Going Home

Rainier Myrtle Creek this one (2)

Really, I wouldn’t exist at all if not for Mount Rainier. That’s where my parents met. My mom was working as a cashier in the gift shop (around 1947) and my dad was working as a climbing guide when they met.

As a youngster a lot of my life was spent on the slopes of Mount Rainier – camping, hiking, scrambling around in the rocks – like my parents, I, too, ended up working there in the summers between my university years.  And, like my parents, I, too climbed to the summit (led by my dad, of course.)

My dad, Dee Molenaar, is well-known for his connection to Mount Rainier – he made a map of it, wrote a book about it (The Challenge of Rainier), painted it, and worked as a guide and park ranger on its slopes.

During the first half of my life, Mount Rainier was always there. When I married and moved to the northern part of Washington, she moved to the background – still a part of my life – but not the focus anymore.

***

My mom passed on six months ago. Last weekend my brothers, sons, husband, and I met at Mount Rainier to spend time together remembering Moz.

It was amazing to see The Mountain again – up close and personal. I started taking photos from the car as we were driving to the mountain – box store outlets and traffic signs in the lower part of the pictures – The Mountain massive above them.

Our friends, Rick and Jana, had offered us the use of their weekend rental home, The Jimmy Beech House,  for our time there.  Jimmy Beech had been a mountain pilot who flew tourists around Mount Rainier – and he and my parents had been good friends. Jimmy flew me in my first-ever airplane flight when I was a little girl. It was very cool to know I was staying on the spot of land where he’d lived.

On Saturday my husband, Scott, and my son, Xander, were the only ones there. We drove through the Paradise parking lot (which was hugely full) and down to Reflection Lakes for a hike up Mount Plummer. I felt like I’d come home. It was so good to be tromping around on the slopes of Rainier again. It was cloudy when we started out – we weren’t sure we were going to be able to see Rainier at all – but when we got near the top of Plummer I heard my son and husband both let out an exclamation. I turned around. A bank of clouds had parted and there was Rainier – right there in our faces. Huge and majestic -playing peek-a-boo with us.

Pictures from the Plummer Hike –

The next day my brothers and older son, Andrew, and our friend, Rick, joined Scott and Xander and me, and we made a Moz Memorial hike up to Alta Vista, above Paradise. Even as she got into her eighties Moz would hike this nob of rock – it was one of her favorite places. When I’d worked at Rainier I’d often hiked around these very hills before and after work. And there was the Paradise Inn – where both Moz and, later, I had sung to the guests on Saturday nights when we’d worked at Paradise.

Photos from Paradise and the Alta Vista hike –

Our last day at Rainier happened to coincide with the eclipse. My husband had prepared for this event by buying a special filter for his camera lens. We hiked a little ways down a trail from Paradise and just past Myrtle Falls, where Scott stationed himself and set up his camera for the eclipse.

At some point I felt Panorama Point calling to me. I told the men-folk I was going to hike a little ways down the trail – just to the top of that ridge there. But when I got to that ridge, I thought I needed to hike to that spot right down there, and once I got to that spot I figured – well, I should do the switchbacks up to the top of Mazama Ridge. This was the first hike I’d done solo on this trip – and there was something kind of freeing and luxurious about being by myself on “my” mountain for a little while.

When I got to the top of Mazama I started heading towards Panorama Point, but I’d only gone maybe a tenth of a mile when I realized – by looking through my eclipse glasses – that the eclipse was going to reach its fullest point soon – and I wanted to get back to the family before they started packing up and wondering where I was.

I felt the eclipse reach its zenith as I was coming down the switchbacks. The light dimmed and there was a kind of eerie quiet for a few minutes. It was very cool. I took out my eclipse glasses and saw that there was just a sliver of sun left. I started skipping down the trail – I felt light-footed and free – like I was a youngster again – while I was coming down. Maybe it was the eclipse. 🙂 Or maybe it was that I’d put on my sandals instead of my hiking shoes that day and my toes weren’t jamming into the fronts of my shoes.

