“I haven’t been in this place for a long time.”

Dad was in the shower when I arrived. I sat on his bed and waited for him, and he made his way through the door with his walker a few minutes later…
Karen: Hi, Daddy! How are you?
Dad: (Smiling) Wet. (Looking around his room.) I haven’t been in this place for a long time.
Karen: It’s so good to see you again! Scotty and I have been gone for a few weeks. We drove to Michigan. We just got back a couple hours ago. We saw the Devil’s Tower and The Badlands of South Dakota – have you ever seen The Badlands?
Dad: (Shaking his head.) No. I’ve never been there.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I’ve got a meeting tonight. I have a date to meet… (thinking) an elderly woman…
Karen: Oh. Okay. You want to go for a drive now, though?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

Amanda helps me load Dad into the car and we set out on another adventure. Before we’ve made it very far…
Dad: I’m going to need a milkshake.
Karen: I know just where to take you!

I drive Dad to Sisters Espresso where Dave Waka (by all accounts, a saint of a human being) left enough money for Dad to get shakes and floats for a very long time. I park in front of the espresso stand and Dad immediately recognizes it…
Dad: Vanilla.
Karen: You want a vanilla shake?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I go up and get Dad his shake and myself a lavender green iced tea and bring them back to the car.)
Dad: (Sincerely.) Thank you.

I pull back onto the road.
Dad: Are your boys doing well?
Karen: They’re doing great!
Dad: How are Scott’s parents? Do they get out here much?
Karen: Scott’s mom is doing really well. Scotty’s dad died a few years ago.
Dad: Oh. (Thinking.) Scott’s father ?
Karen: Yeah.
Dad: I’m sorry. (Tearing up.) Scotty’s a good guy.
Karen: Yes, he is.
Dad: Are we going to your house now?
Karen: Sure! (I head for my home.)
Dad: Should we get a dog?
Karen: Do you want a dog?
(Dad doesn’t answer – he probably hasn’t heard me. We pull up in front of my house and I run in to fetch Scott. Scott comes out and chats with Dad for a while and then Dad and I get back on the road.)

We meander through the Bow area and at some point we stop so I can rescue one of my campaign signs from the blackberry vines – the vines have twined themselves all around the sign and look like they’re trying to consume it – I’m reminded of that plant in Little Shop of Horrors – “Feed me!” I tug the sign out of the bushes. Dad sees my sign then, and asks me if I won the election. I explain that I made it through the primary and am going to be in the general election in November.
Dad: Are you traveling nationally?
Karen: Oh! (I realize Dad is envisioning something far grander than what’s actually going on here.) No, this is just a local election.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh. (Thinking.) Do you ever have meetings with the other farmers?
Karen: (Sometimes you’ve just got to go with it…) Yes!
Dad: Can you see Mount Rainier from here on a clear day?
Karen: Sometimes…
Dad: (Just then Dad notices the top of Mount Baker above the hills and points to it…) Baker!
Karen: Yeah!
Dad: Are you enjoying your new job?
Karen: (I am newly-retired.) Yes, I am!

It’s time to get Dad home. I head towards Burlington and work my way through the round-about and stoplight towards his house. I pull up in front of his front door – but this time I come up the other side.
Dad: (Recognizing his home.) Oh! We usually come up to that other door.
Karen: Yeah, we do!
Dad: What are the names of these people?
Karen: Gwen and Amanda…
Dad: (Nodding and smiling with recognition.) That’s right!

I help Dad into the house and up the stairs and Amanda leads him to the dining room table. Dinner’s almost ready.
Karen: Thank you for the drive today, Daddy! I love you!
Dad: (Smiling.) Thank YOU!

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 Update

July 27, 2019

I got word that Daddy had a difficult night. Went over to his home to give him a quick hug and tell him I love him. He smiled at me when he realized I was there and mumbled something about the “holiday weekend.” I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me. And then I got up to leave. Made it all the way to the stairs before I stopped. Turned. Went back. Pulled up a chair next to his bed and sat in it. It had occurred to me that there may come a time soon when I will wish I could be with Daddy for even one more minute.

