Two Women on a Bridge

It has been said that life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

My parents did a lot of planning. In their 20s, they planned how to scrape together the money to buy a modest home of their own. In their 30s, they planned how to pay off the mortgage in 17 years instead of 30. In their 40s, with an empty nest, they planned their retirement. In their 50s, when their parents died they began to think about their own mortality, and they planned some more. Dementia was never in their plans.

The early signs were either ignored or explained away as the senior moments people joke about. Then one day in May, 2015, my 84-year-old father went to get his hair cut and came back home 10 minutes later without having gotten his hair cut. When he drove into the parking lot, suddenly he could not think of how to turn off the car so he drove back home. He put down his keys that day and never wanted to drive again.

Mom finally took Dad to the doctor and got a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. After that, Mom was filled with anxiety as she tried to take care of Dad and plan for an uncertain future. By fall, my brother was busy emptying their house of antiques and knickknacks and fine art, selling what he could.

I visited biweekly and then weekly, as it became more and more apparent that my mother was in a fragile state, physically and mentally. Soon, I was taking my parents on weekly outings. Dad seemed to enjoy those times and Mom said they were the only thing that got her through each week.

In December, Dad became violent one night and Mom finally agreed to let brother and me look for a memory care facility. When we moved him into his new home, Dad was pretty far gone and Mom was on a tightrope of nerves. She had lost weight and the least little unexpected thing would throw her into a panic attack.

All Mom’s planning last fall for a move this spring was for nothing. She remains in the house she moved into in 1963 and will continue to do so. Only Dad moved, and that was not what she planned for either. Life happened, and it took us all in an unexpected direction.

In April, I asked Mom if she would care to go on a road trip with me the 1st of May, to see the Grand Coulee Dam in eastern Washington and Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. Just the two of us. She jumped at the idea and got to spend a month planning a much-needed break.

We had a great 5 day, 4 night adventure. It was a good mother-daughter time. We remembered and reminisced. We talked about the grieving process that she has been going through (even though Dad is still technically alive, the man he was, is no more). She talked about how this was the first time in her life that she has lived alone and how she is adjusting. It was a time for healing and re-energizing.

Sometimes, when life has kicked you in the teeth, the best thing to do is make some time to find a little joy.

This was one journey filled with nothing but good times and wonderful sights.   Here are just a few of the sights that gave us joy and a new set of happy memories…


Abandoned farmhouse surrounded by skeletal trees. Mt. Adams in the background. The sky is so big and the landscape so vast I can just imagine a pioneer wife feeling lonely and alone.

Lonely and Alone

Looking upriver from Lincoln Rock State Park on the Columbia River near Wenatchee, Washington.

Columbia River Reflection

DRY FALLS. This group of cliffs is the sight of what was once the the largest waterfall in the world. During ice age Missoula floods, this waterfall was over 400 feet high and 3½ miles wide. It is estimated that the water reached as high as 300 feet deep above the falls.

Dry Falls

Downstream from Dry Falls

GRAND COULEE DAM is the largest hydropower producer in the US, generating more than 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year – enough to supply 2.3 million households. Power is supplied to 11 states and Canada. 550 feet high. Total length 5,223 feet; main dam 3,867 feet. 11,975,521 cubic yards of concrete. The reservoir behind the dam is the 3rd largest (by volume) in the world, after Hoover Dam and Itaipu Dam.

02-29-Grand Coulee from Crown Pt

02-19-Grand Coulee Pumping Stn

THE LONG ROAD AHEAD. After leaving Grand Coulee Dam, it was a long drive to Spokane. This was a quick shot through the windshield while driving because we were so taken with the view and there was no good place to pull over. And yes, that is a crack you see in the windshield – the new car is now initiated.

Long Road Ahead

We visited Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane on two consecutive evenings. The second evening, we enjoyed the Lower Falls from the Skyride aerial tram.

