I don’t like you but I love you

This morning when I woke up, my mom’s favorite little sweetheart was waiting for me, lurking just inside the garage door, waiting for someone to feed him breakfast and lift him up to the bathroom counter for his cat lax.

He’s a frail old dude now, but in his day he was a bitchy, territorial furball who kept a hundred-pound German Shepherd in his place with a sharp look and a slap to the face.

When he joined our family, I deeply resented him. I don’t recall ever feeling the same way about my actual, human siblings, but when Timmy came along, I was mad. There I was, nineteen, gone away to college, and suddenly my mom has this stupid fluffy cat that she clearly, unapologetically loved more than me. Dudes, I was mad.

Fast forward a couple years, to that time I dropped out of college right at the same time that my parents picked up and moved from Arizona to Washington, and we all lived in a too-small, weird old house (not the haunted one), and suddenly Timmy was my everyday companion. An everyday companion who felt the same way about me that I did about him – who is this interloper in my relationship with Mom?! That was a rough winter for a lot of reasons, but it did give me a chance to get to know that damn cat, and understand what it was that my mom saw in him. I didn’t see it, but I understood why he was so important to her, and I started to change my attitude toward him. He wasn’t my enemy. He didn’t take any of her love away a from me, and in truth, he absorbed a lot of the mom-love that young-adult Rose found a little uncomfortable.

I stopped telling him that I didn’t like him, though I did still keep in him his place – he might be Mom’s favorite, but that didn’t give him permission to be bitchy to me. I moved out, and saw less of him, and he started to seem happy (happy-ish) to see me when I came around. He started to get old, older than his years. He still ruled the roost, but he clearly became the dowager princess.

Like any dowager princess, he has become crotchety, and set in his ways. And now, creeping up on his 13th birthday, he clearly knows that he’s the old guy, and that he needs help. He needs my help, and he knows that I’ll give it to him. After all these years of figuring one another out, he knows that, even though I don’t love him like mom does, I’ll stand beside him to remind the dogs who’s the boss, and lift him up to the places he can’t jump to anymore.

Young me probably would have done the same things, but this morning as I stood next to the bathroom sink waiting for him to finish drinking, I didn’t feel the impatience and eye-rolling that I used to. I didn’t ask him to hurry up. He’s not my little life’s companion, but he is my family. I don’t have to like him to love him.

I do like him, actually. The crotchety old grump; how could I not?