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November 1, 2003
"How is Santi?"

"He's okay. Would you like to talk to him?"

In a moment, a sound like that of a tiny cement mixer comes from the telephone receiver. Tiny for a cement mixer, maybe, but loud for a cat. Santana purred on and on, while I told him that he was a good boy and asked him if he was a good boy and if he knew who was the best boy? He purred on in response to all these questions and observations.

"He was listening to you," Anna said. I choose to believe her.

When Santi was in residence at The Geranium Farm during his illness, he and I called Anna just about every night so he could purr to her. Then we would cuddle together on our bed. Now he is home, and it is she who cuddles with him and I who listen to the purr.

Kate, of all people, deigned to climb into my lap and let me cuddle her yesterday morning. And actually climbed up on the bed and let me stroke her chin last night. This is astounding: she has never approved of me, having lived here with Q before our marriage, has felt that they were doing perfectly well, thank you, the two of them in the big house, and isn't it about time Barbara went back to wherever she came from? But now she is 17 years old and has grown tiny. I have taken to giving her tiny tastes of cod liver oil on a spoon -- my grandmother took that when she was old. I believe she knows I'm on her side.

I stroked her thin body, her jawline where cats have special glands that they like to rub on things. She stays with me and purrs loudly. I am grateful, as if she had done me some enormous favor.

And perhaps she has. The days grow shorter and the dark comes early. It is a great comfort to be in bed early, the windows black squares in which you see nothing of the outdoors, the lamps inside casting shadows on the wall around their golden circles of light. This is a cuddly time of year.

In the ancient past, we were close to animals. People brought their farm animals into their houses, literally: the stable was often the bottom floor, and the people lived right above it. You could hear the animals and smell them. In the winter, you could feed them downstairs in a warm place, about as warm as your place was, about as warm as any inside place was going to get in the cold of winter. In the summer, your job was to grow enough food. In the winter, your job was to keep everybody warm.

We have other jobs now. We don't stay in from the cold: we must go out into it and do our important work. But we return to our golden lamps, our warm beds. And, some of us, to our furry cats.

Kate cries in the morning for her breakfast. And cries at other times, too: loud, guttural cries of unspecific anguish. I think it's her arthritis.

Or maybe Kate is just raging against the dying of the light, struck with sorrow sometimes at the knowledge that she must soon leave this world. Maybe she knows she's old and growing tiny, shrinking out of this life and into the next one. I certainly know it: I stroke her, feel her tiny bvones through her beautiful fur, fight gainst loving her because I don't want to lose her, lose the battle against love. Again. I always lose.

The sun comes up in the morning. By 10:00 it spills through the upstairs window, where many of the geraniums spend the winter. Kate finds a place in between two pots and curls up in it, in a pool of warm sun. She stays there all day, until the sun goes down and it grows dark. Perhaps she will come and cuddle with me again. I hope so. We could keep each other warm.
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