New Orleans in 5 minutes or less

We drove away from the flatlands of Houston and cruised on to the land of boudin, cracklins, opelousas, and super swamps.  We must've passed hundreds of Waffle Houses.  We jubilantly arrived in New Orleans as people streamed into the SuperDome.  

We found a cute Holiday Inn Express (because we have to stay in Priority Club hotels) in the French Quarter.  There were dozens of EMPTY parking lots.  Yet we had no place to park.  We were in a 30 ft long, 12 ft high flatbed truck.  No place to put it on a Saturday night.  So we drove on…to Biloxi, Mississippi.  

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On the road again

I've traveled a bit this year, though the idea is shadowed by the fact that it meant I was away from Bruno a great deal too, on his last year of life.  Which constantly focuses the view of spending time with people I care for, doing things I want, rather than either returning to work (not "career") or holing up in comfortable but complacent solitude (so easy to do).  I, or someone else I love, could be gone in no time—poof!  Gone.  No negotiating.  I don't consider a long, drawn-out death the right time to spend time with someone, either.  They won't have good memories of it, and the dying person's too delirious for it to be meaningful (well, maybe).

Anyway, we got to Houston on Christmas Day.  It's the second day at the Crowne Plaza….I'm listening to KCRW world music, I've finally constructed the charm bracelet I've had the makings for since May, and I may actually make it to the museum district.  We chose this hotel because they feature TempurPedic beds.  They're pretty nice, although I mysteriously pulled my shoulder blade in the night.  So far I'm convinced we need a king-sized bed.  

I'm starting to feel a little more normal.  December vaporized in the wake of Bruno's death and heating/electrical issues at the house.  I've really only been aware of time since Mike got home.  The fog is starting to lift.  Bruno's ashes are on the mantle, with a portrait of him taken at the Belle St house on top of the carved wooden box.  Sadness still plagues me daily, but now I wonder if he was giving me the opportunity to spend more time with Mike, who's always on the road.

A friend of mine believes that when a pet dies, they've taken on the burden of death or illness from someone.  Did Bruno buy me more time?  Or my mother?  Certainly he didn't deserve that fate, but if that's true…it doesn't make me feel better but it does make me wonder about those odd superstitions.  Perhaps they're not superstitions at all.

2008 looms before me.  Cancer has changed the way I look and live, almost to the point where I don't recognize myself.  But I recognize the character fighting through the layers of side effects, restrictions, and psychological confusion—and they're having a tough time sorting through the challenges.  I can't complain—there are millions whose life during cancer hasn't been so nice.  But the specter of death is always at my side, and it darkens even the brightest days.  

This year's obituary is full of famous figures that filled the landscape of my youth.  Many of the "great" people who shaped my generation are gone or fading away.  But that's another post.

As I eat my way across the south, I'm thinking of y'all.  I'll shoot for more cheeriness in the next posts ;) 

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Got the call to pick up Bruno's ashes today.  Was on my way to chemo, plus had a CT scan later, so couldn't do it.

I'll do it tomorrow, after baking something to bring, "Pasolubong".  I truly hope these are Bruno's ashes, and not a pile from an accidental communal cremation.  Try not to go there.

I wish I had just one photo of Bruno and I in some lovin' position like this.

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Missing Bruno

Nightime is the hardest, when the husband is traveling.  Bruno was my entertainment, kept me warm, gave me a feeling of protection, made me think of something and nothing at the same time, reminded me that somewhere in the world there were less fortunate cats and humans, and that I needed to be grateful for my blessings.  He was pretty much everything to me, really—a child, a friend, a companion, a dinner partner, a constant presence that swept light into the dark corners of my life and soul.  His death is haunting.

I recently saw The Golden Compass, where humans were bonded with their "demons", which manifested themselves in the form of an animal who was never away from their human (except for witches).  Bruno would certainly be my "demon", or the free will it symbolized in the movie.  The protection I felt with him was akin to that believed in by the Egyptians, that cats were the guardians of life.  I feel the loss of his alert and watchful eye, his protectiveness, and also his faith that I would protect him.  (Still feeling the failure there.)

Before his death, I was full of "the Christmas Spirit", wishing it was something that we all carried all year long.  That feeling vaporized with his death, my sadness and loneliness snuffing out every motivation in my path.  I'm trying to quell my grief with activity, but then nighttime comes, and I recall Bruno going out to sit on the front porch.  I now wonder if, like old men on front porch rocking chairs, he tried to warn me and I was blind, so he simply waited it out.  I see his silhouette in the darkness, and wonder why that image haunts me so.  Perhaps subconsciously I can relate.  I'm just waiting too.

