I eased into a new year with a weekly planner, using colored inks and stickers to mark holidays and birthdays, and transferring the reminders I’d scribbled on sticky notes for the 2022 gardening season. I also recorded two goals for the new year. First, rekindle the joy I’ve found in walking through Moscow’s vintage neighborhoods, noticing details of each historic house and planting imaginary gardens along the way. Goal number two: grow my own weight in pumpkins, 110 pounds, to top last year’s miracle crop, which totaled 87 pounds. My planner makes my life feel organized and structured, but I’ve learned that notes and lists and dates and goals can’t predict the future. Sometimes an entire season can disappear.

When 2022 garden catalogs started arriving weeks ago, I practiced uncharacteristic self-restraint and stashed them, unopened, under the stack of books I’ve been waiting to read, including “Silverview,” the final spy novel by British master, John LeCarre’; “The Last Garden in England,” historical fiction by Julia Kelly, and “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer-winning author of “All the Light We Cannot See.” Besides those respectable literary selections, I will also read sweet romance novels, set in small towns, with predictable happy endings. These books are the printed equivalent of Hallmark Christmas movies, comforting and much healthier than potato chips as stress relief. I need them this winter.

In other years, I’ve found a cozy sense of peace on a cold day in January, sitting at the kitchen table, making notes in my planner and watching snow fall on the garden. This year I see a shadow on the snow. Benjamin BadKitten, my frequently fired garden staffer, publicity hog, and beloved companion for 15 years, has reached the winter season of his life. There was no autumn for him, only a too brief indian summer, when he still trotted after me in the garden or plopped his ample backside onto my lap. A medical checkup showed he was remarkably healthy for a cat of his age, but suddenly, before Halloween, he started to fade. By Thanksgiving, his steps faltered and he was losing weight. A temporary setback, I told myself. BBK isn’t old. Fifteen isn’t old. He is my BadKitten, and forever young. I didn’t want to accept that the life expectancy of a Maine coon cat is 13 or 14 years. By Christmas, Benjamin had become so frail that I felt thankful for every day I could spend with him. His compassionate veterinarian makes house calls, and she is helping Ben remain comfortable, and guiding me toward the inevitable transition.

Benjamin still follows me from room to room, walking unsteadily, waiting for me to sit down and hold him. I draw out my lunchtime for more reading, so Benjamin can curl up beside me. My husband, Lee, shares an armchair with his little buddy in the mornings, and he and Ben have watched Seattle Seahawks football games together on television all season. Sometimes the BadKitten can still bring his ‘A’ game. On a recent afternoon, he leaped onto his cat tower, settled in, and then batted away a lukewarm attempt to roust him by Marlon, the big yellow cat I take care of. I know that eventually I’ll smile and find comfort in memories like this. But not yet. One more day, BBK. Thank you for anything.

Craft Rozen is grateful for the kindred spirits who read her column. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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