I took Dad’s hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back. I squeezed his hand twice. He squeezed my hand twice. We just sat there holding hands for about ten minutes – watching the old black and white movie on his TV together. I sang some hymns “to” him – but… I knew he couldn’t hear what I was singing – I was really singing the hymns to myself as I held his hand –

“In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But Love is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
(words by Anna Waring)

Tears started running out of my eyes and down my face. I sniffled and wiped them away.

When I finally felt it was time to go and let Dad rest I leaned over to tell him good-bye. Daddy said, “Happy Fourth of July!” And I thanked him.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

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.

“This is Karen.”

Dad seemed to be losing ground the last couple weeks – sleeping most of the day, eating very little. So when Amanda messages me to let me know that Dad is up and bright-eyed I feel a grin immediately come to my face. I ask her if he is up for a drive and a moment later she messages that he answered, “Yes!” Today he has to be rolled out to my car in a wheelchair, but he is alert and happy to see me. As Amanda is buckling him in Dad turns to me and says, “Hi, Karen!” Then he turns back to Amanda…
Dad to Amanda: This is Karen. She’s my sist… (thinking)… she’s my daughter.

We drive through Burlington and then head out to Sisters Espresso for his root beer float (courtesy of Dave Waka). I hand Dad his float and then pull out of the parking lot to begin our adventures.
Dad: Didn’t you work at a school near here?
Karen: Yeah. Do you want to go by my old school?
Dad: Sure!

I drive down country roads and make my way to Edison. I park in the parking lot there – with the car pointing towards the patch of sunflowers waving in the sunshine. I roll down the windows so Dad has a breeze, and then take my camera to the flowers to get some quick pictures. Back in the car…
Karen: (Pointing to the school.) There’s my old school. There’s Edison. Do you remember you gave your K2 talk there?
Dad: (Frowning as he tries to remember.) No. I don’t remember that.

I drive around and out of the parking lot and head towards Bay View so Dad can get a quick view of the bay. I wait for him to mention his old friends the Annens – he usually brings them up when we go by the bay – but today he doesn’t say anything. When we get a view of Mount Baker I point to it…
Dad: Yeah. That’s Baker.
(Dad always remembers his mountains.)

I make my way back to Dad’s home. Amanda and Gwen come out to help him out of the car seat and into the wheelchair, and they roll him around to the ramp and into the house. They get Dad comfortable in a recliner in front of the TV.
Karen: (Looking directly into his face.) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: (Mouths the words, “I love you.”)
Karen: Good bye, Daddy.
Dad: (Waving.) Good bye.

“Where am I?”

Dad is sitting at the dining room table eating breakfast when I come in. He sees me come in and smiles. I pull up a chair next to him and sit down.
Dad: (Said in the voice of someone who’s just awakened from a nap.) Where am I?
Karen: You’re at your home in Burlington. I live 15 minutes away.
Dad: Good. (Thinking.) How’s Mom?
Karen: (Thinking. Trying to decide what direction to go with this…)
Dad: (Watching my face.) Is Mom not alright?
Karen: Daddy, Mom passed on two years ago. (Knowing from experience the questions he’s going to ask…) She passed on peacefully in her sleep. She was in my house and I was sleeping on the couch next to her bed. You told her you loved her and she told you she loved you before she left the hospital.
Dad: (Tears are running down his face.) Was she in any pain? What did she die of?
Karen: No, she wasn’t in any pain. She had congestive heart failure. Her heart got tired. She passed peacefully while she was sleeping. (I wipe Dad’s eyes and the tip of his nose.) We had a memorial service for her…
(Amanda quietly slips the photo album of Mom’s memorial service to me and I open it and show Dad the photos. Dad recognizes the faces – his family and friends.)
Karen: A lot has happened in the last two years, Daddy. You’ve been very brave and very strong. Last year we took you up to Mount Rainier to celebrate your 100th birthday.
Dad: No, I’m 92. I was born in 1918…
Karen: And this is 2019.
Dad: (Thinking – doing mental computations.) Oh.
(Amanda has now brought the photo album from Dad’s 100th birthday celebration at Rainier. Dad and I go through the pictures together and talk about the people who came to his celebration.When we’re done looking at the album…)
Karen: Would you like to go for a drive? Or would you like to stay home and rest today?
Dad: (Thinking.) A drive would be nice.

