Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Musing - Part 2

There comes a time when autumn asks, 
"What have you been doing all summer?"

The best laid plans of mice and men...
In early June, while I was out working in the yard, my husband came to me with "I found something you might want to see..." By the outside corner of his workshop he had been moving and rearranging some spare lumber. "We need to be careful, but behind these boards I found a small bat - there seems to be only one." My husband knows me well - I did, indeed, want to see this. Only once before had I ever seen a wild bat live and up close. (To read about that time, please click here: A Flap in the Night)

 Carefully we removed the boards, one at a time, until we spotted a small, lumpy, oddly-shaped dark creature neatly tucked into a small space near the ground and between the boards. Taking a stick, I gently nudged it from behind until it wriggled out to where we could get a closer look. I thought it might take off, but then it was bright daylight and that pretty much goes against a bat's nature. Probably this was the day roost of the Little Brown bat and it planned to settle in there until sunset when it would take off to feed.
 Photo courtesy of BatGuys
We obviously roused it early; it wouldn't flee, but then it also wouldn't give up its space easily. Opening its little mouth widely, it divulged a set of tiny, needle-sharp teeth.

Having expressed its discontent, it turned its head away and froze, undoubtedly hoping this was all just a bad dream. We carefully covered it with boards and left it alone.
"But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [
often go awry
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy."
From Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786

Several times in recent years my older sister had mentioned that she might consider moving closer to family at some point: "After all, in five years I'll be ninety..." Having lived most of her life in Montana, with parents gone and sisters living in other states, she was facing up to some tough decisions. She'd always been independent - single with no children - so had to take care of herself. She'd lived in her current town for 60 some years and, although she was fairly active and had many friends, knew the time was approaching when she might need some help. Friends are wonderful, but there's usually nothing quite like family.

Last December, while she was here for Christmas, we visited a couple of independent/assisted living facilities. One seemed just right for her - small and very friendly. Best of all, it was located in our little community and just ten or fifteen minutes from our house. She flew home telling us she'd "think about it." Evidently, that didn't take long, as we soon received a phone call telling us she'd decided to move here. We were very happy with her decision.

Over the next six months, she methodically and single-handedly (for the most part) plotted her course and set about accomplishing some extreme down-sizing and preparing for a major move. She was merciless in her mission! She had it all planned - would go through her belongings, make decisions on what to keep, line up others to do her garage sale, contact her realtor, have the condo appraised, and do whatever needed doing to get it ready to sell. She figured she could accomplish all that and put the place up for sale around the first of June. Whether it sold or not, we'd drive over and move her in the late summer, by September at the latest.

In early June, I received a fretful phone call. The condo had sold within the first week and she had three weeks to vacate. "It's OK" I reassured her. "Line up your garage sale and we'll see where things stand after that." Wrong - the people who ran garage sales needed more notice, but they did visit her and gave her a rough estimate of what her furniture pieces were worth. Operating like the true trooper she is, she invited friends in to pick and choose items to buy, lined up other friends to help prepare for a garage sale, checked into places to take the things that didn't sell, and advertised her very own sale, which turned out to be fairly successful. But there were still many decisions to be made and many things to do.... her weekly phone calls became daily ones. After one particularly stressful call, my husband looked me in the eye and said "You need to go and help - NOW!"

It wasn't that I didn't want to. It's just that this sister, who is fifteen years older than me, has always handled her own life and told me what she was going to do. I've always been her "baby sister" and never felt that there was much I could do for her. But now it was obvious that she needed my help, even though she might not ask for it. I flew to her as soon as I could.

Arriving at her place, I found her physically exhausted and frailer than I'd remembered. Obviously, the last few weeks had taken a toll. I set about packing up all of her belongings that she knew she was going to take. That part, although time-consuming and challenging at times, was not terribly difficult. But there were still a number of decisions to be made, most of which only she could make and she was running out of steam to do so. Gently, I tried to move her along on these, but often heard "I can't make that decision today - I'll look at it tomorrow..." Sometimes we exchanged angry words and there were tears. This was not the sister I knew, but I gradually tried different methods to get her to budge and, in some cases, just quickly told her what the answer had to be. She began then to tell me "I just want to wake up and have this all over with." Believe me, I felt the same...

There were numerous errands to change banks, sign papers, and pick up empty boxes. Little by little, the physical part of her move progressed. But then there was the emotional part. In the course of the first week that I was there, we had three different farewell social events to attend. These were each rich, heart-warming occasions that showed just how deep my sister's connections were and how much she was admired and loved. To me, somewhat the outsider with the "need-to-get-done" checklist, they took valuable time away from all we yet had to accomplish before moving day. But I also knew how necessary this part of the process was for all involved, so I put on my best smile and my company manners and made the best of it. My sister reveled in each celebration and became more exhausted.

The day after we discovered the Little Brown bat, I tried to find it again. Carefully removing the boards, I checked out every tiny nook and cranny but found no sign of it. Having been disturbed, poked, and prodded, it must have decided that this was no longer a safe place to remain. I'm sure it was agitated that it needed to move and I hope it found another more suitable day roost where it could sleep in peace and comfort. May it eventually congregate with others of its kind and lead a long, fulfilling bat life...

My husband drove in the following week and began figuring out the space needed for what size of moving trailer we'd rent. That week, as the preceding one, quickly evaporated and we glimpsed the end in sight. My sister, who suffers from severe osteoporosis, developed back pain which she surmised to be another hairline fracture. She ate like a sparrow and just wanted to sleep. I stopped asking for decisions to be made and just packed, figuring we'd deal with it later. The last two days passed in a haze - the trailer got loaded, lots of folks dropped in for final goodbyes, to pick up items they'd purchased or been given, to drop off goodies. With the condo now empty, I scrubbed and vacuumed until I was exhausted. Finally, we hit the road.

The trip home was thankfully uneventful. My husband took the lead with the truck and loaded trailer; we followed behind with me driving my sister's car. Although my husband and I take many road trips and trade off driving, it had been many years since I'd put in a full day's drive myself. I knew I was capable and just hoped it would go well, but I needn't have worried. My sister slept much those two days on the road and never once asked to drive. I think it was a case of just doing what needed to be done - for each of us.

Since the move, we have all settled into our own routines. My sister is still independent, but has help where she lives if she needs it and knows she can call on us any time. She is slowly adjusting to the new community, climate, and lifestyle. While allowing each other space, we do call and see each other more often. She has rested up, regained her appetite, and enjoys her new home; old friends call often. I love her dearly and she so amazes me! I hope that if and when I'm her age, I'll have the courage and determination to make whatever decisions are needed, to uproot myself and move on to wherever I need to be. I hope I'll have someone to stand by my decisions and help me do what I must...

"To decide is to walk facing forward
 with nary a crick in your neck
from looking back at the crossroads."
Betsy Cañas Garmon 
To be continued here:

November Musing - Part 3

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