Here is this week’s print column, published Sept. 17 in The Review.
People ask my wife and me how we’re doing as empty-nesters.
Better than the cat, I respond, because he’s suffered a concussion as a result of our daughter’s departure.
It happened during a rousing reenactment of Disney’s “Lion King.” (Hey, what does YOUR family do for kicks?)
You know the scene where the ugly monkey hoists lion cub Simba into the air while the “Circle of Life” plays? The song uses a lot of authentic dialect (”Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala,” it repeats), but in our house we sing, “Wing-ah-nada! Hey! Wing-ah-nada!” Roughly translated, this means “We don’t know the words. Hey! We really don’t know the words!”
My wife was playing the monkey (not often I get a free pass for saying THAT) and lifted Oliver the cat into the air, chanting our homemade lyrics to much acclaim, right up to the point where she forgot that the ceiling fan was turned on, making the soundtrack more like “Wing-ah-nada! Hey! Wing-ah-THUMP!”
Dazed, Oliver stumbled under a bed, likely seeing stars. Although as an indoor cat, he doesn’t know what stars look like, so maybe he saw dancing clumps of kitty litter or pink salmon hairballs instead.
The whole Lion King reenactment was a tribute to our daughter, who often raised cats to the ceiling to worship at the altar of her dread lord, Walt Disney — long may he remain cryogenically frozen in the sewers beneath the Magic Kingdom! But she never ground up an animal in the fan blades.
Before you call the Humane Society to report animal cruelty, be advised that because we own four cats and a dog, the SPCA already has a branch office in the basement, which irritates me because their employees use all the hot water before I get a shower.
We believe the cat is concussed — is that a real word? Spell check didn’t reject it — because of his odd behavior later in the week. Maybe we can chalk it up to his confusion at having to sleep alone at the foot of the bed he used to share with my daughter before she selfishly decided to go to college, make something of herself and not spend the rest of her life sponging off her parents in the technological wonderland she calls her bedroom.
(Really, what sort of punishment is it to send kids to their rooms that are tricked out with high-speed Internet connections, mp3 players stuffed with music, and cable TV? “You’re forcing me to watch ‘America’s Next Top Model’ on a 19-inch screen? I hate you, Dad, I hate you!”)
So Oliver is sleeping solo, and he is so starved for human contact (or so confused from his scrambled egg brain beating) that he actually deigned to rub against me — me, the guy he usually runs from like poison because I’m on “eye booger” patrol, charged with the unenviable task of wiping dried black stuff out of his tear ducts with a warm washcloth. If you want to endear yourself to a cat, that’s not the way to do it.
When he rubbed against me, a move I took for approval, I petted him and told him things would be OK. He hissed at me and ran off. It was a high-water mark in our relationship.
Nevertheless, I’m feeling so kindly disposed toward him that I’m looking for a cat-sized football helmet. Because my wife is getting that look — the one that means she’s missing our daughter — so it won’t be long before she’ll take another stroll down memory lane with a “Circle of Life” encore.
Don’t judge her too harshly. It’s the empty nest syndrome again. I just hope she uses a stuffed animal this time, or that the SPCA guy in the basement gets all the fan blades taken down before the next King of the Jungle is christened.