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The Secret Bench

Inspiration is coming a mile a minute as I walk the ocean side trail in Pacific Grove. The purple ice plant, “magic carpet,” is resplendent; and its sweet, musky smell, intoxicating. Sailboats in the bay seem to nod to one another - their kaleidoscopic spinnakers unfurled. The sun had surprised the soggy earth, making steam rather than rain.

Spring break tourists are swarming the rocks and posing to have their pictures taken; to freeze this glorious day for eternity. How I wish, as I pass masses of poppies - puddles of egg yolks.

I need inspiration badly, as I am taking my 13-year-old cat to the vet later in the afternoon. I pray that she’ll tell me he’s not dying yet. But I am ready for anything. I’ve been keeping a constant vigil as his sarcoma, which started 15 months ago as one little bee-bee, has mushroomed into cauliflower-sized masses behind his shoulder.

Sweet little trouper, he is still eating his savory salmon feast with gusto, purring, holding his weight – just barely – and cavorting around. If he knows the end is near, he’s not worried about it.

In fact, my friends tell me he’s hanging around to be sure I make it through the publication of StarWords. Maybe that’s why I’ve chosen an offshore printer who will take longer than a local printer. I’m sorry/not sorry to report that it’s looking a lot more like July than May for publication.

So, with these thoughts percolating, I plop my rump down on a secret bench (I’m not telling, but it’s along Ocean View Blvd., hidden on the water side) that has had enough rumps on it to wear away its artwork: sea and sun, fishes and clouds. And while the word “fear,” painted on it years ago, is still quite visible - there, just beneath it, fading but true, are the words “hope” and “courage.”

It’s clear to me that those last two words cancel out the first, so I bow to the sun and pray for the courage to love my Truffle one day, one hour, at a time . . .

Truffle is his name because he looks as yummy as a bon bon. And the good news is: his impending death is bringing me a plentitude of lessons on love, compassion and acceptance.

I cried to my body worker recently, and you know what she said? “Sometimes animals will hold an illness to spare us from it.” Also, “You have lost your mother and your last three cats to cancer. Maybe the universe is offering you another chance to work out your issues with death and cancer.”

I’m still chewing this over. In the meantime, I have written Truffle a letter that I’d like to share with you:

Dear Super Cat, in your red super cape,

We met when you came trotting down the garden wall. Wet kitten, you loved water from the get-go. You stole my heart, plain and simple. I gasped at your beauty: taupe patches on cream. Your white hind legs would later become pantaloons; your charcoal tail later bloomed and flew at full mast as you, little eohippus, charged up the fake cherry tree and bounced off the furniture.

“Who has the bluest eyes?” I’d chant, “You or me?” We’d look in the mirror to see.

Little Pisser, loved unconditionally by your brother, Peaches, and tolerated by your sister, Monet - at wit’s end, I actually tried to adopt you out. But that wasn’t to be. And while you have continued to spray everything in sight, I thank my lucky stars for every day that you’ve lived with me and every night.

Nicky (AKA: Muffin, Nipper, Tuffy, Fluffy, Nipsy) boxes are your niche. Got your head stuck in a Kleenex container. Hard to remove, but getting it on was a no-brainer.

The loss of your siblings brought you – like glue – to my lap, nightly, for TV. You bonded with me. So close, sometimes we’d breathe in unison.

Number One Ratter, the gifts you’ve bestowed on me: neatly murdered rats 1-2-3!

If there’s a heaven for furry critters, you’re sure to meet up with your brother and sister.


P.S. Number one indignity, the vet had to shave Truffle’s side to expose his tumors so I can treat them. He now wears a red cat sweater. Proudly, I might add. You see, he has a penchant for getting my underwear wrapped around his neck and trotting boastfully across the carpet. Thus, as his cape flaps behind him, I sing to him, “Super Cat, leaping from tall high buildings . . .”

“Muse” is my favorite name for Truffle, who perches beside me on a director’s chair while I write this. Without him, this book might not be happening . . .

I decided to pose a question to myself before sleep last night, having just read an article in Reader’s Digest about lucid dreaming. “I will dream about death, and when I awake I will have a solid belief system about it.”

When I awoke, here are the dreams I remembered: first, I was in our family’s summer cabin and I was sweeping tons of cobwebs out of its rafters; second, I returned to the place where I had lost my previous cat, Monet. I had inadvertently left her behind years ago. I knew she was long gone, but I decided to call out her name. And there, across a field of white light, she cavorted happily with a partner – a white cat I’d never seen before. When I tried to harness Monet and get her back, it was clear she wanted to be free . . .

Feel free to e-mail me and give me your take on these dreams. Also, any prayers for Truffle are greatly appreciated. Mine tonight will be, “Higher Power, please help me be the person my cat thinks I am.” . . .

Coming next posting! A brand new Q&A interview with radio star Sheila Gale.



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