Have you ever been delighted, only to be disappointed, only to be delighted more deeply than you could have dreamed in the first place?
Knox feels ya.
I suspect the following experience rings too true for too many of us:
You wait, and dream, and plan, and pine.
You trust your hope will hatch at the appointed time.
Finally, o glory!, your time comes. You are anointed with joy.
You were wrong.
You’re not appointed or anointed, just empty-handed, disappointed.
See that wake rippling away from you? That’s your ship, leaving port.
And there you stand on the shore.
Or, as the case may be, in Jonathan’s office.
Two weeks ago, a misty dream started taking form before Knox‘s huge, round, wondering eyes.
It was an uneventful afternoon at Tabby’s Place, except for the usual unpredictable events that change everything. The main event involved one visitor, eighty-six years of sparkle and sincerity. An ageless elegance and full-grown kindness were around her like a halo. Since the rest of the staff was up to their elbows in urgent cat matters, I had the pleasure of greeting our guest. Let’s call her Simone.
Simone explained that she’d loved many cats in her time, and she wasn’t ready to stop loving them yet. Neither, she hastened to add, was she blind to her years. She would not be looking for a kitten or anything that might outlive her — just one middle-aged-or-older cat who might need her.
“I have a feeling you’ll be blowing out 100 candles on your birthday cake someday,” I admitted.
Simone smiled, agreed, and assured me; come what may, any cat of hers would be safe indefinitely. She would not adopt without bringing her children on board to take the cat if necessary.
Since she had no cats at home, I asked if Simone knew about FIV. She didn’t. But neither did she narrow her eyes or her mind. “Please explain,” she asked.
And so, I did. As youze guyze know by now, FIV — Feline Immunodeficiency Virus — is more inconvenience than catastrophe. Cats can only acquire it via deep bite wounds from other cats, so our FIV+ crew is a clowder of cats who have each been on the wrong end of a street fight.
Although an infected cat has the disease for life, he’s also got every reason to expect a life as long and healthy as any other cat. FIV makes him more susceptible to stupid things like colds and dental disease, so regular vet visits are essential. Other than that, though, an FIV+ cat is just a cat, with a normal lifespan, normal level of magic, and perhaps a higher-than-normal number of colorful tales to tell.
Because I am
slightly manipulative utterly brilliant, I explained all of this to Simone after bringing her into Jonathan’s office. Although Jonathan was out that day (sorry, Simone), Piper and Knox were very much “in.” Piper, in perpetual Piper form, drooled all over Simone.
But it was Knox — shy Knox, terrified-eyes Knox, under-the-chair-and-trembling Knox — who was working the room, and the human.
My words sputtered into silence as I witnessed something I wouldn’t have even imagined. Knox — worried Knox, I-emerge-only-for-food Knox, terror-all-around-Knox — shot out from under his chair like a three-legged, tubby torpedo. He threw all his weight into Simone’s legs, purring, rubbing, circling, loving.
For two years, Knox trembled. All of a sudden, with one eighty-six-year-old adopter, he found the love that moves the sun and all other stars.
And, like any luminous human would do, Simone surrendered her heart.
“I do believe I can handle this FIV,” she marveled, as she and Knox delighted in each other. She pulled her eyes off Knox just long enough to meet mine. “I just need to talk to my children. You know, make sure they’re completely on board.”
“Of course,” I gushed. “Yes. Here’s my number. Here’s Danielle’s number, in case I’m away from my desk when you call. Here’s Jonathan’s. Here’s Knox’s personal cell phone number. Call. Yes. Please. Yes!”
Full of joy, Simone left. Full of joy, I waved. Full of joy, Knox glowed with the light of ten billion well-loved stars.
Full of joy, then, we waited.
I do “denial” pretty well, so it was about five days before I finally started to entertain the thought:
Simone wasn’t going to call.
Knox’s ship had not come in.
Zoomed-in, up-close, this was a dream dashed, a false alarm, a sigh for an unhealed heart that could only bleed on.
Knox slunk back under his chair. I slunk back to my chastened hopes. I suppose we all do that when wounded.
And I am, of course, talking about humans.
In a hundred different ways that I will not elaborate here, I’m in a waiting mode right now. So are you; I know this, because I know you’re human, and yearning is an incurable part of our condition.
So as I yearned for Knox’s dreams and mine, I posted something simple on social media one day. We often give what we most need ourselves, and so it was that I plunked out:
Reminder: Your ship has not sailed.
What is for you will not pass you by.
I almost immediately retracted it, feeling all cliched and hypocritical and bare all at once, making promises I desperately needed kept.
But I was soon reminded that our needs and dreams are meant to bind us together. A flood of friends and friends of friends and random wonderful preachers and poets and people of all persuasions responded, shared, took refuge in mere words that didn’t start with me and certainly weren’t mere words anymore.
The promise swelled.
Then came a text message I’d expected too much to expect in this way:
Knox getting adopted!
And that’s where the story zooms out 30,000 feet and turns downright mystical.
“What senior adopter?”
Danielle’s face registered concern for my mental state.* “Angela, what do you mean? Knox’s adopter is like 35 years old.”
Had Simone started using a really amazing anti-aging cream over the weekend? Was Danielle spectacularly bad at gauging ages?
Or was it something altogether more wonderful?
The answer came quickly. No, Knox’s adopter was not Simone. But yes, there was a blinking orange message on my phone…and Simone’s voice was calm, kind and clear.
“Angela, I am terribly sorry for the delay. I love Knox so much, and I know I am capable of caring for an FIV+ cat now. But I couldn’t stop thinking that Knox was going to have a wonderful life with or without me. I happened to go to another shelter — one of those ones where things don’t always end so well, you know.”
The lump in my throat was large enough to need its own zip code. I listened on.
“And I asked them about FIV+ cats. I remembered what you said, that a lot of people won’t consider them. Well, the people at that shelter were so surprised and happy. They introduced me to a cat, and he had FIV like Knox, and I took him. He’s such a love. And I love Knox too, but I…I just knew he would have a wonderful life. I hope you aren’t upset with me.”
Upset? No, awed.
Zoom out, and you can see it: not one, but two cats cherished.
Not one, but three lives saved (Simone’s cat + Knox + cat who will take Knox’s place).
Not one promise kept, but a whole string of pearls whose end we can’t begin to see.
Dear ones, we can’t know the time and terms of dreams fulfilled. But, now more than ever, I’m convinced:
Your ship has not sailed.
What is for you will not, most assuredly not, pass you by.
*Something that happens several times a day.