TATIANA

Editor’s note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

Florida? I can see my breath!

Bundled in my fluffy purple jacket, I opened the door of Bush Auto Shop. Stepping into an empty waiting room, I saw a large cat perched like a furry gray guard, on the counter near a computer screen. Reminding me of an Egyptian Temple cat, it remained still as my buddy Chuck came in, whistling.

His salt-and-pepper five-o’clock shadow split with a grin. “Frances!” Passing the counter he opened his arms for a hug.

After our embrace, I smiled. “I’m here for an oil change.”

My friend turned to the computer and tapped its keys. The cat did not move a whisker. I wanted to, but did not pet it. My allergies!

Twenty years earlier I lived with two cats: Sweetie and Sister. I gave both animals special drops in their food. The medication got into their saliva and they coated their fur as they cleaned themselves. This was supposed to prevent allergens which had always caused itching and sneezing.

I had thought all was well until one day when I was having coffee with friends. We had been chatting a while when suddenly Jane said, “Frances, are your OK? You are not breathing well. You can’t even finish a sentence on one breath.”

Living alone, I had not noticed anything odd, but she was right. My chest felt tight. Fear gripped me as I left the group and drove toward my doctor.

The drive down busy US 27 took more than twenty minutes. By the time I arrived, I was gasping for air. I could not speak when the receptionist looked up and asked, “And why are you here?”

Tears were my answer as a pair of vises closed around my chest and throat. I’m going to die!

Maybe I collapsed. Following a commotion two women hustled me into an empty room. The nurse administered a breathing treatment. She said, “You must have asthma.”

Asthma? The cats! Their medication didn’t work.

Carrying an emergency inhaler and a daily lung treatment medication, I drove home. Once there, I called for an appointment with a pulmonary specialist. Before the week was out, I found new homes for my pets. Next, I washed my drapes and called in professional cleaners for the carpet, couch and chairs.

Asthma is scary.

Now, twenty-five years later, the gray cat watched me as Chuck focused on the screen explaining, “I’m checking your car’s history.”

Looking at the animal, I asked, “Is this you new receptionist?”

He chuckled. “That’s Tatiana. She was my great friend Greg’s cat. When he died, she became mine.”

I nodded. “I remember Greg. That’s been two or three years ago?”

He looked back at the screen. “Yeah. I still miss him.”

As if talking to himself Chuck muttered, “New oil filter, high grade oil…”

I broke in. “When I bought new tires last spring, I forgot to have you check my spare. Will you take a look?”

Chuck bobbed his head. “Right. This may take a while. My guys are late. It’s probably the cold morning.”

“It’s OK.” I waved a grocery flier. “I have homework!”

I handed Chuck my keys and settled in one of three padded chairs.

I was paging the ALDI grocery flier when Tatiana suddenly leaped from the counter to the chair beside me. I looked over and she proceeded onto my lap. Lying in my lap, she turned her green eyes on me. She wants to be petted. I hesitated. I’m up to date with my allergy shots. I took my morning meds. I should be OK. I’ll be careful not to touch my face and wash my hands with soap and water afterward.

I stroked the animal who returned a purr of thanks.

Petting the cat, I reviewed my past week. My return to Florida had been marked with problems. My “cloud” download was odd and this year “helpers” would not fix it. A new company policy.

My Florida computer barelystarted and needed work. Hubby had “saved” me his laundry and our pantry and refrigerator were nearly bare. Sticks and small branches covered the front yard waiting to be picked up. I have a grocery list, and calls to make!

But, Tatiana lay contented on my lap. For the first time since I returned, I did not fill my minutes with work. ( Below I hold Tatiana.)

As I sat with the cat, Chuck’s space heater glowed orange, like the embers of a wood fire. Stroking Tatiana, calmness settled over me. I lapsed into prayer.

During the next hour, the two late workers arrived. Two other men popped in to make appointments but Tatiana moved only to reposition herself.

I sat for nearly an hour, stroking the smoky gray animal. Like a holy temple cat, Tatiana blessed me.

Frances signature

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