I recently read Geneen Roth's The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It. It's a quick read, but a tear-jerker, inevitably. But it's also full of great truths.
Those of us who did not get the feeling of safety and protection as young children, whose parents were unable to give us what children need and deserve, are left with holes in our hearts. They're hard to plug up, these holes. They scab over and then get reopened, and even when they heal, they leave scars that will never go away. How many people are walking around with wounds and scars, remnants of a childhood that would stand Ozzie and Harriet on their heads? Sometimes I watch people for signs -- are you whole? What about you? If you're screaming at someone, I bet you have a hole in your heart. If you're hitting your child, a hole. Some holes make us nuts. Some even make us violent. But mostly, they never, ever stop hurting.
And that's where the cat comes in. Okay, I suppose it could be a dog, too, but there's something about an animal who asks for so little -- change the litter a couple of times a week, feed them a couple of times a day, no walking, no grooming -- low maintenance. Fish, turtles, birds don't work -- you can't cuddle them. Even hamsters are kind of small to plug up a craggy hole. But cats?
As I write this -- as every morning and often during the day -- Emily sits on my knee, perched where she wants to be, as close to me as possible. At all times of day and night, that cat knows exactly where I am, even if she's mad at me and giving me the cold shoulder. And when I leave the house, she waits anxiously at the top of the stairs for me to come back to her, where I belong.
I never felt like I belonged to anybody or anything until Emily. We are so bonded, such a pair of neurotics, we two. I have a routine; she has a routine. Throw either of us a curve and we're basket cases. We both look forward to the time each day when everybody leaves and it's just us two. She sits on my knee then, too, waiting for it to be dinner time, when she gets her Boar's Head baked Virginia ham (don't even try to pass off honey maple as the real deal), and then we go to bed, our favorite place to be, me resting my painful joints, Emily sitting on top of me faced out, watching guard lest anyone dare to tread on her person, me.
Nobody has ever loved me like Emily does. I suppose it's sad to think that one's greatest life love would be feline, but I'll take it however I can get it. Emily gets mad at me, but she never goes away, never would, never wants to leave me, never wants to see if there's a better person out there somewhere. And I know there will never be another cat like Emily. I suppose there will be other cats, but none like this one. Not ever.
I love you, Emily. Thanks for being my best friend. Jennifer