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An old man named Sherlock lives in my basement. We provide him with three meals a day (usually a snack), fresh water, a warm bed and his own private facilities, but he needs a bath. When warm weather becomes a certainty, I’m going to insist on that bath.

Through the long, white months of this winter, Sherlock made a daily pilgrimage up from the basement to look out the back door onto the deck. He sat there where the rug buts up against a heat vent and stared out forlornly as storms came and went. When I’d walk past, he’d look at me with sad eyes. He doesn’t speak much, and he certainly doesn’t care for snow. But everyday he came up and looked out, believing that one day it would be gone. Believing that good days always replace the bad ones, but sometimes you have no control over the duration, just your patience to wait.

After the look out the window, he’d wander down the hall to see if the door to my south facing “library” is open. There he finds a patch of sunlight and squeezes himself into it. One time I walked in on him precariously perched into a spot of sunlight half his diameter next to one of the bookshelves. He had pressed up against the books because the sun had nearly left the floor and was ascending upward. Sometimes he remembers to check upstairs where our son left behind a couple of large love sacks. The sun usually warms them up nicely. I love that he searches out the sun, drawn to the warmth and comfort that comes from light.

Some lessons come from what not to do. The older he gets, the more standoffish he has become. Maybe because he senses that my DH is not happy with his presence in our home. Sherlock has started interrupting the minute someone (at least when DH) is on the phone. He’ll follow him into his office and begin to complain loudly, but only during an important business call. It has become predictable, and amusing to me, but annoying to somebody else. This interrupting and demand for attention at the wrong moment has not won Sherlock any bonus points.

And if I am delinquent in getting down to my workout on the treadmill, Sherlock will begin to complain to me, even swatting at me to get a move on. He escorts me all the way like a grumpy army sergeant, only letting up when the belt is moving beneath my feet. Then he wanders away for awhile. This is not some Jillian Michaels type pushiness. There is no concern for me. He wants the space on the treadmill when I’m done, supposedly warmed up solely for him. His selfishness is manifest if I take too long. Then he gets aggressive. Now if he swats at me, he gets sprayed with water.

I try to understand that the older we get, the more we need warmth and the more our every movement can consume our attention. But if I begin to focus only on myself, and get demanding, then I hope someone sprays me with water. Life is much better when we don’t prioritize our comforts, especially if it means the labor of others to get them.

One last lesson, mutual affection is good. Some times Sherlock chooses to sit on my lap while I’m writing or reading. Usually now, he lets me know with his front paws on my leg and I lift him up the rest of the way. Then I’ll pet him if I have a free hand and he purrs. A purring cat is very soothing. We give to each other and both are content.

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