Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Day with Mom: May 5, 2023

My mother lives in an assisted living facility in Taylorsville, Utah, which is in the central/western part of the Salt Lake Valley.  I try to call regularly and visit a few times a year, but as she ages, she was 96 at the time, it just doesn't seem satisfactory. She mentions that people don't like to visit her because it is boring. Visiting usually consists of sitting and talking for awhile, but there is only so much new going on in her life and in the life of her family to sustain real long conversation. It is also way out-of-the-way for many family members which makes it difficult to pick her up, take her home for dinner, and then take her back. Most of the friends she originally made at her facility have died  which is also very depressing. 

Earlier this year I decided to try something new. I asked her if she would be interested in having me pick her up at the facility and drive out to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake to view bison and pronghorns and see how the decreased water level of the lake is impacting the island. She said she would. So on May 5th I picked her up at 9:00 a.m. (her suggested time). It took us an hour and a half or more to drive there. Once checking in at the ranger station, you have to drive a seven mile long causeway to reach the north end of the island. 
When we reached the island we drove west past the Ladyfinger Campground and Trail and shortly after mom spotted two pronghorn, a male and a female, quite close to the car. She was quite excited to see them, as was I. 

From there we drove down through the White Rock Campground, looking for burrowing owls, which we did not see, then up near the Park Headquarters to a barn (a roof with open sides) near the buffalo roundup corrals (not shown on the map) and saw two great-horned owls in the rafters. 

We drove back down near the Visitor Center and took the road that follows the eastern end of the island. 
View of the snowy Wasatch Mountains and a lone tree in the foreground. You can see from the photo that it was still quite cool.  
We saw a number of bison along the side of the road. I didn't take any photos of them, but include a couple of bison photos from a prior visit. 

We drove down to the Fielding Garr Ranch, but mom's mobility is such that we didn't get out of the car. We drove beyond the ranch a bit, which is normally the end of the road, closed off by a fence. But for the first time I've ever seen, the dirt road down to the end of the island was open (the map doesn't show the road, but the South Island Trail which is on the map is roughly equivalent to it). The road is quite rutted, but mom handled the bumps just fine. We saw a number of birds, which I got a few photos of.
A mourning dove

Red-winged blackbird

We got to the south end of the island, then turned around and drove back the same way we came. Beyond the Fielding Garr Ranch I turned to the left (west) up a new road that is not on the map. It goes to some orchards. There we saw a number of western meadowlarks. We talked about how dad use to say that the meadowlark was singing, "Salt Lake City is a pretty little place." 

When we got to the north end of the island and out on to the causeway we saw lots of birds in the water. Here are a few photos of some of the birds we saw:
Cinnamon teal (male and female)

Eared grebe in mating plumage with a deep red eye, a crest off the head and gold feathers like ear-patches, a bizarre looking bird.  

Franklin gulls with a black head, red bill and goofy looking eye. 

Red-necked phalaropes

Afterwards we drove to Chuck-A-Rama Buffet in Draper where we met my sisters, Wendy and Merilee, and several of her children, my brother Matt and his wife, Carol, and their children, and my daughter Rachael and her children. 

I loved the day with mom. It was just her and me for many hours. I love to drive and mom liked getting out and seeing something other than the walls of her assisted-living facility. Mom shares my love of wildlife, and in fact, enabled me as a boy, when I brought home birds, snakes, lizards, etc. She loved them as much as I did. I was afraid I was going to bore her to death, but she seemed genuinely happy to be with me on the drive. 

As I drove home and reflected on that day I decided that it was the best day I'd had with mom since I'd left home 48 years ago. It was just the two of us, for hours, and looking for wildlife which is one of my favorite things to do. 

I decided I needed to do it again, but I was worried that it would be too much for mom to do the same thing. Then I ran across an article by Jeff Strong, the Bear River Blogger, titled "Bird Photography and Nature Blogging May Never Be The Same For Me Anymore," dated August 8, 2023.  In the article he talked about the passing of his mother who used to accompany him 2 to 3 times a week, for several hours each time, on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Auto Route. He notes, "These drives soon became a cherished activity in their own right...where my mom and I could just go and have fun." That article really struck a chord with me and I thought, maybe I can do the same thing again with mom? See the next post. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. I hope one of my children will be as kind to me in my old age as you are to your wonderful mom.