My emotional, mental, spiritual be-ing is absorbing the hope and joy of the new day soaking up the inspiration like a thirsty tree in a desert that hasn’t seen rain for four years. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Oh man. Lady Gaga, and Klobuchar, JLo and Garth Brooks made me teary – and that didn’t surprise me, really. But I was really moved by Mike Pence’s presence and Mitch McConnell’s presentation of the flag to VP Harris – and… what the heck?! I never could have seen THAT coming. January sixth changed so much for our country – and not all of it was bad. In the end people I never would have expected became heroes. Whoah.
We’re still here! We’ve lived through yesterday and made it to today and that has been no small feat.
On this Inauguration Day I celebrate you – each and every beautiful one of you! I celebrate your compassion, courage, and commitment to kindness. I celebrate your honesty, your decency, your charity. I celebrate your moral strength and integrity. I celebrate that you stand for justice; kneel for equality and fairness; and dance for the joy that no one can steal from you. You have transformed the world. You have made it a better place. You are a wonder.
A new day is dawning. Go out there and work your magic, my friends. Karen
Went on a nice long walk in Bellingham this morning – needed the fresh air and space for my thoughts.
I reached out to Dad in my thoughts (I don’t mean that I, like, “summoned” him – Dad’s not a ghost or anything – he and Mom are always with me in the same way Love, God, is always with me). And the thought that came back to me was full of joy. I know Dad’s happy. I think I was trying to talk to Dad about all the uncertainty and grief of these times – but it came to me that the things I seem to be experiencing are no part of Dad’s experience – no part of “where” he is (and I don’t mean “where” as in a location – but as a state of mind). I felt that I was being encouraged, then, to claim my own joy, too. The words from John came to me: “Your joy no man taketh from you.”
I’m not sure I’m explaining any of this at all well, but… the gist of it is that what I’ve been learning, lately, is that whenever I feel like I have a hole in my heart – it’s instantly filled with Love. Love is constantly giving me whatever it is I need. My sense of being connected to the infinite Love of the cosmos isn’t dependent upon my parents or husband or children or friends – it’s always with me. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind…” -Mary Baker Eddy
Dad is in bed. His eyes are closed. He’s very still, but I see his chest moving. He’s still with us. I lean over and kiss his forehead and say into his ear, “Hi Daddy. It’s Karen.” (There’s no response at first. Then his eyes open and he looks at me.) Dad: (Weakly.) Karen. Karen: I love you, Daddy. Dad: (I can feel the effort he’s making to mumble the words.) Ah uv you. Karen: (Smiling at Dad – my heart filled with tenderness.) You old mountain goat. (That’s what Mom had always called Dad – and it comes to me – out of the blue – to call him that. Dad smiles at me. And now I find myself singing to him – that old Jeannette McDonald-Nelson Eddy song that he and Mom used to sing to each other…) When I’m calling you-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh… (I see Dad perk up a little. I get this sense that Mom is calling to him.)
We don’t say much after this. I stay for a while, stroking Dad’s forehead, and watching “Maverick” on Dad’s television. Every now and then Dad opens his eyes and checks to see if I’m still there. Eventually he falls back to sleep. I leave to go home and fetch my husband and son for a return visit. When I arrive home and describe Dad’s condition, the husband and son immediately let me know they’re with me and we go back to Dad’s house.
We enter Dad’s room and approach the bed. He’s sleeping. We pull up three chairs and watch him for a while. His foot is moving back and forth. I approach Dad’s bed. Karen: Hi, Daddy. It’s Karen. And Andrew is here. And Scotty. (Dad opens his eyes and looks at me.) Karen: I love you, Daddy. (Dad’s eyes are locked on mine and he nods his head at me once, twice. An affirmation. I nod back at him. He reaches up and holds my arm and squeezes it gently. I hold his hand and squeeze. He squeezes my hand back.) Karen: Here’s Andrew, Daddy. (Andrew sits close to his grampa. This is his time with Grampa. Love is exchanged. This time belongs to them and it’s not mine to share in words.) Karen: And here’s Scotty. (Scott grips Dad’s hand and receives a strong grip in return. They both grin at each other. Male bonding.) We all feel when it’s time to leave and let Dad get back to the business of sleeping. I get up and kiss Dad’s forehead and tell him I love him. Scott says his good byes. Andrew is the last to leave – he gets a strong good bye handshake from his grandfather before he leaves him to sleep.
On the nineteenth of January my father died And so began the roller coaster ride that was 2020 and 20 days – a year we struggled to find our way.
