A Drive with Dad: “Social history?!”

When I get to Dad’s home to pick him up for his doctor’s appointment he’s finishing breakfast. I lean over and shout into his ear that he’s going to a doctor’s appointment for his eyes now.  He nods his head and says he hasn’t seen his eye for awhile. For some reason this strikes me as funny, and I start cracking up. Dad looks over at me and smiles. He finishes his breakfast, Amanda fetches a jacket for him, and we head out. Before we get to the door, Dad says, “I don’t need this thing,” and shoves his walker off to the side. I retrieve it and stick it in the back of the car – just in case.

We get Dad situated in the car and then he realizes he doesn’t have his hat. Dietrick goes to fetch his alpine hat for him – and while he’s gone Dad starts thinking about his hat – thinking maybe he didn’t bring one to “this place” – but I tell him this is home and he has a hat in there, and Dietrick is getting it for him. When Dietrick puts it on his head, Dad thanks him. He has his faithful old hat on his head now, and everything’s alright with the world. We set out on our grand adventure…

Dad: I forgot my wallet! I don’t have my ID.
Karen: I have your wallet.
Dad: Oh, good. I don’t think there’s anything in there, anyway. (He’s right.)

When we get to the doctor’s office I go in to see if it’s alright if we wait in the car until it’s our turn. (Sometimes there have been complications when Dad is in a waiting room too long.) The receptionist smiles and says that would be fine. She just needs to make sure all the information they have on Dad is up-to-date. I read the form she hands me and I sign it for Dad – then I think maybe I should bring it out to him and let him sign it, too – just to keep him from getting too bored out there.  I hand him the form. Near the bottom there’s a heading called “Social History” – I had no idea what that meant when I saw it, and apparently neither does Dad…

Dad: Social history?!
Karen: (laughing) Yeah, don’t worry about that one. (I bring the form back in, signed by Dad, and deliver it to the receptionist. I mention that my dad was a little confused by the “social history” question and make some joke about asking Dad about the sororities he belonged to and stuff. The receptionist laughs and tells me she’ll come and get us when they’re ready for Dad.)

Dad: (waiting in the car) I should have brought the book I got from the library.
Karen: What book did you get from the library?
Dad: Oh, one of those books I enjoyed reading when I was a teenager. A book by Joseph Altsheler. A book about the frontier and adventure. (thinking) Do you have any of my old books?
Karen: Yes! You gave me one that is really precious to me – The Royal Road to Romance.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. That’s the one that got me into adventuring. I still remember the opening line: “May had come at last to Princeton.”
(It tickles me that he still remembers the first line to a book he first read when he was a teenager.)

(The receptionist comes out to get Dad pretty soon and we go in to begin his appointment. The eye-lady takes his blood pressure – she says it’s good and I give Dad the thumbs up. Then she asks Dad to cover his good eye to see if he can see anything out of his bad eye.)
The eye-lady: What do you see there?
Dad: I don’t see anything! You told me to cover my eye!
(The eye-lady and I start laughing. The eye-lady covers up Dad’s bad eye and sees what tricks he can perform with his good eye. He reads the letters on the wall, and then she brings a card up to him to see how close he can see. He reads the letters he’s supposed to read and then starts reading the fine print on the bottom that’s meant for the eye people…
Dad: “The redistribution of…”
Eye-lady: (laughing, she takes the card away from him) Okay. That’s good.

(We go into a second waiting room to wait for the rest of Dad’s appointment. There are a lot of really cool people waiting in this room, and I start chatting to them. One of the people in there tells me that he’s 90. I shout in Dad’s ear that the man next to him – and I point – is 90.)
Dad: (laughing) He’s just a kid! I’m 100. (Dad is 99 – he’ll be 100 in a few months – and 99 is hard for anyone in that waiting room to beat.)
Dad: (after talking about eyes for a bit) It’s my hearing that’s the worst part of me right now.
(I hand Dad a travel magazine and he starts flipping through the pages. When he gets to a picture of Machu Picchu he stops.)
Karen: You’ve been there.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I’ve been there. Right at the top (he starts pointing out the trail to the top). It’s a steep trail up to the top.

(Dad gets called back into the inner office for a check-up by the doctor.)
Karen: (shouting into Dad’s ear) Dad, this is Dr. Sappenstein.
Dad: Dr. Frankenstein?
Doctor: (laughing) That’ll work.

(The check-up’s over now and we’re back in the car.)
Karen: Do you want to get an ice cream float now?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I’m lucky to have you.
Karen: I’m lucky to have you.

(We’re driving down Burlington Boulevard now, and Dad asks which direction we’re heading. I think about this and say I think we’re heading north, or maybe east. He mentions Hwy 9 – “runs along the foothills of the Cascades” – and I realize that Burlington Boulevard actually use to be a part of an old highway, but I can’t remember what it was called anymore. As I’m thinking about this…)
Dad: Is this Old Highway 99?
Karen: (Dad remembers what I’d forgotten) Yes!

