You and I and your congressman and Lady Gaga all want to know how long the pandemic will last.
How long until we can hug, and frolic, and stand within six feet of one another? How long until we can shake hands, pass the peace, pass a Werther’s Original to Grandpa, pass a day without thinking of contamination?
“How long” is huge.
But when you zoom in real close on my heart and soul and twitchy, twitchy mind, the “how long?” is far simpler.
How long will it be before I can hold Bucca again?
As longtime readers of this blog know, I share my office (my beautiful, glorious 89-square-foot office, filled with dinosaur toys and tiny Pope Francis statues and enough cat hair to knit ten blankets — I MISS MY OFFICE!) with three magnificent cats.
How long would it take for me to fully describe Bucca, the white-and-tabby wonder-wisp, all swirly Van Gogh-painting eyes and balky, talky meows? How long would it take to make you fully see, fully know, and fully love the 19-year-old curmudgeon who has been my office mate, drill sergeant and closest companion for over four years?
Lifetimes. And a lifetime is just how long it feels like it’s been since I last saw Bucca.
I’m not proud to admit that, when I left my office for the last time in a long time on 3/13, I didn’t feel the full gravity of our parting. Perhaps I couldn’t have felt it. Back then, words like “pandemic” and “quarantine” were still wild, terms we all agreed to start using for what felt like an international game of Jumanji. In a way it really did all feel like a game, or at least a psychosocial experiment.
I left all three of “my” cats wreathed in kisses, with several hundred extra for Bucca, and then I left as usual.
I really miss “as usual.”
In the two weeks since the last time Bucca’s eyes met mine, I have longed for the creature who shares more of my time than almost any other on earth. I have missed her warm, bossy body sprawled across my arm, her indignant hollers every time the phone rings, the way she will start to roll over and over and over like a contortionist if I catch her eye. I have missed her attitude and her gratitude and her exquisite ability to keep secrets and tell me what to do.
I have missed a creature who is more “best friend,” “kindred spirit,” “soul sister” than “office cat.”
And I have missed so many years of Bucca’s life that I’m starving, frantic even, to make up for lost time when time returns to us some weeks or months from now.
Bucca came to Tabby’s Place at age fifteen, irked and anxious and understandably angry for having been abandoned. She started out in the Community Room, where my desk was located at the time, and for nearly a year she glowered at me from behind the monitor, emitting sounds fit for the underworld. I talked and sang and got whacked with a declawed paw if I touched.
And then came the day when Bucca chose to fling her heart open. It wasn’t gradual with this girl; clearly a choice was at work. How else to explain how, one night, Bucca blustered at me with her usual loathing…and the next morning, she was chirping and racing across the room to greet me with a purr and a snuggle that hasn’t stopped since?
I squeeze my eyes shut in sorrow to think of that chirp going unanswered now.
It isn’t going entirely unanswered, of course. The magnificent Tabby’s Place team — specifically the “essential” staff courageously reporting in-person each day, while I write and wring my hands and fundraise from home — has been lavishing Bucca with love, and lavishing me with photos and videos and hilarious text messages not printable on a family-friendly blog. Bucca is anything but alone and unadored.
But while I’d initially found it funny and strangely flattering that Bucca would accept no love but mine — something volunteers and visitors learn quickly, and other staff members get used to — it’s making me mournful now. Still, she swats away hands that would love her; still, she growls and screams at arms that would hold her; still, she apparently sits in my chair and waits grouchily for my tuckus to return to it.
At this point, I almost wish Bucca would forget me, at least long enough to fling that fierce, enormous heart open to another. Preferably many others. And then, when we’re all together again, she’d only have that much more love, that much more affection, that much more in the way of kindred spirits and soul sisters and brothers and best friends.
Would you do me a favor, kittens? If you’re so inclined, would you please keep beautiful Bucca in your prayers? She’s in the very best of hands, standing waist-deep in water and drowning of thirst. But she needs a minor miracle to let love in.
We’re all in need of miracles these days. How long will that go on? In this case, I do believe it’s forever.
Thanks, dear hearts. I’m praying for you, too.
And miracles happen, in small steps…