At first there were empty streets and quiet weeks of smogless skies and distant peaks I found peace in the stillness – peace in the calm That time alone was a much-needed balm.
But after – a montage of images flashes now through my mind – much of it dark, some of it kind – exploding up, crashing down, fire and rage all around Our nation boils and seethes and a Black man gasps, “I can’t breathe”
Veterans protect fathers with leaf blowers who protect the mothers who protect our Black sons and daughters from tasers and guns. Ahmaud, Breonna, and George – say their names Black Lives Matter – our nation sits in shame as bigots and bullies scramble to shift the blame – and settle on “Karen” (which is really lame).
And a just woman with a doily collar and a selfish man who keeps up the holler and lie of “Stop the steal” and refuses to let the nation heal – our neighbors reel and keel in their zeal – fed rumors and news that are not real.
Dye runs down a lawyer’s face a narcissist screams, “Show your strength!” NAZI and Civil War flags fly in our streets D.C. police pummeled and beat. Racism and bullying and bigotry and hate, caskets of COVID victims, rioters climb gates Long lines for vaccinations, as people wait.
In the end the heroes win – as heroes always do – they wear masks to protect each other – me and you – they step up and vote and stop the coup – they stand up for Breonna and Ahmoud and George – and in the fiery fire a stronger land is forged.
Back on New Year’s Eve 2015 I bought my little Ford Fiesta, Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich. Today she reached 100,000 miles on the odometer. I found myself tearing up – thinking back to all the adventures Rosalita and I have shared in the last five years, and all the memories that are packed inside my little car. Rosalita still has the red scrapes from the times we shoved Mom’s red walker into her hatch. I can still picture my centenarian father (Dee Molenaar) sitting in the passenger seat, his head turning as he took in the scenes on our drives together. I remember taking Dad up to Mount Rainier in Rosalita, and the adventure Dad and I had going to the Big Four Inn (see the story below).
Thank you, Rosalita, for helping me care for my parents. Thank you for helping me get Mom and Dad to doctor’s appointments, and epic celebrations. You’ve done well, little one. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
I stop by to see Dad while I’m in town on an errand. My plan is to take him for a quick drive to get him a root beer float, if he’s up for it. He says that sounds like a good idea. Meagan puts his alpine hat on his head, gets him in his sweater, and puts shoes on his feet. He is still wearing his pajama bottoms. That puts a smile on my face. I tell him he is a fashion plate. Meagan points out that Dad can actually pull this look off, and I have to agree.
When we get in the car Dad asks, again, where we are going.
Karen: I thought we’d take a quick drive and I’d get you a root beer float.
Dad: That sounds good. But what I’d really like to do is go to the Big Four Inn.
The Big Four Inn would be a major trip. I hadn’t planned on this today. But… Dad has been mentioning the Big Four Inn for a year now. Maybe two. I’ve always managed to brush this idea off, and suggest we do it another time. But… this might be our last drive before I start another school year. And I don’t really have anything else planned for today – and there’s nothing else I really want to do with my day. So. Maybe. Maybe today we’ll drive to the Big Four Inn – or to where the Big Four Inn used to be before it burned down. I’m going to think about this on my way to Big Sisters Espresso for Dad’s root beer float.
As we’re driving through town…
Dad: We used to dance in that building on the left. On the second floor. We’d come down from the Big Four Inn and dance there.
Karen: Do you like to dance?
Dad: I’m not very good at it. I started too late. All my friends used to go dancing every Saturday in Los Angeles. I didn’t. (Thinking.) Do you like to dance?
Karen: Yes! You used to dance with me when I was a little girl.
Dad: (Smiling.) Did I?
Karen: (Remembering.) Yes. You’d pick me up and dance with me. I loved dancing with you.
Dad: I love doing everything with you.
As we head out of town…
Dad: This isn’t heading towards the mountains.
Karen: I’m going to get you a root beer float first and figure out how to get there.
When we get to the Sisters Espresso, I order Dad his root beer float. As I’m waiting for the float, my neighbor and friend, Denice, shows up. Denice is a mountain woman, too. It occurs to me that she might know how to get to The Mountain Loop Highway.
Karen: Hey Denice, the sons and I used to go hiking along The Mountain Loop Highway all the time when they were growing up – but I can’t remember how to get there anymore. Do you know how to get on The Mountain Loop Highway?
(And sure enough, Denice knows exactly how to get there! She quickly gets out her phone, taps in some words, and reads me the directions.)
Root beer float in Dad’s hand, Dad and I head out for The Mountain Loop Highway.
