Yesterday my 17-year-old cat, Juliette, scurried into the bushes and didn’t come back out. All day today, her son, 15-year-old Ajeet, slept dejectedly in a chair on the porch. When I arrived home late at night with cat food, I opened the door and called him. He came to the door, then paused, and looked back for Juliette (who always follows him in). When she didn’t make an appearance, he refused to come into the house. He went back and curled up on the chair. For all the years they have been together, the two have always sat together, moving their heads in synchronized fashion, Now, the friendship has been cut in half and it is a sad sight to see.
I was reminded of the toads I had when I was a teenager. I had found one big American toad and two small Fowler toads in the park and brought them home to add to my menagerie. The three lived together in a tank and then one of the Fowler toads died. It was then that a very strong bond was formed between two very different toads, the big American toad and the little Fowler toad. The two took to sitting together, the little toad between the feet of the big toad and their throats would expand and contract in unison. When I went to feed the toads, the big toad would not eat until the little toad has his fill.
Then, one day, the remaining little toad died and the big toad never ate again. I took him out to the woods and let him go because I knew he would starve to death if I kept him. Of course, I never knew how he fared once I released him back into the wild, but I could only hope that he made a new friend that would want to make him live again.
A few days ago I saw an episode of the Golden Girls in which Rose (Betty White) decides she needs to get more gusto out of her life and she ends up moving out of the house to find more action. It doesn’t take long before she realizes that she feels dreadfully alone, how much her friends meant to her, and what a horrible mistake she has made. She goes back home and she is thrilled to find they missed her just as much as she did them. The episode made me cry.
If you look around you and think about the people (and pets) in your life, you will realize how much they mean to you and I will bet you mean a lot to them, too. Our friendships can be lifelong or recent, family or non-relations, human or animal, but they all have great meaning. I lost my father this year and my mother-in-law, and, I guess, as of yesterday, one of my cats. I miss them all and their leaving this world has left me with some holes in the fabric of my being.
Luckily, I have other wonderful people in my life (along with three cats). And I am sure others will enter my world and all together these friends will help mend some of those gaps left by lost loved ones. As we get older, we tend to suffer more and more holes and this sometimes is a very difficult thing to deal with. Which goes to prove that the Golden Girls had the right idea. Friends need to stick together, be there for each other, and friends are what make life good even in the difficult times.
Just last month when my father was ill in the hospital and in hospice, my two sisters and I spent more time together than we had in years. All of us look back on those days as very tough emotionally, but also very special because the three of us were together, not only as family, but as friends.
Augusten Burroughs said, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.“
I think he was wrong. If you have no friends, you have nothing and nothing else matters at all.