The Company of Cats

Maisie is anxious.  Maisie is old. She has confused her days and nights.  Well, being a cat, she is probably right on schedule, so it’s really my days and nights she has mixed up

I’ve never been a particularly good sleeper, but still, I remember going to bed and at the very least lying there for several hours, uninterrupted, sleeping at least some of the time, other times mulling over my problems or being annoyed by  the seams in my pajamas, or the loose baffle banging in one of the heating vents, but always from the depths of my comfy quilt.

Recently, however, my lovable legacy cat has decided she requires company, my company, about 18 hours a night.   She starts reminding me of this shortly after supper.  As I sit down with the crossword and some background noise on the TV, she leaps nimbly onto the coffee table, stands directly in front of me, and stares intently.  If I don’t respond in a timely manner, which, apparently to a cat is immediately, she begins to claw gently at the knee of my jeans while making adorable, piteous baby cat noises.  Of course, this earns her a treat. It’s very darling at 8pm but becomes less and less so by 9 or 10. Eventually, after multiple sessions of petting by every available family member, she curls up on the couch and we head for bed. Blessed repose.

Suddenly, a noise jolts me awake and ray of bright light pierces my eyeball. I’ve been sleeping pretty hard and think perhaps I actually slept through the night for once.  I check the clock.  It’s barely 2am.  The sound I heard is Maisie the cat, who has managed to open the bedroom door by sticking her paw under the jamb and butting hard with her head. She prances in vocalizing plaintively, “I’m lonely” in cat-speak.

Because I’m a sucker, I get up, grab an old overshirt and head out to the living room.  It would appear that’s all she really wanted.  Her plan for me is to sit in the big old cat-clawed leather chair, turn on the television, and wait for her to settle down.  She paces back and forth on the wide chair arm for some time, apparently to make sure I am not planning to sneak back to bed. (I was, but it didn’t work out the first time. She gave me 25 minutes before bursting back through the door). 

It’s now 2:30 and I’m aimlessly flipping channels to see if there is anything on that isn’t “Paid Programming.”  I’ve already obsessively watched the endlessly upsetting news stories on CNN and MSNBC, the Food network has signed off, and tennis is a re-play of an earlier match.

I decide to try one more channel check and stumble upon an old episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  It’s the one where he is explaining how worrisome it might be when a new baby arrives.  He sings a snappy song, and I am transported back to happier times when my kids were little and sat raptly in front of the new color TV waiting for Mr. Rogers to slip on his tennies, zip up his sweater, and get to work running the trolley or touring the crayon factory. So happily reminiscent.  I feel my jaw starting to unclench. Maisie senses my tension ebbing, and has begun to purr in her most gentle “I’m here for you” manner.

This getting up at 2:30 scenario has repeated itself for several nights.  I’ve seen a number of Mr. Rogers episodes, and hummed along to such top 40 hits as “Its very, very, very hard to wait”, “Everybody’s fancy, everybody’s fine” and my personal favorite, “I’m angry”.  But as long as I can sing (very softly) along with Mr. Rogers, and conjure up those distant happy memories, I am willing to make the sacrifice for Maisie.  In fact, if she slept through the night, I’d be awake fretting. Instead she’s helped me find an unexpected little oasis in this horribly stressful and strife-filled world we’re experiencing right now.

Maybe Maisie isn’t lonely at all.  Being inscrutable as cats are rumored to be, perhaps she’s just trying to help me through my funk.  Or, could be, she finds Fred Rogers at 2:30am compelling and just needs me to get up and turn on the TV.

© 2022 Faith Ellestad

Faith has been writing to amuse her family since she was old enough to print letters to her grandparents. Now retired, she has the opportunity to share some personal stories, and in the process, discover more about herself. Faith and her husband live with an elderly cat in Madison, Wisconsin. They are the parents of two great sons and a loving daughter-in-law.

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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