I met Einstein on the first date with the woman who would become my wife. He didn’t care much for me. I can’t blame him. After all, he had her all to himself. They had significant history together. Einstein doesn’t suffer fools, and he doesn’t have patience for undeserving men. Clearly, I had my work cut out for me.
“Watch this,” she said as she put her hands over her eyes. Then she pretended to cry and wailed “Oh, Einstein! Oh, Einstein!” The cat darted across the apartment, up onto the couch and into her lap. Then he stood on his hind legs and tenderly pawed her face as he meowed gently. “Oh Einstein,” she continued to cry. He patted her face, consoling her. Then he turned his head and looked directly at me. He was clearly scowling and I could read his angry little cat mind. “What did you do?!” he was thinking.
“I didn’t do anything!” I found myself saying back to the cat. No matter. The cat kept patting her face, even when she started giggling. “Thanks a lot,” I told her, “now he’s going to think I’m some kind of jerk.” She laughed out loud and the cat kept staring at me. “Great, just great,” I thought to myself.
Einstein is 17 years old. His thyroid is a wreck. We had it irradiated awhile back, which bought him some time. But now there is a tumor and it’s aggressive. His liver is falling apart, too. Other than a reduced appetite he seems none the worse, for now. But I know that will change.
I’m allergic to cats. They make me wheeze. But when you’re in love with a beautiful woman, you’re willing to make sacrifices. Once Einstein decided I wasn’t the devil we reached a gentlemen’s accord. He would continue to sleep next to her each night. I was allowed to join them, but only at a paw’s length. Many times I woke up to four outstretched paws, pushing against my back. Like he was trying to shove me off the bed.
Einstein can open doors. He reaches up and somehow manipulates the knobs. Thus the name “Einstein.” He’s brighter than a cat should be. He’s also unimpressed by dogs. We have two dogs, and Einstein slaps them around whenever he feels like it. The dogs won’t be happy that I shared this with you, but then the truth hurts.
You know what else hurts? The inevitable pain of loss. You see, we’re losing Einstein. This remarkable companion, whose steady presence began when I met my wife, is edging closer to the precipice. That ledge we’re all destined to arrive at, but avoid as long as possible.
Einstein knows something of this. The slings and arrows of physical decline and aging. You see, he was once a therapy cat. My wife is a registered nurse and she used to take Einstein to visit her sick and recovering patients. His sweet disposition and calm purring always managed to bring a smile and sense of tranquility.
I don’t know if animals can sense their decline, but I’d wager they do. Still, Einstein doesn’t let such worries interrupt his routine. He continues to ferret out the warm spots in the house. He knows where the sun peeks through the curtains. And he’s always game for a warm lap.
Recently my wife came home from a long day at work. The energy she puts into caring for patients can exhaust her. The late afternoon sun filled our backyard garden, and my wife laid down on the patio furniture for a nap. Within moments, Einstein slipped through the doggy door and found his way next to his best friend.
As the two of them shared that quiet moment together, I slipped out my iPhone and snapped a quick photo. I needed to capture that picture. To memorialize the scene. For I know time is growing short.
That’s the deal with pets. They grace us with unconditional love and loyalty. All they ask in return is to be fed, cared for and loved. There’s an old joke. Lock your spouse in the trunk of the car for an hour. Then lock your dog or cat in the trunk of the car for an hour. When you open the trunk, guess who will be happy to see you?
I sneeze periodically, still wheeze once in awhile and take Benadryl for the itching. I’m sure it amuses Einstein. But what he doesn’t know is that I’d be happy to put up with these allergic indignities, if only he’d stick around longer. If only he could continue giving my wife his unconditional, soothing affection. If only that contented purr could forever whisper in our ears, telling us in his own feline way, “I love you and I always will.” Well, Einstein, we love you too. And we always will, buddy. We always will.