Lower Spokane Falls

Skyride over Lower Spokane Falls

LAKE PEND OREILLE is the largest lake in Idaho and the 38th largest lake by area in the US, with a surface area of 148 square miles. It is 43 miles long, and 1,150 feet deep in some regions, making it the fifth deepest in the US.

Lake Pend Oreille

LAKE COEUR D’ALENE is a natural lake in the Idaho Panhandle. It is 25 miles long, varies from 1 to 3 miles wide, and has over 109 miles of shoreline.

Lake Coeur d'Alene

PALOUSE FALLS is 198 ft in height. The canyon at the falls is 377 feet deep. These falls and the canyon downstream are an important feature of the channeled scablands created by the great Missoula Floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and across the Columbia River Plateau during the Ice Ages.

Palouse Falls

MCNARY WILDLIFE NATURAL AREA. The US Army Corps of Engineers maintains this lovely 318 acre wetland just downstream from McNary Dam. It is a little-known gem well worth a detour off the main highway.

McNary Wildlife Natural Area

The Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is located on and around the Columbia River about 15 miles northwest of Hermiston, Oregon and includes 8,907 acres in Oregon, and 14,876 acres in Washington. It was established in 1969 to help mitigate habitat lose due to the flooding that occurred following the construction of the John Day Dam.

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge

Along the way, we got our first-ever sightings of Golden Eagle, Western Bluebird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Yellow-bellied Marmots. We also enjoyed seeing many Osprey, White Pelicans, and Ring-necked Pheasant. If you would like to see those pictures and more, feel free to visit my Flickr album at https://flic.kr/s/aHskyrThp3

Oh, and the banner photo? That is our shadows on a foot bridge over the upper Spokane Falls.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Life Happens: It’s About The Journey

  1. Beautiful photos BC, and a poignant story. The prairie between the Coulee Dam and Spokane is awesome for its beauty and expansiveness, and even more so if that is possible when the whole landscape appears to be covered with ripening corn.
    I hope you both adjust to your changing circumstances, and that life treats you to lots more beautiful times and years together.
    Andy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully said! Yes, life is not what we expect it to be and the best plans and dreams are easily demolished. The story is lovingly told and the photos are outstanding! Thank you for writing this lovely piece of ‘reality’ and for the superb photos. May your mom find acceptance and peace and bless you for taking care of your mom (and dad). One more thought, memories, we need to make memories for those terrible voids we find in our old age! Maria

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making happy memories is one of the best things to do: enjoyable at the time and good to look back on. Thankfully, making happy memories is something that can not be overdone.

      Like

  3. I don’t even know where to start! I feel a kindred spirit in your mother, as I like to “plan stuff to death”, too. My wife simply rolls her eyes whenever I get into Planning Mode, since she knows life usually renders those plans irrelevant. That doesn’t mean I quit planning, though! :’ )

    We haven’t gotten to the point you have with your parents yet, but we both see those days coming, though. I think it was a splendid thing you did for/with your mom. Even though I seem to never have any time myself anymore, I try to dedicate a little time for The Elders, as it is, in truth, all they want from me.

    Palouse Falls is incredible; didn’t you do a blog on it, long ago? The rest of your trip looked great, too.

    I wish the best for you and your mom as you move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right that what your Elders want from you is you – time to enjoy you and times to enjoy with you. It brings to mind the song by Harry Chapin, “Cat’s In The Cradle”. I hope you can continue to find some time for/with them – it matters.

      Last year, I tried running errands and bringing meals ready to cook and neither was wanted. Then I stumbled on “let’s go for a ride” which is a real treat for Mom since her driving is very limited and she loves Nature and rubber-necking.

      You’re right that I blogged about my first visit to Palouse Falls a couple of years ago when I was exploring the Scablands of the Ice Age Missoula floods. I am endlessly fascinated with the eastern Washington landscape, so you will probably see it again in some future blog.

      Like

Share your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s