My parents say Bruno could no longer take the stress of moving, and neither could I.  His love couldn't overcome the stress, and perhaps that's where I've been the past few years.  So many lessons, and still counting.  I think a mini-biography is coming, but that will take time.  He's been with me for almost a third of my life, and his death has affected me much more than others I've experienced.  I know this has to do with my own impending mortality, and refocuses me on not just spending time with loved ones, but spending that time the best way possible.  This could be  just hanging out, but it could also mean talking about things previously off-limits, setting the record straight, getting stuff off everyone's chest about the past.  Or not.  Maybe these things are all petty and ridiculous now, not worth the thought, or better, totally worth forgiveness.  Which is pretty much where I am.

I feel a deep emptiness.  One wonders how this is possible, but my love for Bruno had already matured by the time I met my husband.  No man was a match for Bruno, at the time.  Lucky for the husband, Bruno approved.  Lucky for me that the husband accepted the set, because we came as a non-negotiable set.  And that's how important Bruno is to me, that I would choose him over a man.  Stranger than fiction, I know.

Anyway, life goes on.  Perhaps I'll rest easier once I receive his ashes.  Maybe I'll feel less lonely, knowing there's something of him in the house.

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I've gotta find a better photo of him.

I'm bawling my eyes out, fearing Monday's prognosis that I waited too long to take him to the vet, and he's gone into kidney failure.  I'm told I shouldn't beat myself up about it, but what was I thinking, letting him suffer an entire day and night, when I could see he could barely walk yesterday morning?  So today I decided to take him in, and felt that previous care he received at Providence Vet Clinic in Alameda was ambivalent—I wasn't going back.  I took him to Dr. Boado at Blue Cross Veterinary Clinic (for those of you in the East SF Bay) on 150th in San Leandro.  He had great reviews on Yelp, and the place was hopping.  Later I discovered he was a student of my father's and my mother's classmate (this is the 2nd occurrence of this nature, what're the chances?).  My father assured me Bruno was in good hands and that everything that could be done for him would be.

I feel even more lame now, being the offspring of not one but two veterinarians, and having a catastrophic illness myself—how could I let my best friend and loved one suffer so?  I must be not just blind and idiotic, but also self-centered and callous.  Now the poor guy is hospitalized and I just want to meditate and pray hard enough to breach the other dimensions to communicate my love and ask him to fight for his life.  He was so far gone, and I didn't head it off by seeking information or doing what most people would do, which is go in at the first sign of abnormal behavior.  He'd snapped back so many times before, but this was new, and actually worse than anything I'd witnessed.  How could I be so slow to act?

Those of you with cats, please check this site ( some reason the link button isn't on the toolbar using Safari) out so you'll recognize the symptoms of renal failure before it's too late.  It's pretty thorough and believe me, Bruno exhibited every listed symptom except one.

He's about 14, not sure when he was born.  I rescued him when he was around a year old—long story which will be another post.  I'm willing to give him subcutaneous hydration once a week and hand-feed him, if he would have a good quality of life for a little while longer.  You may think I'm mad, and people have said when they die they want to be reincarnated as my cat, he's so spoiled.  But Bruno predates everything in my present life.  He was with me when I was crazy and single with just enough energy for one guy–him.  He's made every move like a champ, accepted the right man when I found him, sniffed out many good and bad hotel rooms, and cheered me up in my darkest hour.  He is my child, my constant companion, my never-ending source of unconditional love, affection, devotion and strength.  It's possible, if renal failure isn't total, for them to continue living a good life for a few years longer (with proper care).

Ok, the tears are blinding me now.  My tea grows cold with the room, darkness falls within and without.  It is irony that I should make it to the New Year (at least I think I will) and he might not.  I'd been thinking about it, what the impact might be if he went before me.  It didn't seem likely.  Now I harbor thoughts of having him cremated so our ashes can be scattered together when I go.  I know, this sounds like the kind of thing people say about their spouses or soul mates or whatever, and indeed, Bruno IS my soul mate.  I'm pretty sure we'd be married if he were human.  No, I wouldn't mind his slightly crossed, pale blue eyes.  Maybe I'm getting punchy from 2 nights without sleep.  Just shoot me.

Sigh.  And that's not the only thing that's cropped up this holiday season….

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