The bio I generally use for publications includes a statement that I live with a menagerie of elderly animal. The average age of the pets in my house is fourteen (and in adding up their ages I came up with a sum of, yes, forty two). It’s all achy hips and deafness and cloudy eyes around here.

They’re all wonderful too, these aging friends. Two of them are cats. I’m not a cat person. I never planned on having cats. When I worked for a vet, I always wanted to work with the dogs, not the unpredictable cats. But the first one came when I found her abandoned at a friend’s barn, and the second when my brother-in-law found a week-old kitten by the side of the road. They needed homes, and I needed someone to look after, and so we ended up together.

Our oldest is nearing the end of her life. It’s been a good one, aside from a few blips. She’s been here since she was six months old, and she’s seventeen now, and as she’s gotten older she’s gotten more and more social. She talks–she’ll chirp at us when we enter a room she’s in–and she has four white feet and a calico coat, and she used to smell like hay and sunshine.

And she has failing kidneys. It may be that she’ll continue on this way for some time still, but we’ve definitely rounded a corner. It’s been a hard year for saying goodbyes. The cumulative weight of them is a little overwhelming at times.

On a day like this, a perfect fall day when the sky is full of popcorn clouds racing through the blue, and the sun shines in on the couch where she sleeps, and we sit there side by side, her purring while I rub her ears, we are adrift between that inevitable end and all that has come before. Somewhere, in some lazy fold of time, this is where we will always be, on this couch, in this sunshine, watching the world go by.