?????????????????????????????I know.  I posted my last entry about Ben back on August 15th with all intentions of posting about his passing the following week.  It still hasn’t happened.  I’ve written most of the story–all except that final morning when I took him in and had him put to sleep. I guess, in many ways, I haven’t been ready to revisit that memory.  The idea of Ben dying was unthinkable to me back when it happened. Repeatedly reminding myself that he wasn’t leaving me, that his soul wasn’t dying, and that he was going to a better place helped, but it took a lot of strength.  By the end of last summer, it became a real challenge to maintain that energy.  I still I can’t believe that he died so soon after Petey did.  Though 13 is a good long life for a dog, when I look at his pictures and see his muscular frame, when I think of his constant puppy energy, it seems as if he should still be here, just starting to grow old now.  He would have turned 15 today.

Happy birthday, Ben.  I haven’t forgotten about you, baby.

After my last post about Ben, life pulled me in several different directions.  Both kids started school at separate schools with different schedules, and I volunteer in both classes regularly.  My husband, Rob, also started classes and took on a ridiculous course load including organic chemistry, which consumed all of his time.  My seven-year-old son, Henry, who has been receiving school-based services for his special needs since age three, started a months-long screening process for autism through our health care provider.  He received an official diagnosis in November after several long and involved appointments in various locations; this has led to more valuable services, but it has also required more appointments and, for me, getting very creative with my work schedule. (Luckily, I work from home.) The kids and I have also gotten sick at least once a month since August.  Everything has really seemed to hit me hard; I’m not sure if it’s because I turned 40 in July or what, but every illness has brought lasting effects, such as crippling joint inflammation and violent coughing fits, weeks after the initial symptoms have gone away.  In the fall, it became harder and harder to maintain my healthy eating habits, and once it started getting dark early and the rain came down–and boy, did it ever–I kissed my walking routine goodbye.  I watched myself gain back all the weight Ben had helped me lose.  Guilt set in, and before I realized it, I was suffering from debilitating depression.  I didn’t even realize it until December, when I saw my doctor to request a change in my birth control and I just sat in her office and cried uncontrollably.  She ordered some blood work and discovered that my Vitamin D3 levels were extremely low.  She recommended some supplements, which have helped a lot.  Slowly, I’m picking myself back up, and I’ve been hitting the trail again a few times a week.  But this is only after Henry’s birthday just before Christmas, the holidays themselves, and my daughter Veronica’s birthday on Valentine’s Day.

?????????????????????????????So that’s why I’ve been away.  The thing with feeling so overwhelmed is it really screws with the memory.  I’ve thought about my blog plenty, but aside from not having a single free moment, I’ve had a tough time remembering things.  When I started this blog, I intended to write about everything linearly.  But memory doesn’t work that way, and I don’t want to force stories; I want the memories to flow vividly and natural.  They will as I get more exercise, more sunlight.

I do remember Ben’s birthday, though.  When I got him, I immediately noticed his date of birth because March 6 is my dad and stepmother’s wedding anniversary (They celebrate 33 years of marriage today.  Happy anniversary, Mama and Daddy!).  As with Petey’s birthday, I’ve always tried to do something special for Ben on his big day.  He didn’t care for most treats, such as Frosty Paws, like Petey did.  But he loved his toys and tennis balls.  He made such a huge mess with them that I tried to save them for special occasions, like his birthday.  The lady at the nearby tennis shop would save the used balls for me, and every once in a while I’d go in, and she’d hand me a big bag for Ben. ????????????????????????????? Whenever Ben got a new ball, we’d  try to play catch with him, but he always decided he didn’t want to share.  He’d run off and settle somewhere on the carpet, loudly chomping on the ball and snorting into it with the sole goal of tearing into it, then ripping it apart.  He spit out little pieces all around him.  He did the same with toys.  It was amazing how (1) he could distinguish between his own stuffed animals and the kids’ and (2) how he would not give up until he’d completely destroyed  them.  Rob and I usually picked up the pieces and fluff with the canister vacuum so that they wouldn’t kill our upright one.

?????????????????????????????I’m not going to claim to have always made Ben’s birthday my top priority.  It did fall right around mid-terms, and when I was teaching, it really snuck up on me.  One night in Fresno, Rob and I were relaxing on my couch after a long day.  It was probably about 10:00 when I jumped up and shouted, “Oh shit!  It’s Ben’s birthday!”  I ran into the kitchen, looking for something to give him.  I made him and Petey a peanut butter sandwich and sang happy birthday as they devoured it.  He didn’t know or care that I’d forgotten.

Rob and I also got married on March 2 (Nine years on Monday!), and when our anniversary falls on a weekday, we’ve often waited till the 6th to celebrate.   That is the case this year, and we plan on having a date today, just after another appointment.  But I wanted to wish Ben a happy birthday first because it is his day.  Still.  This will always be his day.  Last year, I took my new dogs Pia and Timmy for a long walk on this day and paid close attention to my surroundings, taking pictures, breathing in the life around me.  There was so much green and even a little water in the stream after a long and dry winter.  I will go out and see what I can find again today.  I will walk hard, soak in the light (with plenty of sunscreen on!) and envision Ben right next to me every step of the way.  And I will blog again soon.  Promise.2014-5-30 mobile uploads 135