The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

In the last two weeks, we’ve lost a beloved neighbor and a beloved cat.  In the last two weeks, the air is thick with the fragrance of orange blossoms and even the barest of branches have exploded into opulent bloom.  It’s spring.  Things are changing. It seems strange to compare a ninety year-old former dentist and an eighteen year-old grey tabby, but the two did share one marvelous quality: they loved everyone.  After less than six months of acquaintance, our neighbor, Bill, started ending our brief over the hedge conversations with “I love you.” “What do I say when he says that?” my husband asked.  “He told me he loved me.” “You, too?” I said. At Bill’s funeral there were over two hundred people.  Each speaker spoke about how much love Bill had.  Each spoke about how much love he shared with the world. “He was a guy with a million best friends,” someone said. “He always said he loved me and I think he meant it,” said someone else. His family assured those gathered that he did mean it.  They said Bill often wondered why we scrimp on these words, why we save them when there is so much to love. We’ve lived in our house a little over a year, but almost immediately, I began to look forward to running into Bill in our driveway.  He always had a positive word about my parenting, my outfit, the new flowers we’d planted. “I’m really proud of you guys,” he said.  “You’re raising a beautiful family.” Just after Bill died, our aged cat, Pokey started spending more and more time on Bill’s front stoop.  She lingered around the white plastic chair on his front lawn, the one where he sat almost every day, blinking in the afternoon sun.  She meowed by the door and arched her thin back when Bill’s widow, Ruth stooped to rub her fur. Pokey had been our cat for roughly half of her life.  She was a small, but congenial hostess, welcoming all guests to our home.  With her deep purr and insistent meow, she wormed her way into even the cat hatingest of hearts.  She wooed furnace repairmen, babysitters, contractors and all of our closest friends. Pokey, like Bill, was all about love.  There wasn’t any reason she could find to hide from life.  She had no time for cowering under beds or shivering in closets when there were people to meet.  Pokey loved a party.  She loved to mingle.  She climbed into the laps of strangers knowing that they were soon to be friends. Last week, my yoga teacher started her class by saying, “love your life and everything will change.  Love your life.”  It seems like a simple thing, this flowering of emotion, but sometimes it gets lost as we rush through the day. I’m trying to remember.  It’s a good way to honor a good man and a good cat.

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