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Don't Be Happy, Worry




Excerpted from
Homer's Odyssey
By Gwen Cooper

It may have started with the plastic bag. The excessive worrying, I mean. Like many a new mom, I found myself growing eyes in the back of my head where Homer was concerned, as well as an extra set of ears and an almost preternatural awareness of where Homer was, what he was doing, and what his needs were at any given time.

This had become doubly true since Homer's stitches had come out and he'd taken lo tearing around the house after Scarlett and Vashti. Soon he wasn't content to merely cover the ground they did, and he began discovering mischief all on his own. Sometimes T would lose track of him for a few minutes and find him in the most unbelievable places-dangling by his front paws from the middle shelf of a bookcase (how had he even gotten up there?), or wedged in the back corner of the cluttered cabinet beneath my bathroom sink, having managed to prise open the cabinet door.

His new obsession was scaling the floor-to-ceiling drapes that hung in the dining room, like one of those Spider-Man types you read about who hand-over-hand their way up the side of an office building;. "Homer!" I would shriek when I found him hanging on the drapes by a single claw, six feet in the air. Homer would swing the slight weight of his nine or ten ounces around until all four claws clung to the drapes once again, climbing as quickly as he could to put himself above my reach.

Look. Ma! I always imagined him thinking. No eyes!

In contemplative moments, I would reflect that there was something inspirational in the way Homer was willing to climb and climb anything at all without any idea as lo how high he was going, or any plan for safely regaining the ground once he'd reached the top. There was something to be said for that level of fearlessness.

For all that it was inspirational, however, it was also terrifying.

Every parent knows those moments-the ones when you suddenly realize YOU haven't seen your child for at least fifteen minutes. You curse yourself for having become so occupied with something else that you lost track of his whereabouts. Where is he? What if something happened to him? Why wasn't I paying attention?

It had already become a point of pride with me to insist that Homer was a perfectly normal kitten. Better than normal, even. I would have taken the head off of anybody who suggested that Homer needed "special" care because of his "special needs." angrily insisting that Homer was just as capable of taking care of himself as either of my other two cats, or as any "normal " cat out there. When people asked whether and how a blind kitten could find his litter box. I would reply that Homer could not only find his litter, he could find his way to the top of the kitchen counter and into the cabinet where the canned tuna was kept, distinguishing the difference between a can of tuna (which he loved) and a can of tomato soup (to which he was indifferent), while both were still in their sealed cans. He'd root around in the cabinet. shoving all other canned goods out of his way, until he identified the can of tuna fish, using paws and nose to push it from the cabinet and onto the counter. Feed me this!

Beneath all that righteous indignation, however, and my insistence that I didn't need to worry about Homer any more than I worried about Scarlett and Vashti, was the truth: Homer wasn't like other cats, and I did worry about him more than I worried about my other two.

This fear was all my own, and Homer shared none of it. It had been predicted that his blindness would make him more hesitant and less independent than a typical cat. But if anything, the opposite was true. Because Homer was unable to see the hazards in the world around him, he lived in blissful unawareness of their existence. What was the difference between climbing to the top of a three-foot-high sofa and nine foot high drapes if you couldn't see how high you were going anyway? And what was the difference between jumping down from either one when every leap you ever took was a lea]) into uncertain outcomes, based on nothing but blind faith in invisible landing points?

In the Daredevil comic books, occasional story lines find Daredevil regaining his vision. Although he retains the rest of his superpowers, he suddenly finds himself incapacitated, afraid to attempt the daring stunts he normally undertakes when blind. Are you crazy?! he seems to ask the reader. I'm not jumping off that! Look at how high it is!

But there was no omnipotent writer who, with the stroke of a pen, could restore Homers eyes to him. The only absolute fear Homer knew was that of being alone. As long as somebody was with him-whether it was me or one of his feline sisters-Homer had no notion that there were other things in the world that could harm him.

Which brings us back to the plastic bag.



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