(Excerpt from Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad)
Dad (Dee Molenaar, 99) is still in bed at noon.
Karen: Do you just want to stay in bed and rest today?
Dad: (looking up at me, hopefully) Unless somebody wants to go for a drive.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
A half an hour later Gwen has Dad dressed and fed, and we load him into my car. I head south on I-5.
Dad: When you and Scott retire are you going to travel the world?
Karen: That sounds fun!
Dad: I’ve seen a lot of the world. (This is an understatement.) I can tell you where NOT to go.
Karen: Where should we not go?
Dad: New York City.
(I’ve been to New York City and enjoyed it – but I’m wondering when Dad went and what he experienced there.)
Karen: Where else should we not go?
Dad: Well, you’re on the freeway. Any place from the freeway is fine. It’s easy to go anywhere from here.
Dad: Where are you taking me?
Karen: I thought we’d go south and see if we can see Rainier. It might be kind of hazy today, though. There’s a forest fire in Canada.
Dad: Rainier’s too far. Baker will be all clouded in today. (We pass a sign for LaConner.) Let’s go to the old waterfront part of LaConner.
Karen: You want to go to LaConner?
(As we’re driving through the countryside towards LaConner, Dad is taking note of what he sees.)
Dad: This area looks a lot like the midwest, except for the hills in the background.
(We pass a sign with a Dutch name on it and I point to it.)
Dad: Roozengarde – there’s a Dutch name. We could be driving through the Netherlands – except for the mountains in the background.
(We get to LaConner and Dad decides he wants to go to a museum. I’ve wanted to take Dad to the Skagit Historical Museum since he moved up here a year ago. Maybe today is the day this will happen. I drive to the museum and park maybe 30 yards from it. I don’t realize there are a lot of parking spaces closer to the museum, but, when I park where I park, 30 yards doesn’t seem like much of a walk. I am wrong. We unload Dad and his walker, and begin the walk to the museum. After about ten yards Dad says he needs to sit down, and we find a place for him to sit on a little wall.)
Karen: Let me go see if they have wheelchairs in there. Stay here. Are you alright?
Dad: (nodding) Okay.
(I go into the museum to see if they have wheelchairs. They don’t. A rolling chair seems promising, though. I ask if I can use it to get Dad around, and Ann, the woman tending the counter, says sure. I bring the chair down to where Dad is sitting, and help Dad get into the rolling chair. A nice couple about to go into the museum approaches us to help. Steve says he can push Dad from the back, and Danielle guards Dad from the side, and I pick up Dad’s feet so they don’t drag on the concrete. When we get Dad inside he decides he wants to use his walker in there. He heads into the room that displays a history of technology.)
Dad: That looks just like my first car!
Karen: Your first car was a Model-T Ford?
Dad: Yeah. Model-T Ford. 1925.
(I am grinning now. I love that I’m walking through an historical museum with a walking piece of history. Dad is starting to get tired again, and we bring back the rolling chair for him to sit in. We head into the World War II exhibit. Dad served in the Coast Guard in World War II and he seems fascinated by what he sees in there. He notes that the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to be represented in there, but says that’s okay – the Coast Guard was more in the South Pacific, and this exhibit is more about the campaign in Europe.)
(Danielle, the woman who helped Dad earlier, approaches Dad to tell him she looked him up in Wikipedia and wants to thank him for his service during the war. Dad thanks her and asks her if she was in the Coast Guard. Danielle says no, but her brother was. Dad likes that. I get a picture of Dad with Steve and Danielle. Dad asks me their names, and I introduce them. He shakes their hands. He has just met two new friends.)
(Dad is tired now. He’s ready to go home. With colossal effort he manages to use his walker to get himself back to the car – which I have now parked right next to the door. He asks where we’re going now, and I tell him I’m going to get him a root beer float and then take him home. He nods his head in agreement. I stop for his root beer float.)
Karen: You really earned this one.
(Dad nods his head in complete agreement, and then we head to his home. Dad looks completely exhausted. He has sucked down his root beer float by the time we get to his place. I open the passenger door for him, and inch by inch he turns himself around in his seat.)
Dad: Every little movement takes so much energy now. And I need to rest after every movement. (He closes his eyes and sighs and leans back to rest for a few moments, before making another movement to get out of the car.) You have a doddering old Dad.
Karen: No. I have a mountain-climbing Dad.
Dad: That was a long time ago. (He looks up at the house.) I think I’m going to take a little nap when I get in there.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. I’m proud to be your daughter.
Dad: I love you, too, and I’m proud to have you for a daughter.