Or so we thought, and so they thought.
I was about to go out to retrieve the morning newspaper when I saw the bobcat cross the driveway. I knew Jim had already let Dexter out and I didn’t know if the bobcat, the size of a medium dog, would trouble me, so I went back inside. I looked around to make sure Rufus was safe, thinking I’d call Dexter in before the bobcat troubled him, but seconds later, I heard a loud scrambling noise on the roof. I immediately knew what must be happening: the bobcat was after Dexter and both of them were on the roof. Fearing the worst, I yelled for Jim, and he jumped out of bed and ran out front. I could hear him by the paradise tree talking to Dexter, his soft kitty-speak voice, which relieved me a bit. Jim called to me to bring a camera, which I did. And I picked up a rock too.
Dexter was hanging backwards onto the tree trunk, facing upward, and the bobcat was on the roof above him, crouched among the leaves, ready to pounce. Jim tossed the rock. Though he missed the bobcat, the distraction gave Dexter his chance to escape. He took off up the driveway, and the big cat stayed put. Later, Jim went up on the roof (with only a broom for protection), but the bobcat was gone.
That night, we called and called for Dexter, and Rufus did too, meowing pitifully (as he can so expertly do) for his friend. Finally, we sat on the back porch, in the “safe zone” and had a glass of wine and just talked, as we do most evenings. Rufus sat on the picnic table and watched the darkness gather. Eventually, the one black cat, Rufus, became two black cats. Dexter was home, shaken, but unhurt.
This summer, a woman we knew, was struck and killed as she and her husband were crossing a downtown street at dusk. The driver might have been on her phone, or might have been blinded by the setting sun. It’s not really clear, but a life was snuffed out in a random incident. A simple stroll to dinner at a nice restaurant turned deadly.
Then we heard that one of our bankers lost his wife in another traffic accident. Perhaps alcohol was involved. About twenty years ago, my cousin, Christopher, was killed by a drunk driver, just two days before Christmas, rendering that holiday eternally sad for his family. And our good friend, Bob, died suddenly one morning driving his truck to work. There was no apparent cause, in that case, no heart attack, no aneurism. He was seemingly untouched. It was just instantaneous and irretrievable. Bob was gone forever.
I read the obituaries every morning. I’m looking for someone I know, I suppose, or someone my age or younger. Perhaps the person was famous, or very old; that interests me too. What was the cause of death? Cancer? Accident? Natural causes? Was the person a doctor, or a writer, or an adventurer, or a wife, mother, or grandmother? This I am greedy to know.
Our will to live is shared by all creatures on this earth, at least all I’ve met so far. Even insects run away, escaping death by boot-heel. Love of Life is programmed into us, and with it, a passionate survival instinct. As a mother and grandmother, I possess the mama bear gene. I’m constantly guarding against real or imagined dangers that might threaten my beloveds or my pets.
When my granddaughter, Gemma, was a newborn, we went to an urban LA park and sat on a blanket enjoying the evening. Sadie was almost three, and she was running around on the grass when suddenly Gabe pointed to a coyote running along the edge of the park not far from us. I jumped up and chased Sadie, grabbed her and picked her up. The coyote, with its survival instinct, might have mistaken the little toddler for food. Later Sadie kept asking me why I was scared of the coyote, why I’d picked her up, what the coyote might do to her. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t quite tell her that I’d lost a few pet cats to coyotes and that she had been vulnerable. Someday we’ll talk about death, maybe as mine is approaching.
We all face random perils, and we all have our lucky moments, just like Dexter did the other morning. Just like I did when modern medicine saved me from bleeding to death after an ectopic pregnancy burst inside me.
Predators, disease, cars, a worn out body. One day, it’s simply over. For now, I’m trying to forget that possibility and enjoy the moments until it’s my turn, while luck and intervention do what they can.