Each year is always filled with ups and downs. I have certainly had my share of ups and downs with the feral cats throughout the years. The daily joys are certainly an “up” while the more difficult moments of losing a cat is certainly a “down”. This year also brought changes to my household with my son going off to college. It has been a difficult time.
My husband and I are now “Empty Nesters”. While raising our son, each year it seemed far into the future before he went off to college. Yet before my very eyes the time appeared. The changes in our home have been both subtle and obvious. When living in a house with 3 animals, the house is never very quiet. There is often barking, meowing or the sounds of the cats chasing each other. Yet, the sounds of the door slamming shut, the extra car pulling into the driveway, his voice and the sounds of foot steps upstairs are gone. It was a very obvious change. One that still takes getting used to.
The food in the pantry and the refrigerator are greatly diminished. Some days I open the refrigerator and I am stunned how little food is inside. The same with the pantry. It does make keeping the refrigerator clean easier! After he first left, trips to the grocery were painful. I would see his favorite snacks and burst into tears. Yet, this was part of the process. When my son comes home for a visit, the refrigerator and pantry are stocked with his favorite foods. I think I gain 5 lbs each visit with all of the extra snacks around!! Yet, it’s not long before the fridge and pantry are diminished again.
I have been frequently asked what I am going to do with my life now that my son is away. I have been working through this process since September. Believe me it is a process. I have a list of ideas that I have been working through. The process of becoming an “Empty Nester” takes time as well as effort. It is an adjustment period and one that is full of ups and downs. Yet each day I find new joys and some days I experience new sorrow.
The animals inside the house all have needed adjustment too. Our indoor cat, Jake is my son’s cat. We were all worried how he would react when his “boy” was gone. We did a lot of prep work and there were certainly bumps along the road. Jake had a series of stress related UTI infections as well as a herpes respiratory virus flare up and then a round of diarrhea. Some of this occurred before my son left while Jake was witnessing all of the packing. Then other events occurred right after he left. The surprising part was after a few weeks, Jake settled down. He decided it was time to “make nice” with our other indoor cat, Marvin. They were in the coexisting phase, but certainly not the buddy phase. Jake needed a new job since his previous job had been to watch over his “boy”. His new job involved taking Marvin under his wing. It has been a joy to watch. The two are now buddies and play and groom each other several times each day.
Misty, our Samoyed has really missed my son. She goes into his room and sits in her favorite chair. I just don’t think she understands. After he is gone for a week or so, her visits to his room begin to fade and she realizes it will be awhile before he is home. When he does arrive home, she is so excited and wants to spend a lot of time with him. The last visit home, it snowed. She loves the snow. My husband and I had tried to get her play with us in the snow all winter. She refused. Yet once, my son was home, she was in heaven. It seemed as though she was just waiting to have her play time with him.
The feral cats have become skittish with my son again. They used to allow pets and brushings from him. Now it takes them a long time to warm up to him. This is not surprising as their social relationships are built on daily interactions. I also used to bring them into the house for short visits during the winter. My son would keep the indoor animals with him since I needed to leave the sliding door ajar. Now Shadow and Stellar rarely come inside. I decided that even though the indoor animals can sometimes be with my husband, it was a habit I didn’t want to get into. The cats don’t understand when they can and when they can’t come inside. I just made it a point to get outside with them as often as possible even on bitter cold days.
Of course the ups and downs of caring for the feral cats is ever present. The daily joy and happiness I receive from seeing their sweet faces each morning is priceless. Unless one has experienced this, there are no words to express it. The cold winter and of course the dangers lurking outside are a constant worry. I have thought many times about how it would be without them. I have had people tell me that they bet I will be happy when the ferals are gone since they take up so much of my time. How thoughtless. The ferals are a part of my family. The day I no longer have them will be one of the saddest times of my life.
We all experience ups and downs in our lives. How one copes with these circumstances is truly individual. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to joys and sorrows. There are no time frames for feeling joys and sorrows. Life is an experience and one that is filled with difficulties, elation, humor and sadness. Allow yourself to be fully present and experience life to its fullest extent. Only you can decide how to deal with the ups and downs.