Dad: Are we going to the Big Four Inn now?
I head east up the South Skagit Highway. I am feeling a happy, blissful freedom as we travel along the Skagit River, through maple trees and cedars. I am on another adventure with Dad.
Dad is observing our route…
Dad: The old route was on the other side of the river. (He’s right.)
A little later…
Dad: Now we’re going to cross over the river and get on the other side of it. (He’s still right.)
At one point I stop to take a picture of the river and I snap a quick photo of the sedimentary layers in the cliff next to the road. Dad has noticed the layers, too…
Dad: You see that white layer there? I think that’s ash from a volcanic eruption…
When we get to the Darrington Ranger Station I stop to take a little break. I ask Dad if he wants to get out of the car and he says yes – he wants to go into the Ranger Station and look at maps.
Dad: (As he struggles to get out of the car, laughing…) I wonder if the rangers can see me trying to get out of the car. This doesn’t look very good.
Karen: (Laughing.) Don’t worry about it!
We manage to get into the ranger station and I help Dad over to the big 3D map in the corner. I position a chair for him if he needs to sit down while I use the restroom. When I come out he’s sitting in the chair next to the map, talking with the ranger ladies. He’s already asked them about the Big Four Inn, and Erika is looking at Big Four Inn postcards with him. I buy the cards for Dad (25 cents apiece) and ask the rangers how to get to the Big four Inn. I’ll need to go straight through Darrington, they tell me, and follow The Mountain Loop Highway – at some point it’ll turn into a gravel road – and somewhere on the other side of the gravel road we’ll pass the field where the Big Four Inn used to be.
Erika has been enjoying Dad and his stories. She confides in me that her great-aunt lived to be 106 – she passed on just last spring. I let Dad know that Erika’s great-aunt was 106. Dad nods and says he’s just a kid. Erika says that her great-aunt just started using a walker in the last year or two before she died. I tell her Dad doesn’t like to use his walker. He can be pretty stubborn about not using it. Erika smiles and says her aunt could be stubborn, too. I observe that’s probably why she lived so long, and why my Dad is still alive at 100. Erika laughs and agrees.
I turn to help Dad out to the car, and he wants none of it. The ranger ladies are watching.
Dad: No. Don’t help me! I’m not a cripple. I can walk on my own!
Karen: Okay, Daddy. (I keep my arms ready to catch him if he falls, but he manages to get himself to the car on his own. He is a stubborn Dutchman. He is also my hero.)
We drive into Darrington and I stop for gas.
Dad: Where are we?
Dad: (Looking around him in wonder.) Darrington. I’ll be damned. Darrington.
Karen: (Pointing to the Mountain Loop Road sign.) The Mountain Loop Road.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. The Mountain Loop Road.
The road becomes narrow at spots – but every time there’s a car coming from the opposite direction there always happens to be a place for me to pull over.
Dad: You’re a good mountain driver. (Thinking.) It’s nice to come up here when there are roads to travel on. This used to just be a trail. (A little further…) It’s nice to finally be back here. I never dreamed that one day I’d be back here as an old man with my daughter driving me in her own car. (Thinking.) All the rangers at that ranger station were women. Women are fighting for their rights. I don’t blame them. (More thinking.) It’s hard to drive with all the shadows on the road – hard to see the ruts.
The road becomes more primitive now – in places there are ruts and pot holes in gravel – in some places the gravel disappears and the road becomes a little slippery and muddy.
Dad: I never dreamed that someday I’d be up here – an old man gripping the door handle.
We pass the trailhead for Mount Pugh and I stop to let Dad see the sign. I’m wondering if he’ll recognize it. I am not disappointed.
Dad: Mount Pugh. I climbed that one.
Eventually we roll onto asphalt again. We pass the trail to the Ice Caves, and I remind Dad that we hiked up there once with Pete Schoening. Dad nods his head, remembering. Not far beyond that is a sign that says “Big Four Picnic Area.” On a hunch I turn to follow the road to the picnic area and sure enough…
Dad: This is where it was!
(I park in front of the site of the old inn. I’m blocking the road, but there haven’t been many cars today, and I want Dad to be able to get out here and not have to walk too far.)
Dad: (Getting out of the car.) Ohhh… this is where it was… (There are tears in his eyes. His voice is choked up.)
Dad makes his way to the display that shows pictures from the Big Four Inn. He spends time there, looking at each picture, remembering his days in the Coast Guard in World War II, when he was stationed here for a time. This was a good time in his life.
