“I don’t think she’s really gone.”

Dad was brilliant today!

Amanda sent word that Dad was up and feeling chipper. So I stopped by to see if he’d like to go for a drive. He was finishing breakfast when I got there, but he soon had his alpine hat on his head and his shoes on his feet, and was moving (at a rapid pace) towards the door…

My original thought was that I’d swing by the Sisters Espresso for his shake and then take him up to Bayview State Park for a quiet sit on a bench. But on the way to Sisters Espresso Dad said he thought he remembered a painting he had to finish at my home. So I got him his vanilla shake and then brought him to my house to see if he wanted to work on the watercolor of Rainier he’s been painting since last winter.

He settled into a seat at the table. I pulled out his paints, sponge, watercolors, brushes, and his latest watercolor project, and he set to work.

He had his hearing headset on today, so we could have a conversation. His hearing headset makes all the difference. I had my camera with me and recorded some of our conversation. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. There were times when he would say the most profound things – but I hadn’t been recording – so then he’d have to repeat himself for the recording. Sometimes there were things he said and did that were so precious to me I decided I didn’t want to remember them as a recording…

Karen: You’re not a prejudiced person. You must have had good parents. Where you grew up – in Los Angeles – did you live in a part of town with people from a lot of different cultures and backgrounds? Was there racism where you lived?

Dad: There was racism in Los Angeles – but (smiling) we lived in the opposite part of Los Angeles. I grew up with mostly Japanese farmers. Most of my friends growing up were Japanese.
(recording)
Karen: Daddy, tell me about the part of Los Angeles that you were raised in.
Dad: Are you recording this?
Karen: Yeah. Is that okay?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I lived in southwestern Los Angeles – which was mostly related to the Japanese truck farmers. We were kind of on the edge of the developed part of Los Angeles city, so we just walked a couple blocks and we were out in the fields.
Karen: Most of your friends were Japanese?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: So you grew up in a place that didn’t have a lot of prejudice?
Dad: Yeah. There are places that I’ve never had an interest in visiting because…
(recording)
…they are still very prejudiced and the Civil War is still in their blood.
(I watch Dad paint for a while.)
(recording)
Karen: You’re 100! That’s crazy!
Dad: You tell anybody you’ve got a father 100 years old and they’re going to think you’re just…
Karen: Exaggerating?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: When you paint do you know ahead of time what you’re going to paint in the foreground?
Dad: (shaking his head) No.
Karen: So it just evolves?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: What are you going to do with this one? What do you see?
Dad: Over here I’m going to paint some trees. And over here an island of trees. And up here a sub-ridge of the mountain. (Thinking) You kind of want three points of interest, but not one dominating.
(Of course I hadn’t recorded any of Dad’s thoughts on painting – so now I make him go through the whole conversation again. He is very patient with me.)
Karen: Daddy, I really love spending time with you.
Dad: (brings his head up and smiles and gives me the focused, penetrating look of someone who is really listening) I was going to say the same thing to you earlier. I love the drives we take together.
(recording)
Karen: Were you the only artist in your family?
Dad: In my immediate family, you mean?
Karen: Were your grandparents artists? Were your parents artists?
Dad: No.
Karen: (laughing) How did that happen?
Dad: (thinking) I’ve always enjoyed drawing. And I enjoy drawing foregrounds for mountains.
Karen: What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
Dad: Paradise Valley.
Karen: Wow! Mount Rainier. Was that better than the Alps?
Dad: Well, the Alps have more history…
Karen: But Paradise Valley is the best.
(stop recording)
(I watch Dad for a while, debating with myself if I should ask what I want to ask…)
Karen: Daddy, I want to ask you a hard question…
Dad: Okay. I may give you a hard answer.
Karen: Do you think we’ll see Mom again?
Dad: (thinking) I don’t think Mom is really gone.
Karen: Do you feel her here?
Dad: (thinking) I wasn’t surprised that she was gone. For the last year or two she talked about friends who had died, and I think she knew… I think she was trying to prepare me.
Karen: Yeah. I think she knew. When you were both in the hospital she didn’t want to leave because she loved you and wanted to take care of you. You didn’t want to leave because you wanted to take care of her.
Dad: (smiling sadly) I was shocked when you told me she was gone… but I wasn’t surprised.
Karen: (feeling sad for him, and guilty, and unsure what I should do) Would you rather I not tell you Mom is gone when you forget? …Was it bad of me to tell you?
Dad: (emphatically) No! You need to tell me. And I need to deal with it.
Karen: We carry Mom around in our memories of her, don’t we? She’s always with us.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah.
(recording)
Karen: I’m glad we’re neighbors, Daddy.
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.
(end recording)

Dad is tired now. He’ll come back and work on this painting another time. Right now it is time for his afternoon nap.
As I’m helping Dad get into the car, he turns and looks at me and reaches out to give me a hug. “I love you, Karen,” he says.
I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, too, Daddy.”

