The backstory: I visited Mr. Montana, my old friend and new beau, for the second time this October. The wifi was still spotty-to-nonexistent, but I had darned fine cell phone service.
I wrote to my Facebook Friends often and at length while I was away, sharing the best bits of what was happening and the thoughts that came along with them.
You’ll probably want to read the letter before this one first to catch up on the whos and whats.
Yesterday was a fine day. I drove his folks to a clinic nearby and they got all squared away to everyone’s relief – especially mine. I’ve never ferried such precious cargo in such unfamiliar territory.
I was stunned when the RN told me Dad Montana needed to go to the hospital for a few days of observation, and I’d driven us only maybe 2 yards in that direction when he told me to “kick it in the ass”.
After I put the pedal to the metal, he smiled with satisfaction and said, “Oh, you’ve heard that before, then?” and I told him I hadn’t, but I figured it out. That’s when I stopped worrying about him … he may be an oldster and not be feeling great at the mo’, but he’s still got plenty of smartass in him, so he’ll be fine for a while yet.
I had also been worried I’d get lost on the way to the clinic, and then the hospital, but everyone assured me I’d be fine and I soon found out why – it’s one road. It’s 20 miles of paved flat in both directions, straight as a pencil, joining up to, merging with and splitting into other roads, alternating between gravel and asphalt, with WTH high speed limits for a two-lane.
In 15 minutes, we passed only one car. I followed another car in and saw a couple more far off on the horizon headed in other directions – and that’s all there is for morning traffic out here, I’m delighted to say.
Ya know, I avoided visiting town on my previous trip to Montana, knowing I’d become the talk of it – that’s not vanity, it’s a fact of small town life – and just two days ago I said that I wasn’t going into town this trip, either.
Oh, how God laughs at our plans!
Between stops at the health clinic, the grocery, and the pharmacy, I was all up and down one side of town. I got to hear about so-and-so’s miraculously short wait for a new kidney and see the new age of small town markets – a six-aisle store thoughtfully stocked with such a variety of very good stuff that I almost wept.
Agave, people. Even here, in the middle of nowhere, there’s agave nectar on the shelf.
And the people are truly nice. Not the wary-nice of folks afraid of Black people, like they hope I won’t hurt them if they’re kind to me, or the fake-nice of brittle bigots who know their beliefs are faulty and resent it and therefore me, or the blatant bigots who treat me like furniture until, or unless, they’re forced to interact. There are other types of nice (and bigots), but those come first to mind.
I was ready for them and others, as I often am in new places. I was ready for anything but the simple kindness I met everywhere and in everyone, not just staff trained and paid to be kind.
People here smile and say Hi when they pass you on the sidewalk, even when you’re a stranger to them. Drivers hail with three-finger waves from the steering wheel whether they recognize your car or not, apparently just in case they know you.
A funny thing about passing another car on a two-lane at 70(!) mph: you’re close enough to see faces but going too fast to recognize them, so you blindly acknowledge and roll on, realizing who someone is a half mile later.
The hospital staff were amazing — kind, tough, and well up to a cranky old man’s wily ways.
It was a small hospital, and it wore it well. The cafeteria was simply a lunchroom with a kitchen attached. There was a vending machine with pop and water somewhere in the hospital, but you were welcome to grab a glass and pour some from the tap :+)
There wasn’t a vending machine with snacks, but there was a table of tidy bins stacked with granola bars and candy bars and chips and such for 50¢ or $1.00. There was no honor system jar, but there may as well have been, as the smiling worker who took my money looked at neither what I bought or how much money I handed her.
I love it out here.
And I had more to tell you, but now I gotta go. Seems the hospital just called wanting Dad Montana’s meds, which we didn’t take in yesterday as our destination was a 15-minute clinic appointment and not a 2+ day hospital stay.
Ya know, Laura said something the other day about how my reason for being here was starting to unveil itself, and indeed it is. I’d add: and maybe more than just my reason for this visit.
I stayed with Mom Montana after yesterday’s journeys, keeping her company until Mr. Montana got home from work. I spotted his truck turning into his driveway, but he walked over before she and I could wrap up our chat and make it to the door. We three stood in the entry hall, swapping news and catching up. He’d had a long day and looked it, but our perkiness got him grinning.
He and I left after a bit, and the latch had hardly clicked behind us when he turned to me and said, “I love you. Thank you for all you did for us today.”
I was a little awed at that, and something shifted while I blinked in the pause that followed.
Thing is, I have my own old folks, right? My gramma is his parents’ age. But she has my mom, my uncle, and a crew of active cronies in the senior community she and my mom live in. Mr. Montana has three siblings, but they live five states away with kids and jobs and other anchors. They can and do fly in to help as they can but, for the most part, he’s out here on his own with this.
My mom and my uncle are both retired and free to run about and help out, while Mr. Montana still works a good 40 every week like most of us, though without vacation or sick days, like far too many of us.
And here I am: single and kid-free with an office that fits in a backpack, work I can take and do anywhere, and friends who are everywhere I am.
That’s not an easy choice, but it is a simple one.
Earlier this week on The Arrow, Officer Diggle said that the thing about answering to a chain of command is the clarity. There’s no right or wrong, no yes or no, no ambiguity. You simply do what you’re told.
When I first heard that, I wondered who I answered to and who theyanswered to. I wondered how far down I might be on the celestial-spiritual food chain. I wondered on what I might be called to do and if I’d be able to handle what was asked of me.
And the very next day, things here fell apart just a bit and the complexities of 85-year-olds caregiver-ing each other were brought to light … among other things.
Crys Wood is the copyeditor + proofreader at Paper Crane Publishing, making a career of her innate pickiness and love of words. She lives not-so-quietly in Big Sky Country with her sweet and cranky old man, a cat who is more of the same, and stacks and stacks of books.