The cat is the most honest creature in our house.

Our whole Christmas season had the looming knowledge of a still-to-come hip surgery for my husband, but we all wore brave faces and soldiered on.

The plan was once the out-of-town kids went back to their homes, he would have the procedure, which is basically out-patient if all goes well, and have several weeks of recuperation during which the kids could all call or visit or help out at home. There would be long days for him watching movies or finding projects for Dad to work on in the house, and all would be well.

The house itself was not cooperating with the plan.

Right before Oldest Son came home, our ongoing problems with water came flowing back. The new water softener was leaking in the garage, and the kitchen sink handle was not holding firm enough to shut off the water.

So Christmas shopping had to wait on the plumber, followed by finally being able to thoroughly wash the dishes again. I felt like I could never get everything done that needed doing, so I scaled way back on my expectations.

And then the excitement of opening presents and eating traditional foods, taking naps and eating some more. Spending lots of time with the people I love the most.

Once I am past it I’m fine with everything not getting done the way I wanted. There will always be more opportunities to give the perfect gift or try some new food to fix or start a new tradition.

The being together is always the sweetest part.

I guess if I could have one thing be different about the season just past, it would be that I wish we had all been able to talk more openly and honestly about the love we have for each other.

Because hard days will always come, even after surgeries and still-unconfirmed medical diagnoses are in the past. The days when you savor the memories of words spoken in love and deep affection.

There were great moments, don’t get me wrong. Several one-on-one talks with different kids, or just a couple of them at a time, where we were able to get real about how we felt about Dad’s impending surgery. Discussing possible outcomes and what he might not be able to do, things we could do to make the house safer for his rehabilitation weeks.

Those times were sweet, to hear my kids express their love and concern for their dad.

And while they all did express their concern to his face, I wish there had been more ease in talking about it. Because once you get past the fear, you can more easily express the love that huddles behind its fortress walls of protectiveness and anxiety.

The cat is much more transparent than the kids.

From back in October when the workmen started waltzing in and out on a pretty regular basis, leaving doors open, making noise with their electric tools, the cat has been on edge.

Her home has been invaded and plundered, and she had no say in it.

Strange bodies and voices in and out for day after day. Then a quick weekend trip before Thanksgiving when she had to fend for herself, eating her way through a massive bowl of only dry food. And T-day itself with too many legs to count sending her running to the farthest corner of the house.

Middle Son and his girlfriend home from college, then Oldest Son and his girlfriend, and her litter box was brand new and in a different part of the reconfigured laundry room, and there was paper carpeting the floor and then we took it away before she could play with it all.

Enough is enough.

She took to peeing other places than in her litter box.

She developed colitis from having to change her canned food (the old kind was discontinued), and once that was treated we thought she’d get back to normal.

But she didn’t.

Her world had been messed with one too many times, and our Sadie was not having it. Even the vet thinks it might be stress related, and advised us to get yet another new litter box after going through a course of antibiotics to treat what we all hope is a UTI and not spiteful behavior.

But you know what, sometimes a tantrum can relieve some of the stress. And I must say that the cat is not timid in letting us know when she is not happy with the way things feel in the house.

I can’t imagine how much stress she’s been picking up from us, but I know we’ve all been feeding on each other’s, and enough is enough.

I personally would like to be able to go somewhere and just throw things and break them. And not have to clean them up! Just yell or cry and get my frustrations out on some inanimate object that doesn’t care if I break it to bits. I’m sure there are more productive ways of dealing with stress, but for a few minutes I’d just like to be a confused and slightly vindictive cat.

If only we could all just have one big acting out day where we would all just nod and cheer each other on in our release of fear and anger and worry, and then we’d all move on feeling much better.

And then I come back to the real world, where in the last week we’ve had another leak from the new water softener. They think it’s fixed this time.

And during a really hard rainstorm the other night, our fireplace started leaking.

More water. Leaking, dripping, puddling. Just like all the others.

Like my tears, cried mostly in private, but the truly healing ones with friends and family who love me. Who see that I’m not handling this stress much better than the cat, and are willing to help me clean up the mess I feel I become sometimes.

I know this will all pass. I know God is in control. And I know I want to be able to talk about this all openly, and encourage my kids to express their thoughts and feelings as well, so we don’t all end up taking it out on each other.

And meanwhile, the cat is enjoying lapping water out of the container we used to catch the drip from the fireplace.