My Own Picturebook

“A no good, very bad day.” It’s a phrase from a children’s book I distantly remember, and I whisper the main theme to myself as I mop an entire glass of spilled water from the bathroom counter. I knocked the glass over by leaning in close to the mirror to find my left contact, which has migrated behind my lid somewhere. My contact got disturbed because of rubbing my eyes too hard in an attempt to stifle tears. The tears came when my aunt asked me what was wrong. My aunt asked me what was wrong when I swore after a leftover half quiche fell out of the fridge and onto the floor. The quiche fell when…such has been this day that brings childhood storybooks to mind.

The cat, who has been complaining loudly, twisting around feet and navigating clumsily among the clutter on countertops (knocking over his own share of objects) all day, jumps on the counter and begins meowing unhappily at me – he wants the water I have just knocked over. A flash of pure frustration tinged with a bit of self-pity washes over me – I’m trying so hard to meet this household’s needs – and I feel bombarded. At this one single moment, I can not take another request, human or feline. I reach for the nearest squirt bottle to shoo him away, craving just one moment to finish mopping and contact fishing before starting another task. He sees the bottle in my hand, he and turns to flee – he knows the shape of squirty handles – and the liquid hits his back as he heads for safer grounds. I smell lemon, and look down to realize that I have not sprayed him with water, but instead with OxyClean Super Scrub meant for bathroom tiles and tub grime. I sigh. A no good, very bad day.

The cat is stalking the kitchen floor, tail up, rustled and offended, but he doesn’t run a second time when I pick him up and take him back to the bathroom. In fact, he relaxes and goes limp in my arms as I spot clean his fur with water and gentle shampoo. He turns his head and blinks at me with hazel eyes and I wonder if this moment invokes some distant memory of being bathed by a mother cat, if he is soothed by the long, wet strokes of a rough paper towel mimicking a tongue. He just needs some cuddling and soothing, I think to myself. He isn’t getting the same amount of attention from Gogo ever since she has gone on hospice and that has been hard on all of us, cat included.

I am in need of a mother cat of my own, of any kind of parental figure to turn to. I’m the supposed head of this small household now (the only family left after this it’s just you, my mind taunts me, echoing and cruel) and I feel like some strange combination of a parentchild. I the caretaker, yet I feel so inadequate, so emotionally young and immature still. You must be this high to ride out this future, and I am two inches too short. 

Still, I try the best I can….what else can I do? I mop the floors after accidents, grill unevenly done cheese sandwiches, rearrange the bedsheets every time they slide off the slippery blue mattress of the borrowed hospital bed. Bag up soiled laundry to be taken to the cleaners, turn off alarms alerting us it’s time for some more medication. There are good days and bad days, but all days are hard. I stumble my way through them, imperfect and ungraceful, grateful just for making it from one moment to the next.

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