My mother had fallen ill, then was placed in a nursing home facility because it was determined that she just wasn't quite ill enough yet to be put in a hospice. So, her apartment on Grand Avenue in Des Moines was empty of her, if not empty of her things or her cat, Red.
I, along with me second oldest brother (who lived in Des Moines) arranged to have her possessions boxed up and moved out (to his basement) because it was evident my mother would no longer have use for them. The cat, however, was another issues. Luckily, there was a woman--the Widow Simmons, I called her as Simons was her name and she was a widow and lived in the same assisted living complex--who was willing to take the cat.
Red the cat was a handsome male. Long-haired, large, reddish-orange, tabby-like markings in some areas. he was also an ornery animal. He pretty much only liked my mother, but even her he would sometimes bite and scowl and growl at. He ruled the two room place, did as he pleased, and disliked anyone who got in his way. My mother had gotten him, along with a second Cat she named Little Bird, as kittens. Little bird was friendly and sweet but two cats were evidently too many and for whatever reason, my mother decided to keep Red. No doubt Little Bird was put to rest, something my mother--who grew up in a small South Dakota town among farms and The Great Depression--was not disturbed about.
Anyway--it became my job to capture Red and get him to a vet before I took him to the Widow Simmons to live another of his nine lives.
This proved to be difficult.
Most things were boxed up but the furniture was still in the apartment at that time. I first tried to box Red up--using an actual box that I lured him into, but he burst out of that quite redly after I'd closed him in. My mother had not taken Red to the vet--had not enclosed him in anything--in many years. He was big and strong and wild and had claws. So, I went and got a cat carrier, one made of strong hard plastic and that had an opening on the top as well as a caged door. That was fine. It would hold him. getting him inside it was another matter.
Once he realized what I was trying to do, it became a chase. This was not a big apartment: one bedroom, one living room, one kitchen, one bathroom. You could not just grab him and hold him and place him in the carrier. He was, essentially, a feral house cat. So, I donned gloves and long sleeves--and I am not a small or timid man--and had hell of a time trying to corral him. He hissed, growled, showed his fangs, took swipes at me, ran and ran and jumped, made the sounds you hear from cougars and panthers and jaguars that you've seen/heard on television. I was surprised no one came running and knocked on the door. It was crazy! Loud! Vicious to the ears and eyes! I grabbed a broom to try herding him.
Finally I got him confined to the bedroom. Of course he went under the bed, so I tipped the mattress and box springs on their sides to expose him. Still, I could not catch him. We had become mortal enemies. He hated me and I had begun to hate him.
I don't know.
At one point I had him cornered. He was hissing, growling, crouching, staring at me with giant lightning-bolt-eyes. I returned the same anger with my own eyes. And that's when it changed:
I suddenly felt so sorry for him, for his situation, for his fear, for the confusion of living alone in the apartment for over a month as my mother lay in her helpless long-term state of a slow death. So, as we dagger-eyed at each other, mine suddenly softened.
Seriously. I softened my eyes and my facial expression and looked on as--just as suddenly--his eyes and expression softened as well.
I only wanted to help him. To do what needed to be done.
It was still a struggle, but finally I got him in the carrier and inside, defeated, he became docile.
I took him to the vet. Took him from the vet to the Widow Simmons' apartment--a nice place on the second floor on the corner with lots of windows--and presented Red to her. I brought food and food bowls, a water bowl, a cleaned-up cat box and litter. The Widow Simmons was pleased. We chatted a bit. I explained that Red could be difficult. We opened the carrier and let him sit there until he was ready.
After a while he did venture out to look around. he seemed like a different cat--a little cautious if not quite intimidated. he would be fine. I later got a few of updates: he was doing well, he had sat in her lap, he appeared content, no problems so far.
I told my mother, who was cognizant though ultimately terminal, and she said: "I don't know. Maybe he never really liked me."
Not true, of course, and I assured her of that, but she had no desire to see him again.
Or so she said.