I was away recently for work, and the trip took a Gilligan turn: I was away longer than anticipated. I decided to check in with the kids, which I rarely do. I usually ignore them if it’s only a few days, because initiating contact only results in questions about whose turn it is to take out the blue bins and which Visa card will work. I flipped Christopher, 22, a note on Skype to let them know I’d be a few days late.
We have a house rule when I travel, which is I’m not to be contacted about something I can’t do anything about. It sounds harsh, but they’re grown- ups (sort of) and whether I’m across the country or across the world, the logistics of getting back from sometimes remote places to oversee stitches or a leaky roof becomes a moot point; it’s already been taken care of by people more qualified than I.
“Doesn’t anyone love me or miss me?” I typed to Ari, 20.
“I do. I might sign up for a flag football league.” If this was all I was missing, I should be grateful, I told myself. A message from Christer chimed in.
“Maggie ran away for, like, 12 hours last week,” he typed.
Maggie is 13 years old. She is a 5 pound indoor cat. Maggie does not run away. My heart clenched, admittedly more than it would have if he’d said his brother had run away.
“What happened? Is she okay?” I felt faint.
“Ari was barbecuing and left the screen door open. She got out. We couldn’t find her inside later.” I pictured my wee calico girl lost in the wilderness, and then I read his words again.
“I heard her crying in the rain on the deck 11 hours later. She’d been hiding in the shed.”
Now we’d added rain. And a shed full of spiders and sharp tools. Maggie gets upset if one of the other cats takes her special spot on my bed. I may have sent Christopher another note, and it may have said things like, “she’s my baby, OMG, OMG, OMG” and “is she okay? My poor baby.” Maybe. I’m also aware I said up there my kids could sew their own ears back on and yet I was searching airline schedules because my cat had been hiding in the shed and had been found safe.
It now dawned on me that the guilty party had been more interested in flag football.
“I JUST HEARD ABOUT MAGGIE!” I loudly typed at Ari.
“She just wanted to be an outdoor cat,” he replied. If there was a font for shrugging, he would have used it.
“She is not an outdoor cat. You are mean.”
“It’s not like I said, ‘hey Maggie, go sit in the shed and I’ll come get you in 7 hours,” he replied. I told him I loved him and I’d be home in a few days. He told me the cats should be fine until I got back. I was not reassured. I considered asking Pammy, Christopher’s girlfriend, to take a picture of Maggie beside a newspaper with the current date. I then decided they laugh at me enough behind my back. I sent Christopher a note saying good night and take care of each other.
“I’m fine. We’re fine. Go away. Love you. Etc, etc, etc.”
It’s those “etc”s that worry me.