I Miss Him

It is Father’s Day – and it is also my dad’s 102nd birthday – a double whammy. When Dad was 99 and lying in a hospital bed with a UTI, angry that he wasn’t being allowed to leave, he announced to my husband and me that he was “going to live to be 102!”

He almost made it, too. He died January 19th of this year – just five months short of his goal.

A lot has happened in those five months. If my dad were suddenly to reappear here today and look around at what’s happened to our world in the last five months I’m not sure what he’d make of it all. I know he’d be celebrating some of it – I know he’d support the Black Lives Matter movement and be glad to see the progress that is being made towards equality for all people. He’d probably be baffled to see everyone walking around in face masks – but I think he’d like the smiley face on mine. 🙂 He might be frustrated by the way elderly folks are being isolated from the community and he probably wouldn’t like not being able to have a lot of visitors. But – as he always managed to do – he’d make the best of the circumstances – he’d rejoice in the good, patiently wait for the bad stuff to pass, and remain hopeful about the future. He was born at the end of WWI and the beginning of the Spanish Flu pandemic; survived the Great Depression and service in WWII; and survived 10 days in a small tent in a blizzard at 25,000′ on K2 – he wouldn’t be daunted by 2020. Pffft.

My dad, Dee Molenaar, had a full and wonderful 101 years and seven months. He saw his share of tragedies, but he also saw his share of triumphs.

I miss him. As I look at the photo of him, standing next to my mother on their wedding day, I feel him with me. I feel them both with me. Giving me courage. Telling me it’s all going to be alright. We’ll make it through this.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

I Miss My Drives with Dad, Too

A couple of you have messaged me to let me know how much you’ve missed my “drives with Dad.” I really appreciate your kind words and thoughtfulness, and taking the time to write me. I miss my drives with Dad (Dee Molenaar), too – I miss his spontaneous geology lectures; I miss looking for Mount Baker with him; I miss talking about the mountains we climbed together and remembering our adventures; I miss his keen observations; I miss his courage in the face of pain and adversity. He inspired me. He continues to inspire me.

Dad was born during the flu epidemic of 1918 and died on January 19th – just two days before the first coronavirus case was reported in Washington State. I’m so grateful we never had to be separated from each other because of the virus. I’m not sure he would have understood.

There are now two books that chronicle my adventures with Dad in his last years here. The first one, Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad, was published right after Dad’s 100th birthday (it now has ten 5-star reviews!). The second one was published last month, a couple months after Dad’s passing. Working on the second book was therapeutic for me – it helped me process Dad’s passing, and gave me a project to work on while the world headed into quarantine.

Should you be looking for something to read during the quarantine, here’s a link to the second book, The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad. I see there’s no review for it, yet. If anyone read the book and liked it, a review would be much appreciated. If anyone read the book and didn’t like it so much, please do not feel any obligation to write a review. 🙂

the second hundred years cover really

The Moz Molenaar Movie

If you google “Dee Molenaar” you’ll see there’s a new short film that pays tribute to Pop. I thought maybe it was time to make a little video to pay tribute to Moz, too – she may not have been as famous as Pop, but she was a force and a joy, and a beautiful blessing to all who knew her. My dad wouldn’t have lived the life he had if not for Moz. 🙂

Here’s a link to The Moz Molenaar Movie.

The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad

The sequel to Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad is now available as a Kindle book. The print book should be available sometime in the next couple days. The new book is called The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.

The book’s description: The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad is the sequel to Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad. The Second Hundred Years chronicles the further adventures of well-known mountaineer, Dee Molenaar, 101, and his daughter, Karen, as they visit, take drives through the countryside together, and say good bye.

Dee Molenaar and God

Dad had originally been named “Deo” – but when he was in his teens he learned “Deo” meant God, and he thought it was a little presumptuous to be named “God” – so he changed his name to Dee.

Dad was not a religious man. But he was a spiritually-minded person. He told me once that he felt closest to God when he was in the mountains. I could relate to this. I’ve always felt that Nando Parrado’s thoughts about God in Miracle in the Andes expressed really well my own feelings about God, and probably Dad’s feelings, too: “…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence… It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”

I asked Dad once what had inspired him to become an adventurer and explorer. He said a book he’d read as a youngster – The Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton – had been a huge inspiration to him. He quoted these words from the book: “Live! 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.”

And live that wonderful life my father did. All 101 years of it.

As many of you know, my mom was a Christian Scientist – she wasn’t very religious, either, in terms of following a human organization and institution – I think she thought of CS more as a way of life than a religion – and she loved the idea found in CS that “God is Love” and that she could actually use the power of Love to heal. The great mountaineer, Pete Schoening – who saved my dad’s life and the lives of four other men in The Belay on K2 – had also, coincidentally, married a Christian Scientist. So the Molenaar and Schoening kids had (and still have) a lot in common.

And all this leads up to a message I got from Pete’s daughter, Lisa Schoening Jertz, yesterday. She brought me a much-needed laugh:

“Your father has always been very personable, warm and funny the times I have seem him. He must have been a great father.

