Zelda, our black and white cat, has been with us for fourteen years and has always had special place in our hearts. She is a sweetheart, sensing when anything is wrong and coming to comfort the human involved. When I was going through rough times and woke up at night, crying, I felt her coming up, sliding between my arms, staying there until I fell back to sleep. She is an incredible cat.
Evan, who is 20 now, loves Zelda and proclaims her as “the best cat in the world.” We all learned a valuable lesson when we got her from the shelter fourteen years ago. We had already picked out an orange tabby kitten and went to the pound on the first day we could get her, only to find that another family wanted the same kitten.
They won the coin toss and we watched as they carried "our" cat away. We sulked for a bit and then looked around. Within a half an hour, we found Zelda, a little, tiny black and white ball of fur. We took her instead. Now, we know that things happen for a reason. Zelda was destined to be a part of our family.
Through the years, Zelda and Evan have spent a lot of time together. He barely remembers a time in his life when she was not around. Zelda has never had children, but mothering instincts are strong within her, especially concerning Evan. When he is home, she is by his side, in his chair, or seeking him out. When he gets out of the shower, she likes to try and groom his already-wet hair.
Evan, like so many other college-age students, has headed back to his university to start another academic year. His absence is palpable here. As all parents know, when there is offspring in the house, even when they are quiet, there is a certain warm feeling that permeates the house. That feeling is gone now.
I loved having my boy home for the summer. With him came his friends, and activity and, for me, still getting used to living alone, a sense of normality again.
Now, I pass by his room and miss the pile of clothing on the floor, the humming computer on his desk, the pizza delivery uniform he wore for his summer job slung over the chair. It is so very, very quiet in this house.
Needless to say, I am proud of Evan and what he is doing in his life. I am so happy he is at college, pursuing his education.
It feels selfish of me to miss him, yet I do.
Zelda misses him as well and she shows it by seeking out his socks from under his bed or where he left them on the floor near his dresser. She takes one sock at a time from his room, and walks through the house, meowing a deep, guttural, mournful meow even as her mouth is full of sock. It is a haunting sound, especially late at night.
She deposits the socks all over, leaving it to me to go and pick them up in the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the living room and occasionally, the yard.
I pick them up, wash them, and take them back to his room. I stand near his dresser and consider putting all the socks inside the drawers to save myself the trouble of picking them up again.
But I don’t.
The mother in me understands that she needs to do this.
I leave some for her beside his dresser, and beside his pillow she likes to curl up next to.
Late at night, I see her walking down the hall, carrying one of his socks and meowing.
“I know you miss your boy,” I say to her. “I miss him too.”
Then I hear her plaintive meow even louder, echoing against the walls, touching something deep within me and I know she is, in her own Zelda way, helping me once again by speaking for both of us.