To the Mountain!

“In Two Days You’ll Be in Paradise”
June 21, 2018

There’s a film-maker at Dad’s home to capture his 100th birthday celebration. Eric and his cameraman, Chip, are waiting for me when I arrive to visit Dad. They want to film me walking into Dad’s home – and I’m thinking, “Oh, this is good – my big old 61 year-old backside is someday going to be seen in indy theatres across the nation. Why couldn’t this have happened 20 years ago?” (.Ahem. I have some vanity issues.) I go through the door again for them, and go into the home to find Dad at the table finishing up his breakfast.

Karen: We’re heading up to Rainier tomorrow. You’ll get to see your mountain again.
Dad: It’s not my mountain. It belongs to anyone who loves mountains.
Karen: (smiling) Tomorrow we’ll drive up to the Beech House in Ashford. And then on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: We’re going to the Beech House?
Karen: Yes. It’s Jimmy Beech’s old house. Remember your old friend Jimmy Beech? He took me on my first plane ride. He took us on a plane ride around Mount Rainier. We got really close to the glaciers…
Dad: (nodding, remembering) Is Jimmy still alive?
Karen: No. He’s gone now. But Rick and Jana Johnson have remodeled his old house and that’s where we’ll be staying this weekend. And on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: (nods his head) What day is today?
Karen: Today is your 100th birthday. Today is Thursday. So in two days you’ll be back at Paradise.
Dad: I don’t want to climb the mountain again, though.
Karen: (laughing) No, you don’t have to climb it. If you want you can just stay right in the car and look at your mountain from there.
Dad: Maybe just to Alta Vista.
Karen: (smiling) Okay. Maybe Alta Vista.

The phone rings and it’s Dad’s old mountaineering friend, Tom Hornbein, calling to wish him a happy 100th birthday. We put Tom on speaker phone so we can all hear him. Tom asks if anyone has an I-phone so we can get a live picture of him as he and Dad talk. The cameraman, Chip, pulls out his I-phone and they rig things up so we can see Tom and he can see Dad as they converse. Dad and Tom talk for a while about old friends, and what it feels like for Dad to be turning 100 (Dad says it doesn’t feel any different than yesterday). I’ve moved to the back so the film-makers can catch the conversation on camera, but as the conversation comes to an end I hear Tom say, “Bye, Dee.” And there’s something about the way Tom says this – something very sweet and dear – that has me tearing up.

Scott and our son, Andrew, and Dad’s friend, Bob Ader, arrive to celebrate Dad’s birthday. Andrew arm wrestles his grandpa at the dining room table – it ends in a tie, with both of them grinning at each other.

Eric and Chip follow Dad back into his room so they can share some old 8 mm movies Dad shot years ago and that they’ve digitalized for him. I can see that Dad is enjoying watching the old films.

Eric knows we’re taking Dad up to Paradise on Saturday and he says he needs to capture every moment of the ride to Paradise. He plans to bring his camera into the car with Dad and my family as we make the drive from Ashford to Dad’s old stomping grounds. This is not what I’d envisioned when I’d imagined the drive with Dad to Paradise – I’d been expecting my family to have Dad all to ourselves in the car – imagined myself leaning forward from the back seat to see Dad’s reaction when he saw his mountain again. It was not going to be the same sharing the back seat with Eric and his camera.

“Let’s Go to Longmire!”
June 22, 2018

We help Dad into his care-giver’s car. I lean through the car window and explain to Dad that we’ll be in the car right in front of him. He nods his head in understanding. “We’re going up to Ashford today,” I remind him, “and then tomorrow we’ll drive up to Paradise and you’ll be on your mountain again.” I kiss his cheek.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

We ride in a caravan to Rainier: Scott and I in the first car; Gwen, Gwen’s grandson, and Dad in the second car; Bob Ader and Xander in the third car. We’re anticipating that we’ll need to negotiate huge traffic jams through Seattle, but somehow we manage to maneuver around the mess and soon we find ourselves past the metro congestion and driving on country highways through green farmland and headed towards Ashford.
About an hour outside of Ashford I get a text from my brother, Dave, letting me know that Kristianne Schoening (whose father Pete Schoening had saved my dad and four others with his famous belay on K2) and her nephew and his family were at the Beech House. They’d thought the potluck party was today and had come a day early. I texted my brother back to tell him we would be there in an hour and that we had Bob Ader with us. Dave said, “Oh! Kristianne was hoping to see Bob again! I’ll let her know.”