(We head towards the place where I usually buy Dad his root beer float, and I pull into the parking lot in front of it.)
Dad: (recognizing) This is the usual place!
(I go up to fetch Dad’s root beer float and bring it back to him.)
Dad: Thank you!

(I decide to take Dad on a short drive before I return him home. Dad is thinking – and I know he’s going to start sharing whatever comes to his thoughts. I enjoy listening to him…)
Dad: I have the TV on 24 hours a day now. There are some really interesting shows that come up.
Karen: Old movies?
Dad: Not old movies. Shows about everything. I keep it on the same channel and all kinds of shows come up. The Olympics.
(We drive down country roads, the windshield wipers pushing aside the drizzle landing on the windows. Snow geese and trumpeter swans in fields of green beside the road.)
Dad: When I was young I used to think about what my old age would be like… Back when my mind was clear.
Karen: How did you picture your old age?
Dad: Eating simply. Hobbies. Reading mountaineering history.
Karen: Do you enjoy your life now?
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I do.
Dad: I was lucky – I have a good family. My older sister and younger brother did everything with me. My mother and father took us on drives. I probably saw more of Los Angeles than most people who lived there. My dad worked seven days a week – got up early in the morning and came home late at night, but he found time to take us on drives.

(I drive Dad back home. Dietrick comes out to help Dad into the house. I retrieve the walker – Dad never used it – and follow behind. Dad heads for the lounger in front of the TV. He asks about the Olympics. I kiss his forehead…)
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you!

 

 

 

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“Do you want to go for a drive?”

Dad is watching a movie when I get there. I sit down in the chair next to him and we hold hands for awhile. When I start getting ready to leave Dad says he wants to go with me.

Dad: I need permission to leave here.
Karen: No, you don’t. Do you want to go for a drive?
(Dad nods his head yes, and Melissa helps me get him ready to go. When I open the door to the passenger seat, he looks in and says, in surprise, “Hey! It’s clean!”)

I decide to drive us out towards the Sisters Espresso Stand to see if the flood waters have gone down there. If the waters have gone down and the stand is open I’ll buy Dad a root beer float.

Dad: It’s not the best weather for a drive.
Karen: Yeah, it’s kind of ugly out here, isn’t it? (pause) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: And I love you!

(We pass an eagle sitting in a tree and I point it out to Dad.)
Dad: (pondering eagles) We never saw any eagles in Los Angeles. Maybe they like this weather better.
(We pass a cool old farmhouse – I’m just about to point it out to Dad and tell him how much I’ve always liked that house, when Dad notices it on his own.)
Dad: That’s a picturesque place!
Karen: Yeah! They moved that here from another place…
Dad: (having a hard time hearing) What?
Karen: They bought that house for, like, a dollar forty-nine and had it moved out here from another place.
Dad: (nodding) And held up traffic getting it out here.
Karen: (laughing) Yup!
(We pass Allen School.)
Dad: Did you used to teach there?
Karen: Yup. And you showed your K2 slideshow to my students there.
Dad: (nodding) I remember.

The flood waters have gone down around the espresso stand and I see that I can drive in there. I pull in next to the stand.
Karen: I think we need to get you a root beer float.
Dad: (nods his head) Yeah!
(I get Dad his root beer float and bring it to him. Dad takes it and thanks me, and starts happily slurping it.)

We head back to Dad’s home. I pull into the driveway and up to the front door.
Dad: Are you going to dump me off here?
Karen: This is your home, Daddy.
Dad: (nods his head) Oh.
(I help him out of the car, into the house and up the stairs. He sees Melissa and says hi, and asks her if he should go into the living room. She smiles and helps him into one of the lounger chairs.)
Karen: I love you, Daddy. Thank you for going for a drive with me.
Dad: I love you, Karen.
(I head out – turn and blow him one last kiss, and he smiles and waves.)

“Am I going home now?”

Recent conversations with Dad (Dee Molenaar, aged 99) –

January 6

Karen: Look at all the people here to see you! There’s Joe and Robin and Scott and Pete and Sheila.
Dad: Pete’s here?
Karen: Yeah… right there… (motions for Peter to come up…)
(Pete starts talking to Dad about the drive they took to his home on the Hood Canal a couple months ago…)
Dad: That’s a nice place you have.
Pete: We’ll try to get back there again after the winter.

January 8

Dad’s in bed when I get there.
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: Hi, Sweetie. Am I going home now?
Karen: You ARE home.
Dad: Oh. Good.
Karen: How are you doing?
Dad: Oh. Well. I was trying to take a breath up to 20. I’d almost done it, too, and then you walked in (starts grinning).
Karen: (laughing) Sorry!
Dad: Where are you going now?
Karen: I need to get home and take care of the dog.
Dad: (nods) Thanks for stopping by! I love you.
Karen: I love you, too.

