“I hope he’s not alone.”

Dad is in the kitchen when I get there, working on his breakfast. He looks up and sees me.
Dad: Hi, sweetie!
Karen: Hi, Daddy. Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I don’t think I can today.
Karen: Oh. (I watch him eat for a while. It’s a long process these days. Eating takes a lot of energy.) What are you doing today?
Dad: I don’t know.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive or do you want to stay home and rest?
Dad: I’d rather go for a drive, but I don’t think the authorities will let me leave.
Karen: If you want to go for a drive we can go. (I let Gwen know that Dad’s up for a drive and she fetches his shoes and hat and gets him ready.)

We head out on today’s adventure. As we’re driving through Burlington I point to the autumnal trees…
Karen: See? The trees are changing color. It’s October. October is your favorite month, isn’t it?
Dad: (Nodding, as I point to the trees.) October is my favorite month.

First stop: Sisters Espresso. I get Dad his root beer float with the account that Dave Waka left for him there. Then I head for the backroads that will take us up to Bellingham through the autumn colors. I want to share this brilliant October day with Dad. We are surrounded in amber and gold, garnets and rubies, as we travel through tunnels of autumn trees.
Karen: Isn’t it beautiful, Daddy?!
Dad: (Nodding.) The yellow in the trees. Where are we going?
Karen: I thought we’d go to Lake Padden.
(I wind down backroads haloed in autumn gold until I reach Lake Padden. I pull over to take a couple of photos.)
Dad: What is this lake?
Karen: Lake Padden.
Dad: (Nodding.) Padden.
(I sense Dad is getting tired now. It’s time to bring him home. At first I think I’ll use the backroads, again, to bring him home, but then as I near the exit to I-5…)
Dad: It’s time to be getting back.
(I exit onto the freeway.)
Dad: What is this lake?
Karen: Lake Samish.
Dad: Dad is waiting by the side of the road. I hope he’s not alone.
Karen: Oh. No… (and I start to reassure Dad that I’m sure his father isn’t alone…)
Dad: I think they’re all teachers there. (He sounds reassured by this thought.)
Karen: Yes.

I bring Dad back to his home and pull in next to the front door.
Dad: What is this place?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: No, this isn’t my home.
Karen: Yup, it’s your home.
Dad: (Eyeing the house.) Is there anyone home?
(Just then Amanda appears at the top of the stairs and smiles at Dad. I see his face light up in recognition.)
Amanda: Hello!
Dad: (Smiling.) Hello!
(Amanda helps him into the house and up the stairs. She brings Dad to the door of his bedroom and he asks her if this is his room. She tells him yes and he goes in. Amanda helps lower him to the bed. Amanda leaves for a moment to help another resident.)
Dad: I’m supposed to meet my father.
Karen: (Trying to figure out which direction to go with this.) Dad, you’re 101.
Dad: I know that.
Karen: How old would your father be now?
Dad: (Frowning in thought.)
Karen: He’d be, like, 130 now, right?
Dad: (Thinking.) Yeah.
Karen: Daddy, your father died a month before I was born. He’s been dead more than 60 years. I never got to meet him, but I know he was a wonderful man.
Dad: But I saw him recently… (Tearing up.) My father is dead.
Karen: (Putting my arm around his shoulders.) But I still have my father. And I feel really blessed about that.
Dad: (Reassuring me.) I’ll be around for a while, yet.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

Photos from our drive –

Dad Is Shrinking

Dad is shrinking. His clothes are getting baggy on him.

He is sitting at the dining room table when I get there – a full plate of avocado and eggs in front of him. He is not interested in the food. His head seems heavy on him – it keeps dropping. I ask him if he wants to sleep and he nods. Megan joins us and helps Dad move to a recliner in the living room. I sit in a chair next to him and hold his hand and we watch an old re-run of Match Game with Gene Rayburn, Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, et al. As I see those old faces from my youth I find myself wondering which of those fine folks are still alive.

Dad looks over at me and mouths the words, “I love you.” And I mouth them back to him.

At the end of the re-run I get up to leave. I kiss Daddy on the forehead.
Dad: Are you going to take me home now?
Karen: No. I’m just going to let you rest here for a while.
Dad: (Nodding.) Okay.
Karen: (Waving good bye.) Good bye, Daddy. (I blow Dad a kiss.)
Dad: (Blows me a kiss good-bye.) Good bye.

