Paddy On My Head

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

July 13, 2006

 

            I have my mother’s cat.

             His name is Paddy. Mom called him Paddy because his orange fur makes him look Irish.

            Paddy is a refugee from mom’s condo. He lived there clandestinely for seven years, in violation of the condo’s “no-pets” rule. But eventually he was brought to justice by the condo management.

            Actually, Paddy gave himself away by meowing loudly while his cage sat in the apartment house lobby. He and my mother were waiting for a taxi to take him to the vet.

            Once discovered, Paddy was dispatched to live at my house in the “country.”

            It wasn’t easy for Mom or for Paddy. He was an apartment cat. They had been together for 18 years.

            Occasionally, Mom calls up Paddy and talks to him over the speaker phone. The cat turns his head when he hears her voice.

            Paddy does not like to sleep late. At dawn’s first light he starts crying in that loud Siamese moan. He wants me to get up and feed him.

            Usually I throw a pillow at him. Paddy is not deterred by any missiles launched in his direction. After a few seconds he climbs up on the bed and sits by my head.

            Yesterday morning he sat on my pillow. After meowing in my ear for a while, he began batting at my head with his paw.

            Paddy has long claws. They got caught in the straps of the head piece of my CPAP mask, which I wear for sleep apnea.

            CPAP machines force air down your nostrils to keep the airways open. That way you don’t stop breathing in your sleep and die. They are a good, but inconvenient thing for old guys like me with sleep apnea.

            My machine has a mask that fits over my nose. A long tube connects to the machine. When vested for sleep, I look like an elephant with a trunk.

            Once hooked on my mask, Paddy panicked. He got even more tangled up in the straps and Velcro of the mask.  

            I jumped up from bed with the cat balanced on my head. I had to hold him there so he didn’t dangle by his front paws.

            Paddy was still enmeshed in the straps. I unplugged the air hose from the machine.

            Dancing around with the cat on my head I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Paddy was standing on my head with his back arched, like a Halloween cat. The trunk of the CPAP machine made me look like an elephant in pajamas with a fur hat on my head.

            At that moment, the phone rang.  I let the machine pick up. Finally I pulled the mask off my face and freed the cat. Paddy jumped down.

            Paddy could be good for my spiritual life.

             He certainly gets me up early. He makes me cry out to God, though not always with reverence.

            Pets make us aware of the importance of other living creatures. They give us something to care for. They expand our hearts.

            When Paddy first came here I thought I would resent him, litter boxes, etc. The previous pastor here had nine cats and a dog. The rectory was a mess.

            But now I’m even glad to hear Paddy’s complaining meow. He is company. Priestly life can be lonely. God’s creatures can help break the isolation.

            Paddy is settling in well. He has taken over my recliner. He goes outside to look at birds and  dream of his hunting days.

            Now my mother has to come to visit her cat. Paddy isn’t going back.

            Mom can always call him on the speakerphone. But not at dawn. Paddy might be tied up.