Youtube clip of the conversation with Dad.

dad painting (2) this one

Advertisements

Magic!

Yesterday I stopped by my folks’ former home, an assisted living place, to see if there was any old mail to pick up. When I got there I realized the annual silent art auction for Alzheimer’s was going on. I sauntered around, looking at paintings – and one, in particular caught my eye. It was bright and vibrant – a painting of houses and boats reflected in water – and the artist – the signature read “Kelly Anderson” – used a technique of blocking in sections with different shades that was really cool. This painting called to me.  I didn’t bid on it then – I thought if I was still thinking about it the next day (today) I would come back in and make a bid.

Today I was still thinking about it. So I drove back to the assisted living place to take a look at the painting again, and put in a bid. But once I got there I discovered the auction was already over and the paintings were all gone.  I was disappointed, but figured it just wasn’t meant to be.

As I was getting ready to leave I saw one of Moz and Dad’s old friends walking by and re-introduced myself to her. She seemed happy to see me and we gave each other a hug. I told her that I’d come in to bid on a painting, but it looked like the auction had ended yesterday. Yes, she said, it had – she’d actually won the bids on two paintings which had been delivered to her room that morning. She said she’d also been given one of my Dad’s paintings which had been found in a rummage sale – but it hadn’t been signed by Dad. I told her I could ask Dad to sign it for her. Her eyes lit up at the idea of that, and we headed up to her room to retrieve Dad’s painting.

Dad’s painting was leaning against the wall on top of a soffit.  It was too high up for me to reach so I started looking around for a chair that I could maybe stand on to get the painting. When my eyes scanned past the couch, I did a double-take. Sitting on the couch was the painting that I’d seen yesterday and that I’d been hoping to bid on! “That’s the painting I wanted to bid on!” I told my friend. She told me that was one of the paintings she’d won in the auction. “We have good taste,” I told her, smiling.

She said she’d give me this painting in exchange for Dad’s autograph on his painting. But I asked her how much she’d paid for the auctioned piece, and then gave her a check for $10 more than she’d bid. I was so excited to be re-united with that picture!

We didn’t find a chair for me to stand on, but my friend used the painting I’d just bought from her to nudge Dad’s painting closer to me until it dropped into my arms.

She was so pleased to use the one painting to get the other, and I was so pleased to have the painting I’d set my eyes on yesterday. What were the odds?! “Magic!” I told her, and she nodded her head in happy agreement.

Kelly Anderson Foss painting

 

“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

“I think I can make something up.”

The LaConner Retirement Inn in LaConner, Washington, asked its residents to make paintings for an auction to help those dealing with Alzheimers. (For anyone interested in attending, the auction will be this Saturday, July 23rd at the LaConner Retirement Inn.)

Yesterday I “kidnapped” Dad, 98, and Moz and brought them to my place to give Dad a quiet space and a big table to work on his painting for the auction. I told Dad that he was painting for his dinner. 🙂 He nodded his head and said “Okay.”

I’d brought to my house some of Dad’s brushes, a sponge, a packet of watercolor paper, and a couple of watercolor trays I found in his apartment. Dad’s favorite brush wasn’t in the brushes I’d brought over – but he found one that would be “alright.” There was also no yellow in the watercolor trays. But my youngest son had left some of his art supplies here when he moved out, so I rummaged through his art box and found a little travel watercolor box that had a small square of yellow in it, and Dad made do with that.

Dad worked really hard. Painting takes a lot of concentration. There are problems to be solved – balancing out this area with THAT area; making the foreground darker to bring depth and dimension to the background; finding the just right color to brighten everything up.

Dad and Mom were at my place from about 3:00 to 7:30 – and, except for a small break for dinner, and a short nap, Dad spent that entire time working on his picture. And look! He got ‘er done! I’m really proud of him.

