Driving to the Daffodils with Dad

Dad was resting in his bed when we got there.

Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yes. Am I allowed to leave here?
Karen: (laughing) Of course! Are you ready to go?
Dad: Yes!

(Scotty and I situate Dad in the front passenger seat and I sit behind Dad in the back seat. I reach forward and pat Dad’s shoulder and he reaches for my hand and holds it.)
Scott: Where should we go first?
Karen: Sisters Espresso.
(Scotty heads for the Sisters Espresso. As we pull into the parking lot…)
Dad: Good! (smiling) Karen takes me here all the time when we go on our drives…
(I order the usual ice cream float for Dad, and a couple coffees for Scott and myself. I hand Dad his float through the car window…)
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: Is it good?
Dad: (gives the thumbs up)

We head out to the daffodil fields.
Dad: This is beautiful country. (Thinking) I used to be stationed out here – in the Coast Guard… Have you ever been to the Big Four Inn? They turned it into a Coast Guard place during the war. (Note: Dad had also been stationed in the South Pacific during The War – but today he wanted to talk about the Big Four Inn.)
Karen: (to Scott from the back seat) We went up there with Dad, remember? The Inn burnt down – there was just a foundation there.
Scott: (remembering) Yeah. (turns to Dad) We hiked up there together, remember? We went hiking with Pete Schoening to the Ice Caves.
Dad: (nods, remembering)
Scott: (talking to me) That was one of the last hikes Pete Schoening went on, wasn’t it? Do we still have the picture of Pete with the boys?
Karen: Yes. I think I have it on Facebook.
(The daffodil fields appear on the right.)
Karen: (pointing) Look at the daffodils!
Dad: The field is glowing.
(Scotty pulls over so I can snap some quick photos.)

Dad: What are we doing for New Year’s tonight?
Karen: It’s April. We’re looking at the April daffodils.
Dad: Oh. (Pause) When did I think it was?
Karen: I don’t know.
Dad: (to Scott) I used to live at the Big Four Inn. Have you ever been to the Big Four Inn? The Coast Guard took it over during the war. Where did you live during the war?
Scott:(smiling) I didn’t live anywhere. I wasn’t born, yet.
Dad: (starts laughing) Oh. Yeah.

(We pass Tulip Town…)
Dad: There’s going to be a lot of traffic here when the tulips bloom. You’ll want to avoid this area when it’s tulip time. When do the tulips get ripe?
Scott: Another couple weeks, probably.
Dad: (making an observation) It’s easier to see things when it’s raining. There’s not as much shadow.
(As we reach our turn-around point on our drive…)
Karen: Wayne said he was going to visit you. Did he stop by?
Dad: Yeah. We had a nice visit.
Karen: Did his wife visit you, too?
Dad: Yeah, she was there, too. It was nice.
Karen: Some more of your friends are going to visit in a couple weeks – Tom Hornbein, Bill Sumner, and Jim Wickwire.
Dad: (smiling) Good! That gives me something to look forward to!

(We head for Dad’s home, and pass a retirement community where one of his friends used to live…)
Karen: Norma used to live there, remember?
Dad: Oh… yeah. We visited her there once, didn’t we?
Karen: Yes.
Dad: I think she lived in the house right there – right next to the fence.
Karen: Yes, I think so.
Dad: This was the best time to go for a drive. I wouldn’t want to be driving around on a weekend when the tulips are blooming.
Karen: This was a nice drive, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes, it was. A nice drive.
(We turn into the driveway of Dad’s home.)
Dad: I recognize this place. There’s that long bedroom…
(We help Dad out of the car, up the stairs, and into Moz’s old recliner in the living room.)
Karen: Thank you for going on a drive with us, Daddy.
Dad: Thank you for the drive!
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you!

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“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

 

Drives with Dad (10-11-17)

Over the past year or so I’ve been chronicling the drives I take with my dad (now 99). This morning I thought I’d share the most recent adventure with my WordPress friends –

“I’m Running for President”
October 11, 2017

Picked Dad up for a drive to Urgent Care this morning.
As we’re getting him down the stairs and to the car –
Dad: I’m running for President.
Karen: (involuntary grin – Dad appears to be in fine form this morning) I’d vote for you!
Dad: Do you really think I’d make a good President?
Karen: I think you’d be great!
(As we situate him in the car.)
Dad: I don’t want to bring my walker. I don’t think you can be President if you have a walker.
Karen: Roosevelt had polio. He used a brace.
Dad: (nodding his head) That’s true. But he had a lot of people backing him. (An old receipt starts to work its way out of my car as Dad moves his feet in – I pick up the receipt and shove it back into the car.)
Dad: I don’t think anyone would vote for a President with a messy car.
(I start laughing.)
Dad: I wonder how many other old men in this nation are trying to get into a car right now.

