C.Bear’s Bad Year

The Year Everything Happened At Once

C.Bear's Window sillWell, hi, it’s me, C.Bear! I know, it’s been a long time. It’s been a long year, and we’re not done with it yet. Some of it was scary. From where I sit, here on my windowsill, some of it was sad, and you can’t always make the sad things go away. But this was the year when everything happened at once.
And then we moved. There we were, and here we are. We Bears still need some more time to figure it all out. There are some things even me and T.Bear and A.Bear can’t fix, but we think everything else is mostly going to be OK again.

First it was the phone calls back East. Alex said that his cousin Sandy was sick. We were going back to Virginia.

Then we got those calls from Bob’s doctors. They said he had to come in for an operation after we got back from our trip.

And then we got the call from the Landlord. He said they were selling our house and we had to get out. But we couldn’t. Well, we knew that Bob would be in the hospital and then have to rest for a long time. I don’t know what they said, but the landlord stopped bothering us.

And all that happened just so fast.


T.Bear, Hastings, Hayden, Hoffi, Junior, Radcliffe, C.BearMe and T.Bear, and Junior, and Bob and Alex flew back to Virginia to visit. Everybody seemed fine and they were glad to see us. Emily let us visit with her Bears, big ol’ Hoffi and his gang. And Bob and Alex drove with Sandy and Emily to see places like Colonial Williamsburg, and eat out, and everybody had a good time. They even got new little brothers for us, Hastings, Hayden and Radcliffe!

What I remember most about sitting out on their back porch is, their yard was filled with friendly critters. There were Mr. Squirrels, two kinds, red and gray. And there were birds, different ones of red and black, and “blue birds” that were really blue, and birds with bright yellow. They would all hop around and take turns on the bird feeder. Boy, could they sing!

And mostly, the people would laugh about how the big birds would chase the squirrel away, and then the squirrel would steal their food, and then they would chase him away again. But sometimes the people would get real quiet.

They sat out on the back porch and had long, hushed talks that we couldn’t hear. And then we all hugged good-bye, and I think everybody wanted to cry, us Bears included, but we didn’t. They didn’t either. You can never say good-bye forever. As long as there are Bears, there is hope.

The Hospital Month

Then, it was Bob’s turn to be sick. Alex took him in for his operation as soon as we got home. Everybody said it was “good news”. Me and T.Bear would come to the hospital to visit. At first, people would forget about T.Bear and me. We got tucked in a corner of the hospital room. But most of the nurses were nice to us. We said our little Bear prayers again.

Alex was there for long spells at a time and one time I came with him and watched him from my corner of the hospital room. All he did is watch the computer screens in the room because all Bob could do is sleep. We know what computer screens are, but not like this. It was cold and dark in there, and the room sounded like them underwater submarines you see on TV. PING! PING! I didn’t like that. But we were with our Bob, and that’s what counts.

I didn’t know what all them screens of theirs were, and I don’t need to. If A.Bear knew, he wasn’t saying. I could tell all I needed to know by watching Alex. It seemed like we just floated from one worry to the next. Time didn’t mean anything any more. We were worried for Bob.

But then things got better.

What I liked best was how friendly most of the people there were to Bob and Alex. They would rush into the room and ask how are we feeling today, and smile and arrange things and fool with their clocks and dials and wires and stuff. But sometimes they would just stay and talk. People should spend more time talking like real people, if you ask me.

Flowers for Bob; Schatzi and friendsWhen people get ready to leave a place they always fill it with flowers, and we liked that, and soon after that, it was time to go home. Then they bring the flowers home with them, and Bob got to see all us fellers again.

And Alex stayed home for a while, every day, and he cooked, too. We hear he’s a pretty good cook. You could of knocked us over with a feather.

Soon enough, Bob could walk around more. They would go for little walks outside, and we would all wait for them and cheer when they got back. We are so glad to have Bob back. Sure, Alex was fun to have around when he wasn’t at the hospital, but the two of them together are great. That’s when we Bears have the most fun of all.

We Bears may be very clever, but this time we were just very lucky. And we know that.

Looking For A Place To Live

Next they started driving around, “looking for a place for us to live”, and that was scary. Only a few of us had ever known any other home. It didn’t help that Bob and Alex would joke about what would we do with the Bears if we didn’t have room at the New Place. Then they would sit back and watch the little Bears and the newer fellers look at each other in horror. And then they would laugh, and say they were just teasing.

And they started drawing little drawings to figure out where things would go, and that’s when we found out some of us were going to Phoenix. They told us we would have to decide!

Next thing we knew, we were driving down to Phoenix with a whole Bear Basket full of “Arizona Volunteers”.

We brought with us – by now you should know most of these guys –  AZ Bear, Blackie, Bo Bear, Chicago Bear, Happy, Johnnie Walker, L.Bear, LF Bear, LG&E Bear, Mischa and Russki, Royal, SunBear, Trevor, Val and Tiny, Harry, and Fraser.