It has been an overcast day with no sign of Rainier. But now, as we near “Dad’s Mountain” the clouds start breaking up and we begin to see patches of Rainier’s glaciered slopes. I’m thinking, “Of course the mountain is revealing herself! She wouldn’t stay hidden from Dad!” And I begin to think about the possibility of maybe getting Dad into the park and up to Longmire today to see his mountain – if he’s up for it. I mean – why wait, right? The film-maker can still ride with us up to Paradise on Saturday – but maybe today we can sneak in a quick drive to Longmire with Dad – and Xander, Scott and I can have him to ourselves in the car for that precious moment when he sees Rainier again up-close.

When we get to Ashford I suggest to Scott that we stop at Rick and Jana’s pottery shop before going to the Beech House. There we run into Kristianne and her nephew, Gabriel, Gabriel’s wife, Terese, and their baby daughter. Gwen pulls her car in next to us and Bob parks his car a few spaces down.
Gwen: (smiling)Your dad was so excited when he saw the glimpse of the mountain. He was crying. He doesn’t want to stop here. He wants to go all the way up to Paradise right now.
Karen: Let’s do it! We don’t have time to go up to Paradise – but let’s go up to Longmire!

We confer with the Schoening family, Scott, Xander, Bob, and my brother, Dave, and we decide to go for it! The Schoenings had been up to Paradise earlier in the day, but couldn’t see the mountain for the clouds. They’re ready to give it another go.
We stop first at the Beech House to drop off our bags, and then pile into three cars and head for Longmire.

Dad is in the car with Scott and Xander and I. He’s sitting in the front seat and I’m sitting behind him. This is how I’d originally imagined it would be. I lean forward and put my hand on his shoulder and Dad reaches up and squeezes my hand. In that moment I am completely happy.

We travel to Longmire, park the car, and help Dad to a bench where he can see his mountain. There’s a small tree in his line of vision, but Dad really needs to sit and rest awhile, tree or no tree. His eyes are fastened on Rainier. He begins to describe the routes he’s taken up its slopes, pointing with his finger.
Karen: It’s been a while since you’ve been up here. How long has it been?
Dad: (thinking) Yeah. It’s been a few years.
Karen: It’s good to see it again, isn’t it?
Dad: Yeah. (He stretches the word out so it sounds like three syllables.)

After a while my husband moves a chair off the Longmire Inn’s porch and sets it out in the open, facing Rainier – there are no obstacles to a full line of sight of Rainier from that chair. We help Dad towards the chair, but when he’s about three yards out from it he says he can get to the chair on his own. I instinctively reach out to help him, but Gwen (wisely) shakes her head at me and says, “He can do this.” And we watch Dad climb another mountain as he makes it to the seat and settles into it.

Dad crosses his legs and makes himself comfortable in the chair. Aidan brings Dad an ice cream cone. He is surrounded by family and old friends, and Rainier is full in front of him. Life does not get any better than this. It is momentous.

After a morning spent in the clouds, the Schoenings are able to see Rainier now. I’m thinking they were meant to come today.
A tanned and spry woman – in her eighties maybe – approaches me and introduces herself. Her name is Annemarie and she’s a climber and she’d heard from our mutual friend, Rick Johnson, that Dad would be coming up to Paradise tomorrow and she was afraid she’d miss him. So to see him NOW – right in front of her in Longmire – is like a miracle to her. She’s clutching Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier, and she’s wondering if he would sign it for her. I give her a hug and take the book to Dad.

