I cannot think of what to call this post and I’m not gonna fret over it.

Carole from Chow Now Petfood and I still correspond from time to time. She and her husband, Norm, met Mina last May and were instantly smitten. They attended Mina’s fund raiser for the sanctuary last December, too.

In a recent e-mail exchange with Carole I mentioned my upcoming vacation to New Orleans. Mina and I never went there together, but I often gave light consideration to moving there. I still do. Anyway, Carole’s response made me smile: “Miss Mina’s smiling right now. Ready for another road trip. Did I tell you about the friend who moved from her long time abode where her dear old dog had passed? She took one last look, opened the car door, and told him to come on and jump in. Don’t forget to invite Mina Bean!”

I love that! I invite Mina to go places with me but usually just to places we’d been together. Now I’m going to start inviting her to get in the car whenever I leave. I keep the backseat covered in her somewhat-tattered cover (no holes or anything but the plastic that keeps it in place is pretty much gone) just in case she feels like riding along. There’s still a lot of Mina’s hair covering the back seat and floor and, someday, I may get in there and clean it up but for now it still feels right to have these physical reminders of all our trips together.

There was another little moment today that made me smile while my eyes got a little teary. I was telling a friend that I’ve re-instated my telecommute day. I gave it up after Mina died because “I couldn’t bear to be alone in the place where she wasn’t, but now it’s the place where she’s nearest.” My friend said that was a really good realization and I agree.

One of these days, and I can’t look that far ahead to know when, I’ll move from where Mina and I spent our last three years and seven months together. When I do go, I’ll be sure to open the door and push the passenger seat forward and say, “C’mon Mina! Get in the car, it’s time to go!”

s.

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It’s the first day of spring, girlie girl. You remember what that means? Yep, I sneeze and cough and complain about my itchy eyes every time we go outside. March is also windy – better pollen dispersal … up my nose! Sometimes it seems the pollen bothered you, too, as I’d find those little piles of yellow, foamy puke in various corners. And you’d lick your feet more in the spring than other times of the year, giving them their pinkish-brown color from the iron in your saliva. Your paws were that color for most of your life, until you started chemotherapy last April. I still find it remarkable that you died with four white paws.

I miss kissing your paws. You hated it when anyone touched your feet, always retracting the paw automatically, but sometimes you’d let me pet or kiss the tops of them. Were you just gritting your teeth and indulging me?

Last March on the first day of spring, we visited Stone Bridge at Manassas National Battlefield Park together. It was a nice, warm day and you’d been feeling bad for a few weeks and I hoped it would cheer you up. It certainly seemed to do just that, as I recall. So many new smells, a few people milling about, and you really wanted to climb down the rocks to Bull Run and sniff the water. But you weren’t in any shape to handle that sort of goat-like activity, so I had to hold you back. I’m not sure you understood it was for your own good.

Mina at the Stone Bridge, March 22, 2009

Wanna know a secret? I haven’t been to Stone Bridge since you and I were there on April 16, 2009. That’s the day you fell into a puddle of water and somehow got debris up your nose. I took you to the emergency vet that evening for a nosebleed and Dr. Smith found your enlarged lymph nodes. I drive by the bridge from time to time, but I don’t really look at it. I have walked through the Battlefield Park since you died, in fact I was there yesterday, but I doubt that I’ll ever walk to the Stone Bridge again. I hope your memories of those visits are sweet. I enjoyed taking you there, I loved watching you sniff every weed and flower and try to get closer to the water to smell it.

Mina avoiding the camera at Stone Bridge, March 22. 2009

There’d better not be any pollen in heaven. ‘Cause someday when we’re together, I want to walk with you on warm, spring days and not have to sneeze. I miss you my sweet Mina Bean. I’ll always miss you as much as I love you …

Not long after Mina died last November, I asked my dear, and very crafty friends, Missy and Heather, to make her official scrapbook. I didn’t have any real idea what I wanted and I trusted my friends to do a great job. After a few brief consultations, I sent along a bunch of photos and other artifacts and got to see a preview of the scrapbook during my brief visit to them in January.

Today, it arrived and it’s simply beautiful. When I first opened it I was talking to Mina and telling her about it and then I started to cry. So many happy memories flooding my brain at once proved too much for me. I kept talking to Mina and reminding her of this adventure or that day as I flipped through the pages.