As we drive to Urgent Care Dad talks more about his campaign for Presidency.
Dad: I think you should run for President. You’re a teacher. What more do you need to be? (Thinking.) I wonder how many other daughters are driving their fathers around right now?

I help Dad out of the car and into the waiting room at Urgent Care.
Dad: Do Peter and David  know about your attempt to make me President?
(I shake my head no. I don’t really know how to respond to that one.)
Dad: How do we know when the joke’s gone far enough? When do they eliminate me?
Karen: (I assume Dad’s talking about being eliminated from the presidential race – but he’s talking really loud and everyone can hear him, and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings.) Daddy, no one’s going to eliminate you.

We have a wait. Other people who arrived after us have now been called to the back rooms. I ask the receptionist if maybe Dad’s been forgotten. She goes to check for me and discovers his chart is missing, and there was some miscommunication somewhere – one nurse thought the other nurse was looking at Dad, and the other nurse thought the first nurse was looking at Dad. Everyone’s very apologetic and Dad is quickly brought into the triage room. Soon he’s been diagnosed and given a prescription and we are on our way. I stop at Dairy Queen to buy him a root beer float – he has earned it, for sure. He focuses on his float. He’s no longer talking about his bid for the Presidency.

I drive him back to his home, and we unload him. I bring a package in with me that his nephew, Brad, sent him and read to Dad the enclosed note from Brad. Brad has sent him a screen dealy that is loaded with a memory card of thousands of pictures taken by Dad. Dad is smiling – really grateful for this gift. I tell him I need to get back to school now.

Dad: Thank you for driving me around this morning.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, too.

 

 

 

Taking Dad for a Drive

Karen: Daddy, do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I wouldn’t mind.
(In the car)
Dad: Thank you for taking me for a drive. You’re a good daughter.
Karen: It’s my pleasure.
Dad: Do you prefer to call me “Dad” or “Father”?
Karen: I call you “Daddy.”
(We turn into the local espresso stand. Dad recognizes this as the place where I buy him root beer floats.)
Dad: Oh good! This is exactly what we need right now!
(Back on the road – Dad’s got his root beer float and I have my lavender ice tea.)
Dad: This is the longest time I haven’t seen Mom. I think she’s in Kansas City… or somewhere in the Midwest… helping the government.
Karen: I know she’s doing a good job.

(We reach the Chuckanut Hills)
Dad: I used to do water rights surveys out here when I worked for the USGS.
Karen: That was a fun part of your job, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes. I always took little detours when I went on these survey trips. (He looks around and studies the landscape.) This is a beautiful part of the world.

(We’ve gotten to Fairhaven now.)
Dad: I wonder how many places are called Fairhaven. It’s a good name. It has a happy sound to it.
(We get all the way to Boulevard Park. For some reason, every single parking space is taken today.)
Dad: Are we going to park here and walk around?
Karen: There’s no parking today. We’ll try to do that another day.
(Dad nods his head in understanding.)

As we’re driving up from the park I spot my old friend, Darryl – Darryl and I made acquaintance on the boardwalk several years ago when we saw each other taking photos and struck up conversation. In the course of our conversation we’d realized that Darryl’s Aunt Gladdie was one of Mom and Dad’s good friends. I stop and roll down the window and introduce Dad to Darryl – and try to explain that Darryl’s aunt is Gladdie. Dad is profoundly hard-of-hearing and I wasn’t sure he understood what was going on, but he smiled and shook Darryl’s hand and we moved on. A minute later he said, “Was he related to Gladdie in some way?” I told him he was Gladdie’s nephew. Dad asked me how I discovered this – “Did he have a sign on him that said he was Gladdie’s nephew?” he joked. And I explained how Darryl and I had met by chance and discovered we had his Aunt Gladdie in common. Dad nodded. In his world, this kind of coincidence is probably perfectly normal. He knows a lot of people.

