“It’s Good to be Up Here Again”

Dad was still in bed when I got there. I brought out the book that Allesandro had sent him and showed it to him – he said it was “beautiful” – and then I waited while Gwen got him ready to go on our drive.

Dad seemed happy to be back in the car with me. As we’re driving through the valley towards Sisters Espresso…
Dad: It’s good to be up here again. This is beautiful country. Do you like living here?
Karen: Yes, I do!

We stop at Sisters Espresso for a breakfast sandwich and a root beer float for Dad – compliments of Cindy Johnson, who left a gift card for us at the espresso stand (thanks, Cindy!).
Dad: Are we going to your house now?
Karen: We could do that!

As we’re driving to my house, Dad is looking across a field… and he spots what he’s looking for…
Dad: There’s Mount Baker.
(I assume he’s mistaking a cloud for Baker, but when I glance that direction – sure enough! There’s Baker, making a quick appearance for Dad! I pull over and snap a quick photo.)

I pull into our driveway. I spot Scott on the porch and give him a shout out. He comes down to shake Dad’s hand and give him a hug through the car window. Scott sees Dad holding his root beer float…
Scott: (Grinning.) I see you decided to go for something different this time.
Dad: (Smiling and nodding.) Yeah.

I decide to take us through Edison and then head towards the water. We pass a field of trumpeter swans and an eagle, and I pull over to take some photos. We turn down Bayview-Edison Road, go up the hill, and alongside the bay.
Dad: (Pointing to Bayview Park.) We’ve parked and walked down there before, haven’t we?
Karen: Yes, we have!

And now we’re heading back to Dad’s home…
Dad: You’ve taken me on this same drive before.
Karen: Yup!

We pull in front of Dad’s home.
Karen: Thank you for taking this drive with me.
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!
I help Dad out of the car. Dietrick comes out to help him up the stairs. Dad has to use the bathroom now, and I give him a hug good bye.

(For more stories like this, go to Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad.)

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“I’m 100!”

November 17, 2018
I call ahead to see if Dad is up for a drive today. Megan tells me he’s just gotten up and had breakfast, and says she’ll get him ready to go.

We get Dad loaded up in the car and head out on our adventure.
Dad: (Looking around at the scenery.) It’s a beautiful day!
Karen: It’s gorgeous!

We stop at the Sisters Espresso…
Karen: Root beer float?
Dad: Yes, please!
(I bring Dad his float…)
Dad: Thank you for this!

As we’re driving down Chuckanut, Dad turns his head and keeps his eyes on the hills – I know he’s waiting for that moment when Mount Baker appears above the foothills. When Baker comes in sight Dad stays focused on its snowy slopes.

Scotty suggested earlier that, if Dad was up for it, I could bring him by our house so he could say hi. So that’s what I do…
Karen: Do you want to get out of the car and go inside to say hi to Scotty?
(Dad unbuckles himself and I come around to help out of the car and into the house…)

We situate Dad in the comfy chair in front of the television so he can watch some football, and I put his headset on his head so we can carry on a conversation without me yelling in his ear.
Dad: Who’s playing?
Scott: Ohio and Maryland are playing in this one.
Karen: (To Dad…) Who are you rooting for?
Dad: Ohio.

I bring Dad a piece of carrot cake left over from Scotty’s birthday.
Karen: This cake is from Scotty’s birthday. He turned 65 last week.
Dad: (Looking at Scott.) That’s old!
(Scott starts laughing.)
Karen: I’m 62! Isn’t that crazy?!
Dad: (Laughing with Scott and me…) I’m 100!
(Clearly, Dad has won this “competition.”)