I passed a couple hiking the other direction, Yonsin and Kathy, and asked them if they’d seen the eclipse. They said they didn’t have eclipse glasses – so I loaned them mine. I loved watching the looks on their faces as they were able to see what was going on up there. They thanked me and we shook hands, and they let me take their picture before we parted ways.

As I went past a Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. climbing party I had to stop and turn and ask, “Does anyone here know Dee Molenaar?”

The guide in the front stopped and turned around and asked, “Who did you say?”

“Dee Molenaar.”

“Dee Molenaar is my hero. He’s a legend up here.”

That made me grin. I love this connection I have via Dad to the mountaineers on Rainier. “I’m his daughter,” I said. “He’s 99 now. We were hoping we could bring him down here this trip, but it just didn’t work out this time.”

The guide told me to tell my father hello, and said he hoped to see Dad up here again before too long.

The trip felt complete to me then.

Here are some photos of the trail to Panorama Point –

“Spiritually interpreted, rocks and mountains stand for solid and grand ideas.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
– Psalms 121

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The Dream About the Real World

Dad: Let’s head out into the open countryside, head towards the coast.
Karen: Let’s do it!
Dad: I don’t want to go into the city. I don’t want to run errands with you.
(Karen nods her head in understanding.)
Dad: (his voice cracking) I love you.
Karen: I love you, too.
Dad: It’s nice that we have each other to love.
Karen: Yes, it is!
Dad: Thank you for including me when you take these drives. (Karen smiles – she takes these drives FOR Dad.)

Karen turns onto Samish Island Road, thinking maybe she’ll go to Bayview State Park with Dad.
Dad: Have you ever been to that little island that’s connected to the land?
Karen: Samish Island? Do you want to go there?
(Dad nods his head, and Karen heads out to do the loop around
Samish Island.)

Dad: Is Mom alive?
Karen shakes her head no.
Dad: I had a dream that she’d died. (He starts tearing up.) I think I’ve already mourned her. (Dad’s quiet for a bit. They’ve almost finished the Samish Island loop now.) Let’s go some place where we can walk on a beach.
Karen heads for Bayview State Park.

After parking, Dad and Karen make their way to a bench near the beach. When she’s getting Dad’s walker out of the back of the car, Karen sees the cans of root beer she put in there months ago – she’d bought them for Dad, and had forgotten about them. Now she grabs one, joins Dad on the bench, and hands it to him. His face lights up and he smiles and takes it from her.

Dad: Do you ever dream about Mom?
Karen: Yes. I had a dream that she was sitting on the top bed of a bunk bed, dangling her feet over the edge. She had a happy, mischievous smile on her face. There was an open casket on the bed behind her. She said, “I’m done with this!” And hopped down. I felt like she was done with the whole dead-thing, and was happy. Have you had a dream about Mom?
Dad: Yes. I dreamed she died.
Karen: She loved you, and loves you very much.
Dad: She was such a wonderful person.
Karen: Yes, she is!
(Dad and Karen are quiet for a while, just enjoying the sunshine.)
Dad: This is nice here. I’m glad we made this stop. That’s a nice, gentle breeze. It smells like saltwater. (He belches and laughs at his own belch.)

When they get back in the car, Dad says he had a dream where he had to fart once, but there was no place to fart. He starts laughing – cracking himself up. Karen’s laughing, too. Then Dad asks, “Do you and Mom have a lot of nice conversations?” And she tells him that she does.

As they’re heading back to Dad’s home, he turns his head and points, “That would make a happy picture! That house all covered in flowers! But I don’t have my camera with me…” Karen turn the car around and heads back to the flower-bedecked house, and gets out her camera for Dad to snap a photo.

They get back to his home, and Dad doesn’t recognize it at first – he has moved three times in the last year, and it’s all a little confusing. Karen explains that their last home couldn’t take Mom and him back when Mom got sick. And then when Mom passed, they had to find another home for Dad. She tells Dad that they felt that Mom had directed them to this place for Dad – a place with hummingbird feeders and cats and dogs. Dad asks, “So Mom knows these people then?” And Karen thinks about this, and then nods her head yes. (Karen believes Mom does know these people, even if they never actually met in the person.)

