“Oh! There’s Mount Baker!”

Dad is lying in bed when I get there. He sees me come in and his face lights up with a smile.
Dad: Sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: (Reaching out to give me a hug.) I love you!
Karen: I love you, too! Did Mark Schoening come to see you yesterday?
Dad: Yes! That was a nice surprise!
Karen: Do you know Ed Webster?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes. He’s a climber.
Karen: Yes! He called last night. He wanted me to tell you hello from him.
Dad: Oh!
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yes, I would.
Karen: Okay, Gwen will get you ready and then we’ll go.
Dad: (Nodding.) Okay.

Pretty soon Dad comes out of his room with Gwen beside him. He’s wearing a button up shirt, his khaki pants, a sweater, shoes, and his alpine hat. He’s ready to go…
Dad: (In the passenger seat, looking back at the house.) Who are those people?
Karen: Gwen is the one who takes care of you. The man sitting at the table is Joe. He’s an artist, too.
Dad: Oh.

We drive through town and Dad wants to know if we’re in Fairhaven. I tell him no, but… (I point to the street sign) the name of this street is Fairhaven. Dad Looks at the sign and says, “Yeah. Fairhaven.”
Dad: We haven’t been here on a drive, yet, have we?
Karen: Yes…
Dad: Parts of it.
Karen: (Nodding and thinking. Almost all our drives start out on this street, but…) Yes.

We’re on the other side of I-5 now, in the country.
Dad: It’s a beautiful day!
Karen: Yes, it is!
Dad: What day is this?
Karen: Sunday.
Dad: Oh. (He’s quiet for a few minutes, then…) Are you going to church?
Karen: (Laughing.) No, not today.
Dad: (Relieved.) Oh. I thought you might be taking me to church. I don’t want to go to church.

(We pull up to the Sisters Espresso – I’m going to get Dad a breakfast sandwich and his root beer float.)
Dad: (Smiling.) I recognize this place. We’ve been here before – many times.
Karen: (Smiling.) Yes, we have.
(Brooke, one of the Sisters Espresso sisters, tells me that there are “hundreds of eagles” today – and points me the right direction to find them.  I head down Allen West Road, my eyes open for white tails and white heads .)
Dad: What did you learn in school today?
Karen: (I am flummoxed.) Umm…
(When I turn on Farm to Market Road and head north I can see Dad cranking his head to the right – I know what he’s looking for…)
Dad: Oh! There’s Mount Baker! ( He keeps his eyes focused on Baker as I turn the car down a road that has the mountain right in front of us. I pull over to the side of the road and stop to take a photo of the mountain.)
Dad: I’d like a print of that photo – that would make a great watercolor.
Karen: (Smiling.) Okay.
Dad: (Thinking.) Can you see Mount Rainier from here?
Karen: Sometimes. When it’s very clear. But it’s usually too hazy.

I drive to my home. My plan is to make a quick print of the photo for Dad to take with him. Maybe he’ll make a watercolor from it. I park in the driveway.
Dad: This is the home you and Scott built yourself.
Karen: Yes!
Dad: I remember when Scotty stood right there and said, “I’m going to build a home in that meadow.”
Karen: (Smiling.) Do you want to come inside?
Dad: (Shaking his head.) No.
Karen: You stay here. I’ll go get Scott and bring him out here…

I go inside and let Scott know that Dad’s in the car. He goes out to sit with him while I print off the picture of Mount Baker. When I come back out to the car Scott and I exchange places and I hand Dad the print of Mount Baker. As we’re driving back to his home…
Dad: Who took this picture? This is a good one!
Karen: I did. Just a little bit ago.
Dad: You did? It’s good!
Karen: Thank you.

As we get close to his home Dad starts recognizing the area…
Dad: Sometimes you drop me off on one of these side streets.
Karen: Yes.
Dad: Are you going to dump me off on this street?
Karen: I’m going to take you home.

We pull into his driveway and I help him get out of the car.  Gwen comes out to help Dad into the living room and into his recliner.  Dad settles in – his root beer float at his elbow on a side table, his print of Mount Baker in his lap, and a football game on the television.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: And I love you!

Mount Baker from Bow (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

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“I Really Enjoy These Little Drives with You!”

I stopped in to see Dad to see if he wanted to go for a drive. He was sitting at the table, finishing breakfast, when I got there.
Dad: Karen. This is my daughter! This is Karen!
Karen: Hi, Daddy. Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yes, I do!
(I go and get his shoes and hat. As I’m crouched over, tucking his feet into his shoes, he reaches down and starts patting the top of my head. I exchange looks with Gwen – we’re both grinning.)