Amanda helps me load Dad up in the car and buckle him in. Dad thanks her and she kisses him on the forehead. He thanks her for that, too.

We drive to the Sisters Espresso. I park and point to the stand…
Dad: (Nods.) Vanilla.
(I interpret this to mean “vanilla shake” and go up to order one for him, using the gift that was left for him there by David Waka.)

We continue on our adventure – heading down Allen West Road, up Farm to Market, down Josh Wilson, up Edison Bayview Road, left and back to Farm to Market. Dad’s head is turning from left to right, taking it all in. He periodically sucks through the straw on his vanilla shake. I park in front of his home.
Dad: Do I get out here?
Karen: Yup. This is your home.
(Dad thinks about this and then opens his door. I come around to help him out. Amanda comes to the top of the stairs and helps me get Dad up them. She leads Dad to a recliner in front of the TV.)
Karen: I really enjoyed our drive today, Daddy. I love you.
Dad: I love you, too.

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.

“Blessed to have this man for my father.”

Pop made the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald today for winning the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award.

And I want to take a moment here to share some of the many reasons I feel blessed to have this man for my father. I was born before Title IX: “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'”  (www.ncaa.org) It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my school finally got a girls’ track team and I was able to high jump on my school’s team. But my dad introduced me to high jumping long before that. He built a little high jump for me when I was a youngster, and rooted for me as we had our own track meet in the backyard. He also taught me how to ski; led me up Mount Rainier, Baker, Adams, and Hood; took me on my first little rock scramble (Pinnacle Peak) when I was four years old; supported me in my university education and wrote me encouraging notes throughout my teaching career – he was always proud of me as a teacher, and he’s proud of me now for running for school board. He’s never in any way limited me because I was a female.

And this was a man who was born in 1918 – two years before women even had the right to vote!

Dad on front page of svh

“How old are YOU going to be?”

Took Dad to an eye doctor appointment today. The eye doctor place lets us wait in the car until they’re ready for us. This gives Dad and I a chance to talk in a quiet space.
Karen: Dad, you’re going to be 101 in a couple months.
Dad: (Nodding.) How old are YOU going to be?
Karen: I’m going to be 63 in September.
Dad: 53?
Karen: 63.
Dad: God!
Karen: (Laughing.) I know, right? Isn’t that crazy?!
Dad: How can that be?! (Thinking.) Time goes faster the older we get.

Pretty soon the eye technician comes out to fetch us. I’ve forgotten Dad’s walker, but I walk backwards in front of him and let him use my arms as a walker. We head into the exam room and Dad takes a seat in the examination chair. As the technician gives directions I speak them into Dad’s ear. “This is Shay. She’s going to take your blood pressure now. Put your arm across your chest. Good! How’s your vision been? Okay. Do you see the dot? Good! Do you see the lines? Are the lines straight?”
Dad: (Thinking this might be a trick question, I guess.) The lines appear to be straight.
Karen: (Laughing.) Good.
(Shay sees that Dad’s nose is dripping and grabs a tissue and wipes his nose. Like all the people at this clinic, she is kind to Dad.)

After the exam is done, we head to the room where they’ll take a photo of his eyes. Dad knows the routine now and sits in the chair and puts his chin in the chin cup. After photos are taken we go to the room where he’ll meet with Dr. Saperstein. Before the doctor comes in I remind Dad that the doctor is a mountain climber. When Dr. Saperstein enters, he greets Dad and Dad reaches out his hand for his special mountaineering handshake – it starts as a regular handshake – strong and firm – and then their hands move into position like they’re about to arm wrestle. They both grin at each other. Dr. Saperstein has passed Dad’s test.  )

Karen to Dr. Saperstein: That was Dad’s special mountain-climbing handshake. He knows you’re a mountain-climber.
Dr. Saperstein: My climbing is nothing compared to what your Dad has done. (He looks at me and grins.) In fact, my climbing is nothing compared to what YOU have done. You’ve climbed a lot more mountains than me.
Karen: (Laughing, and kind of embarrassed. I guess I HAVE climbed a lot of mountains – Rainier, Baker, Adams, Hood – but…I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought of myself as a climber.) I just followed Dad up the mountains and then followed him back down.
Dr. Saperstein: (Laughing.) Well, you’ve done a lot more climbing than me. (He looks at the photos of Dad’s eyes.) His eyes look good. We won’t have to give him a treatment today. Let’s plan on seeing him again in three months.

