As a kid, I never realized how much I would relate to the character Jon Arbuckle from Garfield. I think this as my not-so-small orange tabby meows at me for the fourth time for his dinner, his meow burrowing deeper into my skull with each cry. I remember reading those newspaper comics as a kid and really not getting Jon. He was just sort of this dumb human whose cat got into ridiculous antics. Jon seemed to have no say in what his cat did and was stuck putting up with him. “Why would you do that?” I thought. “Why not just get rid of the cat?”
We have barely left the house the last few weeks due to a mixture of bitter cold temperature, ice and snow covering the sidewalks, long work hours from my desk at home, Omicron making life challenging, and a modest amount of laziness.
I like to remind my husband that winter is only a month old since it technically starts December 21st. He rolls his eyes at me and says winter starts in November. We agree to disagree. Either way, we still have a long ways to go.
My cat continues to relentlessly meow at me. I swear he will eat this slice of pizza right off my plate if I let him, therefore I begrudgingly get up from my desk to feed him. He will likely vomit it up in an hour or two, but that’s a problem for later. I just need him to quiet down so I can finish this work assignment due tomorrow, and then get back to painting the second coat in the guest room.
Things haven’t been easy at work this winter. Everyone is exhausted and some have chosen to leave instead of riding it out. What exactly are they leaving for? I would hope maybe a warmer climate and more money, but I think it’s just for a change of scenery. I can’t blame them. We all need a change of scenery sometime. Even the cat longs for warmer days so he can go outside again.
My father passed away recently, and nothing is more depressing than a winter funeral. We were all huddled inside this funeral parlor, that despite trying its best to look comforting with its big windows letting the sun in and beautiful flower arrangements in reds, whites, and purples, felt stifling and suffocating. I remember wanting to go outside to escape this emotional intensity only to be smacked in the face by below freezing temperatures. I realized then that there was no escaping this loss. It was there everywhere I went. So I was forced to go back inside and make small talk with the rest of my family. My dad’s funeral was the first time my family had reunited in over a year. Like so many families, the social isolation of the pandemic had caused us to draw just a little further apart.
“What are we going to do with dad gone?” my sister asked.
“What do you mean?” I responded.
“Well, now that they’re both gone, we’re going to have to do something with the house?”
The place where I grew up, but hadn’t returned much in the last few years. It was a nice property in a good neighborhood just on the edges of town. You could still feel like you were out in nature within a short walk, but it also had the conveniences of everyday living. I had been looking for a house location like that for years.
“How much of a mess is that house, do you think?” I asked with a curiosity building inside of me. Perhaps, a much-needed project to break up the monotony of a pandemic, a change of scenery, was starting to form in my head, although I may not have recognized it as such at the time.
“I mean, it’s going to need some work before we sell it,” she responded. She saw a gleam in my eye or perhaps I took too long to respond. “Why? What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know, maybe Marc and I could move in for a little bit, help remodel the house, and get it ready.” I said this very casually, as if I didn’t care about the outcome, but I cared very much. I suddenly felt that I needed this.
“Yeah, sure, I don’t see why not”, she said without hesitation. And like that, the wheels started turning.
Marc, me, and the aforementioned Garfield-look-alike. We’ve hunkered down for winter, remodeling one room at a time. It’s going remarkably well. Marc and I only leave the house to go get supplies for the next remodel project. The cat never leaves. He hates us for it. But soon, warmer times will be here and we’ll be able to go outside more.
If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t know if we’ll ever sell this house. Part of me is remodeling this house for myself, a house in which I could hibernate year-round. I had no idea I needed this, but I’ve come to realize that I needed something to work on that was more than just my job fixing spreadsheets or whatever the new ask is for the week. It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic and my dad passing away to realize that.
I want to make each room cozy so that leaving the house seems less desirable than staying in. We’re currently painting a lot of the house to make it warm and inviting, putting throw blankets and more comfortable couches and chairs in so that we can be better prepared for future winters.
I want to redo the backyard as well, put in some nice new plants, and build a fence so that our cat can get into some antics outside. Maybe I won’t be like Jon Arbuckle anymore and actually be able to control my cat and my life around me. I think this is a good first step.