Grandma’s Best Friend
By Laurie Damer as told to Eric Damer
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I think a cat was my Grandma’s best friend. She had had several beloved companion pets during her life, but her last little cat was special. She provided unconditional affection and emotional support to Grandma in the last years of her life, when she needed it the most, and she even called for help when Grandma could not. When Grandma passed on, this cat then helped sustain me and my parents when we needed it the most.
Perhaps this last cat was so special because of the circumstance in which she came into Grandma’s life. A colleague of mine had to find a home for her parents’ cat since they were moving to a condominium that didn’t allow pets. The cat, a Russian Blue named Foshee, was a little older and a little shy – not a good pet for children or active people. Fortunately, this was ideal for Grandma. She too was a little older – in her early-eighties – and slowing down. Her cat had been euthanized a year earlier by the vet because of age and illness, and Grandma was not getting out very often to meet family and friends, the few that remained. She was an independent woman, and although she had moved into a suite in my parents’ house we had to wonder if she was getting lonely. I told my colleague that Grandma would love a new animal companion.
Little Foshee was skittish at first, and too skinny for Grandma’s taste. Her previous cat was fatter, like the comic-strip character Garfield. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar may have summed it up thus: “Let me have cats about me that are fat…yond Foshee has a lean and hungry look: such cats are dangerous.” This new cat also had a very peculiar voice that was somewhere between a raspy meow and a high-pitched groan. And as for the name – no one could understand what Foshee meant, where it came from, and even how to pronounce it!
But in a short time Foshee had demonstrated that despite a little shyness, she was very affectionate. She enjoyed all the attention she could get, providing Grandma with a soft, warm living creature to pet and to pamper. Foshee often jumped gently onto Grandma’s lap and reached up to rub noses or to pat Grandma’s face gently with a paw. Foshee even held Grandma’s hand while the two of them slept together in bed. It seemed that Grandma had all the “purr therapy” she could get, morning, noon, and night. No one else had quite the relationship with that little cat as Grandma had. Even Foshee’s funny raspy voice became endearing, and Grandma enjoyed talking with the little girl although neither spoke the other’s language. Perhaps more importantly, Foshee depended on Grandma for food, water, and the occasional brushing. Nothing made Grandma feel better than to think that another living creature needed her.
Over the next few years, Grandma too grew older and ill. In her last summer with us, as she became less able to care for herself, I often slept over to make sure she had assistance. Getting in and out of bed at night became particularly difficult for her. One night, as I slept on a fold-away bed in the living room, I awoke to a strange but familiar sound. It was Foshee’s raspy meow that had always seemed comical, but now had a strange urgency to it. “Maawww,” repeated Foshee again and again. The cat would not be quiet despite my shushing. I stumbled out of bed to see what was agitating her, and she moved down the hallway toward Grandma’s room. Then she returned to me and meowed again before heading back down the hallway. I followed, and Foshee sat inside Grandma’s doorframe and continued her plaintive, raspy meow. I entered the bedroom and realized that Grandma was awake but in distress, tangled in her sheets and straining to get out of the bed. Alarmed, I rushed to her side, helped her with the sheets, and then helped her up to the washroom. Little Foshee had come to Grandma’s rescue!
When Grandma had to move to a hospice a couple of months later, Foshee wandered around the vacant suite making her usual strange sounds. This time, however, the raspy meow sounded lonely. We brought Foshee to visit Grandma in the hospice so the two of them could bump noses one last time. Although the cat was spooked at first by the strange surroundings and unfamiliar noises, she was soon up on the bed, on Grandma’s lap, and touching noses.
Grandma passed away soon after, with family by her side. She left a huge emotional hole in my life, my parent’s life, and the lives of other family. But Grandma also left us many gifts – gifts of courage, strength, determination, honesty, and kindness. She also left us an affectionate little grey cat who purred easily and loved to bump noses. The comfort Foshee had provided to Grandma was now a comfort to me, my mother, and my father. The cat who held Grandma’s hand at night, patted her cheek gently with her paw, and raised the alarm when necessary now extended her feline compassion to those who currently needed it the most. We imagined that Grandma herself was sharing her love through this little cat, and we sent our love back. Somehow, it made the loss less painful to hug little Foshee, Grandma’s best friend, and to hear the little girl purr.
Eric Damer Bio:
Eric Damer is a life-long British Columbian who has researched and taught educational history for the past fifteen years, and works part-time at the Burnaby Village Museum where he is particularly fond of role-playing the blacksmith. In his free time, he likes nothing better than a day in the mountains! As this story suggests, Eric is particularly fond of cats. Laurie, his wife, is an elementary teacher with a strong interest in children’s literature and art, which she pursues passionately in her spare time. http://ericdamer.wordpress.com]
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