I help Dad out to the waiting room and help him sit in a chair. I tell him I’m going to make another appointment for him and then we’ll go and get him a root beer float. He nods. He thinks a root beer float is a good idea. After I make our next appointment I help Dad up and we begin our slow journey to the door. I let everyone in the waiting room know that Dad will be 101 in a couple months. They are impressed – and I feel them sending Dad their support as he works his way towards the door. “Dad’s a mountain climber,” I say. “He’s in Wikipedia. K2.” I can see that at least one of the men in the waiting room knows what “K2” is – his eyes get big and he smiles a big smile. He says he’s honored to be in the same room with Dad.

I’m incredibly relieved when Dad has finally reached the car. At the end it looked like he might collapse – but he made it! Step by step – never giving up.
Dad: Let’s go find a place with a root beer float.

I drive Dad to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (Looking out the window.) The Skagit Delta. Beautiful country.

I pull into the Sisters Espresso parking lot.
Karen: Do you remember this place?
Dad: (Nodding.) I’ve been here many times.

I order him his float. When I bring it to him he smiles and says thank you. I head west – stop for some eagle pictures, and then drive by daffodil fields.
Karen: Daffodils! Aren’t they beautiful?!
Dad: Yes!

Eventually we end up back at Dad’s home. I park in front of the door.
Karen: Do you know how much I love you?
Dad: How much?
Karen: Infinitely much.
Dad: (Nodding.) Infinitely.

I help Dad out of the car and reunite him with his walker.
Dad: (Looking at the house.) Do we know these people?
Karen: Yes.
(Just then Amanda comes out of the house…)
Dad: (Smiling.) Hi!
Amanda: (Smiling back.) Hello!

We help Dad up the stairs. Today he chooses to go right to his bedroom. He’s ready for a rest.
Karen: Thank you for the drive today, Daddy.
Dad: Thank YOU for the drive.
Karen; I Love you!
Dad: I love YOU!

“I Think That’s the Most Tired I’ve Ever Been.”

When I stop by to see Dad I find him eating his “breakfast” at the table. I ask him if he’d like to go for a drive and he says yes, he’d like that. Megan helps him get his shoes on and brings me a jacket in case Dad gets cold. We help Dad out to the car and help him get into his seat.

Before I start on the drive I turn to Dad. He has come to associate me telling him I love him with me saying good-bye. So I decide that today I will tell him I love him at the very start of our adventure.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! (He crinkles up his nose and we give each other Eskimo kisses.)

Dad: I like the drive we took last time – to the west side.
Karen: Yeah, that was nice, wasn’t it? (But I have other plans for us today. )
(I go around the round-about and exit onto I-5, heading north. I know this isn’t what Dad is expecting – we usually head straight onto Chuckanut – and I hope that he will enjoy the idea of doing something different today. As we head out onto I-5 we pass the huge American flag that waves from the pole next to the freeway…)
Dad: That is the biggest flag I think I have ever seen.

I exit onto Lake Samish Road – I’m going to take the back way to Bellingham…

Dad: Les Laird died last week. I wasn’t in the office when it happened. I’m not sure why he died. (Les Laird was Dad’s old boss. Dad has been retired for 35 years.)

My plan is to take Dad to Boulevard Park and maybe buy him a vanilla milkshake. I’ve found that parking at the park is usually limited, but I’m hoping that maybe today something will just miraculously open up for us. It could happen, right? And sure enough – there’s one spot! – right there in front of the children’s pirate ship playground. I help Dad out of the car and we make our way to a picnic table near the playground. We’re about half-way there when a man and a young woman start to sit at the table – but the man looks up and notices us and graciously tells us we can have the table. I tell him we can share it, and he and the woman smile and agree to that plan.

