Long Road Home

Moose Standing in Water
We didn’t stop to take a photo, but this “borrowed” photo is similar to what everyone was gawking at on Kenosha Pass. It was the first moose sighting for both Kristi and me.

When I worked at the newspaper, I was often the last to arrive for work (kind of like now in the screen printing biz), but I was also usually the last to leave (kind of like now). On the one day it mattered, though, I went home early, so when Valli Funk called to tell the newspaper that she had a moose in her front yard three miles east of town, I was not there to answer the phone, and my co-worker Mary got to be the one to go out and take moose pictures.

Once, on Kenosha Pass on the way to Denver, I saw the back end of a moose, but that was as close as I ever got to a sighting. Until yesterday, when I was once again on Kenosha Pass. All of a sudden, traffic started backing up and slowing way down, and it turned out that a giant bull moose was wading in a shallow pond right next to the road. Everyone and their brother had pulled off the road and grabbed cameras — I had no idea so many people still have real cameras.

On the way back, traffic was still slowing and backed up, and the moose was there yet, this time on the other side of the pond. He must know he’s a celebrity, and even if he’s not getting rich, he seems unhindered by, possibly enamored of, all the attention. At any rate, he was getting a lot of it.

So now, if you looked past the moose portion of that story, you might have noticed that I found myself on Kenosha Pass twice yesterday, and if you are familiar with Highway 285, you might have surmised this means I went to Denver and back. And that would be some darn good surmising.

Denver is four hours northeast of Gunnison, and not my idea of a great round-trip in a day. But yesterday it became necessary, so that’s what I did. And I even woke up earlier than necessary, just to make the day more fun, because now that we’re under contract Na Ki’o has decided to throw up on every carpet that he can before we leave. As early in the morning as he can manage.

On Tuesday, at 3:30 in the morning, Kristi Baril sent me an e-mail: “Is there any way that you could accompany me back to Denver in the Subaru with Mom and Dad on Friday? Truth be told, I need some emotional support more than anything. I understand if it’s not doable for you. Just feels better to have reached out for help.”

So yesterday I went to Denver in the Subaru with three Barils, while Kent, Kristi’s brother, drove a U-haul with furniture. And then Kent and I returned in an emptier U-haul last night.

The Barils, you may recall, need to leave their house on Tincup Drive where they have lived since 1968. It’s no longer safe — Kent mentioned his dad trying to take his walker down the basement stairs, and even the difficulty of just getting a walker through a narrow bathroom door (making me even gladder we are preparing our new house for our older years) — and not financially viable for them to remain in their house.

So as of yesterday they are at a new address in Lakewood, 30 minutes rather than four hours away from their daughter, right on her route to and from work, in a group home where they have two rooms of personal space, one for sleeping and the other for reading and watching their beloved tennis, and a group kitchen/living area.

When we arrived, a man was playing an electronic keyboard and singing in the communal area, and Mrs. Baril sat down at a table, introduced herself to her new housemates, and started singing along. She had spent the drive calmly asking Kristi about details of the new house, so she was well aware of where she was and what was going on.

I’m sure not all of the period of adjustment is going to go so smoothly, but this just seems like it will remove so much stress from everyone involved. Kent talked about caregivers calling him in the middle of his workday telling him he needed to call right that moment to distract his dad, who would be wanting to take the car someplace, and about caregivers telling his mother that her husband was their responsibility, not hers (it turns out we’re headed toward anniversary #61 this September) . . . the caregivers here served a valuable function for several months, but when they start telling the people who pay them what to do, it’s probably time to move on. And this facility will cost half of what it was costing the Barils in their own home even before a second caregiver was unnecessarily added.

Now they have no stairs, at least one male nurse, a nice flat patio and yard, their favorite chairs and artwork. Kristi will be able to come not only for emergencies, but often and just to visit. Kristi’s partner Kerry is looking forward to establishing a closer relationship with his in-laws. Even Kent, who has a hard time finding a good way from Seattle to Gunnison, should have an easier (and cheaper) time of getting to them by flying into Denver. And they are now within visiting distance of old friends like my folks and the Blacklocks.

It is sad, though, to think of Gunnison without the Barils here. As I mentioned, they were among the first people we met when we arrived. Not that I can’t go visit them, and the way it’s going, I’m setting records for trips to Denver this year (this was Number Four, if we’re counting, and we are), but to not have them around the corner from me is going to take some getting used to.

It’s also sad that there wasn’t a chance for all their friends to say good-bye, but that didn’t seem wise. Mr. Baril, sitting at a table in his new space, wanted to know who was going to drive them back to Gunnison, and I gently suggested he give this a try for a little bit, since he would be so much closer to Kristi’s house. As soon as one of the house aides and I got a Wimbledon replay on the TV, he seemed more comfortable and less confused.

Still, it was hard for me to bid them a casual good-bye and drive back, past the moose, with Kent to their house on Tincup Drive. We unloaded the couch that didn’t fit in their new space, and Kent said he thinks the house will go on the market sometime next week.

I’ve been talking with an assortment of people recently about how we in Gunnison tend to define houses by the owners, or former owners, rather than addresses. My friend Ruth Fletcher, who had been in her house for years, once wondered when it would stop being “The Bouchard House” and become “The Fletcher House.”

I know this much: as long as I’m around, no matter who buys it, the house on Tincup is always going to be The Baril House, even if their home is someplace else now.








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