January 12

Karen: What are you watching?
Dad: The Price is Right. Do you ever watch The Price is Right? It grows on you.

January 16

Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: Hi, Karen. I’m watching lots of wonderful movies here. Movies about wildlife. It’s a series called Planet Earth.
Karen: Oh! I love those shows!
Dad; They’re really good.
Karen: How are you feeling?
Dad: I feel good. How else should I be feeling? I don’t have to do anything but sit here and watch TV.
(The nurse is poking Dad’s stomach and asks him if it hurts.)
Dad: No. Should it?
(Dietrich brings Dad’s mail to me and I hand it to him letter by letter and point out the names of the people who sent them.)
Dad: (Looking at the inscription in the first card I hand him) Elliot and Diane. Have you ever met them?
Karen: I have! They’re wonderful people.
Dad: Yes, they are. (Looking at the next card) The Hardy’s. I was with them when they first met each other on the Juneau Icefield. They’re a nice couple.
(Soon Dad needs to use the restroom. Before he disappears in there…)
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!

January 18
Dad was in his bed, sleeping, when I got to his home. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and he opened his eyes and said, “My daughter!”
Karen: I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to wake you up – I just wanted to kiss your cheek.
Dad: I wasn’t really sleeping. I just lie here and think.
Karen: What do you think about?
Dad: I think about my travels and my friends and my mountains. I think about traveling around the equator.
Karen: You have a lot of good memories to think about!
Dad: Yeah, I do.
Karen: I just stopped by to say hi, but I’ll let you go back to sleep now. I love you.
Dad: I love you.
(Dad closes his eyes and goes back to his thoughts.)

Reminder to self: Build up lots of good memories now so you have good times to re-visit when you reach your sunset years.

January 21

Karen: Who are you rooting for?
Dad: New England.
Karen: Why?
Dad: Because that’s where the poets come from.

Scott and Dad

Dad and Scott

 

“Just Farting Around”

Brought Moz and Dad (98) over today to watch The Sound of Music and to give Dad a chance to watercolor on my dining room table. I told him on the drive over that this time it was just for him – he wasn’t going to be painting for anyone else. So I brought in his paints, set out his watercolor paper, and went into the family room to start The Sound of Music for Moz – and by the time I got back to Dad he’d already started painting! I asked him what he was painting, and he said he was “just farting around.” I watched him for a bit, as a mountain emerged on his paper, and I asked him what mountain he was painting there, and he said, “It could be any mountain.”

He didn’t finish today. After he’d laid down the background and a few trees he went in and watched The Sound of Music with Moz. I told him I was going to bring him back sometime soon to work some more on his painting, and he nodded his head and said, “Okay.” I told him I’d keep his paints here because this is a nice quiet place for him to work, and he won’t have a lot of interruptions here, and he said, “Yeah. That’s good.”

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Dad Painting

Morning Walk with Dad

Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Morning walk and talk with Dad in LaConner –

Karen: Dad, it’s beautiful outside! You want to get up and go for a walk with me?

Dad: (lying in bed) No. I’m comfortable here.

Karen: But it’s gorgeous outside! Come on! Let’s go for a walk.

Dad: Okay.

(Once we’re outside, I follow Dad’s lead. He takes us on to the boardwalk along the Swinomish Channel.)

Dad: (Standing at the end of the boardwalk and sweeping his arm across the Swinomish Channel) This is so beautiful. I could stand here all day.
(Eventually we move to a bench in the sun.)
Dad: (Looking at John Wayne’s boat tied up at the dock) John Wayne is dead. We might have been the same age. I don’t know. He had a lot more active life than me.

Karen: (laughing OUT LOUD) He did NOT have a more active life than you. Did he climb mountains? Did he climb around on K2?

Dad: (smiling) Well, he made more action MOVIES.

Karen: There’s a big difference between movies and real life.

Dad: I could sit here all day. Because you’re here with me. I could sit here all day with you. There are not many moments like this.
Dad: My grandchildren came to see me not too long ago. Recently. I think it was my birthday or something. I’m very proud of them.

Karen: They came on your birthday. They came to see you because they love you.

Dad: (smiling) Of course they do. Because I am a loveable old man.
Dad: I could sit here all day watching the people. (pointing to the sky) Look! There’s only one cloud in the entire sky today!
Dad: (after we’d been out for 40 minutes or so) Okay. Let’s get back to Mom now.
Dad: (as I’m leaving) Thank you for going out on a walk with me today.

Karen: It was fun!

Note: These are not professional quality photos – took these pictures with my cellphone – because, of course, I left my actual cameras AT HOME. But oh well. It was a great morning. 🙂