There comes a time when autumn asks,
"What have you been doing all summer?"
It is never expected - not really, anyway.
Early last summer as I walked by our kitchen window, I glimpsed a dark, blocky shape out of the corner of my eye. We were having some old concrete work replaced out back and it occurred to me that the workers might have propped up a large piece of plywood there. What? Going back to the window, I looked out to see a large black bear standing on its back legs and licking sunflower seeds out of our post bird feeder. Quietly, I summoned my husband and we watched while the bear continued to eat.
Temporarily satisfied, he sat down next to the feeder to reflect on what he had done.... well, probably not.
He did seem fairly content, however, until I opened the door and yelled at him, clapping my hands loudly. Begrudgingly, he got up and slowly ambled across the yard, glancing back at me from time to time.
Before he got far, however, he plopped himself down as if seriously contemplating whether or not it really was time to leave.
That's when my husband picked up his pellet gun & bounced a pellet off the bear's hind end. No longer feeling comfortable or safe, the bruin took off for the woods - where maybe he could feel both.
After the death of my sister nearly two years ago, my brother-in-law remained in their home alone. It's often recommended that the remaining spouse not make any hasty decisions about moving; allowing for the grieving process and establishing a "new norm" takes time. But he was dealing with a progressing dementia and time was definitely not on his side. He was adamant that he was fine and not moving anywhere!
His three adult daughters, with vastly different personalities, lived in three different states - none nearby. Somehow, visiting home care was arranged long-distance and life went on after a fashion. He took his daily walks, visited with neighbors, received and made phone calls, and managed to tolerate the daily intrusions of his caregivers, none of whom he'd previously known. He ate his prepared dinners and spent the evenings alone. One daughter, who seemed to be in the best position to do so, suggested that he move near her where she could monitor his care. He wouldn't budge - not even for a visit - and over the course of a year, and a number of flights for her, all her persuasions led to naught.
No longer having her mother to turn to, this niece would call me when she needed to vent or bounce around her next idea on how to deal with her dad. Mostly I listened, but sometimes I did have suggestions and together we commiserated on a troubling, difficult situation. I had watched my husband attempt to handle the care of his aging parents from long-distance when both suffered from Alzheimer's and refused to move, so I know how difficult this can be. It is worrisome, frustrating, and heartbreaking. You do what you can, but in the end are left drained and guilt-ridden. I did not want this for my niece and her dad, if at all possible, so tried to be there for her when she needed me.
Finally, with yet another change in his caregivers, increasing social isolation, and some changes in his behavior which caused more concern, she flew to visit him yet again with one more proposition: he could come to visit her for a month and stay in one of the assisted living facilities he had previously visited and liked. At the end of that month, he could stay or go back home - the decision would be his. We both knew this was risky, for there was no way she could force him to stay, but he finally consented to give it a try. Her tremendous compassion and patience paid off at last.
As it turned out, he liked his new place, made friends immediately, and felt at home there. After that year of mourning his loss, he now realized just how lonely and isolated he'd become. He was finally ready to admit and somewhat accept his failing memory. He decided to move on and enjoy having some family nearby - one daughter, two grown grand-daughters, and his one and only precious great-grandson.
After our early summer visit by the large bear, we removed all our bird feeders so that he'd have nothing to come for. It seemed to work and we tried to figure out ways to suspend a couple of the feeders beyond what any bear could reach. Finally, we put two feeders back up - one attached high up on the side of a large, metal outbuilding, and one suspended far up a tree on the outer end of a branch. We did not expect any bear to reach either of these, but late one night a smaller bear came by and tore down the feeder hanging from the tree. We're still not sure how he did that, but he also grabbed a suet feeder hanging high outside a window and carried it off some distance from the house. We've not put either back up. The one remains on the side of the metal building - so far. No matter how hard we try, some things are beyond our control.
Since my brother-in-law's move, things have changed and life still goes on. It is a bonus for us that he now lives somewhat closer. Some of his own belongings have been transported to his new home and he remembers most of them. His family visits often, yet gives him breathing space and "independence" as much as is possible. He shuffles his important papers and writings numerous times, misplaces and loses things, and thinks they have been stolen. He likes where he lives and the people he's met there - most of the time. He still thinks the city and state he's moved to are strange and says they've always been so - we no longer argue that point. Some things are just not worth discussion any more.
Sometimes turmoil leads to cohesion. This niece and I have grown closer as a result of family upheaval. She still calls to talk, for all is not settled yet. His previous home has not yet been emptied and put up for sale, which is a concern. There are some financial and legal matters to put in order and two sisters for her to deal with - all of it long-distance. There is the slow, steady decline in her much-loved dad, the only parent she has left. I cannot begin to fill that space in her heart or answer all of her concerns. I never expected to be in this position, but then no one ever does. I can only give her one thing - time on this end of the line. Time and love, for in the end those are what matter the most.
"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." ~ Henry Van Dyke
To be continued here: