By: Brian Vuyancih
Patricia Crenner has outlived two of her three ex-husbands so far. Only her second husband is still around, and he used to visit Pat somewhat regularly. If he went to the store, he’d ask her if she needed anything and then stop by to chat. But after their conversations became too political too often, as they so often do these days, they agreed to disagree one last time and go their separate ways — again. Apart from a granddaughter who visits when she can and a neighbor who will accompany Pat to lunch occasionally, Pat’s most loyal day-to-day companion is her cat, Bootsy.
Bootsy is a gray and black striped tabby with white paws who was invited into her home two years ago. He’s still a little skittish around strangers, Pat says. He won’t even let her pick him up yet; not that she could. Pat says his well-fed frame practically knocks her out of bed when he jumps up to greet her at night, but once he settles in, he’s a welcome guest.
Born in 1939, Pat is 82 years old, but she gets around like she’s a generation younger. She’s short, but swift and feisty with the skin of a faithful Avon lady. You’ll find her darting around her Forest Park home from room to room through a hallway lined with yellow-tinted portraits of people with big hair and flashy clothes. The decor, as you can imagine, is frozen in time; paused to reflect an obvious heyday for Pat; one of a bustling family struggling to manage school and work and the budding relationships that will eventually extend the family tree. Sturdy hutches lean against the walls, displaying knick-knacks of animals and various Christian assortments. Perched on the living room sofa are stuffed animals, mostly cats, and on the kitchen table before you get to the sunroom is an opened devotional book titled All God’s Creatures.
“I think God put me on Earth to take care of the animals around here,” Pat said. She pointed toward her backyard through the sunroom, where a dozen sparrows fought for position atop one of several bird feeders. “If they keep building up Forest Park like they have been, there won’t be any forest left for them.”
The squirrels can be a nuisance to the birds if they’re able to reach the seed, but Pat updated her feeders to be more squirrel resistant. Now they watch helplessly along a green chain linked fence behind the feeder that separates Pat’s yard from her neighbor. Pat will throw a little corn down at the base of the feeders to give the squirrels something for their trouble and maintain a semblance of harmony for all the critters drawn to her yard. This includes a skunk named Stinky whom she accidentally befriended one night and a possum with a face only Pat could love.
“The hummingbirds will be flying south soon,” Pat said. She almost looked relieved, as if their search for warmer weather will give her one less thing to have to worry about. To Pat, her efforts are more like a duty than just a series of good deeds.
Feeding all the creatures in Pat’s little corner of the world is not always easy on a fixed income. Luckily for Pat, Meals on Wheels provides cat food for Bootsy along with her weekly meal deliveries. Meals on Wheels’ pet support program takes some financial burden off Pat, who then pays it forward to the outdoor wildlife she loves.
Recently, a young black and white tuxedo cat who Pat calls Mr. Kitty has been hanging around. She watches him run and jump in the grass before he takes breaks from his play to sit in Pat’s lap.
“He definitely helps with the loneliness,” Pat said, sitting in a chair outside her sunroom, petting Mr. Kitty. These quiet moments they share together make all the difference for both of them. Pat has been slowly inviting Mr. Kitty into her home, much to the chagrin of Bootsy, but Pat is confident she’ll eventually be able to broker peace between them.
On Pat’s refrigerator is a picture of a Maine coon tabby mix. Her medium length fur is tan and black with a tuft of white under her nose as if it was stained by a dollop of milk. “Her name was Muffy,” Pat said, “and she was my baby.” For 18 years, Muffy followed Pat wherever she went until one day her legs stopped working, and you probably know the rest of the story. As devastated as Pat was, she was surprised when Meals on Wheels paid for Muffy’s final vet visit and cremation.
“It was such a nice gesture during such a hard time,” Pat said.
Meals on Wheels helps clients pay for their pet’s preventative care, emergency illnesses, and likein Muffy’s case, compassionate end of life care, proving their “more than a meal” adage is more than just a motto. Meals on Wheels understands that the health of their seniors is tethered to the health of their pets, and that to take care of one is to take care of the other.
Pat’s latest vet visit was a much more positive one. Not only did Mr. Kitty get his shots, but he also received a clean bill of health as well. The vet said he’s about 12 weeks old and as healthy as they come. Best of all, it appears Mr. Kitty doesn’t care much for politics. If Pat and Bootsy play their cards right, Mr. Kitty will become one of Meals on Wheels’ youngest clients, and another companion to keep Pat company for years to come.