they can be fed and go out to explore in the garden.
During those sad 24 hours it occurred to me that having one cat less that depended on us meant that it would be easier to take care of Casi if we were to go for a week to Mexico or elsewhere. It means that we would not have to impose the burden (and depend on her) on my younger daughter Hilary to come and get the cat out in the morning and then have her husband Bruce bring him in, in the evening. We could simply board the cat at the SPCA or equivalent cat motel.
Thinking about this dependency thing brought me to a hitherto unknown territory with what seemed a bolt of lightning.
As a child I depended on my parents but as soon as I could I went on my own. And yet that independence I sought was not entirely so. In the early 70s Rosemary and I were going through financial straights in our new home in the outskirts of Mexico City. My mother was staying with us and she loved her upright piano on which she played Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. She offered to sell her piano to get us out of the fix. I saw no other way out so we reluctantly accepted her offer only to bitterly regret years later (after she died) on how cruel we had been and how large her selfless sacrifice had been.
When she died we had to pay for the funeral. Again we had little money in the bank. Rosemary’s parents offered to pay and they did. I felt embarrassed but grateful at the same time.
In all these years I have treasured our perceived independence, particularly the financial one. But since I want to be honest here, I must credit my wife Rosemary for being the one who is singly responsible for this independence. She is the one that took the risks (brought us to Canada, made us buy a house we really could not afford in the beginning) and brought us were we are today. We are hard-pressed to fix our house and arthritis will eventually take me out from garden work. We will have to sell. No matter if the market is up or down we will then have sufficient money to live, I hope without depending on anybody else.
But it is Plata’s 24-hour disappearance that brought me to realize that an individual’s life most often follows the path from being dependent, to being independent and having people and animals that depend on the individual. As we get older those that depend on us become independent and at the end of the day those two cats are our only dependents (and the plants of our garden). I depend on Rosemary and she depends on me (to open jars and medicine bottles). When one of us is gone will the cats be the only ones left that will need either of us to be around?
The bolt of lightning that hit me was that when we no longer have someone that depends on us, our perceived independence will quickly slip away and we will then depend on someone else. And that can be demoralizing, heart wrenching and embarrassing. Is there any other way?