“Many years ago he was visiting us at the house on the lake in Kenmore. It was just before the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the K2 1953 Expedition in the Wind River Range was to take place. Dee was helping me iron and fold the commemorative K-2 T-shirts.

“He told me how much he appreciated and respected Colleen’s Christian Science faith. He told me that he had learned from your mother that when he was scared or felt uncomfortable he would say ‘God is Love’ and this helped him greatly with the situation.

“On the day of the visit it was also my father’s birthday. Unbeknownst to my father my brother Mark had just gotten his pilot’s license at 18, including the Seaplane rating. As a surprise Mark flew in with a seaplane to take him for a birthday ride. Being the host Pete was, of course he invited Dee to go along. They all got into the plane and as the door of the plane was closing I heard a soft voice say ‘God is love’– that was your father. It made me laugh.”

Dad and 100th birthday rainier this one

Adventures with Dad

Some of you have suggested I create a book from the posts that chronicled my adventures with Pop. I actually published one a year ago (Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad). I’m working on a second one now – picking up where I left off with the first one. Thank you for all the support and encouragement you gave to Dad and me on our last adventures together.

Several of you have taken the time to let me know what the first book meant to you. Thank you! It’s meant everything to me to know that Dad and I did something good together – that we’ve been able to touch other people’s hearts with our journey of the last few years.

Berg heil!
Karen Molenaar Terrell

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

Dad and Moz: Together Again

Dad and Moz: Together again.

Daddy passed away yesterday morning. I guess some part of me felt that if we didn’t announce his death, it wouldn’t be real. I actually found myself going to Dad’s page on Wikipedia to see if a death date was listed, yet – and when it wasn’t listed I figured that meant Dad hadn’t really died – because Wikipedia knows everything, right?

I wasn’t with Dad when he passed – I was walking on the boardwalk in Bellingham. But he was surrounded by the dear care-givers who took him into their home three years ago and loved him as family. Our whole family has been so blessed by the care shown Dad at Cedar Grove. Thank you, Gwen, Amanda, Megan, and Dietrick. I don’t know what we would have done without your love and support the last three years.

I have felt the support and love of all of you, too. I might go into hiding for a little while – so if you don’t hear from me, please don’t take it personally. It’s just me doing what I do. I love you all – each and every beautiful one of you. Thank you for joining Dad and I on our adventures together the last three years. We couldn’t have asked for better adventure-comrades.

As Dad would say, “Berg heil!”
Karen

Feedback from Writer’s Digest for *Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad*

I received feedback from “Writer’s Digest” today for my book, Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad. The feedback meant a lot to me and was encouraging. In an effort to be honest, I’m going to post everything here – all the ratings, and all of the judge’s commentary – with nothing omitted. I think the judge gave me some useful feedback.

From Judge #34, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards:
***
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 4
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

What a lovely story about your dad. I enjoyed how much of a hero he was to you. I also liked how you ended your narratives with you and your dad expressing your love for each other. That was very heartwarming and rang true. You set your book up almost as though you were writing poems to him, reflecting how much he meant to you. Through your compassionate writing, you showed how important it was to keep that poetry going as he began to lose his mental faculties.

Having said that, because you brought me into your story and into your relationship with your father, I would have liked a small paragraph at the end of the book letting me know whether he’s still alive, if he’s passed, how he’s doing. You could preface it by saying, ‘At the time of this writing…’ I make this suggestion because, in the previous pages, you’d allowed me to be a part of your family and witness the deep love you had for each other. That’s why it’s important to let me (and future readers) know what happened at the end of your story. It’s a fitting close to a sweet book and an equally sweet relationship.

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

Dad and I and a Flock of Snow Geese

When I arrive at Dad’s house he’s still in bed and looks to be sleeping. I lean over and kiss his forehead and his eyes flutter open. He squints up at me.
Dad: Is it time to eat?
Karen: Yeah. Are you hungry?
Dad: Yeah. I’ll get up.
Karen: Okay.

I let Amanda know that Dad’s ready to get up. I ask her if she thinks he’d be up for a drive today and she tells me she thinks he’d like that. She says he gets bored staying at home all day. It’s harder now because he needs to use a wheelchair – but Amanda tells me she and Dietrick will help me get him in the car.

Before long Dad appears from his room, sitting in the wheelchair – he looks kind of majestic – like a king on his throne. He’s dressed and shod and is wearing his alpine hat. Dietrick and Amanda roll him down the ramp and out to my car, and, together, manage to get him in the seat. I buckle him in and we’re good to go.

As we’re driving out of town and onto Chuckanut…
Dad: I haven’t had breakfast, yet.
Karen: Let’s get you a breakfast sandwich. (I head down Chuckanut Drive for Sisters Espresso. On the way, Dad says something that I can’t quite hear. I lean over and ask him what he said…)
Dad: I love you.
Karen: Oh Daddy! I love you, too!
(We arrive at Sisters Espresso and I order Dad a cocoa and a sandwich. I hand him his breakfast and we get back on the road.)

