I continue my morning routine: feed Milo, my 19 year old cat, empty the litter box, pet Milo for an hour, guide him to his bed, then a 3 mile walk, and breakfast with the paper. Some days I meander around the house doing chores broken up by any distraction that passes my way. The New York Review of Books on the dining room table captures my attention on the way to vacuum the sunroom. Twenty games of solitaire call to me as I drift by my desk covered with papers that need filing, something I’ve neglected since March. Old photos discovered in a folder occupy me as I move to sort out a bookcase.
My Greek Family in my grandfather’s village, Kastellia, north of Delphi
Late afternoon Milo time. Is it cocktail hour yet?
This month Milo bravely faced new obstacles. He is blind but could still navigate the house. On occasion he missed the litter box but not by much. He just wasn’t fast enough. Then he developed a neurological disorder which caused his eyeballs to shuttle back and forth. I assured myself that having him close and whispering sweet nothings in his ear would help his brain relax and his eyes would stop their mad movements. He never complains, not like me.
Sigrid Nunez’s novel The Friend sometimes a mediation on writing, on being a writer, and on teaching writing, ends with the last days of her dying dog. He became the true friend, providing an audience for her musings, her novel, giving unconditional love and support. Cats do have conditions yet Milo is accommodating and loving even as he suffers.
One social day in the middle of the month, I spoke to friends in Ireland, Oregon, and North Carolina, then, drifted outside to plant 60 pansies as the summer flowers fade. My nemesis, Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susans, have decided my yard is their yard and screw every other plant. I pull and pull trying to protect my 30 year old Irises and Poppies. Sometimes I delude myself that I’m winning. That night as I lay in bed with the windows open, I heard a fox howling. Eerie.
On the 27th, I had a doctor’s appointment on the Upper East Side. It’s been 10 months since I drove to Manhattan. The drive was fraught with fear. A generalized COVID-19 anxiety? I had to park in an indoor lot. Am I safe? I was back in my car in an hour but saddened not to enjoy New York as I usually do: no walk across town, no visit to the Morgan Library, no late lunch. But the city didn’t disappoint. Driving down Third Avenue, the sky a pearly grey, the Chrysler building on my left. Restored.
A Pearly Sky on the Upper East Side
The Chrysler Building
That evening, Milo’s head started twitching back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Nothing comforted him. When he walked, his head twisted to one side: still, he’s eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. The next morning, I found him wandering in circles, his head cocked laterally, unable to eat or drink. He must be frightened, in pain. The vet and I agree this is no way to live. It’s time. We spent the afternoon cuddled together watching the 1945 film, The Enchanted Cottage.
Milo’s last day
My first day without Milo, an empty house. I enter a room expecting to see him. A terrible loss at a terrible time.