Point of View: Their Compass

He was pressed into duty as his mother’s navigator

   Lulu, an old cat, is still resident in my late mother-in-law’s sunny house, and we’re dutifully paying calls to feed her, though Mary worries that she might be lonely.
    It was unlikely, said Jane Callan. Cats aren’t like people. “Their number one question is ‘Who’s feeding me?’ Number two is ‘Do I have a soft, warm place to lie on?’ You might be number three. If you see to their food and comfort, you might be privileged enough to be tolerated.”
    “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were like cats and didn’t give a damn about one another,” I said, tongue-in-cheek, to one of our daughters and her husband, who were to head back this afternoon to California following a brief visit.
    “Mary feels so much,” I said during our tender farewell. “She’s always saying she wants to be more like me, somewhat less attached. . . . I wish I were more like her. Anyway,” I said with a smile, “you can’t say you’ll not be happy to see blue skies again. And, even though I hate doing it, don’t forget to text.”
    When, later, I told our doctor, who had asked how Mary was faring following her mother’s death, that we’d had a large gathering at my brother-in-law’s house, “an Irish wake,” over the weekend, he said, “Ah, a celebratory thing. . . . That’s one thing the Irish got right.”
    My brother-in-law said at the gathering that his mother and he had spent a lot of time together in cars when he was a kid — traveling back and forth in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” fashion between the coasts. Thus, at 9, he was pressed into duty as his mother’s navigator — foreshadowing his later career as co-owner of a metropolitan area delivery service.
    “I was her navigator,” he said. “And,” he added — speaking for himself, for his siblings, and for others in the room — “she was my compass.”