We load Dad up in the car and take off on our adventure…
Dad: It’s a beautiful day!
Karen: Yes, it is!
Dad: I always love to see you come into… (trying to find the words) my place of business.
Karen: I love to see you, too!
Dad: Is there a small airport near here?
Karen: (Filing this away – maybe Dad wants to visit the airport?) Yes, just up there on the hill.
Dad: Were you at school today?
Karen: No, today is Saturday.
Dad: Oh. There’s no school on Fridays?
Karen: (Pause.) No.

(I can see Dad turning his head – I know he’s looking for Mount Baker – but Baker is behind the hills. I pull into Sisters Espresso.)
Karen: Root beer float?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
(I get Dad his float. As I’m coming back to the car with it, he opens the door and reaches out for it – he knows the drill.  I hand him his float…)
Dad: Thank you!

I turn left, heading towards the airport – but we’re not going the right direction for Dad to see Mount Baker, so I turn down a road where Dad can see Baker if he looks out his window. And there it is!
Karen: (Pointing.) See Baker?
Dad: (Nodding and fastening his eyes on the volcano.) Yes. Have you ever climbed that one?
Karen: Yes. With you and Scotty.
Dad: (Nodding.) That’s right.
(I stop a few times to snap some photos. Dad takes this all in stride.)
Karen: Do you know what the name of that ridge is – there on Baker?
Dad: No. I know all the features of Rainier, but not the other mountains…

We make a quick stop at the post office, and then I head through Edison and onto Samish Island Road. As I’m driving over the slough I glance over at a tree that I know has an eagle’s nest in it – and it’s loaded with eagles! I pull over and get out of the car to take some photos. I ask Dad if he sees the eagles – he says no – he’s looking in the wrong place. I back the car up a little and roll down the window and point…
Dad: Oh! Yeah! They’re on that branch there!
Karen: (So excited that he’s seen the eagles!) Yup!
Dad: (Slurps his float.) This is beautiful country. (Slurps some more.)
Karen: Yes, it is!

We head up towards Bayview Park. Dad always thinks of his old friends, the Annens (who lived on Warren Beach), when we go this way.
Dad: The Annens used to live up here. Did you ever visit the Annens with me?
Karen: No, I don’t think so.

I turn down the road that takes us to the airport and drive by so Dad can look at the planes, and then come back out onto the main road.
Dad: I really enjoy these little drives with you.
Karen: (I pat his knee.) I do, too, Daddy.

I bring Dad back to his home and help him settle back in the kitchen chair he’d been sitting in when I arrived.
Karen: I’m going to be back in a couple hours. Jim Wickwire is coming to visit you then, too!
Dad: Jim Wickwire will be here?
Karen: Yes!
Dad: How do you know?
Karen: He told me. I’ll see you again soon, Daddy. I love you!
Dad: I love you!

“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.)

“Oh! I Love These Things!”

Dad is in his recliner in front of the television when Scott, Dave, and I arrive.
Karen: Hi, Daddy! (I give him a hug.)
Dad: Hi, Karen!
Karen: Look who else is here…
Dave: (Gives Dad a hug.) Hi, Dad.
Dad: (His eyes light up.) Hi, David!
Karen: Do you want to move to the dining room table so we can talk?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
(David brings Dad his walker and I get his headset and we all help him move to the dining room.)
Dad: (Situated now at the table.) I’ve been watching Pete (his son, my other brother) play football. He’s always in someone else’s jersey, though. His name is never on his jersey. Did you watch the Cougar-Husky game?
Karen: Yeah.
Dad: Were you rooting for the Huskies?
Karen: I went to WSU, so I was rooting for the Cougars. They lost. Your Huskies won. But it was a really good game.
Dad: (Thinking.) I’m ready to leave here.
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: You’re always saying this is my home. This isn’t my home. I have three homes near the Canadian border.
Karen: And this is one of them. This home is near the Canadian border.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh.
Karen: And I live 15 minutes from here.
Dad: (Nodding.) Good!
Karen: Don’t leave here because then none of us would be able to find you!
Scott: (Smiling.) Yeah. Don’t go anywhere. We like having you near us.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
Karen: (The white cat, Skittles, has jumped up on the table and is going from person to person for a pet and scratch behind the ears.) And Skittles the Cat, is here. She sleeps with you. She loves you. She would miss you not being here.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. She’s my little companion.
(Megan brings Dad a root beer. Dad takes a sip and burps. He starts chuckling, and we chuckle with him.)

