“You’re always telling me all these places are my home.”

I pick Dad up for his eye appointment.  Dietrick helps him into my car and we buckle him up. Dad turns to Dietrich and says, “Thank you.” Dietrick tells him he’s very welcome.
Dad: Is this a doctor I’ve visited before?
Karen: Yes. He’s a mountain climber, too.
Dad: A mountain climber? What’s his name?
Karen: Dr. Saperstein.
Dad: (nods) Oh. (Thinking.) I have to be in Bremerton tonight. I’m getting together with my sister, Jo.
Karen: (nodding) Oh! Okay.
When I turn down the road to the doctor’s office, Dad nods his head in recognition, and says, “Yeah, this is the road.”

Dr. Saperstein’s office is really good about getting Dad into the system right away. There’s not a lot of waiting time there. Soon Dad is sitting in the chair in the examination room. The assistant introduces herself as “Brittany.” I speak into Dad’s ear and tell him her name is “Brittany.” He still can’t hear what I’m saying, so Brittany shows him her name tag.
Dad: Oh! Brittany. Are you from Brittany?
Brittany: (Laughing.) No, I’m a local.

Dad reads the letters off the eye chart. He does well until he gets to the third line. He recognizes there are five letters and one of them is an “S.”
Dad: House. (He looks at me for confirmation.) House.
Karen: (I nod my head and give him the thumbs up.)

We move into the room where Dad gets his eyes photographed – he knows the drill now and knows exactly what to do once he gets in there. And then he’s moved into the final room where he gets the injection in his eye.

A technician comes in to put drops in Dad’s eye. She lets me know that she checked Dad out on Wikipedia and found out a lot of cool stuff about him. I love this place. The technician leaves and Dad and me are alone…

Dad: My hearing is my worst problem. I can see. I can see you moving your feet. Stop moving your feet. (I stop and await further instructions. Dad starts grinning.) I can still give commands. (I start laughing.)

The song Anything Goes has been stuck in my noggin the last couple days and while we wait I start singing it to myself. Dad can see my lips moving, but he doesn’t know what I’m up to…
Dad: You don’t need to pray for me.
Karen: (Laughing) I’m not praying for you. (I get out of my seat and go up to him and say into his ear…) I’ve had this song stuck in my head. I’m singing. (And I start singing the song into his ear. The doctor comes in to give Dad his injection and I return to my chair.)

The doctor checks the photographs and says Dad’s good eye has much improved. The doctor says Dad’s sight is good enough for him to pass the driver’s license test now.
Karen: Noooooo!!!
(The doctor starts laughing.)

The doctor tells me that Dad’s eye has improved to the point that, after today’s injection, we don’t have to come back for another injection for 10 weeks. I go up to Dad to explain to him, directly into his ear, what the doctor just told me. Dad nods his head in understanding. I look at the doctor and ask him how I did – he laughs and tells me I’m hired.

Dad gets his injection and we schedule the next appointment for him and then, holding hands, Dad and I head back out to my car.
Karen: Do you want to get a root beer float now?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

I get Dad his root beer float and begin the drive back to his place. I pull into the driveway and park in front of the front door to his home. I speak into his ear: “Another adventure under our belts.” He smiles. I come around to help him out of the car. When he’s standing…

Dad: What are we doing here?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: You’re always telling me all these places are my home…

Dad goes into the home and I help him up the stairs. He heads right for Moz’s old recliner in front of the TV and I help him settle into it. I leave him for a moment to return his alpine hat to his room, and when I come back to Dad, Skittle, the white cat, is ensconced comfortably on his lap. I pet Skittles and ruffle the fur behind her ears.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen. Thank you for taking me to these appointments.
(I kiss Dad’s forehead and he smiles up at me.)

(For the new book about some of my other adventures with Dad, click here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

adventures with dad book cover

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“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

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!

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.