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April 16, 2005
As we head toward the car, What's-Her-Name sails in a sudden leap through the driver's seat window and into the peonies, startling us.

Will you look at that -- she was trying to steal our car! Q says. "Unauthorized Use," that would be, I think, instead of car theft. I think there's a separate offense they can use for family members. But maybe I'm wrong; I'm not a lawyer.

She probably was trying to steal it, though. I know that cat: if she'd known how to drive a stick, we'd be carless today and she'd be in Buffalo by now.

What's-Her-Name is changing, though. She's six years old, now, and has civilized just a bit in middle age: she comes downstairs from the third floor when she hears us get up in the morning and heads for the kitchen, expecting the nice breakfast she receives. If she has spent the night outside, which she doesn't do nearly as often, she frequently comes when called. She talks to us when we set her food before her. Once in a while she requests her chin to be stroked. Then the moment is over, and she is gone.

She is like an aging convict: not as wild any more, not as convinced she doesn't need anyone or anything. The prisons are full of them: old men who did terrible things in their youth but are now just old men, who have problems with their feet like other old men have, whose backs and knees hurt, who tire easily. Couldn't rob a bank or assault someone if they tried, but also couldn't do much else. Frozen in one place by choices they made long ago, frozen in their own lives.

Every pastor has noticed that visiting someone in prison feels much the same as visiting someone in a nursing home. It's also not unlike visiting a seafarer on a ship. This is odd, you think at first, noticing that you're saying the same things to a convicted murderer that you said yesterday to a sweet ancient lady with a broken hip: looking at family photographs, chatting about the food, about how they pass the time, about the past, carefully about the future. But no, it's not odd. Neither of them can leave. Each has lost the life he knew, the life she knew. Each is learning the hard way what it means to live one day at a time.

And then you remember that there really is no easy way to learn that.
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