Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Making the Bed

Dear Reader,

This morning, as every spring, Beverly and I stripped off the winter bedding, the darker sheets and blanket, the thick comforter, and replaced it with the lighter, thinner summer bedding. Hardly something to cry about, but here I am.

The bottom part of the bedding is a bed skirt, whose plain white cotton sheet rests between the mattress and the boxspring, and whose colored skirts hang down over the boxspring and side boards of the bed's wood frame. The winter bed skirt on my side of the bed, toward the wall, had picked up some cat hair over the last six months, as it inevitably does, so it needed washing, more than you might think.

You see, I am mildly allergic to cat dander and dust mites. If we do not keep these allergens under control, I tend to develop bronchitis and depression. Therefore, we wash our sheets and blanket weekly. We have hardwood floors. We run a HEPA air filter in the bedroom twenty-four hours a day. We have housecleaners come in once a week. We scoop the cat box every day and change the litter and wash the box itself once a week, and we keep it in our bedroom on the other side of the air filter to make sure we don't forget. We keep the house clean enough that friends and relatives with stronger cat allergies than mine are able to stay at the house without any ill effects.

The exception to this rigorous cleanliness is that bed skirt, which is awkward to remove from between the boxspring and the heavy mattress, and even more awkward to slide back in between them and arrange so that it hangs down evenly. We don't wash it weekly with the rest of the bedding. We just try to keep it clean with the lint roller, and otherwise just change it every six months when we rotate bed clothes for the seasons. Today it was time to wash the bed skirt, even though it will never have that cat hair on it again.

Our kitty Morgana has never been responsible for the hair that tends to accumulate on my side of the bed skirt. Morgana is far more interested in getting up on the bed to sleep with us, especially on me since I tend to lie still during the night, than in walking beneath the bed. Besides, she is small and fastidious, cleaning herself repeatedly throughout the day, so she rarely has great quantities of loose cat fur to shed. There she is right now, a little furry shadow curled up asleep in front of the fireplace in the basement after taking her morning bath. The bed skirts are safe from Morgana.

It was our other kitty Shakti who loved to lurk beneath the bed in the mornings and evenings, who loved to brush herself on the bed skirts, weaving back and forth, out from under the bed, and then back under again, purring and purring. She loved to have me reach down from our high bed and pet her as she came out from under the bed skirts. I would have to lie flat with my arm reaching all the way down to her, and she loved it best if each stroke began at the tip of her nose, passed over her eyes and cheeks and ears, then down her neck, back, and gently to the end of her tail in one long stroke. She loved this game so much, she would not even wait for the stroke to finish before she was already turning back under the bed skirts to start again. When she was so happy, the rhythm of her tread would break, with her paws thumping on the floor in a heavy but rapid, off-beat staccato. Back under the bed, her thump-thump-thumping paws on the hardwood would pause for a few seconds before starting up again just before she emerged, purring in happy expectation. Eventually, I grew to understand that she paused because she loved that moment so much that she even savored the expectation of it. Our little ritual together was not a daily occurrence, because Shakti liked to play many different games, but over the course of a week we might play the bed skirts game several times. Shakti and I had our bonding time together, and the cat fur would gradually over the course of a month accumulate on the bed skirt until I took it off with a lint roller, and eventually washed it, as we are doing today.

The bed skirts are safe now from Shakti. She died about 1:00 a.m., Tuesday, February 21st of this year. A couple of weeks before she died, when she began to need more help, Beverly and I had set up a mattress and bedding from one of our guest beds on the floor of our bedroom, so I could sleep near her. For her last few nights she slept in bed with me, which is where she died. Exactly seventeen years and eight months before, she had been born in bed with me, on a mattress and bedding on the floor of my friend Ron's old apartment, along with her sisters and brothers.

Now Shakti's ashes are in a beautiful copper urn on the mantelpiece of the fireplace in the family room, the bed skirts are upstairs in the washing machine, and I'm down here in the basement writing my blog and crying a little.

Yours truly,

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