I explain to Dad who Annemarie is – write her name down on a piece of paper so he can see how it’s spelled – and he autographs the book for her. He’s an old hand at this kind of thing. He has just made Annemarie’s day.

We stay at Longmire for maybe twenty minutes – and then it is time to go back down to the Beech House. It has been a long day for Dad. And tomorrow we’re going up to Paradise!

 

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Daddy will be 100 in an hour!

Dad was born on the longest day of the year in 1918. World War I was just ending. The United States was about to enter the Roaring Twenties. Flappers. Jazz. Bobbed hair cuts and skirts above the ankles! Women didn’t have the right to vote, yet. Talkies hadn’t been invented, yet. There were no colored motion pictures, televisions, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, computers, cellphones, or electronic books. People weren’t traveling around in jet airplanes, and humans hadn’t yet landed on the moon.

Dad lived through the Great Depression, served in WW2, adventured and climbed mountains on six of our planet’s seven continents. He had the chance, in his life, to climb Mount Kennedy with Bobby Kennedy, and to become friends with astronauts and explorers, artists and writers. He has made an amazing life for himself. (You can read about Dad in Wikipedia here.)

But on that longest day of the year 100 years ago, he was just entering the world. I can’t imagine anyone could have foreseen on that day the changes Dad would see in his lifetime, or the incredible life he would lead. Or that he would live to see his 100th birthday.

Happy birthday, Daddy! I am so proud to be your daughter!

Dad at the park

“I was surprised by how painless it was…”

When I got to Dad’s place I learned a friend had just sent him the obituary for author Ruth Kirk. Ruth had been a dear friend of Dad’s and Dad had tears in his eyes when I arrived to visit with him. He was having a hard time of it. He’d told the care-giver that he’d illustrated some of Ruth’s books, and the care-giver had tried to find one of Ruth’s books on Dad’s bookshelves – but hadn’t been able to find one – so, instead, she’d pulled out Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier and they were looking through Dad’s illustrations in his book when I got there.

His care-giver made room for me to sit next to Dad so we could talk. Dad shared how sad he was about losing his friend, Ruth. I told him that this had been a rough year, and we talked about other friends he’d lost. He said at this point whenever he gets a card in the mail he expects to find an obituary for one of his friends inside it.

Some people he remembered were gone – climber Fred Beckey, and his brother, K (although he thought K had just passed away a couple years ago, when actually he’s been gone since 1994). He was surprised to learn that other friends were gone – “I wondered why I hadn’t heard from them,” he said. I think he was wondering why no one had told him about his friends’ passing – so I let him know that we’d shared these passages with him, but that he’d forgotten. I suggested that maybe he forgot because it was too traumatic for him to process – and I told him that would be understandable. He seemed to accept this.

I always follow my intuition in these conversations – sometimes I don’t bring up Mom’s passing, and sometimes – like today – it seems the right time to talk about it. I know talking about Mom’s passing is very hard for him – but… there are times when I think it’s helpful to him, too. So I held his hand and shared with him, again, Mom’s last week with us – I told him that he’d been able to say good bye to her in the hospital before they brought her to my home; told him she’d died peacefully in her sleep while I slept on the couch next to her; told him I felt her presence brush passed me as she left – I felt her love and joy. I told him that she’d loved him very much – that she still loves him – and that we’d promised her we’d take care of him. Dad nodded and wept quietly.

I observed that when you live to be 100 you lose a lot of people along the way. “But fortunately,” I said, “you have a lot of friends who are younger than you.” He smiled and nodded.

I asked him if he’d ever expected to live to be 100. He said he’d never thought about it.

Then – “Is it time for a drive?” he asked, hopefully. So his care-givers helped me get him ready – got him in his sweater, put shoes on his feet – and I put his alpine hat on his head – and we loaded him up in my car. I asked him if he’d like me to take him for a root beer float, and he nodded his head.

