Thursday, June 7, 2012

A birthday and a bat

I got it in my head that I wanted to tell this tale in honor of my grandmother's 90th birthday today. Once I got the idea in my head to share, it wouldn't go away. It may not seem like a very touching story, but it is real and true and us, and I guess sometimes that just means something...

There are some stories that are so significant because of the role each person plays, not necessarily because anything truly fantastic happens in the end. I had an incident with my grandmother a few years back that has become one of my favorite tales. There is no real hero, nobody is portrayed in a very flattering light, but I learned that I could take a stand if something was important enough to me. It just so happens that what is more important to me than I realized is a fear of bats, especially when they are inside the house.

My grandmother and I were in her kitchen when I noticed something furry clinging to the top of her wall. The words questioning my grandmother about this finding came out of my mouth a few seconds before I realized what I was looking at. The exchange that followed went something like this:

“What is that?”
“Well Gramma, it seems to be a bat.”
“No, it can’t be a bat. It’s one of those other things.”
“A squirrel? No it is not a squirrel.”
“No, the other little animal that crawls around and goes up trees.”
“That is a bat!”
“That doesn’t make sense that a bat would be in here. I think it’s one of those other things.”
“A chipmunk? That is not a chipmunk. How would it have gotten all the way up there?”
“So you think it’s a bat?”
“Yes, it is a bat!”

I still do not understand why it was more logical, in her mind, for a chipmunk to have found his way in than for a bat to come visiting. At some point she did suggest that the open kitchen window, that had no screen at that time, might have been a possible entry point. Possibly.

I grabbed the phonebook and went out to the garage to make some calls. I called my mother and aunt to alert them of the situation and solicit some advice for how to proceed (while hearing my grandmother in the background still second guessing our decision that it was indeed a bat). My justification in bothering both ladies at work was that this was their mother I was dealing with, and as I was living the insanity, they were going to at least hear about it. My next phone calls were to animal control and pest removal companies. Animal control was not getting anywhere in a timely fashion, and it would’ve cost about $100 to have her new guest escorted out. Luckily the bat was exhausted and a sound sleeper, as the deliberations that followed did not cause him to stir one bit.

My grandmother was not interested in paying to have the little bat removed, and suggested that we should be able to take care of it. I told her I was not dealing with it. I also explained that if we bothered him, he might fly to some other part of the house where we might not be able to keep tabs on him. My grandmother commented again on how he was “just a little thing”. I was still not interested.

I was no more interested when she pulled a kitchen chair over, climbed up on it and started gesturing toward the bat with a one cup capacity strainer. I was certain that this was her version of playing chicken with me, figuring that seeing my eighty-four year old grandmother up on a kitchen chair, wielding kitchen utensils against a bat, would cause me to spring into action. When I did not offer to get on the chair with her, nor get the ladder we would need to actually reach the ceiling with the twelve inch long strainer, she suggested that my cousin would be able to help if he was available. Again, I felt she was calling my bluff, thinking maybe I’d want to outshine him. She thought wrong again, as I suggested she come down and call him, to which she replied that he might be working. I told her she could call his wife too, and it would be fine by me. I also mentioned that her son would probably also be able to handle this situation. The reality was that she was not going to call anyone, and the phone calls I had made didn’t deliver any help to the driveway either. It was just the two, well three, of us.

I decided to go next door to ask the elderly neighbor’s son, whom I had never met before, if he could come help us out. His first order of business was to confirm that it was a bat. He told my grandmother that he could get rid of the bat the easy way, or the hard way. I mentioned that I did not think we should use any method that could involve the bat flying around the house, and my grandmother agreed possibly unaware of which method we were by default selecting. We got a broom for our new recruit and he got to it. Bats are not silent suffocatees, which was unpleasant, so I headed to the basement to look for a box to put the corpse in. Once the job was done, the two elders took to examining the bat. My grandmother shouted down for me to come look at it.

“No thank you.”
“Oh come and see it. It’s just a little thing.”
“I don’t want to!”
“You’re such a baby!”
“You can call me names, but I am still not coming to look at the dead bat!”

(Another phone call to update those lucky enough to be at desk jobs of my new status.)

They decided the bat could just go in the garbage, after they spent some more time looking at his teeth. I returned upstairs, but kept a good distance as they still marveled over the animal in the garbage.

I did not capture the bat, I did not kill the bat, I did not look at the dead bat and I was just fine with such.  I wondered if the bits if sanity I lost that morning would have been worth protecting by ignoring the bat, or chipmunk with spiderman like tendencies, who was clinging to the top of kitchen wall. Maybe there was some flaw to my plan of announcing the situation, and then not following through with fixing the problem. In the end I guess I really felt this was not my responsibility to manage single-handedly. I did provide a solution, regardless of whether it was an unfavorable one in many ways. 

We have not spoken of this event with each other since. I still stick to responsibilities more suited to my abilities like setting up holiday decorations, doctor's appointments, errands and trimming bushes (or as I like to call it, crimes against nature).


  1. Andrea, I know I shouldn't laugh but the way that this was written, was so funny that it had me laughing out loud, especially the interaction between you and your grandmother.

    Great post. :)

  2. Lol. So funny. Sound like something that would happen here. You gotta love her denial!

  3. This was funny--I can just see you and your grandmother looking up at the bat and "discussing" the matter. Your grandmother sounds like fun! P.S. It is against the law to kill bats here, so you were lucky to not live in Texas!

  4. This was hilarious. I don't do bats either. If it was my house, I would have just moved.

    1. I remember trying to figure out if I could just convince her to stay elsewhere for a few days until someone hatched a decent plan. I also wondered if we could chase him into a room with a door. Ew!

  5. No. Simply no.

    I could never, never never do this.

  6. Our old house had bats living in the attic (freudian slip? The first time, I typed attack instead of attic). They'd get in every now and again. I actually already have a clay bat all made up, ready for a soonish post. Bats outside are very cool. Bats inside are very not.

  7. If this were our house, we would've had to catch the bat and set it free because it's "nature." not joking. This is what I've created.

  8. What a fun memory, and great story this will always be for you and your grandma!

  9. Hilarious! Although I am looking forward to that phase of life where I've lived so long, nothing gets me too worked up anymore. Not even bats.

  10. My great grandma lived in her own house until she was 101, then she fell of the ladder cleaning her gutters and broke her hip.