Last month, after April’s surprisingly successful jaunt together for business and pleasure in New England, I took my beloved nearly-14-year-old mutt on one more adventure, to visit the people I got her from as a puppy (who are also dear friends). Because Amica and I love National Parks, I for the views and the peace and she for the smells and the peace, we added in a couple nights of camping in Shenandoah National Park on the way.
The drive to the park was pleasant, and the first day and night were gorgeous. Getting Amica in and out of the car was a great struggle for us both, so I limited getting her out at overlooks. She also couldn’t walk far without pain and fatigue, so there was no hiking, just some sniffing, when I did get her out.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the views from Skyline Drive, and then she thoroughly enjoyed sniffing around the campsite. We shared snacks. We took selfies. It was lovely.
The second day started with drizzle and then rain and fog. My own chronic fatigue and stomach issues were making me pretty miserable. As was the fact that my tent isn’t entirely waterproof and hoards its moisture inside even after I put the tarp over to keep us dry. Normally I just wouldn’t camp in such conditions, but I wasn’t to be stopped on this adventure.
On that second evening, I lifted Amica into the car in our clumsy way of using the driver’s seat as a step to get her into the hatch area where I kept the back seat folded down and she had a whole habitat for herself. I steered my 80-pound deaf and blind companion to the door where she stepped her front legs onto the seat, and then with one hand on her harness handle and the other under her butt, I lifted her in and continued pushing her butt up and back while her muscle memory guided her.
She settled into her bed and relaxed. After a lifetime of travel together that included 48 states, this was one of her most familiar and comfortable places to be.
I drove us to the lodge where I intended to get dinner while she napped in the car. I just wanted to be inside somewhere that was warm and dry and get a hot meal.
During the short drive, I was feeling emotional about how terrible I felt. Some of it was the sadness of knowing how difficult my best friend’s life had become and that the brain tumor, if nothing else, insisted her life was near its end. I was sad that this would have to be her last trip, because now I could see it wasn’t fun for her anymore. Also I was dizzy and extremely tired and was having some pretty extreme stomach pain.
But then I just looked out into the the misty fog of the forest, and I consciously chose to feel instead the magic of its spooky beauty, and the magic of having my best friend right there with me in my car, yet again, after all these miles, and the peace she felt at this moment. I thought, this is what I want to remember.
So I memorized these best images.
I realized that while the reality of that moment might hold a lot of misery, I needed to collect the raw data for the memory, and then (and here’s the good stuff)….
I can actually edit the memory.
Like editing a manuscript.
I can delete the bad stuff and keep the good stuff and have a beautiful memory to look back on.
Right, I can’t fully delete it. It’s still there. How else could I write about it now with such detail? But I can choose what I focus on when I remember our final day of camping. When I realized this possibility, this choice, during that drive, it did give me a measure of peace and eased the pain.
This is an idea that I will keep forever. That my vacations, my day trips, the dinner parties, the moments, when they are far from perfect, just focus on what is good, what is magical even, collect that raw data and know I can edit this later to make it a beautiful memory.
~In memory of the most beautiful memory of all, Amica~