Ginger wasn’t my real name, of course. Being a beautiful ginger tom, Ginger was an obvious choice, I suppose. My name is John. I was Maisie’s husband for 35 years. Knowing how much she would need me in her last years I opted for reincarnation so that I could keep an eye on her. The dementia had begun before I died of a heart attack, although she managed well with me around to aid her memory.
I glanced back. She was still following. She loved me in cat form, as she had loved me in human form, as I did her. She liked to wander and often ended up on the street where we used to live, but found it difficult to get back to the care home. I kept her close when she left the safety of the home and was always able to guide her back. We passed through the door to the home together.
“There you are, Maisie. Been for a walk? Come and have some afternoon tea in the conservatory.” Helen, senior carer, took Maisie’s arm and led her to a comfy chair. I strolled off to find a cool spot for a rest, relieved that my beloved Maisie was safe again.
I passed Misty (not her real name) in the corridor. Misty made a gorgeous cat, silvery grey with green eyes. I bet she was a looker in her human form. She was the daughter of Pauline, another resident here. Real name, Fiona, she had died young, in a car accident. She had been driving but it wasn’t her fault. Pauline had, at last, forgotten the tragic death of her only child. Dementia can be kind sometimes. Misty rarely left her side and must have just popped outside for an essential visit.
I couldn’t see Sooty around, the remaining member of our trio. He was a striking black tom cat, the husband of Maureen. Real name Alfie, he didn’t like being called Sooty. I don’t think he felt it went with his character, but as a cat, it suited him.
We were all happy in our new lives. Being a cat can be fun, especially in a lovely home like this. Everyone loved us and we got our fair share of cuddles and treats, but we also had freedom. When I was sure Maisie was safe, or asleep, I would roam the area and meet up with other cats in the area. My arthritis had gone and I could run, jump and climb like never before. Sometimes Misty, Sooty and I went out together, showing each other old haunts, checking up on people we had left behind.
After my nap I trotted off to find Maisie. She had eaten her tea and was dozing in the chair. I leapt lightly onto her lap and settled down. Half asleep, she stroked me from head to tail. This was my favourite part of the day. Maisie was relaxed and comfortable and so was I.
The next day Maisie was up late. We cats were discouraged from visiting the upper floors, where residents slept and the sickest people stayed in their rooms. It suited us, really as we could come and go as we pleased throughout the night via the cat flap. I waited in the dining room for her to appear.
After everyone else had finished breakfast and the tables were mostly cleared Maisie appeared on the arm of one of the young carers.
“Come on, Maisie, love. What can I get you for breakfast? Could you manage a slice of toast?” Maisie nodded and sat at the table. I leapt up to the chair next to her and she absentmindedly stroked my head. “Here you are, love. Here’s your toast. Hello Ginger. Have you had your breakfast?” She didn’t need to worry about me, I always ate all my meals. I’ve got a good appetite and I knew places to go at night where I would be given extra food. “Maisie’s not feeling so good today. You keep her company.” I didn’t need asking twice, I stayed by Maisie’s side all day. She didn’t eat much but didn’t seem distressed. She was happy to sit in the lounge and watch TV. I was happy to sit on her lap and watch too. Quiz programme followed quiz programme, afternoon TV at its best.
Maisie dozed on and off and refused to eat any tea. I could feel her heartbeat slow, and the hand that was stroking me fell to her side. I was there when she drew her last breath. This was what I’d been waiting for really. Her tired old body was not needed any more and her confusion and dementia would be gone. Eventually we would be together again, for all eternity.