There are no volcanoes visible today, but I figure Dad will just like cruising through the countryside for a while. As I’m driving along Field Road I spot some waves of snow geese taking off and landing – it looks like they might be off Sunset Road – so I head that direction. Sure enough! Soon we come upon a lively flock of snow geese doing snow geese stuff. I pull over to the side of the road and roll down Dad’s window so he can hear them and watch them performing their flight maneuvers, and I grab my camera and take some photos. Then it’s back on the road again – heading for Dad’s home.

When we get to his home I wheel the wheelchair over to Dad – I’m going to try to get him in the chair without bothering Amanda – I know she’s having a busy morning. I have some trepidation about this, but Dad seems to understand what we need to do together, and I know I have a good partner in him. I hold out my hand to give him something to leverage himself on and he manages to turn himself in the seat a little. I gently grab one foot and help him lift it over the car’s side and onto the ground. I know it’s his other leg that gives him some trouble – so I am especially gentle as I help him lift the other foot over the side of the car. He winces and groans a little. I look up at him anxiously and touch his cheek with my hand. He holds my eyes with his and says, reassuringly, with quiet conviction, “I’m fine.” I know he doesn’t want me to feel bad. I have learned some tricks for lifting him up in the last few years and, together, we manage to get Dad standing and then sitting in the wheelchair. I feel inordinately proud of us.

I wheel him around the house to the ramp, tilt him back, and push him up the ramp and into the house. We settle down in front of the TV – I’m sitting on a chair behind Dad, rubbing his shoulders. He reaches up and grabs my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. When Amanda comes out to take Dad into the bathroom I know it is time for me to leave.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.

“1918?!”

Dad is sitting in the kitchen, finishing breakfast, when I arrive. I ask him if he’d like to go for a drive or if he’d like to stay home and rest, and he says, “Drive.” Dietrick and Amanda wheel him out to the car and help him get into the passenger seat. We buckle up and begin our adventure.
Dad: I’m so glad to be getting out!
Karen: I’m glad we’re going on another drive, too!
Dad: We’re heading west now, I think.
Karen: Yup!
Dad: And now we’re going under I-5.
Karen: Yup.
Dad: There’s the top of Baker! (He keeps his eyes on Mount Baker until it disappears behind the hills.)
Karen: Let’s go see if we can find Mount Baker again. (I plot a route in my head that will give Dad another view of Baker. On our route I pass a field of trumpeter swans. I, of course, have to pull over and get some photos. Dad is very patient with me while I snap pictures. And then I get back in the car and head for Thomas Rd. I plan to stay on Thomas from one end of it to the other – Dad should have a pretty good view of Baker from most of Thomas Road. I can see Dad scanning the horizon, looking. And then Baker appears and I point to it.)
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. Mount Baker. (Dad keeps his eye on the mountain – I know he must have been thirsting for the sight of a volcano the last couple weeks while he’s been house-bound and the weather has been cloudy.)

Sisters Espresso is closed temporarily while old gas tanks are removed from under the parking lot, so I head for another espresso stand I know is on our route. Dad has earned a treat, for sure. I pull into Diedrich Espresso and pull up to the window. I ask the barista, Jenna, if they have vanilla shakes there, and she says they do! While she’s making Dad’s shake I tell her my dad is 101 years old. Her mouth, literally, drops open. She says she would have guessed he was maybe 70, at the most. (Which makes me wonder how old she thinks I am – but, to my credit, I let that one slide.  )
Karen to Dad: You’re 101. She thinks you look 70.
Dad: (Smiling.) Seventy-ONE.
Jenna to me: What year was he born?
Karen: 1918.
Jenna: 1918?!
Karen: Yeah. He was born before women had the right to vote.
Jenna: (Grinning.) Wow! He’s seen a lot of presidents! This is the first person I’ve ever met who was over 100! How does he stay so fit?
Karen: He’s a mountain climber. Actually, he’s kind of famous. You can find him in wikipedia. (I always love throwing that out there.  )
Jenna: What’s his name?
Karen: Molenaar (I spell it out for her) and his first name is Dee.
Jenna: I’ll look him up!
(Jenna hands me Dad’s shake and my change – I leave her a tip – and I hand Dad his shake.)
Dad: Thank you! Are you going to get one, too?
Karen: No, I’m fine.

I drive Dad back to his home.
Dad: I recognize this place.
Karen: Yup. (I go in to get help to get Dad out of the car and into the wheelchair. Megan volunteers – bless her heart! – and comes out to the car. When Dad sees her coming, he waves through the window at her. She starts laughing…)
Megan to Dad: Hello!
(Amanda comes out and joins us and she and Megan help Dad out of the car and into the wheelchair.)
Karen: (I hand Dad his milk shake) Thank you for the drive today, Daddy. I love you.
Dad: I love you!

(Here are some photos of trumpeter swans I took today – some while I was with Dad, and some while I was on my own.)