We picked Bears that had been around a long time. They need to be able help my brother Phoenix Bear lead that pack down there. It didn’t seem fair to take new Bears that hadn’t been through all their training with A.Bear yet, you know. Bob and Alex brought a few things they put into the car, but not a lot because Alex explained they were going to leave the real moving to “The Movers”.

Harry and Frazer have been around forever, maybe as long as me. We all started out in the Pile For Unwanted Bears, but I got out first because I wasn’t so big. Harry comes from some place called Harrod’s over in England. I forget where Fraser comes from. But they got their own Bear Basket in Phoenix now.

We got no more Bears in the Pile For Unwanted Bears. But there is a Sylvester the Cat, and a couple of beat up old Garfields, and that Mickey Mouse feller, and a bunny, and a stuffed dog with a mopey look. They’re our friends, but I ain’t never going back to that pile.

This was my first drive down to Phoenix that I can remember, anyway. Even Bob and Alex couldn’t remember who went down on the drive in 1991. G.Bear, our “Pops”, they thought, maybe. Anyway, Alex drove all the way because Bob was still mending.

I liked seeing the desert. I saw more Cactipusses than I ever seen before, but they don’t scare me none any more. If you pretend they can’t see you, they won’t even bother you.

Everybody should go rafting at least once!We stayed in Phoenix a while and Bob swam in the pool, and it was good for him. We Bears could see things were starting to look up. Those two laughed together, and they went out to dinner with friends like in the old days. But we Bears had introductions to make, and pillow sliding, and plenty else to do anyway.

And the new fellers got to go Rafting.

On the drive home they talked more about “The Movers” again. We found out some of our furniture would go to the new place, and some would go to the old place, and some wouldn’t go any place at all.

There’s Always Room For Bears

“But, what about us?” When we asked, all they would say is, “There’s always room for Bears.”

When we got back, there was a package waiting for us from Sandy and Emily. I mean, well, it was sent to Alex and Bob, but it was for all of us: a new little Bear, a handmade little fellow from the back woods of Maine. We named him “Lamont”.

Packers and Movers

Alex and Bob packed and packed, and re-packed and packed again, and we have no idea where all that stuff came from. Not from our house, you wouldn’t think.

If you go by Bear years, I think me and Wilson have been around the longest, for the crowd still up North anyways. I don’t remember ever seeing a lot of that stuff. Wilson muttered something about “paying the piper”, but Wilson never explains anything.

They ran out of boxes and, just in time, the Packers arrived. Now it got REALLY scary. They had loud voices and they didn’t seem to care too much for us Bears. Stuff started disappearing into boxes faster than you can count. And it didn’t look like our home any more. Pictures, and books, even food – everything – gone! It echoed in there.

We Bears still had our bed, but we were ascared. Bob and Alex were working day and night “to get ahead of The Movers”. You could see they were really tired, and it seemed harder for them to smile. But they kept saying, “we’ll get through this”.

If you thought The Packers were scary, you should have seen The Movers. They were young and kinda friendly, and they moved fast. “This stuff goes to Castro Valley”, Alex said, “and that stuff stays for the move to Phoenix on Monday.” They emptied out half the house in two hours.

“But what about us?”

The Movers asked about us Bears, which was nice I guess, and Bob and Alex said, “We take the Bears.”

But the movers still kept fast-talking. Soon they had all of us stuffed into a great big tall box for clothes like you hang in the closet, and it was dark in there. Oh, no! Soon enough we heard Bob and Alex say, “Well, OK, this should be all right. You can take them to Castro Valley.”

And we heard the “squeak squeak” of their marker pens writing something on the box. Then A.Bear said, “I don’t like this, at all.”

But they didn’t listen to us. And before you know it, we heard the house being closed up, and the door shut, and we were sitting alone in a dark box. And there we sat, and sat, and sat.

A.Bear whispered to me on the Bear Channel, “something has gone wrong!” but everybody heard him. Some of the younger Bears started whimpering. It was all we could do to keep everybody quieted down. Inside, we knew A.Bear was right. We could be kidnapped, or shipped to San Antonio like L.Bear, or worse, we could be lost!

The way we heard it later, The Movers were just about done unloading at the Castro Valley place, when Alex asks, “So, where on this truck are the Bears?”

The movers thought we were supposed to go to Phoenix. They said something about how there “must have been a misunderstanding”. I just can’t think of anything nice to say about that at all..

And then we were rescued. Alex drove back across the bridge, and took us all out of that awful box, and called Bob to say, “they’re here, and they’re all safe”, and that’s how we were driven over to our new home.

And we like it here, too.

Sandy Lamont

But then the next phone call came. Alex’s cousin Sandy, well, um, Sandy  had died at home in Virginia, they said. There is no way any of us were ready for that. No one said anything for a long time.

I don’t know. He can’t be gone, can he? I can feel him here, all the time. But this is that thing that A.Bear says us Bears can’t do anything about, and that if we were to go back East again, he wouldn’t be there any more. I still don’t understand it. But I know how the humans feel. I miss Sandy. Poor Emily!