A couple youngsters of about six-years-old come up and join us then – the man introduces them as his grandsons. I give a quick intro – tell them all that Dad is 100-years-old and a “famous mountain-climber” – and settle Dad in with our new friends. I go to buy him a shake. After I order the shake I come back to check on him. The man tells me his grandsons were really excited by the idea that they were with a famous mountain-climber.

When I go back to the shop the shake is ready – perfect timing!

The man and woman introduce themselves to me – they are Gary and his daughter, Shelby. Gary tells us that he lives in Arizona and brought one of his grandsons with him to come up here and visit Shelby and his other grandson.

We talk about the beauty of Arizona and the beauty of Washington State. I ask Gary if he’s ever been into the Grand Canyon, and he said he walked along the bottom of it once. I tell him I once got half-way down to the canyon bottom – to a place called Indian Gardens – and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. I turn to Dad then…
Karen: Dad, did you ever go to Arizona?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: Did you ever go to the Grand Canyon?
Dad: Yeah. I hiked down to the bottom and back.Ten miles. In one day. I think that’s the most tired I’ve ever been.
Karen: (This is hard for me to imagine – Dad has, after all, climbed on K2, but I’m thinking maybe it was really hot when he was there.) Was it hot when you went down there?
Dad: No, it was winter.
Gary: (Smiling.) Well, sometimes it can get pretty hot in the winter, too. (Thinking.) We’ve had a lot of rain lately – Arizona is covered in flowers right now.
Karen to Gary: I bet it’s beautiful! (Thinking about Dad’s southwest roots.) Dad grew up in Los Angeles. He was born there in 1918. He hiked around in the Sierras when he was young.
Karen to Dad: Was Mount Whitney the first mountain you climbed?
Dad: I don’t know. (Thinking.) It was one of the first.
(I notice Dad is buttoning up his sweater and ask him if he’d like me to get his jacket out of the car. He says yes. I get the jacket out of the car and bring it back to him. I help him put his arms into the sleeves.)
Dad: (Zipping up the jacket.) That’s much better.

After a while it seems like it’s the right time to head back to Skagit County.
Karen to Dad: Are you ready to go?
Dad: Not really.
Karen: (Having a flashback of those times when the sons were toddlers and didn’t want to leave the local park. I realize I’m going to have to finesse this. I rephrase it… ) Are you ready to continue on our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(We say good bye to our new friends and make our way back to the car.)

Back on the road. I decide to get Dad back to his home by way of Chuckanut Drive. This is a beautiful drive along cliffs over-looking the bay.
Dad: (Looking out the window.) This is a nice drive. There are the San Juan Islands.

When we get back into the Skagit flats I stop at the post office to pick up my mail.
Dad: We usually stop here, don’t we?
Karen: Yup!
(I get the mail and find a letter to Dad from my cousin, Deborah. I hand him the letter and he opens it.)
Dad: (Pointing to a picture of Debby with her partner.) Is that you?
Karen: (Smiling – Debby and I have often mistaken ourselves for each other in photos.) Nope, that’s Debby Davidson.
Dad: Oh. I’ve always really liked Debby. She’s a nice person.
Karen: Yes, she is!

Mount Baker has been in clouds most of the day, but now – as if to greet Dad – it comes out of the clouds and Dad notices it right away. He keeps his eyes on Baker as we drive down backroads on the Skagit flats.

We cross over the freeway and enter into Burlington.
Dad: There’s that big flag again.
Karen: Yup!

I help Dad into the house and he heads for the recliner in front of the television. I decide that I will tell Dad good-bye BEFORE I tell him I love him again…
Karen: Good bye, Daddy.
Dad: Good bye, Karen.
Karen: I really enjoyed our drive today!
Dad: *I* really enjoyed our drive! Thank you!
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!

(A collection of previous “Dad Stories” can be found in Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

shelby, gary, dad