Published in Mature Living Magazine, February, 2013
“Nanna, please take care of my little Anny. You won’t have to do anything. I’ll set up her litter box in your guest bathroom and use lots of litter so you won’t have to change it. Her feeders dispense food and water as needed,” Nicole begged.
“Bring Anny over, dear.” Margie felt a kinship of sorts with the three-legged cat. Since her stroke, her left arm was almost useless and her left leg was just as bad. Everything was so hard now. Why hadn’t she died instead of living like this?
Sure, if she would just do all those exercises, even though it really hurt, and go through all the therapy sessions where they tortured her repeatedly if she would just do this and just do that, then she might be able to get back most of what she’d lost. Might get it back. Most of what she’d lost. Ignore the pain, work through it. Easy for those young people at the rehab to say. They had no concept of the pain and the difficulty involved. It was too hard and hurt too much.
Margie wheeled through the living room and unlocked the front door so Nicole could get in then slid from the walker seat to her lounge chair and clicked the TV remote.
All these channels and nothing to watch. She’d already seen this month’s movies, she hated soap operas, she was tired of the game shows, there was no point watching cooking shows since she couldn’t cook with just one hand, and no reason to waste time on the shopping channels – she didn’t need more stuff to take care of. What could she do with only one arm and one leg that worked properly? Margie hoped Nicole was right about Anny being able to take care of herself.
It was after nine by the time Nicole left that night. She got the cat’s box and feeders set up then pulled Anny from her carrier and showed her where everything was. The cat sniffed around then climbed back in the carrier and went to sleep on the old sweatshirt Nicole had thrown in.
Margie locked the front door then went through her bedtime ritual of washing her face and brushing her teeth then cleaning up the watery mess around the sink and on the floor. It was impossible not to get water everywhere. She had to use her good arm and hand to wash, dry, and keep herself from falling. If she sat while washing up then water splashed all over the front of her shirt. Exhausted, she pulled her gown over her head and collapsed onto the bed then turned off the light.
The cat woke Margie very early the next morning with its jumping around and attacking a red square on the quilt. Crouched low, with her ears forward, eyes wide, and whiskers twitching, Anny’s whole body quivered. Margie could see the muscles working in the cat’s shoulder as if trying to force the missing limb to do its share. Anny pounced but missed her target by several inches and landed on her face. She righted herself, sat back on her haunches and stared at the red square. She turned her head from one side to the other studying the square from different angles. Finally, she crouched, then pounced and fell on her face again.
Margie began to cry. Poor little kitty. She would never be able to catch a bug or kill a mouse or climb a tree. She would never be able to go outside since she couldn’t defend herself or run away from predators. With her good hand, Margie set Anny on her lap and stroked her, cooing comforting words.
After a minute Anny wriggled away from Margie and went back to the quilt. Several more times Anny went through the same steps, staring at the square, turning her head from side to side, crouching then pouncing and landing on her face, short of the square.
As Margie contemplated the cat’s repeated attempts and failures a thought forced its way into her mind. Instead of focusing on what she can’t do, Anny is figuring out how to accomplish her goal. She isn’t feeling sorry for herself… she’s learning to use what she has, to do what she wants.
This time when Anny crouched Margie noticed that her body was positioned a little differently. Her hips swayed slightly from side to side as she sighted in on her destination, then pounced and landed in the middle of the red square, balanced perfectly on all three legs. Anny immediately shifted her weight back and began to bat the square with her front paw, swatting back and forth as if the square were a bug. Then Anny threw herself onto her back in the middle of the square and wallowed around from side to side.
“Oh, Anny, you did it! You did it!” Margie laughed and patted Anny’s head.
Anny tired of her game, jumped down from the bed, fell on her face but immediately got up and hopped away. Margie reached for her glasses and devotional book. She chuckled when she saw the scripture for that day, Philippians 4:11-13, her focus locked on two particular verses: …I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in… I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
“Ok, Lord, I hear You but I sure need Your help.” Margie sat up and lowered her legs over the side of the bed then reached for her walker. Instead of sitting on the walker seat she grabbed the handle, eased off the bed, and stood. Bracing herself between the bed and the walker she fastened her not-so-good hand on the other handle and very slowly shuffled into the kitchen.
Today she would cook breakfast. She sat on the walker seat and rolled to the cabinet where she kept the skillet. Her good hand pulled it onto her lap then lifted her other arm on top of the pan, holding it in place while she rolled to the stove. It took Margie almost an hour but she fixed bacon, an egg, and toast.
When she finished eating Margie then washed dishes. With her good arm and leg, she forced herself off the walker seat and balanced against the sink. By the time she got the dishes scrubbed and put in the drainer beads of sweat had formed on her forehead and begun to roll down her face. She spent the rest of the morning napping and reading.
Margie was dressed in her workout clothes when the therapist arrived after lunch.
“I’m ready to rock ‘n roll, Peggy!”
“Wow, Margie, I’ve never seen you like this. Are you ok? Have they done something with your medications?”
“No, Peggy,” Margie laughed, “my granddaughter’s cat taught me a lesson today, or more accurately, the Lord used the cat to get through to me. Do you have that list of exercises I need to be doing on the days you don’t come? I’m ready to get started learning to do what I can with what I’ve got.”
The Inspiration for this Story
I had a cat with three legs. One of her front legs was cut off accidentally when she crawled into the motor of a car. Her name was Violet.
Like the story, I watched her as she worked so hard to adapt to her loss and I cried because of all the things she couldn’t do. God thumped me on the head and told me not to feel sorry for her. She wasn’t feeling sorry for herself. She was learning to accomplish her goals with what she had and I should follow her example.