Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crazy cat ladies aren't so bad...

Published July 20, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Every now and then, I believe the universe gives us a glimpse of what is to come. I had such an experience while my kids were visiting their grandparents. For one month, I became an “empty nester.” Yes, folks, the little chicks spread their wings and flew to New Mexico, and I stayed back, quiet and depressed, pecking and scratching around my ridiculously large collection of twigs and leaves and string, trying to find some meaning and purpose in my newly chick-less existence.

Okay, so I’m being a bit melodramatic. But only by a very little bit. My empty nest experiment was painful, to say the least…in part because I missed the kids so much, and in part because I didn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t wrangling, feeding, bathing, hugging, or scolding my little brood. I began to wonder what in the world I’ll do when they actually move out of the house for real.

It was while watching the stage production of Bye Bye Birdie last month that I found the answer to that question. There was a character, a mother, so overbearing and wrapped up in her son that he was paralyzed to move forward in his life. The actress playing the part hammed it up and made it hilarious, constantly stepping on his every decision and coming between him and his love interest. She wasn’t a very lovable character and the audience roared with laughter and cheered when her wet noodle of a son finally put her in her place.

That is to say, everyone in the audience except me. All I wanted to do was rush the stage, wrap my arms around her, and say, “I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING THROUGH! You’re not trying to hurt anyone. You just want to be close…involved…meaningful in some way. Is that so much to ask?”

This does not bode well for my children.

If I consider their feelings and put forth a herculean effort to avoid the overbearing mother role, I could easily take the other route, and by easily, I mean I’m probably halfway there already. With three cats, each rescued from homelessness, I’m a prime candidate for “Crazy Cat Lady” status. Yeah, I know how she feels too. She’s not really crazy. She just has a big heart and a need to nurture…85 homeless cats…in a 900 square foot house.

It makes sense. When you don’t have kids around, cats do start to feel like your children. There’s even a little cat ESP communication similar to the communication a mother has with a newborn. There’s one meow for “Outside,” another for “My food dish is empty,” another for “Love me? Gonna pet me?” and still another for “Gimme some special stuff! Spoil me rotten! Some milk! A can of tuna leftovers! Anything! I’m dying here!” Yes, I talk to my cats and believe they talk back. What’s so crazy about that?

I guess it’s not really a choice between two black and white extremes. There is a third road I could take. I could be a healthy empty nester who keeps in touch but enjoys a life of her own. I could stay active, hike, write, travel, go back to school and get my PhD, set up a foundation for crazy cat ladies…anything’s possible, right? I’ll do all those things!

As long as the kids live next door, come by for dinner every day, and bring me every collar-less cat they find wandering the neighborhood.