The old woman was shivering in the cold. Joseph, his head clouded through meth addiction, could clearly see that. He offered her a blanket, but she said she didn’t need it.
The next morning, Joseph returned to check on her. Police had covered her with a tarp, her body cold and lifeless.
Joseph has never forgotten that woman and now, two years later, he is 60 days clean and sober. He is encouraging other street people to seek a drug rehab program as he has done.
I spent the morning with Joseph, walking the waterfront where he lived and meeting his old friends, still living on the streets. I also re-connected with people I have known through the years, people still struggling with addiction.
I found a common thread among them. For some reason, the help they have been offered is not what they are looking for, just as the woman declined the blanket.
The same applies to taking care of ourselves. Often, I have felt alone, shut out from the happiness I believe I deserve. We all deserve it. That is the story behind my new kitten, Princesa, a silver Persian cat and a heart-throbbing hairball.
I was inconsolable when my old cat, Amadeus, died at 17. What could ever replace my dearest friend who slept every night by my side? So often he begged me not to travel by nesting in my luggage. He never once did his business outside the designated litter box. Sure, one could complain about the hair he left on the rug. But, that was our fault for not knitting it into mittens.
My vet, Erzi Willoughby, agreed that nothing could replace Amadeus, but a kitten would help.
It was a touchy subject in my house where my other cat makes a mess of things. He refuses to use the litter box and in many ways mirrors my own disorderly conduct. But that is no reason not to love him — and I do, unconditionally.
Still, I could see he was missing something in his life, just as I sometimes feel. He needed a soulmate. Acquiring one would not go over well at home. But then, it’s my home, isn’t it?
That is when my friend and breeder, Lynn, offered me a “blanket,” a new kitten taking her first breath. She had just been born and in a few weeks would be ready for my home. I plotted ways to smuggle her in and conceal her presence.
It reminded me of a college friend of mine who tried to smuggle a kitten into the Spartan Daily newspaper editorial meeting. It was a hot summer day at San Jose State and Charles slipped the kitten under his shirt.
News meetings are boring enough without the withering heat of Charles’ perspiring belly. Finally, the cat had had enough. Screeching, he dug his claws into Charles’ chest. Charles let out a scream and the cat escaped, darting across the room to freedom.
On an otherwise slow news day, I would have made that episode my lead story. It certainly stopped the presses. But I was a TV news major and we always lead with stories like that. It defines the “human condition.” Besides, everybody loves animal stories.
My new kitten was smaller than the rest of the litter. Her breeder worried that in the paws of an aggressive older cat, she would be in danger. I understand. My other cat, Squeak, often scares me too.
So on faith alone, I took a chance, bringing her home in a pet carrier, her soft cry barely audible above the traffic noise. She would answer my every sympathetic word with a whimper.
In my living room, I slowly opened the pet carrier door and allowed her to slink out. Squeak warily watched her from a distance. He surely wondered what would happen to his seniority status. I reassured him that nothing had changed. He was still in charge.
Princesa has been masterful, lovingly flirting with him as he plays with her. Together, they have brought great joy to my house and my heart.
Sometimes, we dismiss such impulses, assuming that others will disapprove. But life gives us blankets of love. And sometimes we must wrap ourselves in them.
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, www.davespeople.com.