Dad: “What should I paint?”
Me: “Mount Rainier. Do you need a picture to help you?”
Dad: (understatement of the century – this man has been painting Rainier for more than 70 years) “Oh, no. I think I can make something up.”
An hour later-
Dad: “I haven’t painted in a long time.”
Me: “How does it feel?”
Dad: “I like it!”
Three hours later –
Me: “Painting is hard work!”
Dad: “It’s mind work.”

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mount Rainier by Dee Molenaar

Karen’s Doodle

Years ago, when I taught a Peace unit, I’d ask my students at the beginning of the unit: “What IS peace?” and then I’d ask them to draw pictures of what peace looks like for them.

I’ve been puttering around on pixlr.com the last couple days – doodling pictures – and when I finished this doodle I remembered my old Peace unit, and thought, “This is what peace looks like for me!”

art 2

 

Karen’s Pre-School for Grown-Ups

We all know I have enough flaws, faults, and foibles to fill pages and pages of blog posts. But… yeah… I am not going to talk about those things at this time. Nosiree Bub. I want to talk about something good I’ve discovered about myself.

My discovery began when I became aware of how much fun I was having driving Moz and Dad around on the local backroads in search of views and birds last weekend. Their glee at busting out of the retirement community for a day filled me with glee, too. I realized I had that exact same feeling when my sons were youngsters and I would take them on “field trips” and hikes and introduce them to new places. And THEN I realized I get that same feeling when one of my students grasps a new concept and her eyes light up with the wonder of it. And all this led to my epiphany: I love helping people escape.from whatever confines them. It brings me great joy.

I posted this epiphany on Facebook, and one of my friends, Allen Nelson (always thinking, that one), responded with this comment: “There’s a business model in there somewhere: Uber meets TripAdvisor. Instead of shuttling people where they expect to go, taking them on short, ‘Madcap’ adventures. I suspect that there’s a large, untapped desire for adventure out there.”

And isn’t that just a FANTASTIC idea?!! .

I’m thinking maybe I could open up a kind of “pre-school” for grown-ups. The day might look something like this:

Nine-ish: We load up in the Madcap Adventure Van and head out for a field trip. This could be a search for views and birds from the van, or I might take us all some place where we can get out of the van and go for a nice little hike ((depending on my clients’ physical abilities and general state of health, of course).

Noonish: Back to my house for lunch. If it’s the right time of the year we can forage for food – gather eggs from our chickens, pick fruit from the orchard, and vegetables from the garden – I’ve found that most people find something kind of satisfying in the idea of “living off the land.” Of course, we’re only going to actually do this for one meal, because… like… a few hours after “living off the land” we are going to be craving some actual food. But by then my clients will be back in their own lives and can take care of themselves. 

After lunch: Arts and crafts time. This is when I might bring out the fingerpaints, the coloring books, the beads and pipe cleaners and pop sickle sticks and set my clients free to create something to bring home at the end of the day to give to their parents. Or children. Or friends. Their loved ones will be forever grateful to me for this. 

 

art

Two-ish: Math. 🙂 We might factor some polynomials at this time. That’s always fun. I especially like factoring polynomials that look like this: x^2 -15 + 36.  “Ooh!” I’d exclaim, “What are the factors of 36? Remember that you can multiply two negative numbers and get a positive one, so the factors of 36 include negative numbers, too. Do any of those factor pairs add up to a negative 15? Bingo! Good job, Grasshopper!”

Three-ish: Bring out the kazoos. 

Three-thirty-ish: Time to wind down and get the grown-ups ready to return to their families. We can all sing one last song together – maybe Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – and then bid a fond farewell to one another. I’d be sure to pin any important notes to families on my clients’ jackets – stuff like: “David played well with the other grown-ups today” and “Kathy really knows how to rock a kazoo!” 

Yeah. I think this might actually work. 

 

 

“I need to paint again.”

Every good painter paints what he is. – Jackson Pollock

Dad turned 97 at the end of June, and he and Mom (87) moved into a new home in a retirement community the next week. I’ve been so proud of the way they’ve forged ahead into this new adventure.

Last weekend I helped them unpack and unbox things in their new apartment – hung up pictures on the wall, cleared off the desk so Mom has a place to get organized, and cleared off the dining room table for Dad – showed him the box I’d packed for him full of watercolor paints, brushes, pencils. He said, “I need to paint again.” And then he filled up a cup with water, picked the brush he wanted, and THIS happened… 🙂