The object of love

Terri Combs-Orme

November 03, 1993|By Terri Combs-Orme

YOU SAY you love your cats as much as I love my children, and of course it isn't my place to question your love. Love comes in all varieties. And we are often confused by the object of someone else's love, human or non-human. But I have a few questions to ask you.

Do you often dream about your cats' future, and are they a major part of your own visions of tomorrow?

Can you imagine a future world without your cats, without the good that you hope they will do for others?

Was your very notion of "future" altered the day you brought them home?

Is your self-image defined in significant part by your love and responsibility for your cats?

When you think about the person you have grown to be, does your idea of whether you are a success or a failure depend on the kind of moral development your cats have achieved?

When you think about being old and near the end of your time, can you picture your gray, wrinkled self surrounded by your cats and their progeny?

And do you look around this imaginary room and imagine that what these cats are and what they can become depends in part upon how you have carried out your responsibilities to their cat-parents?

When you think about this world, whether it will be here in 50 years and what kind of place it will be, can you tell yourself that you are doing all you can in that department by how you love and nuture your cats?

Do you think that if things are not the way they should be, you and other cat owners will be responsible in part because you did not prepare your cats for their responsibilities toward others and toward Mother Earth?

Do you believe in your deepest heart that the future of our world and of humanity itself lies in your cats and your friends' and neighbors' cats?

When you see cats outside or at the shopping mall or the local veterinarian's office, do they tug at your heart strings because you wonder if anyone cherishes them as much as you cherish your cats? Do you want to run and hug and hold close to your chest the raggly, scraggly cats you see in the alley?

When you look at your cats, do you see a part of yourself in their faces?

Do their bad habits make you wince because they are your bad habits?

When they say "thank you" or say something kind to someone who is sad or lonely, do you breathe a prayer of thanks and take a little bit of the credit?

Is one of your most fervent wishes for yourself that you will be as good a pet owner as your mother was, or that you will not make the mistakes with your cats that she made with hers?

I won't ask you, if you saw a truck barreling down on your cats whether you would, without a second's thought or even the belief that it would be a sacrifice, run to rescue your cat from its wheels.

But I must ask you whether your love for your cats is the most important part of yourself. Whether it defines you and fills a hole that was in your heart before they came.

Do you hope and pray that your cats will outlive you?

When they were little kittens in the box, did you tiptoe in during the night to be sure they were breathing?

Was your former fearlessness about flying replaced by just a little anxiety after you became a pet owner, because if you died your cats would have to grow up without you and thus be psychologically scarred?

I cannot question your love for your cats because that is not my privilege. Your love is real and important to you, and all love is blessed. But I know every night when I steal in to kiss my son's forehead and to wish and pray for a healthy and happy tomorrow for him and for every other child in this world, that there is no love like this.

No comparison. Nothing close.

Terri Combs-Orme, a former resident of Ellicott City, now lives in Knoxville, Tenn.

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