The game is over now (Ohio won). And Dad is starting to look like he’s ready for a nap.
Karen: Are you ready to go home, Daddy?
Dad: (Shakes his head.) No.
(I lean in and smile love to Dad, and he smiles love back to me.)
Dad: You have really white teeth. You have a pretty smile.
Karen: Thank you, Daddy.
Dad: You have a pretty face. You have a beautiful face. You are a beautiful woman.
Karen: (I’m really touched by Dad’s words – I know what he’s seeing in my face is my love for him.) Thank you. I love you.
Dad: I love you.
Karen: Are you ready to go now?
Dad: Is Mom coming with us?
Karen: She can’t, Daddy.
Dad: (Studying my face.) Is Mom not alive?
Karen: (I shake my head no.) No.
Dad:  (Tearing up.) I thought she was back east in Michigan or… she wasn’t even sick…
Karen: She had congestive heart failure, Daddy. She died here in this room. She was sleeping on a bed and I was sleeping on the couch next to her and… I felt her pass… I felt her brush by me with joy and love…
Dad: I didn’t even get to say good bye to her.
Karen: You said good bye to her in the hospital. You told each other you loved each other. She loved you very much. We promised her we’d take care of you.
Dad: (Tearing up.) I don’t remember any of that.
Karen: I know. I’m so sorry, Daddy.

We help Dad out to the car. Just before he gets in it he turns to me…
Dad: This whole time I thought Mom was with me on this trip.
Karen: Maybe she was.
(Dad looks at my face, thinking…) 

As I head for his home, Dad mentions something about the road parallel, that travels along the coast – and I’m thinking maybe he wants me to drive along Bayview-Edison Road, so I take the car that direction. We head along Bayview-Edison Road for awhile. Dad’s head drops now and then in sleep, and then comes up to look at the bay. After a while…
Dad: You can take me to my new home now. The one near the Canadian border.
Karen: You want me to take you home now?
Dad: Yeah.

Dad is nodding off as we crest the hill and start down the other side into the valley. His head pops up then – and he starts scanning the hills. He points to one and asks if it’s Glacier Peak. I tell him I don’t think so – too small – and he nods.

We pull up in front of his house and Dad asks if this is where he’s going to be picked up to be brought to his home. I tell him this IS his home. He asks if he knows the people who live there. Just then Amanda pulls in behind us in her car. I ask her to come over and let Dad see her because he’s not sure he knows the people who live there. Amanda – bless her heart! – laughs and comes over and gives Dad a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She asks him if he knows her – and he says “Yes, barely.” She laughs and hugs him again, and tells him that’s alright.

I help Dad in the house. He wants to know where he should go now. I tell him he could go in the living room and watch television or he could go to his room and take a nap.
Karen: Do you want to take a nap?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

We go into his room, and I help him out of his sweater and put his alpine hat back on top of the lamp.
Karen: In five days you’re coming back to my home for Thanksgiving – and David and Claire and Casey and Andrew and Xander will all be there!
Dad: Oh! Good!
Karen: And in two days I’m taking you to a doctor’s appointment.
Dad: Thank you for taking care of all this for me.
Karen: Thank you for going on a drive with me today, Daddy. I enjoyed it.
Dad: Thank you for taking me on these drives.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.

More adventures with Dad can be found here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?

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“I Really Enjoy These Surprise Drives!”

Dad is falling asleep in front of his breakfast when I arrive. I ask him if he’d like to go for a drive and he nods his head yes. Megan gets his shoes on his feet and helps him into his coat. I pluck his mountain hat off the lamp in his room and put it on his head. As we’re working our way down the stairs, Dad turns to me and says, “I really enjoy these surprise drives!” We head out the door and to the car. Megan calls after us, “You two crazy kids have fun!”

Dad: Well, what should we talk about today?
Karen: What do you want to talk about? (Thinking.) Have you seen any good movies?
Dad: Yes, I’ve gone to a lot of movies lately.
Karen: What’s your favorite movie?
Dad: Naughty Marietta. Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. What’s your favorite movie?
Karen: Wow! That’s a hard one…
Dad: Have you ever seen Naughty Marietta?
Karen: I think I’ve seen some of it…

I pull into the Sisters Espresso, and Dad lets me know he’d like a root beer float. I use the Sisters Espresso gift card our friend, Cindy, left for me to use when I take Dad on drives. When I bring back Dad’s root beer float I show him the card and tell him that Cindy bought him his drink today.
Dad: Tell Cindy I really liked the root beer float.
Karen: I will!

I turn onto Allen West Road…
Dad: We haven’t been on this road for a while. (He’s right.) That hill would be considered a mountain in Holland. (He’s right again.)

