“Would Simba ever settle in to the noise of car and highway?” I asked myself again as the cat’s voice penetrated my thoughts from her carrier in the backseat.
My mom’s other cat, Scamper quieted down by the time we had been on the road for a couple of hours.
But Simba, be quiet? No way.
It had been several rough weeks for this car of females — my mom, her two cats and me.
Beginning with a paralyzing bout of depression that occurred before my mom’s husband of 55 years died, the emotional and physical strain was evident in our tense faces.
On Aug. 1, I left my home on the West End to catch a midday flight from SeaTac to San Francisco for the culmination of years’ work and planning. My mom was finally moving to Port Angeles.
The move was intended to bring my father, mother, my family and me together in Clallam County, but with my dad’s passing there was a river of sadness under our feet.
Nevertheless, we had work to do.
Without delay, my mom and I set right to it when I arrived. We began systematically going through each room of her house, separating the items that would go to the new Washington house from those that would remain in the Bay Area home for an estate sale.
If ever there was a better argument for keeping one’s life simple than discarding over a half century’s collected stuff, I’ve never engaged in it.
Working one room at a time, including the yard and garage, we opened every box, cabinet and closet to decide an immediate fate for unwitting items.
At nearly 80 years old, my mom’s energy was tapped earlier in the day than mine, so I took to walking her neighbor’s Australian shepherd, Loki. He was a good distraction and we became friends in short time.
Inside my mom’s house, every room was topsy-turvy compared with her usual immaculate interior design.
Pictures were off the walls and in leaning stacks, furniture was moved, Persian rugs rolled up and an echo was developing.
On Aug. 12, three professional packers arrived at 8 a.m. It took them two long days to wrap and pack every item that wasn’t furniture. Even the cement yard statues were wrapped and boxed. My job at this time was to answer questions and generally get in the way while I tried to prevent my mom from fretting.
She had the loving insight to take her kitties to the cat boarding facility for all of the packing and moving commotion. The cats had lived their lives in the quiet environment common to elderly households and this chaos, these busy strangers, would have stressed them to the point of no return.
On Wednesday morning, the moving truck arrived with Nick Salas driving and leading a crew of three. I could not have asked for a better driver. He was calm and organized in his approach to the whirlwind of furniture and boxes coming out of my mom’s house. Salas had lost his brother the day before my dad died and we had an immediate connection.
By 3:30 p.m., the last box was placed and Salas was getting ready to drive away. His route was taking him to Eureka, Calif., and Bainbridge Island before arriving at my mom’s new house in Port Angeles. We had made plans to unload Saturday morning.
As such, my mom and I slept in a nearly empty house sans cats for one night.
We got up at first light, picked up the kitties at 7 a.m. and were soon on U.S. Highway 101 heading north to complete this huge project.
Immediately, the cats knew we had a plan that didn’t involve going to the only house they’ve known and they let us know of their displeasure.
Having moved and transported animals too many times to remember, my approach to the cats was to let them figure the situation out. My mom however, was much more tenderhearted and filled with worry.
So, the exhaustion and stress came to a point over the kitties’ welfare, of which Scamper and Simba had their own views. The highway won and the wheels of my mom’s loaded-down Prius kept rolling toward Washington.
My mom had made reservations for the cats and humans to stay overnight in Wilsonville, a city I picked that would be as close to Portland, Ore., as we could get without going through during the evening rush hour.
Before too long, the cats were sprawled out on the beds and I’d received a text from Salas checking on our welfare and progress.
When I abruptly stuffed them in their carriers in the morning, the cats remained quiet — so much so my mom thought I had successfully administered the anti-anxiety pills she’d gotten from the vet in expectation of this voyage.
Hours later and approaching Sequim, my mom began to get chatty. By the time we passed Walmart in Port Angeles, I asked her if she was getting excited to get to her new house. What a stupid question!
We stopped at the realtor on East Front Street and I got the key from the receptionist. I handed the envelope to my mom and during the short drive to the new house it really began to feel like this endeavor was almost done.
My mom slid the key into the front door lock while her kitties sat in their carriers on the front stoop, probably anxious about the next experience.
My husband and kids arrived shortly after and we worked with the little we had in the Prius to get my mom settled. Then my husband and I went to meet Salas at his truck parked nearby. He was concerned about the route to the house because the two GPS systems he was using were not synchronized.
Salas arrived at the house, asked my mom how she was doing and if she was going to be ready to move stuff in the morning.
After taking Salas back to his truck and then driving around Lake Crescent toward home, I once again confirmed to myself this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
I finally got to sleep in my own bed for the first time in two difficult weeks.
At 7 a.m. on Saturday, Salas and his local crew arrived to unload my mom’s belongings. With my family’s help, it took about 3 1/2 hours to get everything off the truck.
Salas hired my kids to fold and stack his nearly 300 moving blankets. My husband and I helped him tidy his nearly empty truck as Salas had begun to feel like a good friend. We wanted to see him off, down the highway in a good way.
After a hearty lunch, we parted ways with our new friend who promised to let us know when he is on the Olympic Peninsula again.
We went back to my mom’s house and spent the rest of the weekend unpacking boxes and making my mom’s house a home for her, Scamper and the very noisy Simba.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the SolDuc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Sept 3.