David talks with Dad about the move he’s going to be making from Boise to Olympia in a couple weeks. Dad nods and smiles when he understands Dave will be closer soon.
Karen: We brought you over for Thanksgiving a couple days ago. Do you remember that?
Dad: (Nodding and smiling.) Yes.
Karen: David’s kids, Claire and Casey were there. And Andrew and Xander. And Claire’s husband, Michael, and Casey’s girlfriend, Alex.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes. Your children are good people. And my children are good people.
Karen: And we have a good father.
(Dad smiles and nods.)
David: (To Dad.) In seven months you’ll be 101.
Karen: Do you remember when we brought you to Mount Rainier for your 100th birthday?
Dad: (Nods.) Yes. (Thinking.) Kenny Foreman was there.
Karen, David, and Scott: Yeah! That’s right.
David: And the Whittaker brothers were there…
Dad: (Nods.) Yeah.
Karen: And Rick and Jana Johnson. We stayed at their place.
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I don’t know if we’ll be able to get back there for your 101st birthday, though.
Dad: (Nods in agreement.) Yeah. That’s too far to go.
Karen: But we’ll do something to celebrate.
David: Can you sing the Dutch Christmas song?
Dad: (Singing.) Sinterklaas Kapoentje, Le waat in mijn schoentje, leg waat in mijn laarsje, Dank je Sinterklassje!

Karen: It’s time for us to take David to catch his shuttlebus now.

Dad nods and gets up. We help him back into his recliner in front of the television. Megan has brought in a bowl of cheese balls for Dad.
Dad: (Seeing the cheese balls.) Oh! I love these things!
Megan: (Laughing.) He does!

We give Dad hugs and tell him we love him and Dave says he will see him again soon for Christmas. Dad nods and smiles. He knows Christmas is not far away.

Dee Molenaar and David Molenaar

Dad (Dee Molenaar) and David Molenaar in conversation.

Dad singing Sinterklaas Kapoentje.

For more stories like these, click here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad

“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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“What are we doing for New Year’s?”

Dad was in his room when I peeked in – sitting on his bed, not fully-dressed. He looked up and saw me start to turn away (I was going to get help for him) and he said, “No. Come on in. Don’t go away!” I told him I’d wait out at the kitchen table for him, but I’m not sure he heard me.

Gwen went in to help him and I sat at the table. When he came out he headed with Gwen towards the bathroom – and he told me, again, to wait for him. I assured him I would.

Five minutes later he joined me at the kitchen table.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I never get tired of hearing that.(Thinking.) Today is December 31st. What are we going to do today? What are your plans for tonight?
Karen: Today is November 7th.
Dad: Oh. (Processing.) I was two months off.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I wouldn’t mind.

In the car, heading towards Sisters Espresso…
Dad: What a beautiful day!
Karen: It really is!
Dad: What are we doing for New Year’s?
Karen: It’s November.
Dad: Oh. Yeah. That’s right. It’s a month away.

I stop at Sisters Espresso and buy Dad his root beer float. He takes his float from me and thanks me for it.

As we’re driving down Chuckanut Dad twists his head to the right and I know he’s looking for Mount Baker. I glance to the right just as Baker comes into view. I nod that direction and say, “There it is!” Dad looks and nods his head and keeps his eyes on the mountain.

I stop at the post office and run into my neighbor, Bond, there. He was at the book-signing last weekend and bought one of my books and one of Dad’s, too. I tell him Dad is in the car and he asks if he can come out to see him. Bond follows me out to the car and I open Dad’s door so he can meet Bond. I introduce Bond to Dad and tell Dad that he signed Bond’s book last weekend. Dad smiles at Bond and reaches out his hand to shake hands with him.

As we’re heading back to Dad’s home…
Dad: (Looking at Mount Baker.) I bet it’s cold up there right now.
Karen: Yeah. It looks like there’s fresh snow up there.
Dad: Do you enjoy these drives with me?
Karen: I do!
Dad: Mutual. (Thinking.) I like seeing your face.

I bring Dad back to his home. He doesn’t ask where he is this time. He unfastens his seat belt and I offer my arm as support as he goes up the stairs and makes his way to a chair at the kitchen table.
Dad: What are we doing for New Year’s tonight?
Karen: It’s November 7th. The elections were yesterday.
Dad: How’d it turn out?
Karen: The Democrats got the House. The Republicans got the Senate.
Dad: (Nods.) Oh. (Dad flips open the newspaper on the table and starts reading about what’s going on in the world.)
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you.

(Similar stories can be found in Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad. )

Another Review for *Are You Taking Me Home?*

Another five star review on Amazon for Are You Taking Me Home Now?! 

Heidi writes: “This is a delightful book and Karen is a gifted writer. She lets us listen in to the conversations she and her 100 year old Dad have on their car trips, which had me laughing and crying. Interspersed are memories of earlier times. Having a relationship with an older person whose body and brain don’t work as well as it used to requires patience, humor and love. As someone else here said, ‘Karen shows us how to do it right.’ I enjoyed reading this very much. I highly recommend this book and will be giving it out for gifts.”

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