Margot Merrill on modern parenthood and the writing life

25May/109

The passage of time, the passage of Minos

He isn't dead yet. My cat. My friend and constant, meow-y companion of seventeen years. But It is upon us. His kidneys don't work. He don't work. I am, amid all else we're doing, injecting him with H20 once a day. And pushing down meds for his thyroid, meds to increase appetite, meds to help "bind phosphorous" or something like that. It's pretty awful.

He's old. 84 in people years. A once-giantly fat cat, he's now 7 pounds. He's deaf. Senile and prone to demented meowing for hours at night. You'd think we'd just let him go, huh? I am, I am...just working up to it. You see, this cat, in addition to being a fabulous being–anyone who's met him will attest to that–is my young adult life. He's me, way back before I was a producer, a college graduate, a writer, a wife, a mother. Minos has simply always been there.

Visiting Margot meant sitting on my couch and hanging out with Minos. "Us," before "us" was Rafael and I, or Raf-Ali-and-I, was Minos and I. And you. Our friends and family, who love him too. There are cats, and then there's Minos. I know the difference–I've had both. I called him a bear-bat-monkey-cat. You called him fat. He hung out like one of the guys. He hung out like one of us.

Now he's just hanging on, and so am I.

I think of Minos as a tiny kitten who was delivered to me, sight unseen, to my first apartment in San Antonio, Texas. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I couldn't even legally drink. He was a ball of black fuzz in the palm of my hand, fearless, his legs draped through my fingers as I held him up. When I decided to open a cafe instead of go back to school, Minos met me in the yard after every long day. My friend Jen's jaw dropped the first time she met him, because he jumped down from a tree onto the hood of my car after we pulled in the driveway. "Hellooooooo!" He meowed triumphantly. "This is my cat." I said proudly. He was so cool.

He was always a whore for people and food, but I let him roam free, and he always came back to me. To that first apartment in Texas. Then Jen's place in Denver, where he stayed while I moved to San Francisco. Then, all of the apartments in S.F.: Cole and Carl, Kearny and Chestnut, Funston and Irving, 15th and Ramona. He's even stuck with me through the last two-plus years, through the birth of our son, two moves in the East Bay, and my resulting identity crisis.

Minos found a new lease on life each time each time we moved. But here we are, in the best home of all of those places, and it’s the end of the line.

Not bad, you’ll tell me. He had a happy life! It’s time!

I know all of that. I feel it in my bones: it’s time. I ain’t got enough to give him anymore, you see. Not like he ever got too much of a say in what I did over the last seventeen years. There was partying in my house, and crying, and lots of friends, and weekends he was left alone with his mentally deficient cat sister Mellie, and some missed meals and medicine. There was much yelling back and forth between us: “MEOoooooow!”

“Shut up Minos!” The yelling at him only stopped being fun when he went deaf.

This has been my life, up to now. Or next week, or the following. Or whenever he actually dies, or I decide to stop hydrating him with an IV because I can no longer fucking take doing it every night.

With Minos’ inevitable passing, I'm pushed off the mesa of my young adult life. I think I spent the last two years hiking up a new mountain called middle age. I’m a mother. It's so humbling.

Hold on - could I please refer to this next chunk of my life that I’m facing, terrified, as “young middle age?” Because you can’t quite call me middle-aged now, can you? Is 37 middle-aged? At age 16 I would’ve said “Duh. Definitely.” At 28 I would’ve said, “Naw, middle-aged is when you’re in your forties and fifties.” I’m creeping up there, friends, and want to keep putting it off.

I always thought that the trick to getting old without getting miserable was: to retain the gut-knowledge that a great life is possible, even to be expected, and worth fighting for. Oh yeah–and to keep havin' fun, yah brah! Of course, we ask ourselves: what does “a great life” mean? It keeps changing. I keep changing. Do you remember how many times you’ve heard someone say, or said yourself, “It was the best thing I ever did”? That statement usually comes after they’ve done something they thought tremendously risky. They changed something. They changed themselves. I think it’s what we’re all supposed to be doing.

But God, I hate all the time spent swimming in the muck of the past, sorting it out, before you can actually start evolving. And that's where I am, with Minos's inevitable passing: sorting it out. Swimming in the dark again. I'm looking through all of those messy memories, where Minos was my one constant (my familiar, I used to think) and preparing to put them to bed, like him.

There will be a new chapter, a new outlook on my "young middle age," and new lives in our children. But there will never be another Minos, or a me, or a you, like we were then.

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