Lipstick on a Cat?

#1 in a Series on Purpose

It begins with Princess.

“I need your help, mom,” I tell her. “Can you help me with Princess?”

I’m petsitting a client’s cat this week, my decades-long sales career replaced with a different kind of work: Alzheimer’s caregiving and, occasionally, petsitting. Finding my life’s purpose seems as elusive as my mother’s memory.

Yet as a caregiver, I’ve learned how important it is for my mother to feel helpful, so I bring her along one afternoon. As mom brushes Princess, she exclaims: “Let’s put lipstick on him!” Outside, shadows are shrinking, the cloudless winter sky lost to coppery dusk. Like clockwork, sundowning has begun.

When we return to her care home for supper, everything is forgotten—Princess, lipstick, cat toys. The earlier elation in giving my mother purpose is now replaced by the defeated ache of Alzheimer’s, too often thrust at my heart.

A few days later, mom tells me about Perky, her childhood cat and how she loves to brush him. Scrambled memories aside, her enjoyment of the moment is clear.

Sometimes I’m so focused on finding my own purpose, I forget the true joy in making someone else’s life meaningful.