It’s designed so that I can journal in the pages and I will do that this weekend, or get a good start on it. Mina’s collars proved to unwieldy to include in the book, so I’ve hung them on the corners of her photo frames here in my study, in the living room and bedroom. Mina was very particular about her collar – she didn’t like having it removed for any reason. That makes me smile.

Grief is a long and lonely road, but having her things around me and this gorgeous scrapbook are helping me remember all the wonderful years that Mina and I spent together. I can’t thank my friends enough for this treasure.

frong cover scrapbook

Front cover of Mina's scrapbook

first page scrapbook

Straight from Heaven, 1st page of Mina's scrapbook

sweet girls scrapbook

My Sweet Girls, Erin and Mina

beautiful mina scrapbook

Beautiful Mina

our favorite road trips scrapbook

Our Favorite Road Trips

Hey sweetie girl,

I missed you on the latest road trip to Florida to visit Dad. It was a mess from start to finish, really. Without you along to keep me honest I over-packed, forgot stuff, and drove for too many hours at a time. I stopped at only one rest stop the whole time and found myself following the signs to the pet area. It made me so sad not to be able to take you for a walk that I cried for quite a while.

Do you remember that giant peach on I-85 in South Carolina? I remember telling you about it the first time we ever drove by it on our way to Atlanta. Then there was the time you had to suddenly go potty and I pulled over not far from it so you could use the roadside grass. I so missed reaching my right arm behind me to pat your paws and feel you lean your head towards my hand so I could scratch your ears. I love our little non-verbal communication and I miss you dearly.

While staying with Missy and Heather I got to see your scrapbook. It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful that I started crying on the first page and I’m crying now thinking about it and you. Missy has a few more photos to add and your collars need to be worked in, but I’m sure it’ll be with me in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to show it to your Auntie Sue and everyone. I’ll be able to write our memories in it, too, because Missy very cleverly made it a journal sort of scrapbook.

It’s another reminder of you and our lives together, something that doesn’t include the damn cancer. There are still reminders of you all over our home. I haven’t moved anything since you left me. Maybe I’ll never put any of your things away, I don’t know. Your bowls are where you left them in the kitchen, your leash and harness still hang on the entry door knob, your towel still hangs on the closet door knob, your toys are under the coffee table, your bed is still in the corner by the living room window, and I still find your hairs around.

When I had my car washed in New Port Richey I asked them not to touch the back seat. I got a funny look but it didn’t matter. Your seat cover is still on the back seat and there are still some crumbs on it from the last time you ate a cookie back there on November 5, 2009. I always gave you a cookie or two for the ride home from Dr. Cliver’s office, where we’d been that day. I dunno if that’s crazy or very Miss Havisham, but I don’t honestly care. I am still not accustomed to your absence. I still look for you, expect to see you, and I listen for you. I miss you.

So now you’ve been gone eight weeks, if you count the Mondays, or it’ll be officially two months on January 9. I don’t have a new paper calendar in my office to look at, and maybe that’s just as well? I don’t know. I still feel lost without you, unsure of how to proceed, looking for every distraction I can that doesn’t hurt, you know? I still can’t participate in much activism, except for going to the sanctuary when I can, and I hope that’s not permanent. But I can’t really read the constant flow of e-mail messages to my inbox of the suffering and torture and death of domestic non-human animals and wildlife because … my head is filled with missing you.

It’s kind of like all the good got sucked out of my life when you died. You were the best part of me, the really good part, and I have to recreate that somehow without you. I haven’t figured it out yet. But it’s there in my head, just around the edges I think.

That’s where I am right now, honey bear. I need to tell you that you’ve helped raise $3,050 for the animals at Poplar Spring. I’m so proud, so very proud, of that effort and I know it’s your beauty and kindness that prompted so many people to donate.

You are the sweetest part of my whole life

Let’s be honest for a moment – 2009 represents the worst year of my entire life. I’ve lost family over the years, of course, some died of diseases, some died of old age, but none has ever left me completely devastated like losing Mina to cancer. You’d think I’d be eager to say “goodbye” to 2009, right?

