Nothing Is Impossible to Love

So you know, I write my poems and say my spiels and yada yada. And what does any of that mean, really? It’s just words.

So here’s what I need tonight – I need to remind myself that we can’t always see how things will work themselves out – and sometimes salvation comes in completely unexpected ways. I need to remind myself of the amazing things that I’ve witnessed and experienced in the last several years during times when I saw no solution and things looked pretty bleak.

Back in February 2017 I found myself in a position that seemed impossible. Mom was in the hospital with congestive heart failure and Dad soon followed her there with a UTI. They were on two different floors, both struggling to stay alive. I’d visit one and then the other – and then go home, on high alert, waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to drop some new crisis onto me.

Just two days before Mom was going to be released from the hospital into hospice care, a hospital social worker told me that it looked like the assisted living care facility wasn’t going to accept Mom back into her and Dad’s home because of her medical issues. I told the social worker that the assisted living place hadn’t told me anything about this, and surely they would have let me know, right? But she seemed pretty sure about this. So I called the assisted living place on Saturday and was told that Mom was going to be evaluated on Monday morning to determine if she could be brought back to her home. Which. Hospice needed to set things up for her – and they needed to know right then where they should send the equipment. I needed answers immediately. Finally, the assisted living lady told me (under her breath) that if she was me she’d be looking for another place for my mother and father.

I had two days to find a new home for my parents.

In a panic, I started calling other assisted living places and soon realized that the cost of the care my parents were going to need in the facilities would clean out their savings in a couple months. I thought maybe I could use my retirement savings to help them – but that wouldn’t last too long, either. And – honestly, I didn’t want to send my parents to some strange, unfamiliar place that looked like an institution. The thought came to me, then, that I should bring Mom and Dad into my home when they were released from the hospital, and provide the care myself. Scotty agreed to this plan and agreed to help. (I married an incredible man.)

I was still teaching full-time then – so this was going to be tricky.

But I told the social workers at the hospital that I wanted Mom brought to my home when she was released on Monday. She asked me if I was sure – I think she was concerned about me – but I told her yes. It felt right. Hospice got in touch with me – bless them! – and, when Mom was brought by ambulance to our home, a hospice nurse came over and showed Scott and I how to care for her.

I’m so very glad Love guided me to make this decision for Moz. I’m so glad she was brought to our home, surrounded by our love. We spent the whole day telling each other how much we loved each other – and in the wee hours of the morning, while I dozed on the couch next to her hospital bed, she passed. I felt myself brushed by joy and peace and love and woke to find she was gone.

So now I had to find a home for Dad – I’d promised Moz that she didn’t need to worry about him – that we’d make sure he was alright. Originally the plan had been to bring him into our home where he could be with Mom, but now that she was gone our home wouldn’t be the right place for him. He needed the kind of care that someone with skills greater than my own could give him. The social worker asked us if we’d ever looked into adult family homes, and gave us a booklet with names and phone numbers.

When I got home from the hospital after my visit with Dad and the social worker, I went for a walk – at this point I was completely emotionally and mentally stretched – feeling out of my depth and scared about the future – and I needed to find some peace for myself. And suddenly a rainbow arched across the sky – and it felt like a promise! – like Moz was there with me, reassuring me, telling me everything was going to be alright.I began making phone calls to adult family homes – and on the second call I felt I’d found the right place. My brother and I went over to check it out – there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs – and I knew the woman who answered the door would have been someone Moz would have felt an instant kinship with. AND the cost of care for Dad would fit his budget!

I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. We had found Dad’s new home – a place I didn’t even know existed a day before!

We just never know.

NOTHING is impossible to Love. NOTHING. ❤
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Rainbow After the Storm. Bow, WA. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Second Hundred Years: “I’m a Spry Old Man”

Excerpt from The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad:

“I’m a Spry Old Man”
August 22, 2018

I’ve been traveling and Dad and I haven’t seen each other for almost two weeks. Dad hears I’m at his home and quickly comes shuffling out of his room…
Dad: Karen!
Karen: Daddy! I missed you!
Dad: I missed YOU!

