“I HATE cats,” he’s always said. I never doubted — the man literally bristles when the creatures appear in his vision, whooping and cheering when Snoopy, his parents’ dog, tears by on a mission to eliminate one.
It’s been a little lament of mine, teasingly whined about these past 8 years as we occasionally shared stories of our pets growing up. I’m hoping someone will provide a medal to my mother-in-law for the pets-other-than-dogs she permitted during her sons’ childhood (tarantulas! I die!). My brother and I cared for a fairly normal menagerie of two, sweet Border Collies and three, adopted cats.
“We’ll get a cat when we’re empty nesters!” I’ve proposed. “We’ll get you allergy medication,” I add as a promise, intertwining our fingers.
Did I mention Ben’s slightly allergic to cats?
… Which is why he maintained a nice buffer of space between himself and our friends’ street-rescued kitten, Nemo, a few months ago while our children descended upon it excitedly. Nemo’s new mama offered a few guidelines and they dutifully adhered, giggling at the fur babe’s reaction to a string dangling from a stick.
“I HATE cats,” their papa grumbled to me on the way home that evening.
Even he, though, could not help noticing our second-born’s delight with Nemo. Our five-year-old Eli is independent, solitary even. Nemo, however, drew out quick and easy smiles from E, cuddling comfortably in his lap for long minutes of sweet petting and eventually succumbing to a nap.
“I HATE cats” turned into “Well maybe we’ll get one when we move back to the States.”
And then, after a very long pause following my joke about a homeless kitten I’d read of on a Baku Expat Board: “… If you get it, you’ll be taking care of it. All of it. Everything.”
Oh, but I’m making my darling husband sound grumpier than he is. Anyone who knows us would quickly label him the sillier of our pairing, this man who first caught me by the heart nine years ago with his good-natured, engulfing humor. Within minutes of our cat, named Zoomie, being introduced to the kids, he was chuckling at her antics as she frolicked across the living room, tumbling from couches as she pounced around like a miniature jungle queen.
I’d had a bit of a rock in my stomach as I drove home with Zoomie mewling in a box just behind the driver’s seat. Would Ben truly hate her? Of course he brushed my weak expectations aside with his… hisness, my Benjamin who somehow manages to grow more patient, more generous, more loving, more and bigger beyond what I imagined he’d be as I lay on my Air Force dorm bed those years ago, spinning my engagement ring on my left hand.
In three months we’ll cram backpacks with clothes, diapers, and snacks to fly back to America, perhaps–most likely–to never set foot on Baku soil again. Though we’re still a short walk from the finish line, I’m rehearsing the ‘lasts’: smiling more meaningfully at the man who always takes my groceries to the car, looking longer at the kids who live down the way from us, kicking soccer balls against walls, telling secrets in the shade of pomegranate trees.
Moves are exciting, but they put rocks in my stomach too.
Zoomie flies by me, the one who arranges the blanket just so in her bed and fills her dish every morning, to curl into a ball on Ben’s lap. I’ll pretend I don’t see him wiggle his fingers above her, a live mobile for her to bat at from her spot.
But I will slip my hand into his. We’re surviving Zoomie. We’ll survive the move.