Anyway. Pearl drops by our place on an irregular basis --- sometimes early in the morning, sometimes in the gloaming; sometimes daily, sometimes not for a week. But we are clearly a dedicated, documented stop on his neighbourhood exploration route. He will arrive at either door --- more often the back, come to think of it, probably because it opens into the kitchen, which, as we all know, is the nerve centre of operations in every home --- and announces his arrival with a plaintive mewing that continues until either someone answers the door, or even a cat’s legendary patience wears thin and he concludes no one is home. (The only strange thing, given his nature, is that he doesn’t leave a little note saying, Dropped by today! Sorry to have missed you, hoomans! Catch you on the backswing! Or words to that effect.) He’s a remarkably forward cat, demanding attention and affection with no hint of shyness whatsoever, and will even --- cheeky bastard! --- make a beeline into our house if given the slightest chance. (Although I allowed it once or twice during periods of extreme cold weather this last winter --- why were his owners permitting him outside at such times? --- I have forbidden it since spring came on and temperatures improved, because I noted with alarm that my wife and both sons were getting misty-eyed about the prospect of acquiring our own felis catus, and I came to the conclusion I wasn’t about to let a furry, four-legged animal (even one with Pearl’s remarkable sang-froid) dictate policy on the possibilities of pet ownership at our house. And while I do profess a small liking for Pearl --- I may have been known to scratch his head, back or tummy on occasion, although I neither confirm nor deny this --- I regard him as something of an aberration among Cats I Have Known, most of whom I have found to be varying combinations of aloof, stand-offish, condescending, and very much Wanting It All, But Only On Their Own Terms. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is hardly the basis for any kind of meaningful relationship, human or otherwise. No, no… please, Cat People, spare me your earnest protestations about how wrong I am. You’re entitled to your opinion. And so am I.)
Anyway --- again. The reason I relate all this, really, is merely to say: I can confirm Bob Heinlein’s statement at the top of this post. In spades. (Yes, I know, I know… a long-winded introduction, indeed… although permit me to observe that you’re still here, reading, aren’t you? So, stop complaining: it’s evidently kept your interest thus far. And I have been working up to my point. Besides, as I’ve observed before: my blog, my rules.) Pearl makes a great fuss when we Answer The Summons… but when he’s had enough, he’s had enough, and basically just walks off with nary a backwards glance. This is one cat trait I’ve come to admire lately, and wish it’s one humans would adopt… possibly with an amendment.
Why? Because I’ve recently decided --- with very mixed feelings --- to retire from being a career secondary school teacher, after three and a half decades. And I told my principal, months ago when I first voiced the possibility, I wanted to do it as a cat. Well, no, that’s not exactly how I phrased it: I told her I just wanted to leave quietly by the side door, with no fanfare or celebrations. (We can possibly get into the ‘why’ of that desire another day.) And currently, I’m running into pushback from various well-meaning but misguided people who seem perplexed and/or wounded I should feel that way --- pushback that, frankly, I wish would just cease.
Instead, I have a suggestion --- my amendment to the cat philosophy Bob Heinlein delineated, if you will. It’s rather counter-cultural. Okay, it’s very counter-cultural. In fact, it’s something we really don’t tend to do much at all, either as a society or as a species --- to our collective shame, I think. But it’s this: people constantly intersect with our lives, right? They move in and out of our lives, for varying periods of time. How about if, instead of trying to tell people at the end of our time of association with them how much we appreciate them, we do that --- bumping against their legs, buzzing with mischief --- well, if not every day, then on a regular basis? While they’re intersecting our lives?
I know, I know: we don’t do that. We’re quick to complain and slow to praise. We’re so wrapped up in the minutiae of each day, we obsess over the trivial and ignore the truly important. We don’t tell people how important they are, or how valued they are, or what a great job they do, while we’re with them.
But, you know… maybe we should.
I think I’d like that kind of world.