Our farm has a cat.
Every farm should have a cat; right? Mouse catchers, they are.
But our cat is far too accustomed to living in the house, especially through theses harsh winters, to be much of a mouser. And we feed him too much, so he doesn’t go out to the barn hunting to survive.
What good is he? I’m sorry if you are a great cat fancier, but I myself prefer the exuberant companionship of a dog, to the practiced indifference of a cat.
So, just what good is this cat?
Ah, but in the constellation of things here at Heatherhope Farm, Sméagol, the cat fits in wonderfully. For one thing, he compliments the “Lord of the Rings” theme we have going on here, with Frodo the guard dog and Bilbo Baggins the ram.
Much more importantly, he loves my wife. Oh, he makes use of me, since I am the much easier touch when it comes to offering him scraps of food off the table. But he positively loves my wife, Connie. And just by having the personality he has, he decorates her life with every one of his quirky little habits.
When she is gone Sméagol just mopes about and stares into the distance. But when she is home, he follows her about the house and yard, and they carry on a trans-species banter as they go.
Long ago, during my seminary years, my father took an early retirement when Parkinson ’s disease caused his hands to shake and made him uncertain in his walking. He stopped working in his basement workshop. He stopped going out. He stopped smiling. To my thinking, his doctor at the time was good at prescribing pills, but not so good at coaching him or encouraging him in any way to keep on doing what he still could manage. And since my dad wasn’t in the habit of taking advice from spouse or child, our words fell to the ground.
I remember vividly the day, many years later, when my wife, young son and I were visiting my parents and I tried to buck up my father’s spirits. He rebuffed me by saying, “You just don’t understand. I’m not good for anything anymore.”
I was speechless. I wish I could have convinced him just what he was good for. But the words haven’t been invented that can describe what a father means to his son or what a grandfather means to his grandson. My dad didn’t have to build cabinets or carry in the groceries or bring home the paycheck. Just being—just loving and being loved—that was something surpassing good.
We all have those awful moments when we believe we are no good for anything. But we have no earthly right to believe it is so. If a silly cat with a silly name, who doesn’t catch many mice, can have such a place of honor on a farm, who are we to claim no one needs us?
This article appeared in the Daily Chronicle on February 25, 2011. Page A2