After I got sick last year I spent a lot of time on the couch. Not just because I was sleeping a lot, but because I had been sleeping in my bed when I had the stroke. A place that once meant peace, rest and cookie crumbs, now triggered fear and anxiety. They tell you to get deep, uninterrupted sleep because it helps the brain to heal and regenerate, but the best I could manage was 10-15 minute intervals before I jolted awake, feeling like I was swallowing my tongue. It was terrible.
Before all this went down, a neighborhood cat started hanging around my place a lot. He had always been on the block checking things out, but just before I got sick he started showing up every day and right after I got sick he refused to leave. It was pretty sad (but also very heartwarming) to come home from treatment and see him squished up, passed out against the back door. He gave me something to think about other than myself and I think I really needed that.
When the rainy weather came I got the pet carrier and set it up outside the door. Every few hours I heated up old blankets so he could stay toasty in his condo. I even covered it with plastic tarp so he could stay dry, but when it got down to 40 degrees he started crying at the back door and when I say crying I mean screaming. My two indoor cats (Monkey Boy and Lil) are not of the friendly variety, so we weren’t sure what to do. One night it got so cold I just let the little bugger in and shut the hallway door, locking the other two in the back of the house. It seemed to work. Better than that, it was the first time I slept for more than a half hour at a time. When I laid down on the couch that night, the cat jumped up and made himself at home on my chest. Even though I was watching tv he stayed right by my face and watched me. When I dozed off he wrapped his paws kind of around my neck, and when I started to feel like I was choking he’d give me a little poke with his claws so I knew I was okay. He never slept outside again after that and I made peace with the couch.
In the months after the stroke was really afraid. What if I had another one and no one was there to help me? How could I get better if I couldn’t get any sleep? It was a vicious cycle of the mind until this cat showed up. I had been hoping and praying for someone to come and help, and instead of a person I got a cat. This is how I know there is a God. HAHA!
A couple months after he moved in, I walked down to the cat’s old place. Aren’t these people wondering where he is, I thought? On the fence was a sign reading BEWARE OF DOG. Mouthing a few WTFs I turned around and headed back home. Is this why he’d come jumping out of the storm drain for pets last spring? Had he been living IN THE DRAIN? I was horrified. Not long after, because this cat is SO SMART he gets his own treats out of the cupboard + tries to open the back door with his paws if it’s unlocked + only drinks running water out of the faucet + instinctively knows how to identify when a sleeping woman is having a bad dream and gently wakes her up + so many other interesting things, I named him Benjamin Franklin. It seemed like a fitting name, especially after having gone through the process to become a citizen – me, not him although I guess he did become a citizen of my house.
Chris always says that Franklin has the good life, that he’s reached the ultimate in royalty for cats because I let him do whatever he wants. I can’t help it, I love this kid. He saved me in a lot of ways (and can leap onto my bed from the dresser like a freaking gymnast). People on social media are always hawking the next!big!thing!, but this year I learned the value of slowing down and observing the little things in life. Look at Franklin: one day you’re in the drain and the next you’re in the penthouse.