Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dumping the cat lady

I have an 80-year old friend who is a little too attached to me. She breeds and sells pedigreed cats. I first met her 5 years ago when she sold me a kitten. Six months later I bought a second kitten from her to keep the first one company. She liked me because I told her I had lived on a farm. She offered to let me breed my cats and said she would help me sell the kittens. Thinking this would be an easy way to earn some extra money, I quickly agreed to do it.

Breeding cats is not as easy as I expected it to be. My boss was annoyed when I took time off from work. Out of 13 kittens, 4 died soon after birth and 3 had birth defects. All of the money I made from the kittens went to vet bills - persistent bladder infections, diarrhea, an ulcerated eye, a kitten stuck in the birth canal, heart scans for a kitten with a severe heart murmur, surgery for another kitten with a funnel chest - I barely broke even.

After all that drama I decided cat breeding was not for me. But I felt grateful (guilty) because the cat lady had helped me and I didn't want her to think I was just using her so I kept in touch. When I was breeding my cats I started going to Sunday brunch with her once or twice a month and I continued to visit after my cats were fixed. She invited me to a few cat shows out of state and offered to pay for the hotels and airfare. I thought it might be fun and went. But now I was feeling even more obligated to be her friend.

Over the past two years her friends have started dying off or moving away and she has become increasingly clingy. When she started telling me I was like the daughter she never had and that we were such good friends because we were so alike my little brain started screaming "run away!!" On top of that I was getting really tired of listening to her ignorant ideas and biting my tongue. Sometimes I wonder if she has any common sense.

Things came to a head a week or so after Christmas. I had told her I would be out of town for two weeks. I was really gone for one week but I spent the next week hiding out at home, watching Battlestar Galactica on DVD and being lazy. She called me on Sunday night. I was in the middle of an intense season finale. I ignored her. When I checked my messages around 11 it was too late to call back. She emailed me at work the next day. It was my first day back and I was very busy. I never got around to checking it. I figured I could call her later.

At 6 that night my teenage sister sent a text message asking if I knew a woman that sells cats. The clingy cat lady had called my parents asking if I was dead. It had been less than 24 hours since she called me - less than 10 hours since she emailed me - and she was jumping to that kind of conclusion. Wow. My sister went on to say that Dad was mad "to the max". Great. Now I was feeling guilty about him potentially taking out that anger on everyone still at home. The cat lady called me almost immediately after that. I answered, listened to her blather on about which cats had just had kittens and where she planned to purchase another cat, etc then made up some excuse to get off the phone after 10 minutes. Meanwhile I was seething.

Now here's one of my personal weaknesses: I don't share my feelings. I bottle up everything. I avoid confrontations. I never learned to express anger without screaming or hitting so I deal with problems by ignoring them. I didn't tell her that I was angry. I didn't know how to find the words. So instead I called her Sunday morning and told her I was coming up for brunch but couldn't stay long. I brought along a few books she'd insisted that I borrow. I gave them back. I kept the visit short. I said very little. I thought she got the hint.

She emailed me yesterday. She has a new cat. She misses me. Please come up to brunch. My friendship is important to her. Crap.

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