Mom loved animals. The first time I ever saw her cry was when the kitten she’d saved with every-three-hour eyedropper feedings was hit by a car as he strutted home from a week of tomcatting around the neighborhood.
I was a teenager.
One of the last times was when I stopped in Briny Breezes to pick her up for a doctor’s appointment and found her watching The Incredible Journey. The classic 1963 film follows three displaced pets finding their way home through the Canadian wilderness.
I was in my 50s, and by then Mom’s advancing dementia had her determined to return “home.”
The place locked into her memory wasn’t in Florida, so the kids all agreed to honor her wishes and help her move into assisted living near my sister back in Illinois.
We packed up her heavy, handmade china cabinet, her other sparse belongings, and a ceramic cat I had given her that lingered by her porch as a garden statue.
My sister’s rental van carted these items north as my husband and I helped Mom pack a small suitcase and get her large yellow cat, George, into a carrier.
Worried that the vast, busy Atlanta airport would confuse her, I flew the first leg of the trip with my mom — and then stood helplessly at the gate as she struggled to lug the cat carrier down the jetway. But my heart was lifted when a flight attendant engaged my tiny 80-year-old mom in conversation and carried George onto the plane for her.
She made it safely “home” and even in her decline was able to keep her buddy George as she moved from the ALF into a memory care facility. While she was able, she would carry George around
Mom’s cat has found its way back home. to visit the other residents.
I, too, love cats, and in this setting it was easy to see the comfort that animals bring, especially to those who are lonely.
Mom has been gone for several years now, and George, too, has died. My sister is retiring and moving to Florida.
When she texted to ask if I wanted her to bring me Mom’s ceramic garden cat, I had forgotten about that old statue. But there was no hesitation in my decision.
The heavy, oddly shaped cat-replica with a broken paw now holds court near the goldfish pond in my yard. He looks comfortable there — like he’s returned home.
I have a feeling that Mom approves.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor