It was just a week or so after Cliff's dad passed away that he asked me the question... "how much longer do you think we'll have a Hinge?" At first I was taken back, then heart broken at the thought and then I was brought back to the present by Cliff's sweet face as he pet her on the couch. "For as long as she wants to stay," I replied. She's 17 now and a sweet little old lady. Once a true bad ass that would hunt ground hogs and stand up to dogs that seemed giant compared to her, she's now hard of hearing, can't see what's right in front of her and howls for no apparent reason. When I say howl--- I mean blood curling, startling, terrifying screaming at the top of her lungs. For a cat who is named The Hinge because she didn't really have a meow when she was a baby this howl is mighty and nearly defies definition. I've taken video on my phone and taken her to the vet time and time again and they assure me, she's just old and a little senile. And so this is our life at the moment and it feels a little like Benjamin Button rocking this sweet old gal that is just like a baby again.
Cliff is away this week at training for his new job (yay!) and it's just me and the [fur face] kiddos. Earlier this week I reached a turning point... I'd stayed up late til about 1 watching a movie on my laptop. At 5 am The Hinge started screaming and the usual remedies of wet food, a refill on her water bowl and invitation to come to bed didn't seem to be helping or at least not long enough for me and Ned to get back to sleep. She REALLY misses Cliff when he's gone and though I help nothing quite does it like her daddy. She watches the door, inspects his side of the bed and sometimes she gives me the evil eye for putting him somewhere she can't find him.
She and Cliff have had 17 years together so far and that time has forged a bond that can only be understood by those who have loved an animal this completely. I mean, to spend 17 years with anyone is pretty huge. So by 7 am it felt like a million years had passed and I'd been hit by a truck (umm I really LIKE my sleep, I'm an 8 hour + girl) and nothing was working. I got up scooped her up off the floor and held her again.
This time I whispered and cooed at her and rocked her sweetly from side-to-side. I told her it was ok. I told her thank you for loving Cliff, for finding him that night. For running under the wheel of the ambulance and for that sweet little squeak that she let out after he'd washed all the mud away in the trauma basin. She sounded like a squeaky door hinge and so she was from then on... The Hinge. She's heard this story a million times and I swear hearing it soothes her. It soothes me too. I thanked her for riding so patiently on the dashboard of the ambulance that night, lights and sirens and all. I thanked her for saving Cliff so, so many times. For teaching him to love. For letting me be her mommy. I thanked her for that mouse she laid next to my shoes the first time Cliff and I spent the night together. It was a gesture and I totally got it. I thanked her for each and every thing that came to mind standing there rocking her in my arms. I kissed her disheveled fur time and time again and told her it was ok, she was safe, she could scream if she needed to, that I was here and I was not going to leave.
This is the part in the story where it would be so awesome if she finally curled up and went to bed but she didn't. The next several hours were touch and go and I rotated through all the scenarios that a parent with a crying baby would go through... food? no. litter box? no. walk around a bit? no. bounce? no. soft talking? no. loud talking? no. singing? no. really don't you want this food? no. nothing worked--- just time and her getting so pooped out that finally, finally she slept. Cliff called later that morning to say hi and I answered with a whisper and "the baby Hinge is finally asleep" I didn't have to say anything else he knew exactly how the morning had gone.
What changed was that I get it now. That it's all ok. I'm no longer frustrated AT her, I'm here for her. I'm grateful that I have created a life where I can sleep in if I need to and make it work. I will be here for her for a long as she decides to stay with us and it's my pleasure to love her and do what I can to keep her in that feeling good safe place while she is still our baby Hinge.
Aaaand I am very much looking forward to Cliff coming home today! This half of Team Young could use a nap.
To loving well and to the patience that this little Hinge is teaching me. I thanked her for that too.
Have a wonderful weekend!