Suburban Soliloquy

A Cat of
Eighteen Years

I'm sitting at the desk in my study wondering if there is a time to come in the Universe's evolution when all information will be lost. Is there a barrier across which information cannot pass intact? Does such a barrier exist in the past, as with the singularity at the beginning of time that nothing that came before can ever be known? And while I was contemplating these issue, even while knowing I will never have the intellect to grasp such things, Jazzbender the cat climbed onto my lap, turned his head and tucked his face into my soft belly. I don’t even like cats, in general, being more a dog person. How does one read a cat’s Buster Keaton-like face? They don’t smile. I sought the advice of a Witch, a dear friend who is expert in cats. She it was who gave me my first clue to understanding, explaining that when cats squint, it indicates happiness.

It distracted me to have this cat wedged between my belly and the desk drawer. It caused me to ponder why a cat would feel trust and affection for me, especially Jazzbender. I've recently put Jazzbender through some hard times. Jazzbender is an old cat. At eighteen years his kidneys find their work challenging. His digestion, like mine at fifty-eight years, is having difficulties processing fatty foods. My response has been severe indigestion while his had been vomiting. He began losing weight. Jazzbender was never a heavy cat to begin with. We used to leave food out for him all day long and he regulated himself as to how much he should eat. He never weighed much more than ten pounds. With the vomiting came weight loss, and even a reluctance to eat at all.

In this last year, Jazzbender has made numerous unwilling visits to the veterinarian. We've put him on an expensive diet of special food that can only be purchased directly from the veterinarian. We give him a twice daily dosage of medicine to encourage his thyroid. The thyroid medicine is a pill that we wrap in a very small piece of Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. It is an item we don't ourselves eat and is probably counterproductive to the cat's special diet, but it is a very small piece. Jazzbender loves it and looks upon his medicine as a treat. And still he was losing weight. We had taken notice of a new ailment in our poor pet. Sometimes, when eating, he seemed to be shocked by pain resulting from chewing. The next visit to the veterinarian was for an examination of his mouth. The veterinarian hammered on all of Jazzbender's teeth and declared them firm. His evaluation was that our cat's problem was the build up of plaque that caused an infection in the gum on the lower left-hand side. The responsibility for cleaning his teeth fell to us. The veterinarian said he was too old for a scaling, concerned that he would not do well under an anesthesia.

Ms Keogh, my more significant other, and I are not able to clean our cat's teeth and gums. We quite frankly don't know how to convince Jazzbender to open his mouth against his will and allow us to - do what, brush and floss? Actually, we’re expected to clean his gums with medication on bits of gauze, to actually stick our fingers into his mouth with its firm needle-like teeth, which is still counterintuitive. Little, Jazzbender might be, but when it concerns his mouth he can be very determined. Our attempts hurt and terrified our pet. We were alarmed seeing ourselves as fiendish torturers. So it was we sought a second veterinarian's opinion, hoping they would do the scaling, especially since Jazzbender had wasted away to barely six pounds.

A second veterinarian was found and she, upon examining Jazzbender's mouth, insisted something more serious was going on, possibly an abscess. She believed some teeth had to be pulled. In any case, she was willing to do the scaling. This new veterinarian agreed with the first, that anesthesia would be dangerous for Jazzbender, so she used gas.

Of course, once Jazzbender was unconscious, it was possible to do a more thorough examination. Only one tooth had to be pulled. The veterinarian said she had a hard time removing it, but it was the right decision. Upon closer inspection that tooth proved to be the cause of Jazzbender's suffering. The tooth was cracked.

When he returned from the oral surgery, Jazzbender made no secret of his disdain for our company. He disappeared into some dark recess of the house and would have nothing further to do with us. However, twenty-fours later, he was willing to forgive us. Now a week has passed and Jazzbender is his over-affectionate self to the extent that he even interferes with my writing by commandeering my lap.

This isn't over. I expect to outlive Jazzbender, just given the actuarial tables for wild humans and domestic cats. I must expect to witness and bear his suffering and death. He sits on my lap even now, patting my beard with his paw hoping this will induce me to stroke him instead of tapping the keys of my laptop. I have been pausing between paragraphs to do just that, and to think about my children and grandchildren, and the end of the Universe, and the end of time.

We try so hard to protect those who are dependent on us and always the horror looms that we cannot guarantee their health, safety, nor even their comfort. I can understand why anyone would be afraid of such a responsibility and would try to avoid it. And I can understand the delusion of guarantees that faith provides. Still, we are biologically wired to want to contribute to the happiness of others and the cat has figured this ou

This essay is the most recent in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any
comments or suggestions,
the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon,
as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"