As I’m driving down Allen West I decided I’ll take Dad to the little Bayview Airport – the airport is surrounded by forest, and I think the color might be pretty there right now. When I turn down the road that will take us to the airport…
Dad: We’re going to the airport now. Didn’t we go on a flight there once?
(Now I have no idea if Dad has been on a flight from Bayview Airport – I would not be surprised – but I am impressed that he would remember he is near an airport that he visited with me once a year ago.)

We pull up next to the flight museum and Dad and I look at some of the old planes that are sitting out next to the museum. I point out the trail that goes by the museum and mention that this is where my sons used to run x-country when they were in high school.
Dad: (Nodding.) I remember. I remember waiting for the boys right there at the curve in the road. Do they still run here?
Karen: No, that was when they were in high school.
Dad: (Nodding) Oh. Yeah.

As we head back down the airport road I spot an eagle flying around above me. It lands on a fir tree and I pull over to take some photos. Dad is watching the eagle, too, and I find myself really grateful that he got to the ophthalmologist in time and still has one good eye and can see things like eagles sitting in trees. A little further down the road and a young buck crosses in front of us. I get out my camera to take a quick picture.
Dad: Does your camera have a zoom?
Karen: Yup!
(Dad nods.)

When we pull up in front of his home, he unsnaps his seat belt and gets ready to get out. I note that he doesn’t ask me this time if this is a drop-off place, or if he’s going to go home from here, or who these people are, or what he’s doing here. I’m grateful for this. He seems to know where he is.

Megan and I help him up the stairs and he heads for the living room, saying something to Megan about a football game. Megan starts laughing, and says the TV is already turned to it. He settles happily into his chair.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen. Drive carefully.

If you enjoyed this father-daughter adventure, you might want to check out Karen’s book, Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dada collection of stories just like this one.

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“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!

Drives with Dad (10-11-17)

Over the past year or so I’ve been chronicling the drives I take with my dad (now 99). This morning I thought I’d share the most recent adventure with my WordPress friends –

“I’m Running for President”
October 11, 2017

Picked Dad up for a drive to Urgent Care this morning.
As we’re getting him down the stairs and to the car –
Dad: I’m running for President.
Karen: (involuntary grin – Dad appears to be in fine form this morning) I’d vote for you!
Dad: Do you really think I’d make a good President?
Karen: I think you’d be great!
(As we situate him in the car.)
Dad: I don’t want to bring my walker. I don’t think you can be President if you have a walker.
Karen: Roosevelt had polio. He used a brace.
Dad: (nodding his head) That’s true. But he had a lot of people backing him. (An old receipt starts to work its way out of my car as Dad moves his feet in – I pick up the receipt and shove it back into the car.)
Dad: I don’t think anyone would vote for a President with a messy car.
(I start laughing.)
Dad: I wonder how many other old men in this nation are trying to get into a car right now.

As we drive to Urgent Care Dad talks more about his campaign for Presidency.
Dad: I think you should run for President. You’re a teacher. What more do you need to be? (Thinking.) I wonder how many other daughters are driving their fathers around right now?

I help Dad out of the car and into the waiting room at Urgent Care.
Dad: Do Peter and David  know about your attempt to make me President?
(I shake my head no. I don’t really know how to respond to that one.)
Dad: How do we know when the joke’s gone far enough? When do they eliminate me?
Karen: (I assume Dad’s talking about being eliminated from the presidential race – but he’s talking really loud and everyone can hear him, and I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings.) Daddy, no one’s going to eliminate you.

We have a wait. Other people who arrived after us have now been called to the back rooms. I ask the receptionist if maybe Dad’s been forgotten. She goes to check for me and discovers his chart is missing, and there was some miscommunication somewhere – one nurse thought the other nurse was looking at Dad, and the other nurse thought the first nurse was looking at Dad. Everyone’s very apologetic and Dad is quickly brought into the triage room. Soon he’s been diagnosed and given a prescription and we are on our way. I stop at Dairy Queen to buy him a root beer float – he has earned it, for sure. He focuses on his float. He’s no longer talking about his bid for the Presidency.

I drive him back to his home, and we unload him. I bring a package in with me that his nephew, Brad, sent him and read to Dad the enclosed note from Brad. Brad has sent him a screen dealy that is loaded with a memory card of thousands of pictures taken by Dad. Dad is smiling – really grateful for this gift. I tell him I need to get back to school now.

Dad: Thank you for driving me around this morning.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, too.