Ever since Tuesday, there has been a total shift in the energy field of la’ casa de Anj & Patrick. We are walking, (or in Patrick’s case, rolling) a little lighter, smiling a little brighter, and breathing a little easier. All thanks to a tiny, snow-white ball of love named Prana.
Yep. We’ve adopted ourselves a 9-week-old kitten.
Or shall I say…she has adopted us.
At just 1.5 lbs, it’s amazing that something so teeny-tiny could make such a drastic difference in our world. Yet, the love of an animal is powerful beyond words, especially for TBI survivors, who are given access to the unconditional love, acceptance, affection and understanding that is otherwise hard to find. An animal doesn’t judge you for not walking straight enough, thinking fast enough, or being the person you were before your accident. They love you for exactly who you are! And that is why I decided two weeks ago, that I would surprise Patrick with a kitten for his 33rd birthday! We’d talked for months about getting a pet, and with the summer of surgery weighing heavy on us both, it seemed like the right time to recruit a new member to #teampatrick.
It was exciting to plan my birthday surprise. I love scheming! Still, it wasn’t easy finding the right cat. I wanted a Persian/Himilayan, (they are known for their cuddling/affectionate nature), but could not afford a purebred. I also wanted a kitten, so that we could leash/harness train her while she was young to be an ESA (emotional support animal). The shelters and rescues didn’t have any fancy kittens, and I didn’t want to buy from a breeder, so I wasn’t sure what to do. Then, one day while I was perusing Craiglist, I struck gold: a half Siamese, half Persian, 5-week-old kitten in a neighboring town! I made contact with the seller and we quickly sealed the deal.
However, as is only too common with CL, the seller lead me on for two weeks, blowing me off repeatedly, and then promising to meet me the morning before Patrick’s birthday. I woke up at 6 a.m to meet him at his home, drove there, but he did not answer my texts. He denied my calls. I left a VM but he did not return my call. The owner knew my situation, and that this kitten was for a disabled man, and had hung me out to dry. It was T-minus 24 hours till Patrick’s Birthday, and I had no kitten. I didn’t have time to go to a shelter because we had a full day planned. I’m sure I took it too personally, but as I sat in my car with the rain pounding my windshield, it felt like the icy side of humanity was too much to bear.
The good news is that all things work out as they should! Our kitten was waiting for us, two hours away in Somerset, NJ. I found her later that day at 5 p.m, (when I felt all hope was lost), in an online advertisement. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was our baby. She came from a loving home. She was a strikingly beautiful, Persian kitten with all white fur and gorgeous blue eyes. She was also completely deaf. So she was …perfect on the outside, but hiding an invisible disability. And on account of her impairment, no one wanted to adopt her.
My heart nearly broke in half for love of that little creature, and I knew immediately I had found our girl. She and Patrick both had invisible injuries. It was meant to be.
I immediately reached out to the family, and they responded within minutes. They agreed to meet me the following morning at 8 a.m and let me take her home. Giddy with excitement, I ran to a pet store and bought an obscene amount of kitten parafanalia. I’m pretty sure we didn’t need a fish shaped, cat-food, keeper-fresher-bag-clip, but what can I say, I was getting into the spirit of the moment.
Speaking of spirit, Patrick has always called animals a “life force of positive energy.” When we discussed the idea of getting a cat, I told him that the word “Prana” in Yoga meant “life-force”. He loved the name and suggested we call our hypothetical cat Prana. So, I couldn’t think of a better name for the white ball of fluff I was going to meet in the morning.
At 5 a.m on Tuesday, June 16th I awoke, and drove two hours north to meet Prana. As I drove, I almost had to laugh at how excited I was at the prospect of getting a kitten. The truth was, it felt amazing to see my birthday plan work out as I had dreamed it. After dealing with so much loss for so long… it just felt good to win one.
Prana was everything I dreamed she would be. We made the trek home and snuck quietly into the house. I was so sure I had Patrick fooled, but little did I know that he had suspected I was getting him a kitten for days! He had even laid awake the night before rehearsing what he would say to her when he met her.
When you walk the road of TBI, you will hear many stories of loss and despair. But you will hear just as many stories of hope and triumph. Many victims of TBI struggle with loss of empathy, an inability to show emotion or cry, or emotional incongruence. But there is another side to TBI. For some like my Patrick, it is like dynamite detonating and exploding the walls around the heart; leaving it exposed, open, raw and beautifully vulnerable.
As I watched Patrick’s initial moments with his new kitten, I was in awe of the purity of their bond. He was overcome with a desire to protect, and shelter her from the ugliness of the world. He saw their similarities and instantly forged a partnership with her. And the fatherly way in which he spoke to her, empowering her (though she be tiny), to know her own greatness, and educating her about the nature of love, was one of the most tremendously humbling moments of my life.
I dare you to watch this video and not cry. I don’t think its possible.
A fellow caregiver & girlfriend of mine said to me today, that she often thinks of her husband and Patrick as not injured, but actually awakened. Because, when you turn off the brain, depending on who you are, you become able to connect with what truly matters, and to what connects all of us. We are more than our brains. Our brains don’t connect us to each other – our hearts do, and our souls and our spirits do.
I don’t think there is a video out there that is a better testament to this truth, than that of this man and his new kitten.