My cats Autumn and Percy recently turned twelve, and it is noteworthy how much they behaved over the years like an old married couple. They ate their meals together, Autumn always leaving a little bit of hers for Percy to finish. They raced up and down the hallways together, tearing up the house from one end to the other, leaving fluffs of fur in their wake. Both of them liked to take great naughty leaps onto the kitchen counters, though not necessarily at the same time. Percy was brazen and open. Autumn is my stealth cat.
One of their favorite activities was when I changed the sheets on the bed, and they leapt up to burrow under the clean sheets. Some private communication between them enabled them to work in tandem to foil the humans in the house.
My friend Jo first introduced me to the phrase “just like an old married couple.” She and her husband vowed never to stop talking together, sharing ideas and thoughts. They would never become those people who sit at the dinner table in silence, with nothing left to say to one another.
I am familiar with what it is like to be part of an old married couple. My late husband and I were married for 52 years. Early patterns became familiar routines. Early morning rising, dinner together every night except when I was on the late shift at our local library, watching heartwarming programs such as All Creatures Great and Small on PBS, reading in bed before falling asleep.
The phrase, “Just like an old married couple,” is a literary and television trope, as often signaling arguments or disagreements rather than compatibility. It can signal deep familiarity with another person and their thought patterns, to the extent that one even can finish the other’s sentences. Life, however, can take sudden and unanticipated twists from the script.
My beautiful Percy has left me now too. He was the sweetest, most loving, and sociable cat I have ever known. Certainly, I did not anticipate that this pampered indoor cat would decline so fast. His bunny soft white fluff can still be found in the house if you look hard enough – perhaps a wisp clinging to the overhead light, or clinging to the fabric of my slacks or sweater. His presence is still with me.
Moving forward, Autumn is, as she always has been, my constant companion. She was confused and subdued when one day Percy was no longer here. And then, weeks later, she seemed to realize that being an “only cat” was not such a bad thing. No one tries to steal her food. She gets undivided attention. At times, she races through the house like a kitten, taking great flying leaps over the furniture to reach the table tops. Our routines are altered from before, but predictable.
Just like an old married couple.