Dad’s Big Birthday Bash

(Excerpt from Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom)
June 21, 2016
Dad’s (Dee Molenaar‘s) big 98th birthday bash was yesterday. I spent the week before the party trying to get the house ready for our guests – dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, washing curtains, washing windows, battling cobwebs, pulling weeds, planting flowers, de-cluttering, and policing every horizontal surface in the house to make sure no new piles of stuff started growing on them. But frankly, when one lives in a house full of active, busy people, it ain’t easy to hang onto one’s feng shui. By the day of the party I was completely wiped-out.

And my house was still… well… how shall I put this? Let’s just say my house is not something you would find in “Good Housekeeping” magazine. It is not a show house. It has been lived in, and it looks like it: The ottoman has chunks out of it from when the dog was a puppy; the ceilings have hand-prints from the sons jumping up and tagging them; and the windows on the french doors have perpetual smudges at about the same level as the dog’s nose.

A couple hours before the party I went to fetch my parents and bring them back to the house. When I returned with my parents I found my sons, Andrew and Xander, and my eldest son’s girlfriend, Sierra, had arrived and were ready to help in any way they could. The sons moved furniture around for me, and, with the flip of a sheet and a strategically-placed pillow, Sierra was able to turn a battered old chair into an attractive piece of furniture. Then the three went outside to set up the volleyball net (because what is a summer party without volleyball – am I right, or am I right?), my husband, Scott, put the salmon on the grill, and Mom and Dad got comfortably settled to await their guests – who soon began to arrive.I hadn’t told my parents about most of the guests.

I hadn’t told them about Dad’s nephew who was flying in from Chicago; Dad’s niece who was coming up from San Francisco; Mom’s niece and her husband from Oregon; one of Mom’s nieces and her husband from Vancouver (Washington); another of Mom’s nieces and her husband from Seattle; and the daughter of a niece, and her husband, from Tacoma; Fred, Bill, and Roger, Dad’s old climbing buddies from Seattle, and Fred’s wife, Dorothy; Roland, who’d worked as a mountain rescue volunteer in King County; musician Tracy Spring – the daughter of Dad’s old friend, Bob, the famous photographer; Mark Schoening, the son of the man who had saved my dad’s life on K2, and his wife, Emmy; my old high school friend, Rita, who years ago had taken a trip to California with Dad and me, and Rita’s husband, Skip; and the two young women who worked for Mountaineers Books and wanted to return original artwork from Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier.

And then there were the people my parents HAD been expecting: My brothers, Pete and Dave; Pete’s girlfriend, Sheila, who immediately manned the kitchen for me and kept the food coming; Dave’s children, Claire and Casey, and Claire’s boyfriend, Michael; our old family friend, Jack, whom we’ve known for more than 50 years; Rick and Jana and their daughter, Cindy, who are like family to us, and Cindy’s friends who had been in the same orphanage in China that Cindy had been in before they’d all been adopted and brought to America; my neighbors and fellow mountain people, John and Mike and Cliff; and Dean, a former colleague, and his wife, Ruth – both big time mountain aficionados.

The house was soon packed full of people. Interesting, well-traveled people. Fun people. Amazing people.

I forgot all about the aesthetics of my house – my focus shifted, instead, to all the generous, wonderful folks who had taken the time and made the effort – some of them traveling hundreds of miles! – to be with Daddy on his special day. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of that.

Near the end of the festivities, Tracy Spring got out her guitar and sang for Dad a song she had written herself. It was the absolutely perfect song for that time and that place and I started tearing up when Tracy got to the last verse. Then Roland brought out his guitar, and he and Tracy strummed the song Summertime, while I sang it.

Ohmygosh. It was such a fun day!

At the end of it all, as Dad was sitting in the car, waiting to be driven back to his apartment, I asked him if he’d enjoyed his birthday bash. He said yes, he had. But he was surprised. Had all those people come for him?! Why?! “Because they love you,” I told him, and kissed him on the cheek. He blinked at me, trying to process it all.

At some point – a couple hours into the party – two or three different people came up at separate times to tell me what a “beautiful home” I have. I thanked them, but… yeah, I was surprised. They saw my puppy-chewed, son-tagged, dog-smudged house as “beautiful”?! Wow. That was very nice for them to say, but… really?!

This morning Mom called to tell me that Dad has been asking her all morning if yesterday had just been a dream. Each time he asked, Mom assured him it had all been real.

I thought again to those comments about my home and had an epiphany. My home HAD been beautiful – not because of its physicality – but because it had been packed full of beautiful people. It had been filled full of love. How could it NOT have been beautiful?!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Dad Turns 98 Today!

Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is so little time that your youth will last – such a little time.
– Richard Halliburton

God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Dad turns 98 today. A couple months ago he thought he’d be turning 100 today. A month ago he thought he’d be turning 97. We finally got it all sorted out when I reminded him that he was born in 1918 and that it is now 2016. I saw him do the calculations in his head. A few minutes later we were sitting at the dining room table with my mom and husband, when Dad announced, kind of shocked, “I’m going to be 98 in a month! I never thought I’d make it to 98.” Later he told me that 98 sounds a lot older than 100. Apparently he just skipped over 98 and 99 and went right from 97 to 100 when he’d been trying to figure out his age.

Think about this: When Dad was born women didn’t have the right to vote, yet. Radios, telephones, and cars had just been invented. There were no CDs, televisions, cellphones, or computers. There was no internet. There was no Google. There was no Wikipedia. To find information people often went to the library and did research in these things called books – and sometimes the research might take days or even weeks! (Today if you want to find out more about Dad, all you’ve got to do is go to his Wikipedia page – et voila! There he is!)

People also read those things called books just for fun. The book that Dad has said most influenced him was a book called The Rolling Road to Romance by an adventurer named Richard Halliburton. Halliburton exonerated his readers to “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is so little time that your youth will last – such a little time.”

Dad took those words to heart.

Dad was born at the end of World War I. He survived The Great Depression with his family, served in World War II, has climbed on the highest mountains on earth, went to the South Pole, and close to the North Pole, has been on six of the seven continents, has moved easily among world leaders, and traveled the world with a close group of fellow adventurers and explorers. At various times he’s worked as a photographer, cartographer, geologist, hydrologist, artist, mountain guide, ski instructor, and author. He’s moved through life with no sense of limitation about what he might accomplish or where he might go or who he might meet, and that – what I guess some might call “naïve” – sense of freedom has served him well in his life.

And today he turns 98. He’s still engaged in his life – still enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of Life’s highways and by-ways. He continues to live “the wonderful life” that is in him.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Dee Molenaar

 

Party with the Butterflies!

Tomorrow I add another year to my age. I’ve been putting some thought into what this actually means to me. And, as you can imagine, I’ve had all kinds of really profound thoughts about youth and age, about smooth skin and wrinkles and young bodies and old bodies and ego and vanity and beauty and wisdom and progress. But – other than to say that I’ve decided I like the person I am today more than the person I was 30 years ago – I don’t really want to talk about youth and age and stuff right now.

No, the really cool thing – the funnest thing about waking up to tomorrow – is that tomorrow will be a sunny day and that means there will be butterflies and that means I get to…

party with the butterflies

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

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