Kate is different in the summer. She still wakes us at four or five in the mornings with a loud string of guttural howls, but the goal of them is different: we go downstairs and fix her breakfast, but she walks right by her bowl and asks to go outside. She would rather go outside than eat. She comes back in later for breakfast.
And sometimes she talks us into letting her stay outside all night. Q is always a little concerned when she wants to do that. But she knows what she's doing. She always stalks in the back door in the morning, demanding food.
Later, I stop to pull some weeds by the side of the house and am startled to come upon Kate, inches away, curled up behind some irises. Her tortoiseshell coat blends perfectly with the nest of soil and dead leaves in which she lies. The sun hits that side of the house in the afternoon. It must feel warm and good on her old joints.
All winter, she has been on the couch in the living room for the better part of each day. Q has made her a nest there, too, an indoor one, a folded fleece blanket in the corner against the arm of the couch. When someone comes for spiritual direction, we ordinarily face each other from our seats on the two couches. Kate participates, too, asking me to stroke her jaw, then jumping down and up onto the other couch, visiting the visitor.
Most of our meals are under the dogwood tree in the summer. Kate joins us there, too, hoping we're having fish for dinner. Q drops her a piece or two, and we both put our plates down after we finish so she can lick them.
She is staying pretty close to us these days: close to us, close to the house, remaining in the yard. Sometimes she comes for a visit to our bed so we can stroke her jaw there, something she never used to do. She is still pretty thin. She is older every day. But she has a nice life. Small pleasures. A tiny world.
Both she and Rosie are seventeen. As Kate prepares for her end, Rosie is just beginning. Kate is losing physical power; Rosie is in her physical prime. The future is coming closer to Rosie, mysterious, sometimes frightening, and she must enter into it. Kate doesn't have to enter anything if she doesn't want to.
And I? I am here, in the middle of life. More of it is in the past than is in the future, but I have as reasonable a hope as any of us can have that a fair amount remains to me. I feel equal tugs toward home and toward the street, torn every day between the outside world and the one inside the house and garden. I am like Kate in the morning, touring the garden before breakfast to see what has changed. It changes every day. Kate and I like to keep up.
Soon, Rosie will walk through the garden in front to the bus stop. Perhaps she will notice that it is beautiful -- perhaps -- but I think she will not notice any of its changes. They are too small to attract her notice. That will come later. She has places to go and things to do.
Kate and I will see her when she gets back.