Dad gets back in the house and doesn’t recognize anything. Karen asks him if he wants to go to his room – and he asks, “I have a room here?” Karen points the way, and once he enters he says, “Oh! I remember this place now!” He sees his paintings on the walls, and pictures of his friends and family. He realizes he’s home. He starts grinning at himself and says, “I’ve been thanking these people for allowing me to stay here.”

Dad points to a book by Leif Whittaker about Leif’s father, Jim. “I think I got that book for Christmas.” Karen tells him that she thinks Jim Whittaker gave him that book when he came to visit him here. “Jim visited me here?!” Yes, Karen tells him, also his friends Rick and Cindy, and Tom Hornbein, and Mary from the Mountaineers… Dad is shaking his head in amazement now. He says, “The things I’ve forgotten would fill a book!”
Karen: Are you going to take a nap now?
Dad: Yes, I want to make that transition into the dream.
Karen: What dream is that?
Dad: (tearing up) The dream about the real world. (And Karen knows he’s thinking about the world where Mom is still with him.)
Karen: I love you, Dad.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

 

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.

Wikipedia Dad

The other day I had to take care of some business on behalf of my dad. At one point I needed to know his birthday – I can never seem to remember when Dad’s birthday is – it’s either this day in June or the next day in June – and I was ready to give him a call to find out, when I realized all I needed to do was go to Wikipedia.

Whoaaaah…. right?

A Message from the New Owners

Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.
– Mary Bakery Eddy

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.
– Mary Baker Eddy

My parents had lived in this house, and on this land, for 48 years. They’d planted and nurtured trees, kept the local birds supplied with a steady stream of bird feed, Dad had painted a mural on the garage, and Mom had planted a rose garden. Now it was time for Dad (97 then) and Moz (87 then) to transition into a new chapter in their lives. It was time for them to leave the old homestead and leave it in the hands of new owners.

When my husband, brothers, and I looked at what needed to be accomplished in the next few months it was over-whelming. Daunting. It looked to be impossible.

There was 48 years of accumulated life to sort through – mountains of books, artwork, correspondence, journals, music, photos, mountaineering paraphernalia. As a well-known mountain-climber my dad has led an extraordinarily rich life, hobnobbed with celebrities, traveled around the world – we couldn’t just throw stuff in the dumpster willy-nilly – there might be a letter from Bobby Kennedy or Edmund Hillary hidden in the flotsam and jetsam, or a National Geographic with Dad’s picture in it. And there was so much! Three stories filled with memories.

Also – a new home needed to be found for our parents, and their old home needed to be sold. We worried: Would we be able to sell the parents’ old home in time to pay for their new home? And would we find new owners who would appreciate the homestead, and care for it, and love it the way my parents had?

I threw out our hopes and needs to God, Love, and trusted that the power of Good in which I believe would direct us and open the way. Nothing, I told myself, is impossible to Love. Nothing is beyond the reach of Love. Love would provide.

I invited two of Dad’s friends to come over and sort through books and artwork for us – to help us know what was important and needed to be kept safe and what could be donated to the Goodwill. Then my siblings and I each pledged to tackle a different floor in the house – my husband and I took the main floor, my brothers took on the attic and basement.

My husband and I gave ourselves one day to empty the first floor, and dust, sweep, vacuum, and mop it. We got there at 8:00 in the morning. About 2:00 I was exhausted and ready to give up. My husband said, matter-of-factly, “We can’t. We don’t have a choice. We’ve got to get it done.” And then he picked up a mop and disappeared. He was a huge inspiration to me that day. I couldn’t have done what I needed to do without his calm, steady, can-do attitude. At 7:00 pm – 11 hours after we’d started – we were done. It felt like I’d just summited Mount Rainier – I had that same feeling of happy accomplishment.

My mom had given me the name and number of a real estate agent, and when I called, she agreed to take us on. We couldn’t have found a more perfect person to work with us! She was kind and patient – never pushed my parents to do what they weren’t ready to do and always put their needs and wishes first.

Two weeks after putting my parents’ home on the market, it had new owners. I teared up when I read the note they sent to Mom and Dad:

Dear Dee and Colleen,

We just want to thank you both so much for choosing us to inherit this property. We fell in love with it right away. It’s our dream house. We promise to respect it and keep the spirit of love alive here. We appreciate the spirit of adventure and have the utmost respect for the incredible things you’ve done. What a beautiful life!

