Last week I was in the Midwest, enjoying the arrival of winter, time with Daniel, and evenings by the fire. My pets were left behind. I did not imagine this would be a problem.

I imagined wrong.

I rent a room in a house that I chose, in large part, because it is so animal-friendly. My dog Milo has two full-time, live-in dog pals. He has a dog door that allows him to run in and out of the house at will. My cat Lucy stays in my large room with east and west facing windows, which means she can find a sunbeam to sleep in at any hour of the day. Lucy rotates around my room like a sundial, waking only long enough to reposition herself in the direct light. I left Lucy with enough food to last a month, thanked my housemate for feeding Milo, and left town with a free conscience.

Two days later, the e-mail arrived.

“Hi Carrie, I am having some issues with the animals. Lucy is freaking out all alone in your room. I have had to sit with her and that seems to be working, although it is time consuming for me. Milo was crying when I placed him in your room and he is not eating.”

Lucy is deaf and has no idea how loud she is. (I know exactly how loud she is.) I also know that she is in no real distress. As soon as she figures out that she is not alone, she gives me the cat equivalent of, “Oh, there you are,” and goes right back to sleep.

I told my housemate to turn a light on for Lucy and assured him that Milo would not starve. Two days later there was another e-mail. Milo was off his hunger strike, but Lucy was not so easily distracted.

“Hi Carrie, Do you have any suggestions about what to do with Lucy? She has been keeping us up at night and it takes her a long time to quiet down. It’s getting increasingly bad and I’m having a hard time studying.”

I wrote profuse apologies, promised I would never leave the animals alone again, and suggested he stuff a towel under the door.

When I arrived home, Lucy lifted her head off the bed to acknowledge my presence, then closed her eyes and went back to sleep. Milo whimpered when I brought him in my room, apparently missing his canine pals, then settled in with a heavy sigh.

Still, it was good to be missed. I felt as if those two know something that I should know, or maybe something I once knew and forgot. Milo and Lucy know that it’s good to be with the people we care about.

Yes, there is Facebook and e-mail and virtually free mobile phone. There are explanations and rationalizations and the benefits of deferred gratification. We can catch up and we can make up and we can start up all over again. But somehow, none of it is quite as good as being together.

As I write this, Lucy is snoring softly. Milo has finished dinner and is sleeping as well. The moon has risen, Christmas is coming, one candle is lit. Soon I will be heading home for the holidays (this time with Lucy and Milo at my side). I am eager to be with the people who matter to me. I am much less interested in what I will be doing than simply in being— being close to the people I care about.

Till next time,


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