We give each other a tight hug and then sit down at the kitchen table to look at cards he’s received while I was gone. After he’s done reading cards, we put his mountaineering hat on his head and Dad and I head out for a drive in my intrepid little Ford Fiesta stickshift, Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich.
Dad: I’m lucky to have a daughter who takes me on drives.
Karen: I enjoy taking you on drives!
Dad: These drives are the highlight of my life.
(I pat his knee and tell him I like them, too.)
We drive for a while, past fields and barns, Dad’s head turning as he catches glimpses of things that interest him.
Dad: This is beautiful country.
Karen: Yes, it is. It’s really smoky right now, though, from the forest fires.
Dad: Where are the fires?
Karen: Washington, Oregon, California, Canada. This whole part of the country is burning up…
Dad: Are these fires caused by lightning or are they man-made?
Karen: (Thinking.) Both, I think.
Dad nods.
A little later…
Dad: I can smell the smoke.
Karen: Yeah, it’s pretty thick, isn’t it?
Dad nods.
Later still…
Dad: It’s good to get out into the real world.

I drive us on back roads and byways and eventually end up at Bayview Park. Dad recognizes being here before. He feels up for a short walk to a bench and we sit there in companionable silence for a while – just gazing together out at the tidelands and the seabirds. Then I ask him if he’d like me to get him a breakfast sandwich and a root beer float and he thinks this is a good idea. So we get off the bench and make our way back to the car – my hand under Dad’s elbow. He is moving at a good clip…
Dad: I’m a spry old man.
Karen: Yes, you are.
We drive to the Sisters Espresso – where Dad decides to get a vanilla milkshake instead of the float.

After he gets his sandwich and shake, I ask him if he’d like to come to my house for a while and he nods his head yes. He tells me he’s not up for watercolor painting today, though – “You have to be in the right mood for that.” He sits at the dining room table for a while – finishing his sandwich and his shake. Scott and Sam the Wonder Dog appear. Sam comes into the dining room to greet Dad. Dad says, “Hi Sam,” and reaches out to pet her. “She remembers me,” he says, happy to know she’s not forgotten him.

About half an hour later I ask Dad if he’s ready to go home now, and he nods his head yes. He’s looking a little tired. Getting in and out of cars is hard work when you’re 100 years old. We get him buckled back into Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich and return him to his home.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen

I Miss My Drives with Dad, Too

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

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

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

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

the second hundred years cover really

Adventures with Dad

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

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

Berg heil!
Karen Molenaar Terrell

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

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

Dad and I and a Flock of Snow Geese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“1918?!”

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

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

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

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

“I hope he’s not alone.”

Dad is in the kitchen when I get there, working on his breakfast. He looks up and sees me.
Dad: Hi, sweetie!
Karen: Hi, Daddy. Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I don’t think I can today.
Karen: Oh. (I watch him eat for a while. It’s a long process these days. Eating takes a lot of energy.) What are you doing today?
Dad: I don’t know.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive or do you want to stay home and rest?
Dad: I’d rather go for a drive, but I don’t think the authorities will let me leave.
Karen: If you want to go for a drive we can go. (I let Gwen know that Dad’s up for a drive and she fetches his shoes and hat and gets him ready.)

We head out on today’s adventure. As we’re driving through Burlington I point to the autumnal trees…
Karen: See? The trees are changing color. It’s October. October is your favorite month, isn’t it?
Dad: (Nodding, as I point to the trees.) October is my favorite month.

First stop: Sisters Espresso. I get Dad his root beer float with the account that Dave Waka left for him there. Then I head for the backroads that will take us up to Bellingham through the autumn colors. I want to share this brilliant October day with Dad. We are surrounded in amber and gold, garnets and rubies, as we travel through tunnels of autumn trees.
Karen: Isn’t it beautiful, Daddy?!
Dad: (Nodding.) The yellow in the trees. Where are we going?
Karen: I thought we’d go to Lake Padden.
(I wind down backroads haloed in autumn gold until I reach Lake Padden. I pull over to take a couple of photos.)
Dad: What is this lake?
Karen: Lake Padden.
Dad: (Nodding.) Padden.
(I sense Dad is getting tired now. It’s time to bring him home. At first I think I’ll use the backroads, again, to bring him home, but then as I near the exit to I-5…)
Dad: It’s time to be getting back.
(I exit onto the freeway.)
Dad: What is this lake?
Karen: Lake Samish.
Dad: Dad is waiting by the side of the road. I hope he’s not alone.
Karen: Oh. No… (and I start to reassure Dad that I’m sure his father isn’t alone…)
Dad: I think they’re all teachers there. (He sounds reassured by this thought.)
Karen: Yes.