Dad: What’s that…? Oh… the old fireplace. And the chimney. Yeah. I wish I’d brought my camera…
Karen: I brought my camera. I’ve been taking pictures.
(A car pulls up behind my car and I scurry back to drive my car out of the way so the other car can get past. I want to explain to them that my dad is 100 years old and I just parked there so he could walk to the site of the old inn. But I know they don’t care about any of that – the straight-lipped looks on their faces tells me that. So I pull out of their way and then loop back to where I was so I can load Dad back up in the car.)
Dad: What’s your hurry?
Karen: We’ve been gone a long time, Daddy. I need to get you back. (I’d told Dad’s caregivers we were going for a short drive, and I haven’t been able to call them because we’ve been out of cellular phone range.)
Dad: (Looking at his watch…) Oh yeah. 3:30. Okay.
As we’re driving away from the Big Four Inn…
Dad: Thanks for finding The Big Four Inn for me.
A little further…
Dad: Mom won’t be worried about us this time.
As we’re getting near his home…
Dad: We saw some pretty country today.
Karen: Did you enjoy our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
We pull into his driveway and I come around to help Dad out of the car. Dad shifts his body around, trying to get in position to get out of the car. This is not easy for him. He looks up at me and I look down at him, and we both start laughing. Then Dad manages to get his feet on the concrete and I heave and he’s up.
Dad: Thank you for the drive today.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, too. We blow each other kisses and I leave him on the lounge chair in front of the television.
What’s on your wish list – what would you like to see happen in the next year? Here are some of the things I’d like to see: – bring back regulations to protect the environment – make health care affordable and accessible to everyone – at least for the next year – to get us through the financial crisis of the pandemic – turn the one-time stimulus checks into a $500 monthly universal basic income for all Americans – create two more positions on the Supreme Court to balance out what we’ve got going on there right now – rejoin Paris Climate Accord – do away with the “Citizens United” thing and put an end to corporate donations to ANY politician or political group (duh, right?!) – get rid of gerrymandering – provide financial/medical/counseling support for our veterans – provide free public education through a tech school or a four-year university degree (cancel student loan debt) – raise the minimum wage to $15/hour – raise the tax on the wealthiest 2%
I have friends questioning why congress is taking on Trump right now. Congress should be trying to take care of America and not wasting time with Trump, these friends say. And here’s my response to that:
Last week legislators were running for their lives, under siege for hours from pro-Trump extremists who’d been incited by Trump to storm the capitol building. Rioters were calling for the execution of Pence. A noose was displayed on the capitol grounds. Zip ties were brought. I don’t think anyone should be surprised that these same legislators – from both parties – now believe Trump should face consequences for his insurrection.
What he did – and continues to do – creating divisiveness, distrust in our democratic process, sowing hatred – the fire he’s created and continues to feed – IS the biggest problem our country faces right now. Our nation cannot continue on until the mess Trump has created is addressed, acknowledged, and dealt with. -Karen Molenaaar Terrell
I’m searching for glimmers of hope these days – those “thousand points of light” a former president was always talking about. And I’m seeing some! I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the glimmers I’ve seen…
“…Now, with the past few days, friends from all over the world have been calling and calling and calling me. Calling me distraught and worried about us as a nation. One woman was in tears about America, wonderful tears of idealism about what America should be. Those tears should remind us of what America means to the world. Now I’ve told everyone who has called that, as heartbreaking as all this is, America will come back from these dark days and shine our light once again…” -Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions. Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.” -Bill Belichick
“… I think if there is one thing that we can have after the last month in this country, it’s hope. You know, as an outsider growing up in England, I used to look to America as this beacon of light and possibility. A place where anything can happen, a place where you’d be lucky to work. A place where many people that I knew used to fantasize about living here. A place that gives an individual more opportunity than they would get elsewhere but cares for their fellow man. Today people across the world would have looked at these pictures from Washington and wondered, ‘what on earth has happened to this great country?’ But I truly believe, and make no mistake, that they know that the America that they admire still exists. They know that the America that so many aspire to will be back. It’s just been hijacked by a lunatic and his crazy army for the last four years…
“…on those same steps, where that mob fought and pushed past police, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the president of the United States.” -James Corden
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” -Anne Frank
Loss teaches me there is no separation in Love there is no space between Good and me Loss shakes old beliefs shakes off what is untrue and makes me look at everything new What’s left is real what’s left is true
Love brings loss Loss brings Love – Karen Molenaar Terrell
“O make me glad for every scalding tear, For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain! Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear No ill, — since God is good, and loss is gain.” -Mary Baker Eddy