The other night, I rolled over in my sleep and pushed one of the cats out of the bed. The thud woke me up, though it didn’t seem to bother the cat. A chilly wind was dancing around the courtyard of our apartment building, and shouldering its way into a crack in our bedroom window. It was around 2:30 am—that restless, magical time when our thoughts tend to unravel like so many balls of yarn.
I’ve been thinking about how old our cats have gotten: They’ll turn 18 and 17, respectively, on Thanksgiving. When the temperatures begin to plummet—causing everyone to launch into a kind of end-of-the-year panic—it’s easy to ignore the inevitable. But now we’ve heard from our upstate neighbors that the first snow has fallen at Smallpeace, planting us firmly in the winter season. I am struck by how sneakily change happens. My male cat has begun howling at night, a sure sign of dementia. Only the sound of our voices makes him stop. My female has to paw at her bowl to find the water level. She has trouble seeing it in the dark.
I begin to brood about my graying hair, which I’ve only recently begun to have colored at a hip Brooklyn hair salon. Now, fully restored to my “natural” nut brown, it will be only four weeks before my roots, bright as a moonbeam, begin to peep through. I’ve started to make my appointments in advance, so as not to “leave it too long,” as my beautician grandmother used to say—and wish, as a dear friend begins her first round of chemo treatments on Monday, that I could share my good fortune. And that is as far as I get before the cat starts to howl and I rush to cradle him in my arms, and we both drift peacefully back to sleep.