Dee, your art is gorgeous. We will forever treasure the mural on the garage. Colleen, we will continue to nurture the birds you’ve brought to the property. It was magical to see so many, and of such variety, during our short chat on the porch.

On a more practical note, PLEASE don’t worry about cleaning the place out. Anything you need to leave is fine. We will take care of it. It must be bittersweet to be moving on to a new chapter of life and we are in no way wanting you to feel pressured.

Of course, you are welcome any time. Thanks again. We’re pinching ourselves with the good luck of finding this home!

With love,

Chris and Janel

My parents’ old home was meant to belong Chris and Janel. They were meant to live there now. You know that old saying “What blesses one, blesses all”?  This is a perfect example of that.

My parents got full price for their old home and were able to move into a retirement community, and, more recently, closer to me – in an artsy, active little town where they can take walks along the water and visit art galleries, and get the services they need for this new chapter in their lives.

***

I recently called Janel to find out if I could use her letter in my new book, Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom. She cheerfully gave me permission, and then told me how much her young family is enjoying their new home. Oh man, that just warmed the cockles of my heart. Blessings all around.

Love is good.

Dad and his mural

Dee Molenaar and the mural on his old garage.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (Love), to them who are the called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28

“Just Farting Around”

Brought Moz and Dad (98) over today to watch The Sound of Music and to give Dad a chance to watercolor on my dining room table. I told him on the drive over that this time it was just for him – he wasn’t going to be painting for anyone else. So I brought in his paints, set out his watercolor paper, and went into the family room to start The Sound of Music for Moz – and by the time I got back to Dad he’d already started painting! I asked him what he was painting, and he said he was “just farting around.” I watched him for a bit, as a mountain emerged on his paper, and I asked him what mountain he was painting there, and he said, “It could be any mountain.”

He didn’t finish today. After he’d laid down the background and a few trees he went in and watched The Sound of Music with Moz. I told him I was going to bring him back sometime soon to work some more on his painting, and he nodded his head and said, “Okay.” I told him I’d keep his paints here because this is a nice quiet place for him to work, and he won’t have a lot of interruptions here, and he said, “Yeah. That’s good.”

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Dad Painting

“I think I can make something up.”

The LaConner Retirement Inn in LaConner, Washington, asked its residents to make paintings for an auction to help those dealing with Alzheimers. (For anyone interested in attending, the auction will be this Saturday, July 23rd at the LaConner Retirement Inn.)

Yesterday I “kidnapped” Dad, 98, and Moz and brought them to my place to give Dad a quiet space and a big table to work on his painting for the auction. I told Dad that he was painting for his dinner. 🙂 He nodded his head and said “Okay.”

I’d brought to my house some of Dad’s brushes, a sponge, a packet of watercolor paper, and a couple of watercolor trays I found in his apartment. Dad’s favorite brush wasn’t in the brushes I’d brought over – but he found one that would be “alright.” There was also no yellow in the watercolor trays. But my youngest son had left some of his art supplies here when he moved out, so I rummaged through his art box and found a little travel watercolor box that had a small square of yellow in it, and Dad made do with that.

Dad worked really hard. Painting takes a lot of concentration. There are problems to be solved – balancing out this area with THAT area; making the foreground darker to bring depth and dimension to the background; finding the just right color to brighten everything up.

Dad and Mom were at my place from about 3:00 to 7:30 – and, except for a small break for dinner, and a short nap, Dad spent that entire time working on his picture. And look! He got ‘er done! I’m really proud of him.

Dad: “What should I paint?”
Me: “Mount Rainier. Do you need a picture to help you?”
Dad: (understatement of the century – this man has been painting Rainier for more than 70 years) “Oh, no. I think I can make something up.”
An hour later-
Dad: “I haven’t painted in a long time.”
Me: “How does it feel?”
Dad: “I like it!”
Three hours later –
Me: “Painting is hard work!”
Dad: “It’s mind work.”

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Mount Rainier by Dee Molenaar