(We head back down Chuckanut.)
Dad: Do you take a lot of drives with Mom?
Karen: Yes. (I take my late mother on all my drives with me.) But I like taking drives with you, too.
Dad: We don’t talk much. (I can tell he’s thinking about his hearing problem.)
Karen: No, but it doesn’t matter.
Dad: It doesn’t matter because we’re with each other.
Karen: Right!

(We get back to his home. He has a hard time getting in and out of the car these days – he will, after all, be 99 in a month. He tries to shift his feet out of the car and onto the pavement. This is hard work. He sighs and laughs and looks up at me.)
Dad: These days it’s just hard getting up the energy to get out of the car.
(I can tell he’s gathering his energy to lift himself out of the seat and I reach under his armpits to help him. “One-two-three!” And he’s up!)
Dad: Thank you for the drive today.
Karen: It was fun, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes, I enjoyed it very much.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you, too.

Xander and Karen’s Epic Adventure

For years Mom had been telling us about her rh negative blood and her adopted great-great-great-someone who might have been Tatar, or descended from Genghis Khan, or possibly Basque Reptile Aliens. Finally, in an effort to solve the mystery of the great-great-great I bought Mom one of those DNA kits. After I bought the kit for Mom, I noticed that Dad looked pretty interested in being tested, too. So last week I ordered a kit for him.

The kit wasn’t supposed to arrive until Tuesday. This was a bummer because I have Saturday through Monday off every week, and if the kit didn’t arrive until Tuesday I’d have to wait a whole ‘nother week to bring it down to Dad. I started monitoring the kit’s progress across the country via its UPS tracking number and on Saturday found that it had made it to Seattle in the early morning. The odds of it getting to my local post office in time for me to pick it up while the post office crew was still there seemed pretty low – and if I couldn’t pick it up Saturday I’d have to wait until after work on Tuesday to get it because Monday was a holiday. So I did the Karen-thing. I threw out my happy hopes to the “cosmos” – thought of all the wonderful post office workers who were handling the kit and how efficient they all were, and how if they knew my need they’d want to help me – and drove to the post office on Saturday morning with an expectancy of finding Good waiting for me there. And it was! The kit had arrived!

As I was getting ready to leave for my folks’ my son, Xander, told me he’d like to go with me to visit his grandparents.  And so began our epic adventure.

The drive to my parents’ home went well – the express lanes through Seattle were open and we arrived at Dad and Mom’s in a couple hours. The DNA test involved spitting into a tube. Dad took care of that pretty quickly, and we moved onto other things. Xander, who has recently discovered his gifts as an artist and poet, and also recently discovered from a Wikipedia article that his grampa painted the “highest painting in the world” (my dad, Dee Molenaar, painted a watercolor at 25,000 feet on K2), began asking Dad about his painting technique. So Dad got out his watercolors and painted a picture for Xander on the dining room table. Watching Dad paint was oddly soothing – the sound of the brush on the paper, the stillness and quiet as Dad focused on his work – Xander and I both found ourselves getting relaxed and drowsy as we watched the painting unfold in front of us. There was something very precious in the bonding that was happening between the artist born at the beginning of the 20th century (in 1918) and his grandson-artist, born at the end of the 20th century (in 1994).

When it came time to go, Xander signed one of his books for his grandparents, and Dad signed his painting for Xander, we gave Mom and Dad tight hugs, and then got back in the car to begin our adventure home.

It had begun to rain.

By the time we reached I-5 the rain had become a deluge. It was dark, visibility was low, and people were hydro-planing by us at 80 mph. There were flashing red and blue lights coming from the side of the freeway on the right, and more flashing on the left. Xander said, “This is scary.” Something about the way he said it struck me as funny, and we both started laughing.  Then, still laughing, Xander shared his belief that people living in America today have become everyday daredevils.  Driving I-5 has become an “extreme sport” – we all race down the freeway in our narrow lanes – and if we cross over the lines we could be toast. We depend on everyone else to know what they’re doing, but “there are 16 year-olds driving down this freeway,” Xander pointed out – and everyone acts like this is all normal. Xander’s observations about the absurdity of modern freeway-driving cracked me up. The laughter helped ease the tension I’d been feeling.

I felt we were meant to be exactly where we were at that moment, and I felt we really could depend on everyone else to be exactly where they needed to be, too. The day had begun perfectly with the arrival of the DNA kit; the visit with my parents had been precious and dear; and now I was enjoying shared laughter with my son.  There was no place for anything less than perfect in this perfect and epic adventure.

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Dee Molenaar painting a picture of Mount Rainier.