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

Dad Update

July 27, 2019

I got word that Daddy had a difficult night. Went over to his home to give him a quick hug and tell him I love him. He smiled at me when he realized I was there and mumbled something about the “holiday weekend.” I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me. And then I got up to leave. Made it all the way to the stairs before I stopped. Turned. Went back. Pulled up a chair next to his bed and sat in it. It had occurred to me that there may come a time soon when I will wish I could be with Daddy for even one more minute.

I took Dad’s hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back. I squeezed his hand twice. He squeezed my hand twice. We just sat there holding hands for about ten minutes – watching the old black and white movie on his TV together. I sang some hymns “to” him – but… I knew he couldn’t hear what I was singing – I was really singing the hymns to myself as I held his hand –

“In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But Love is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
(words by Anna Waring)

Tears started running out of my eyes and down my face. I sniffled and wiped them away.

When I finally felt it was time to go and let Dad rest I leaned over to tell him good-bye. Daddy said, “Happy Fourth of July!” And I thanked him.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

“This is Karen.”

Dad seemed to be losing ground the last couple weeks – sleeping most of the day, eating very little. So when Amanda messages me to let me know that Dad is up and bright-eyed I feel a grin immediately come to my face. I ask her if he is up for a drive and a moment later she messages that he answered, “Yes!” Today he has to be rolled out to my car in a wheelchair, but he is alert and happy to see me. As Amanda is buckling him in Dad turns to me and says, “Hi, Karen!” Then he turns back to Amanda…
Dad to Amanda: This is Karen. She’s my sist… (thinking)… she’s my daughter.

We drive through Burlington and then head out to Sisters Espresso for his root beer float (courtesy of Dave Waka). I hand Dad his float and then pull out of the parking lot to begin our adventures.
Dad: Didn’t you work at a school near here?
Karen: Yeah. Do you want to go by my old school?
Dad: Sure!

I drive down country roads and make my way to Edison. I park in the parking lot there – with the car pointing towards the patch of sunflowers waving in the sunshine. I roll down the windows so Dad has a breeze, and then take my camera to the flowers to get some quick pictures. Back in the car…
Karen: (Pointing to the school.) There’s my old school. There’s Edison. Do you remember you gave your K2 talk there?
Dad: (Frowning as he tries to remember.) No. I don’t remember that.

I drive around and out of the parking lot and head towards Bay View so Dad can get a quick view of the bay. I wait for him to mention his old friends the Annens – he usually brings them up when we go by the bay – but today he doesn’t say anything. When we get a view of Mount Baker I point to it…
Dad: Yeah. That’s Baker.
(Dad always remembers his mountains.)

I make my way back to Dad’s home. Amanda and Gwen come out to help him out of the car seat and into the wheelchair, and they roll him around to the ramp and into the house. They get Dad comfortable in a recliner in front of the TV.
Karen: (Looking directly into his face.) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: (Mouths the words, “I love you.”)
Karen: Good bye, Daddy.
Dad: (Waving.) Good bye.

“It’s Good to be Up Here Again”

Dad was still in bed when I got there. I brought out the book that Allesandro had sent him and showed it to him – he said it was “beautiful” – and then I waited while Gwen got him ready to go on our drive.

Dad seemed happy to be back in the car with me. As we’re driving through the valley towards Sisters Espresso…
Dad: It’s good to be up here again. This is beautiful country. Do you like living here?
Karen: Yes, I do!

We stop at Sisters Espresso for a breakfast sandwich and a root beer float for Dad – compliments of Cindy Johnson, who left a gift card for us at the espresso stand (thanks, Cindy!).
Dad: Are we going to your house now?
Karen: We could do that!

As we’re driving to my house, Dad is looking across a field… and he spots what he’s looking for…
Dad: There’s Mount Baker.
(I assume he’s mistaking a cloud for Baker, but when I glance that direction – sure enough! There’s Baker, making a quick appearance for Dad! I pull over and snap a quick photo.)

I pull into our driveway. I spot Scott on the porch and give him a shout out. He comes down to shake Dad’s hand and give him a hug through the car window. Scott sees Dad holding his root beer float…
Scott: (Grinning.) I see you decided to go for something different this time.
Dad: (Smiling and nodding.) Yeah.

I decide to take us through Edison and then head towards the water. We pass a field of trumpeter swans and an eagle, and I pull over to take some photos. We turn down Bayview-Edison Road, go up the hill, and alongside the bay.
Dad: (Pointing to Bayview Park.) We’ve parked and walked down there before, haven’t we?
Karen: Yes, we have!

