The impermanence of things

We took Teddy Jules to the vet today — it has to do with his UTI problem and his bladder again, which incessantly creeps back onto him whenever he gains significant body weight — and came home with a small plastic bag full of his medications of all sorts — liquid and pills and tablet, big and small, cut in half or quarter or to be taken in full size, of all sorts of colours and odour. The vet also drew blood out of him. An area near his neck was shaved, and I was asked to stay outside as the vet and her assistant did the procedures but I was allowed to watch from outside the glass door. I saw his paws winced, and I winced along. We came home and he slept the entire day, I joked that he napped so he would skip his meds but I knew he was tired of the travel. He’s 9 this year. Just the last few nights I was thinking how Teddy Jules is like the Charles Boyle of the house — he’s the sweetest boy ever, he’s happy for his friends, he welcomes everyone who comes to visit with wide open paws and a friendly squeak, and is wildly possessive of me (like Boyle of Jake Peralta). Monty, the oldest at 12, is Captain Holt of the house — he has one perpetual expression (annoyed), he isn’t entirely fun and he hates physical contact, but he has his sweet moments. Eleven, sassy and slightly mean, is definitely Gina Linetti. Sometimes, in a typical obsessive pet owner way, I looked at them and muttered under my breath, “you have no idea how much you have brought me happiness”.

I have two senior cats now, and that evil, worrying thought that pets would leave us soon (as are people too) and that we couldn’t guard them against fleeting time (a phrase I borrowed from illustrator Lucy Knisley). There is a Japanese phrase I learned a few months ago after reading a novelette of the same name by Ken Liu. It’s a phrase almost alien to the Western society that seeks closure and the desire to cling to the idea of things and happy ending. It’s called mono no aware (物の哀れ), a challenging perspective to define but “what comes most easily to mind is the beauty of the cherry blossom; the flower blooms intensely, yet only for a short period of time each year”. It’s recognising that not all things are permanent, and because of this, “therefore bittersweet, tinged with mourning, and yet also capable of recognising the beauty of change in itself”. It’s scary and almost unfair (well to be honest, actually rudely unfair) to venture into mourning pre-loss, but I am going to try to stick to mono no aware and cherish the season of the cherry blossoms for as long as I could.

Teddy Jules, the guardian of books

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