• J. W. Barlament

Aging Ranch Cat

I had always been the youngest kid, and never by a minor stretch of time. The pets who everybody else knew as young and full of life were old and weary by my high school years.

Sitting, walking, waiting for the dog to take a bigger breath before continuing; so much was daily life. And spending time with elder animals is much the same as time with elder people; lots of slow movements, sleepy times, and meditative bonding moments. And death, in animals, in older years, and on the ranch, is inescapable. Some people vividly remember getting death explained to them. I never got the talk. I did get to find dead birds and mice, rabbits, ferrets, and strays on occasion when I went outside.

From birth through until college, I lived on just one plot of land. I knew death plenty well, but I’d never met aging. Never had I left long enough to notice all the little changes that accumulate to make an animal look a little further over the hill. Seeing that for the first time, returning after several months away, made for an instantaneous tizzy.

And now, lying down, petting fur of black and white and swirls of orange, I think. Count signs that someday she’ll get sick and pass away and I most likely won’t be there to comfort at the tunnel’s end. Little bit of wobble in her walk. Some gunk around her eyes. Fur more frayed. Never half as fast as she used to regularly be. Reuniting with the ones you used to sleepwalk through the weeks with is always weird. Reminiscing is the act of making aging into artwork; making up the actual past as you go and remembering the way things were while they stand before you now.

Change is ceaseless, slow, and seen best in seldom glimpses.

Unless you’re just that one impossibly silky black cat who emerged from swampy woods a dozen years ago, made our home her own, and has carried on, unchanged, in apparent indifferent immortality, ever since.

by Clayton Malquist

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