And now we’re heading back to Dad’s home…
Dad: You’ve taken me on this same drive before.
Karen: Yup!

We pull in front of Dad’s home.
Karen: Thank you for taking this drive with me.
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!
I help Dad out of the car. Dietrick comes out to help him up the stairs. Dad has to use the bathroom now, and I give him a hug good bye.

(For more stories like this, go to Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad.)

“Oh! I Love These Things!”

Dad is in his recliner in front of the television when Scott, Dave, and I arrive.
Karen: Hi, Daddy! (I give him a hug.)
Dad: Hi, Karen!
Karen: Look who else is here…
Dave: (Gives Dad a hug.) Hi, Dad.
Dad: (His eyes light up.) Hi, David!
Karen: Do you want to move to the dining room table so we can talk?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
(David brings Dad his walker and I get his headset and we all help him move to the dining room.)
Dad: (Situated now at the table.) I’ve been watching Pete (his son, my other brother) play football. He’s always in someone else’s jersey, though. His name is never on his jersey. Did you watch the Cougar-Husky game?
Karen: Yeah.
Dad: Were you rooting for the Huskies?
Karen: I went to WSU, so I was rooting for the Cougars. They lost. Your Huskies won. But it was a really good game.
Dad: (Thinking.) I’m ready to leave here.
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: You’re always saying this is my home. This isn’t my home. I have three homes near the Canadian border.
Karen: And this is one of them. This home is near the Canadian border.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh.
Karen: And I live 15 minutes from here.
Dad: (Nodding.) Good!
Karen: Don’t leave here because then none of us would be able to find you!
Scott: (Smiling.) Yeah. Don’t go anywhere. We like having you near us.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
Karen: (The white cat, Skittles, has jumped up on the table and is going from person to person for a pet and scratch behind the ears.) And Skittles the Cat, is here. She sleeps with you. She loves you. She would miss you not being here.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. She’s my little companion.
(Megan brings Dad a root beer. Dad takes a sip and burps. He starts chuckling, and we chuckle with him.)

David talks with Dad about the move he’s going to be making from Boise to Olympia in a couple weeks. Dad nods and smiles when he understands Dave will be closer soon.
Karen: We brought you over for Thanksgiving a couple days ago. Do you remember that?
Dad: (Nodding and smiling.) Yes.
Karen: David’s kids, Claire and Casey were there. And Andrew and Xander. And Claire’s husband, Michael, and Casey’s girlfriend, Alex.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes. Your children are good people. And my children are good people.
Karen: And we have a good father.
(Dad smiles and nods.)
David: (To Dad.) In seven months you’ll be 101.
Karen: Do you remember when we brought you to Mount Rainier for your 100th birthday?
Dad: (Nods.) Yes. (Thinking.) Kenny Foreman was there.
Karen, David, and Scott: Yeah! That’s right.
David: And the Whittaker brothers were there…
Dad: (Nods.) Yeah.
Karen: And Rick and Jana Johnson. We stayed at their place.
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I don’t know if we’ll be able to get back there for your 101st birthday, though.
Dad: (Nods in agreement.) Yeah. That’s too far to go.
Karen: But we’ll do something to celebrate.
David: Can you sing the Dutch Christmas song?
Dad: (Singing.) Sinterklaas Kapoentje, Le waat in mijn schoentje, leg waat in mijn laarsje, Dank je Sinterklassje!

Karen: It’s time for us to take David to catch his shuttlebus now.

Dad nods and gets up. We help him back into his recliner in front of the television. Megan has brought in a bowl of cheese balls for Dad.
Dad: (Seeing the cheese balls.) Oh! I love these things!
Megan: (Laughing.) He does!

We give Dad hugs and tell him we love him and Dave says he will see him again soon for Christmas. Dad nods and smiles. He knows Christmas is not far away.

Dee Molenaar and David Molenaar

Dad (Dee Molenaar) and David Molenaar in conversation.

Dad singing Sinterklaas Kapoentje.

For more stories like these, click here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad

“I’m 100!”

November 17, 2018
I call ahead to see if Dad is up for a drive today. Megan tells me he’s just gotten up and had breakfast, and says she’ll get him ready to go.

We get Dad loaded up in the car and head out on our adventure.
Dad: (Looking around at the scenery.) It’s a beautiful day!
Karen: It’s gorgeous!

We stop at the Sisters Espresso…
Karen: Root beer float?
Dad: Yes, please!
(I bring Dad his float…)
Dad: Thank you for this!