On the drive to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: I’ve been thinking this week that I needed to get out of here and get back home to Mom. But now I realize she’s gone.
Karen: Yeah. That place where you’re living is your home now.

As we turn onto old Hwy 99…
Dad: Now we’re heading north. Parallel to the Pacific coast.
Karen: Yup.
Dad: How are the boys?
Karen: They’re both graduated from university now.
Dad: (taking this in) Time goes fast. I was in school a lot longer than them. Or… that’s how it feels, anyway.

As we turn onto Chuckanut Drive…
Dad: Last month when I thought I was dying I was surprised by how painless it was. It’s just getting sleepy…
Karen: You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What?
Karen: (louder) You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What? I can’t hear you. Let’s talk when we get to where we’re going.

I pull into the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (smiling) I remember this place!
Karen: (turning off the car and speaking into Dad’s ear) Did you think you were dying last month?
Dad: I dreamed I was. I was surprised by how painless it was. It was just like going to sleep.
Karen: Do you feel like you’re dying now?
Dad: No. I’m good.
Karen: Good!

I get him his root beer float and hand it to him. He thanks me and begins drinking it. I head the car back to his home. As we pass a field bursting with little yellow flowers (maybe mustard seed flowers?)…
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I’m not sure he can hear me, but I feel the need to say it.)
Dad: (turning to me) And I love you!

We pull into the driveway and next to the front door, and I help Dad get out of the car and up the stairs. The care-giver helps him get situated in the living room in Mom’s old chair.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! Thank you!
Karen: Thank YOU!

Epic Afternoon

Epic afternoon. Dad (Dee Molenaar, aged 99 and 10/12) was visited by three of his old mountaineering buddies – Tom Hornbein, Jim Wickwire, and Bill Sumner – extraordinary climbers all. Dad arm-wrestled Tom (Tom and Willi Unsoeld were the first men to ascend Everest from the West ridge), looked at a K2 book with Jim (Jim and Louis Reichardt were the first Americans to ascend K2), and had a good laugh with Bill (who was a member of the expedition that included the first one-legged person to reach the top of Denali). They talked about old friends, old climbs, and the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award Tom is going to receive tonight. (Tom picked up the award for Dad last spring when Dad was in the hospital, and says that helped him prepare for accepting his own award tonight.)

Watching these old pals reunite – men who have shared adventures together that most people probably can’t even imagine – men who are living pieces of history – brought tears to my eyes. What a privilege to be there with them…

 

 

 

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!

“It’s Ice Cream Time!”

Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: That’s exactly what I need right now.

Amanda helps me get Dad in the car and we head out on today’s adventure. As we pass a nearby retirement village I remember that one of Dad’s old friends used to live there. I point to it…

Karen: That’s where Norma Johnson used to live.
Dad: Norma Johnson? I haven’t heard from her or Bob for awhile. Are they still alive?
Karen: Bob died a while ago. I’m not sure about Norma.
Dad: That’s the thing about getting old. You stop hearing from your friends. You stop expecting to hear from them anymore. People just quietly die off. I wonder if Bob’s still alive…
(I don’t say anything – he didn’t hear me the first time, and I’m thinking I should just let it pass…)
Dad: I’d try to find him, but his name is Bob Johnson. There are a lot of Bob Johnsons. He’d be hard to find. (thinking) How’d you like to be named Bob Johnson? (pause) Dee Molenaar – there aren’t a lot of Dee Molenaars. (turns to me) Karen Molenaar. There’s a good name. Do you go by Karen Molenaar or Karen…?(Dad struggles to remember my married name)
Karen: I use ’em both. Karen Molenaar Terrell.
Dad: Yeah. That’s good. You’ve got them all covered.

(We’re traveling near LaConner now.)

Dad: (pointing to the sky) The jet stream is long and straight – that means there’s not much wind today. There’s the tip of Mount Baker. (a little further) There’s the Olympics. This is a beautiful part of the country.
Karen: Do you remember when we climbed Baker together? You and me and Scott?
Dad: (thinking, and then nodding his head) Yeah. I remember that.