Alex said he believes a part of each of us lives inside everyone we’ve ever been close to. A.Bear told me that this is true.

The laughs that you people share, and the good times and the bad that you work on together, these are the things that make you people, and you have your way of making these things a part of all of the people who share them with you. I can tell you myself that Sandy was good people. If it would help any, I can see that he lives on.

We think good thoughts and memories for Sandy every day. A.Bear says this brings some warmth to matters that Bears and people in most ways never really understand.

And yet not even a Bear can make time stand still when it should. We picked up a thing here, and moved a box there, and we Bears found places for ourselves on the bed.

Movers Again

Here they come!The Movers came back to San Mateo again, the same way the squirrels come back to the planter boxes to dig up the last bulb. This time, it was to get the Phoenix stuff. They emptied the house clean, and we are glad we stayed here and did not see that. No Bears aboard that truck!

We loaded the car and chased down to Phoenix to do it all over again. T.Bear and me, we seen it all. It even rained as soon as the truck got there! But we were glad to get our stuff back. In five days Bob and Alex had the whole place tidy. There was even room left over for us to visit brother Phoenix Bear and his gang and our new Volunteers. We were pretty happy about that, anyway.


Home in Castro Valley

It is all over with now, this whole business. We are back here, in this Castro Valley, and Bob and Alex have been working to put things “where they belong”. They started calling it “home”. We LIKED that!

Like I said, we like it here. I found my own spot on the windowsill where I can just sit and look. It’s pretty here, too, and the people outside laugh and smile and say hello to each other. We never saw any of that there. What we called home, it just turned its back on us and went its own way. This is home now, because we’re here. If I have anything to say about it, we plan to stay.

We got squirrels here too, red squirrels, and they drink out of the pool, down below. The kids don’t scare ‘em; they just keep ’em wary. Not a lot of birds that I can tell, but plenty of big tall trees if the birds would just want to come and visit.

I look out from my window, and I can see the big trees waving in the breeze. The sky is clear and clean here. We got our noises from the street, but it’s a ways off. Alex says he can hear the sound of the seashore in it. I ain’t never been to no seashore, so you’ll just have to take his word on that.

Not to complain, but now it’s over with, I can tell you what I don’t miss: that airport, where we used to be. Every night, after they turn out the lights, that one big airplane would take off for someplace or other in Australia, where they got them koalas that look like Pink Bear except their fur isn’t pink, silly. Those planes sounded just like them Space Shuttle launches we seen on the TV, only louder.

Now that things have kind of settled down, Bob and Alex are playing those games with us again to see how much they can trick us into helping them with their chores. “Maybe C.Bear can help wash the dishes, now that we’re no longer in San Mateo.” And Bob will laugh and agree, and then they watch us to see what we do.

I checked with A.Bear just to make sure. Bear Union rules are good anywhere. What is the good of a rule if you have to get your paws wet? So, the contract says, no dishes. But, I like to help Alex fold laundry once in a while, just to make those guys feel good. The shop steward has to stay on the good side of management, except in case of strike, and we don’t want any of them!

Figuring It All Out

You can’t do it all. Even if you’re a Bear and have plenty of time, it never all comes to you, you know. What we do about it is, well, we just keep wondering, and some of the pieces come, and some just don’t.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about, even for a Bear of my years. I don’t know how I can sit on my windowsill and tell you so much about things we still don’t understand.

But I do know this. If you get the right place to sit, you can see the hills off far. They’re kind of goldy brown right now. They are rounded and gentle hills, and pretty. I like them almost best of all, besides you guys and the rest of the fellers. Alex says they turn really, really green in the spring. I wish they could be green all the time. From what I can see, life gives us everything, first the good, then some bad, and then some good again.

Flowers, detailWe will always miss Alex’s cousin Sandy, and we feel bad for Emily. I wish there was something we could say or do. Now, I just hope we already did that when we still had him with us. I don’t know if Sandy ever read our Stories, but I listened to them in their long talks, more than they would guess. I think Sandy already knew all about what I was trying to say, that’s what I think.

We send Bear messages to Hoffi, and he’s passing them on to Emily. Alex phones and writes, but a Bear Message is the next best thing to being there.

I like this place, and I like my windowsill. Who knows, one of these days I might ask if they’d take me up in the hills and let me just sit and look back on all this for a while. But first, we got to get organized. The new Bears need to get back on track on their lessons, and even us senior Bears slacked off some after all the troubles and changes. It’s tough getting things back to normal; I know it is. But we’ll get there.

off Cull Canyon, circa 1986

There are those that say the hills have died when they turn brown for the summer. They have not yet hiked there, nor looked at the ripened waving grains of grass when they ripple in the wind. They have not seen the airborne cottonwood fluff waft from valley to valley, nor the acorns that fall to the grown and then sprout new life in the spring. The smell of the dried earth and parched grasses in a hot summer breeze is rich with the smell of life in midcycle, and here, the shadow of the oak grove cools the air and brings comfort when they say that the hills have died.

© Alex Forbes, September 26, 2000

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