As we’re driving down Chuckanut, Dad turns his head and keeps his eyes on the hills – I know he’s waiting for that moment when Mount Baker appears above the foothills. When Baker comes in sight Dad stays focused on its snowy slopes.

Scotty suggested earlier that, if Dad was up for it, I could bring him by our house so he could say hi. So that’s what I do…
Karen: Do you want to get out of the car and go inside to say hi to Scotty?
(Dad unbuckles himself and I come around to help out of the car and into the house…)

We situate Dad in the comfy chair in front of the television so he can watch some football, and I put his headset on his head so we can carry on a conversation without me yelling in his ear.
Dad: Who’s playing?
Scott: Ohio and Maryland are playing in this one.
Karen: (To Dad…) Who are you rooting for?
Dad: Ohio.

I bring Dad a piece of carrot cake left over from Scotty’s birthday.
Karen: This cake is from Scotty’s birthday. He turned 65 last week.
Dad: (Looking at Scott.) That’s old!
(Scott starts laughing.)
Karen: I’m 62! Isn’t that crazy?!
Dad: (Laughing with Scott and me…) I’m 100!
(Clearly, Dad has won this “competition.”)

The game is over now (Ohio won). And Dad is starting to look like he’s ready for a nap.
Karen: Are you ready to go home, Daddy?
Dad: (Shakes his head.) No.
(I lean in and smile love to Dad, and he smiles love back to me.)
Dad: You have really white teeth. You have a pretty smile.
Karen: Thank you, Daddy.
Dad: You have a pretty face. You have a beautiful face. You are a beautiful woman.
Karen: (I’m really touched by Dad’s words – I know what he’s seeing in my face is my love for him.) Thank you. I love you.
Dad: I love you.
Karen: Are you ready to go now?
Dad: Is Mom coming with us?
Karen: She can’t, Daddy.
Dad: (Studying my face.) Is Mom not alive?
Karen: (I shake my head no.) No.
Dad:  (Tearing up.) I thought she was back east in Michigan or… she wasn’t even sick…
Karen: She had congestive heart failure, Daddy. She died here in this room. She was sleeping on a bed and I was sleeping on the couch next to her and… I felt her pass… I felt her brush by me with joy and love…
Dad: I didn’t even get to say good bye to her.
Karen: You said good bye to her in the hospital. You told each other you loved each other. She loved you very much. We promised her we’d take care of you.
Dad: (Tearing up.) I don’t remember any of that.
Karen: I know. I’m so sorry, Daddy.

We help Dad out to the car. Just before he gets in it he turns to me…
Dad: This whole time I thought Mom was with me on this trip.
Karen: Maybe she was.
(Dad looks at my face, thinking…) 

As I head for his home, Dad mentions something about the road parallel, that travels along the coast – and I’m thinking maybe he wants me to drive along Bayview-Edison Road, so I take the car that direction. We head along Bayview-Edison Road for awhile. Dad’s head drops now and then in sleep, and then comes up to look at the bay. After a while…
Dad: You can take me to my new home now. The one near the Canadian border.
Karen: You want me to take you home now?
Dad: Yeah.

Dad is nodding off as we crest the hill and start down the other side into the valley. His head pops up then – and he starts scanning the hills. He points to one and asks if it’s Glacier Peak. I tell him I don’t think so – too small – and he nods.

We pull up in front of his house and Dad asks if this is where he’s going to be picked up to be brought to his home. I tell him this IS his home. He asks if he knows the people who live there. Just then Amanda pulls in behind us in her car. I ask her to come over and let Dad see her because he’s not sure he knows the people who live there. Amanda – bless her heart! – laughs and comes over and gives Dad a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She asks him if he knows her – and he says “Yes, barely.” She laughs and hugs him again, and tells him that’s alright.

I help Dad in the house. He wants to know where he should go now. I tell him he could go in the living room and watch television or he could go to his room and take a nap.
Karen: Do you want to take a nap?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

We go into his room, and I help him out of his sweater and put his alpine hat back on top of the lamp.
Karen: In five days you’re coming back to my home for Thanksgiving – and David and Claire and Casey and Andrew and Xander will all be there!
Dad: Oh! Good!
Karen: And in two days I’m taking you to a doctor’s appointment.
Dad: Thank you for taking care of all this for me.
Karen: Thank you for going on a drive with me today, Daddy. I enjoyed it.
Dad: Thank you for taking me on these drives.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.

More adventures with Dad can be found here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?

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