(I pull over to take a picture of a field of daffodils. Then we head towards Bow. We get to the top of the hill on Farm to Market Road and I see a place to pull over and take a picture of Baker.)
Dad: What do you do with all these pictures you take? Do you put them in an album.
Karen: I share them with my friends.
(Dad nods. We stop again so I can take another picture of Baker. I show the picture I took to Dad. He nods…)
Dad: That would make a good painting. The farm buildings in the foreground and Mount Baker.

(As we near the Sisters Espresso…)
Dad: (smiling) It’s ice cream time.
(I pull into the Sisters Espresso and go up to order Dad’s root beer float and a lavender iced tea for me. I hand Dad his float…)
Dad: Thank you!

(We head back to his home now.)
Dad: Who’s taking me back to Seattle tonight?
Karen: I’m taking you home now.
(Dad’s quiet – I’m not sure if he’s processing what I just said, or if he didn’t hear it. As I drive in front of his home he recognizes it…)
Dad: (smiling) Ah, the long house.

(I pull in front of the front door and reach for his ice cream float – it looks pretty empty…)
Karen: Are you done with that now?
Dad: No! There’s some left.

(I help him out and into the home. Amanda greets Dad and helps him into the recliner in front of the TV.)
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!

A Drive with Dad: “Social history?!”

When I get to Dad’s home to pick him up for his doctor’s appointment he’s finishing breakfast. I lean over and shout into his ear that he’s going to a doctor’s appointment for his eyes now.  He nods his head and says he hasn’t seen his eye for awhile. For some reason this strikes me as funny, and I start cracking up. Dad looks over at me and smiles. He finishes his breakfast, Amanda fetches a jacket for him, and we head out. Before we get to the door, Dad says, “I don’t need this thing,” and shoves his walker off to the side. I retrieve it and stick it in the back of the car – just in case.

We get Dad situated in the car and then he realizes he doesn’t have his hat. Dietrick goes to fetch his alpine hat for him – and while he’s gone Dad starts thinking about his hat – thinking maybe he didn’t bring one to “this place” – but I tell him this is home and he has a hat in there, and Dietrick is getting it for him. When Dietrick puts it on his head, Dad thanks him. He has his faithful old hat on his head now, and everything’s alright with the world. We set out on our grand adventure…

Dad: I forgot my wallet! I don’t have my ID.
Karen: I have your wallet.
Dad: Oh, good. I don’t think there’s anything in there, anyway. (He’s right.)

When we get to the doctor’s office I go in to see if it’s alright if we wait in the car until it’s our turn. (Sometimes there have been complications when Dad is in a waiting room too long.) The receptionist smiles and says that would be fine. She just needs to make sure all the information they have on Dad is up-to-date. I read the form she hands me and I sign it for Dad – then I think maybe I should bring it out to him and let him sign it, too – just to keep him from getting too bored out there.  I hand him the form. Near the bottom there’s a heading called “Social History” – I had no idea what that meant when I saw it, and apparently neither does Dad…

Dad: Social history?!
Karen: (laughing) Yeah, don’t worry about that one. (I bring the form back in, signed by Dad, and deliver it to the receptionist. I mention that my dad was a little confused by the “social history” question and make some joke about asking Dad about the sororities he belonged to and stuff. The receptionist laughs and tells me she’ll come and get us when they’re ready for Dad.)

Dad: (waiting in the car) I should have brought the book I got from the library.
Karen: What book did you get from the library?
Dad: Oh, one of those books I enjoyed reading when I was a teenager. A book by Joseph Altsheler. A book about the frontier and adventure. (thinking) Do you have any of my old books?
Karen: Yes! You gave me one that is really precious to me – The Royal Road to Romance.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. That’s the one that got me into adventuring. I still remember the opening line: “May had come at last to Princeton.”
(It tickles me that he still remembers the first line to a book he first read when he was a teenager.)