I bring Dad back to his home and pull in next to the front door.
Dad: What is this place?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: No, this isn’t my home.
Karen: Yup, it’s your home.
Dad: (Eyeing the house.) Is there anyone home?
(Just then Amanda appears at the top of the stairs and smiles at Dad. I see his face light up in recognition.)
Amanda: Hello!
Dad: (Smiling.) Hello!
(Amanda helps him into the house and up the stairs. She brings Dad to the door of his bedroom and he asks her if this is his room. She tells him yes and he goes in. Amanda helps lower him to the bed. Amanda leaves for a moment to help another resident.)
Dad: I’m supposed to meet my father.
Karen: (Trying to figure out which direction to go with this.) Dad, you’re 101.
Dad: I know that.
Karen: How old would your father be now?
Dad: (Frowning in thought.)
Karen: He’d be, like, 130 now, right?
Dad: (Thinking.) Yeah.
Karen: Daddy, your father died a month before I was born. He’s been dead more than 60 years. I never got to meet him, but I know he was a wonderful man.
Dad: But I saw him recently… (Tearing up.) My father is dead.
Karen: (Putting my arm around his shoulders.) But I still have my father. And I feel really blessed about that.
Dad: (Reassuring me.) I’ll be around for a while, yet.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

Photos from our drive –

“Is Mom Gone?”

I got a message from Amanda that Dad was having a “rough time” and headed over there to check up on him.

He was sitting at the kitchen table, finishing breakfast when I got there. I rested my hand on his back and he looked over at me and smiled. I held his hand and he brought my hand to his lips and kissed it. Then I brought his hand to my lips and kissed it. He smiled again.
Dad: How’s Mom?
Karen: She’s fine.
Dad: Where is she now… is she (mumbling)…?
Karen: (Thinking how I should answer this question. Finally…) Daddy, Mom passed on two years ago. (I feel I should say this – I feel like he needs to know…) She’s waiting for you when that time comes.
Dad: (Nods and looks down at his plate. I’m not sure he heard or understood. I wait.) Where are Peter and David?
Karen: Pete’s in Hoodsport – on the peninsula. Dave’s in Olympia. They’re both doing great. Pete came and saw you a couple days ago. You watched football together. Dave’s coming up this weekend.
Dad: (Nods.)
Karen: They both love you very much.
Dad: (Nods.)
Karen: And I love you, too.
(Dad looks up at me and smiles.)
Karen: Looks like you’ve been eating an avocado.
Dad: Yeah. This was a rich one.
Karen: (I lean over so my mouth is next to his ear, and start singing a hymn I know he’s familiar with..) “In heavenly Love abiding, no change my heart shall fear, and safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here…” and “O dreamer, leave thy dreams for joyful waking!…”
(Then we sit quietly for maybe ten minutes, or twenty – I lose track of time. I don’t feel the need to say or do anything. We’re just together. He’s starting to nod off now. His head drooping towards the table…)
Karen: Do you want to go sit in the recliner in front of the television and take a nap?
Dad: (Looks up at me and nods.) Yeah.
(Dad is in a wheelchair today – he’s having a hard time standing or walking – so Dietrich pushes him in the wheelchair over to a recliner and helps lift him into the chair. Amanda and Dietrich cover Dad with a blanket and get him comfortable.)
Karen: Are you comfortable?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you. (Thinking.) Is Mom gone?
Karen: Yeah. But I feel her presence with me all the time. And I know she’s waiting for you when you’re ready to join her.
Dad: (Nods. And this time I know he understands.)

I wave to him and blow him a kiss. And he waves back and gives me a sleepy smile.

How Beautiful!

Dad had just finished breakfast when we arrived. He was tired – leaning his head on his hand. He started scratching his ear with the hand he was leaning against. I tried to take mental photographs of his face, his skin, his hand, to keep with me forever. Today he is alive. He’s moving and breathing and thinking. The skin on his hand is thin – almost translucent – stretched thinly over the bones. I could see the hand skeleton moving through his skin as he scratched his ear – and I thought, “How beautiful!” It’s the same thought and feeling I had when I took mental pictures of Mom’s face and hands in the time before she passed. So beautiful!

Dad and Karen

“Nisqually Icefall… I love you…”

Dad was in his bed, sleeping, when I entered his room. I leaned over and touched his forehead and he woke up.
Dad: (Smiling at me) … Nisqually Icefall…
Karen: Nisqually Icefall?
Dad: (Mumbling) Nisqually Icefall… I love you…
Karen: I love you.
Dad: Did you take time off work to be here?
Karen: I’m retired.
Dad: Oh! So you can be here to send us off on our climb!
Karen: Yes. You can go back to sleep now and rest for your climb.
Dad: (Nodding.) Okay. (Closing his eyes and going back to sleep.)
 
***

I think this must have been what Dad was talking about – his first ascent of the Nisqually Icefall with Bob Craig in 1948:
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12194913800/print

(Photo of Rainier by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)
Rainier up close this one