No. I feel deeply sad about leaving behind the last year that Mina and I were together. If you think that seems irrational or silly, you’re probably right, but I’ve learned since Mina died not to fight the grieving process, just let it happen and feel it and get through it. I’m glad I’ll be sleeping at midnight and I’m glad I’ll be back on the road in the early morning. Driving gives me a huge distraction from my innermost thoughts and I’ll be traveling towards home (with an overnight stop in Atlanta to visit friends) to the place where Mina and I lived together, where memories of her are sharpest, where I can see her things about me, where I can go back to my routine of work and volunteering at the sanctuary, where I can, perhaps, find some direction for my life without my Mina Bean, where I can be busy. Idle time is not comforting, not in the least.

What will the new year bring? I have no fucking idea. I’m still taking Colleen’s advice and not looking that far ahead but focusing on getting through the day, or the difficult hour.

Mina, my MIna, here’s a kiss for your sweet face

In the long list of “first withouts” since Mina died seven weeks ago comes my first road trip without her.

It was a disaster.

There’s no point in going into details except to say that traveling with Mina came with a well-ordered routine. Much like my still-disrupted and disorganized daily routine, our road trip routine is in shambles. I forgot stuff, I didn’t pack the car worth a damn, I left a half hour later than usual, I forgot to bring along the maps.

Add to my disorganization the bad weather at the start of the trip and the insane amount of traffic going south, and you have a completely miserable road trip. I never made it to Atlanta because my friends are sick with flu and bronchitis, and traffic volume and accidents made it impossible to get to my hometown until the next morning. Mina and I made that trip several times in about 15 hours, including frequent stops to stretch Mina’s long legs, but Saturday started off on the wrong foot and it was downhill from there.

I missed her so much on the way down here. Just like I talked to her all the time when we were at home, I talked to Mina a lot on our road trips together. Mina kept me honest as far as my speed and stopping every couple of hours to take a break. I ended up Saturday night with tight muscles, eyes so strained that they turned bright red and painful, and a lonely overnight stay in a hotel.

One thing I did get right was bringing along Mina’s shrine. In the spare bedroom here at my Dad’s house I’ve set up Mina’s urn, the heart-shaped box with her hair inside, and one of the two photos of us that I’ve had in a frame for years. It comforts me to have those phyiscal remains of Mina with me, because I dearly miss seeing her laying under the AC vents and taking her for our long morning walks in the neighborhood. When I walk around town now I’m careful not to follow the same routes that Mina and walked together, because it’s too painful to walk those routes alone.

Mina's table shrine

The coffee table shrine to Mina - photo, urn, and box with her hair inside

Life moves more slowly ’round these parts and yet I still don’t feel relaxed. I slept well the first night here, but last night I managed only about 3.5 hours of sleep. I find that I miss Mina just as much here as I do in our apartment, but it feels different, if that makes any sense.

It’s hard to believe that Mina’s been gone from my life for seven whole weeks. If I take a peek ahead to see seven months or seven years, it’s overwhelming and … impossible. So I’m trying to concentrate on getting through the day and occupying myself as much as possible.

Mina Mina, my sweet, beautiful girl, you are missed so much here

Mina hates Mondays. Lately, she hates it when I’m not home, period. She used to be resigned, I guess, to spending her morning waiting for Auntie Leanne or Auntie Sherrie to come take her for a walk, but now I don’t see resignation in her eyes as I leave – I see sadness.

This morning I gave her some chicken, brown rice, and broccoli for breakfast and ended up hand feeding some of the chicken to her. She smelled the broccoli and she turned and walked away but once she figured out she could avoid it by eating only the chicken off the top, then she was fine. She wanted more, so I gave her more chicken, which she was eating as I left this morning.

People, Mina does not like vegetables. I dunno if it’s the chemo or if it’s Mina, but every vegetable I give her gets rejected after just a couple of meals. The broccoli gave her a rumbly tummy, so my new plan is to feed Mina high-quality food that she’ll actually eat. If that’s boiled chicken and boiled beef with rice thrown in or quinoa (if she’ll eat it), then so be it. The plan here is to keep her healthy enough to survive the damn chemotherapy and I’m going to do whatever I must to achieve that goal. Dr. Lucy suggested some olive oil for good fats so if she’ll accept that, we’ll go with it.

Today, I’m going to get her some Tums for calcium carbonate, which should taste lovely coated in peanut butter. Even if it’s a chewable, Mina wants it coated in something yummy and right now that yummy is peanut butter.

We’ll know more tomorrow after her exam, weight check, CBC, and whatever else is planned. We have to drive to Woodbridge to get the Leukeran pills and Mina likes to take drives.

s.