(The receptionist comes out to get Dad pretty soon and we go in to begin his appointment. The eye-lady takes his blood pressure – she says it’s good and I give Dad the thumbs up. Then she asks Dad to cover his good eye to see if he can see anything out of his bad eye.)
The eye-lady: What do you see there?
Dad: I don’t see anything! You told me to cover my eye!
(The eye-lady and I start laughing. The eye-lady covers up Dad’s bad eye and sees what tricks he can perform with his good eye. He reads the letters on the wall, and then she brings a card up to him to see how close he can see. He reads the letters he’s supposed to read and then starts reading the fine print on the bottom that’s meant for the eye people…
Dad: “The redistribution of…”
Eye-lady: (laughing, she takes the card away from him) Okay. That’s good.

(We go into a second waiting room to wait for the rest of Dad’s appointment. There are a lot of really cool people waiting in this room, and I start chatting to them. One of the people in there tells me that he’s 90. I shout in Dad’s ear that the man next to him – and I point – is 90.)
Dad: (laughing) He’s just a kid! I’m 100. (Dad is 99 – he’ll be 100 in a few months – and 99 is hard for anyone in that waiting room to beat.)
Dad: (after talking about eyes for a bit) It’s my hearing that’s the worst part of me right now.
(I hand Dad a travel magazine and he starts flipping through the pages. When he gets to a picture of Machu Picchu he stops.)
Karen: You’ve been there.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I’ve been there. Right at the top (he starts pointing out the trail to the top). It’s a steep trail up to the top.

(Dad gets called back into the inner office for a check-up by the doctor.)
Karen: (shouting into Dad’s ear) Dad, this is Dr. Sappenstein.
Dad: Dr. Frankenstein?
Doctor: (laughing) That’ll work.

(The check-up’s over now and we’re back in the car.)
Karen: Do you want to get an ice cream float now?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I’m lucky to have you.
Karen: I’m lucky to have you.

(We’re driving down Burlington Boulevard now, and Dad asks which direction we’re heading. I think about this and say I think we’re heading north, or maybe east. He mentions Hwy 9 – “runs along the foothills of the Cascades” – and I realize that Burlington Boulevard actually use to be a part of an old highway, but I can’t remember what it was called anymore. As I’m thinking about this…)
Dad: Is this Old Highway 99?
Karen: (Dad remembers what I’d forgotten) Yes!

(We head towards the place where I usually buy Dad his root beer float, and I pull into the parking lot in front of it.)
Dad: (recognizing) This is the usual place!
(I go up to fetch Dad’s root beer float and bring it back to him.)
Dad: Thank you!

(I decide to take Dad on a short drive before I return him home. Dad is thinking – and I know he’s going to start sharing whatever comes to his thoughts. I enjoy listening to him…)
Dad: I have the TV on 24 hours a day now. There are some really interesting shows that come up.
Karen: Old movies?
Dad: Not old movies. Shows about everything. I keep it on the same channel and all kinds of shows come up. The Olympics.
(We drive down country roads, the windshield wipers pushing aside the drizzle landing on the windows. Snow geese and trumpeter swans in fields of green beside the road.)
Dad: When I was young I used to think about what my old age would be like… Back when my mind was clear.
Karen: How did you picture your old age?
Dad: Eating simply. Hobbies. Reading mountaineering history.
Karen: Do you enjoy your life now?
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I do.
Dad: I was lucky – I have a good family. My older sister and younger brother did everything with me. My mother and father took us on drives. I probably saw more of Los Angeles than most people who lived there. My dad worked seven days a week – got up early in the morning and came home late at night, but he found time to take us on drives.

(I drive Dad back home. Dietrick comes out to help Dad into the house. I retrieve the walker – Dad never used it – and follow behind. Dad heads for the lounger in front of the TV. He asks about the Olympics. I kiss his forehead…)
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you!