Mia is my little 8-pound cat who I adopted, along with her son, Timmy, in 2011. From the start, it was clear that Timmy was the outgoing, affectionate animal, curling up on my chest, leaning his backside against my neck, and purring himself to sleep. Mia would let me touch her, sometimes. I could pat her, sometimes. It depended on how defensive she was feeling. She was not an unfriendly cat, just not very affectionate, not very trusting of the human touch.
Four years have passed since I brought these cats home, and now Mia loves affection. She will push her body into my hands and arms when I sit on the floor with her. Her purr is loud and wonderful. She will meow at me until I pick her up and kiss her head and cheeks. Again, her purr is loud and wonderful. The other day, while she was pushing herself into my arms, she performed one of those adorable signature kitty moves: She plopped on her back and exposed her belly with her paws curled in the air. The purr: loud and wonderful.
My mother was watching and said, “I didn’t think she had it in her.”
Still, Mia has her emotional and physical boundaries. When she has had enough, she swats at you with her paws. She does not hurt you, but make no mistake, she’s telling you she’s had enough.
Tonight after work, and after a swim at the local sports club, I ate dinner: a perfectly roasted chicken, red roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli with fresh melted deli cheese, brown rice with dried cranberries, and cranberry sauce, fresh, prepared with an apple. I cooked all of these items myself. The chicken was spiced deliciously with fresh onions, garlic, orange and green peppers, and Goya Adobo, a mix of salt, pepper, garlic and turmeric. Some olive oil to baste it. The chicken meat was moist and nearly addictive. The brown rice with cranberries was a treat and the broccoli tasted delectable. Who knew broccoli could taste that good? The cranberry sauce was chilled and zesty and refreshing.
This was not just one of the best meals I have ever cooked, but one of the best meals I have ever eaten.
I didn’t think I had it in me.
My mother always cooked. She stopped cooking sometime last year, several months after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, when the pots and casserole dishes became too heavy to pick up, like leaden weights hanging off her stick arms. Her arthritic fingers no longer able to grip. She lost most of her appetite. She can no longer pick up a 9 pound chicken, handle it, spice it, place it in a 5 pound Pyrex and get it into the oven. That’s my job now.
Except for a few forays on my own in my younger years, I have always lived with my mother or her with me. Who lives with whom is a matter of perspective and not all that important. I have spent my life with my mother, and perhaps that is one reason for my failures at romantic relationships, my strange commitment to her, leaving me noncommittal to whomever I have dated. That’s one reason. I’m sure I could come up with a few other equally fucked up reasons for my failures in relationships.
A successful, romantic relationship that lasts more than a year is not something I have in me, not now, maybe someday, maybe not.
Still, I am happy to say that one positive that has come out of my long-term relationship with my mother, and even out of her illness, is my new ability to cook – and to cook well. That’s one thing I’m sure have in me, which I never knew I had.
Meanwhile, Mia and I will make known our boundaries, growing wider, not yet wide enough, as we struggle with the intimate relationships in our lives.