First Review!

Okay – Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad is back in stock. The editing never seems to end with this one – I’ll think I’m finally finished and then I notice that I repeated myself or I didn’t put a space where there should be a space or I used the wrong tense. I’ve been feeling a little discouraged – and then the book got its first review! Five stars! Check it out! (And I didn’t even pay him! ) Bless Dr. Bill.

“Betcha can’t put this book down! Even if you do not know Dee Molenaar, or know of his life of adventure, the pure love and joy of a father-daughter relationship done right shines through on every page. This is a wonderful read, full of root beer floats and day trips including Dee’s 100th birthday return to Mt. Rainier. Karen writes so effortlessly and we can only hope she brings us another book on Dee’s 101st. And, in such often indecent times, this book will reaffirm the power of a family that loves one another and is never shy about saying it. Buy several copies; you’ll want to share with friends…and family.”

adventures with dad book cover

 

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“You’re always telling me all these places are my home.”

I pick Dad up for his eye appointment.  Dietrick helps him into my car and we buckle him up. Dad turns to Dietrich and says, “Thank you.” Dietrick tells him he’s very welcome.
Dad: Is this a doctor I’ve visited before?
Karen: Yes. He’s a mountain climber, too.
Dad: A mountain climber? What’s his name?
Karen: Dr. Saperstein.
Dad: (nods) Oh. (Thinking.) I have to be in Bremerton tonight. I’m getting together with my sister, Jo.
Karen: (nodding) Oh! Okay.
When I turn down the road to the doctor’s office, Dad nods his head in recognition, and says, “Yeah, this is the road.”

Dr. Saperstein’s office is really good about getting Dad into the system right away. There’s not a lot of waiting time there. Soon Dad is sitting in the chair in the examination room. The assistant introduces herself as “Brittany.” I speak into Dad’s ear and tell him her name is “Brittany.” He still can’t hear what I’m saying, so Brittany shows him her name tag.
Dad: Oh! Brittany. Are you from Brittany?
Brittany: (Laughing.) No, I’m a local.

Dad reads the letters off the eye chart. He does well until he gets to the third line. He recognizes there are five letters and one of them is an “S.”
Dad: House. (He looks at me for confirmation.) House.
Karen: (I nod my head and give him the thumbs up.)

We move into the room where Dad gets his eyes photographed – he knows the drill now and knows exactly what to do once he gets in there. And then he’s moved into the final room where he gets the injection in his eye.

A technician comes in to put drops in Dad’s eye. She lets me know that she checked Dad out on Wikipedia and found out a lot of cool stuff about him. I love this place. The technician leaves and Dad and me are alone…

Dad: My hearing is my worst problem. I can see. I can see you moving your feet. Stop moving your feet. (I stop and await further instructions. Dad starts grinning.) I can still give commands. (I start laughing.)

The song Anything Goes has been stuck in my noggin the last couple days and while we wait I start singing it to myself. Dad can see my lips moving, but he doesn’t know what I’m up to…
Dad: You don’t need to pray for me.
Karen: (Laughing) I’m not praying for you. (I get out of my seat and go up to him and say into his ear…) I’ve had this song stuck in my head. I’m singing. (And I start singing the song into his ear. The doctor comes in to give Dad his injection and I return to my chair.)

The doctor checks the photographs and says Dad’s good eye has much improved. The doctor says Dad’s sight is good enough for him to pass the driver’s license test now.
Karen: Noooooo!!!
(The doctor starts laughing.)

The doctor tells me that Dad’s eye has improved to the point that, after today’s injection, we don’t have to come back for another injection for 10 weeks. I go up to Dad to explain to him, directly into his ear, what the doctor just told me. Dad nods his head in understanding. I look at the doctor and ask him how I did – he laughs and tells me I’m hired.

Dad gets his injection and we schedule the next appointment for him and then, holding hands, Dad and I head back out to my car.
Karen: Do you want to get a root beer float now?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

I get Dad his root beer float and begin the drive back to his place. I pull into the driveway and park in front of the front door to his home. I speak into his ear: “Another adventure under our belts.” He smiles. I come around to help him out of the car. When he’s standing…

Dad: What are we doing here?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: You’re always telling me all these places are my home…

Dad goes into the home and I help him up the stairs. He heads right for Moz’s old recliner in front of the TV and I help him settle into it. I leave him for a moment to return his alpine hat to his room, and when I come back to Dad, Skittle, the white cat, is ensconced comfortably on his lap. I pet Skittles and ruffle the fur behind her ears.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen. Thank you for taking me to these appointments.
(I kiss Dad’s forehead and he smiles up at me.)

(For the new book about some of my other adventures with Dad, click here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

adventures with dad book cover

New Book!

In loving memory of Moz.
For Gwen Black and her crackerjack team of caregivers.
For all the friends who encouraged me to publish this book.
And for Dad – my hero. 

A new book, my friends! This one is a collection of the conversations and escapades Dad and I have gotten ourselves into since Moz’s passing. I think Moz would be proud. 🙂

In print form: Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad
In kindle form: Are you Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

adventures with dad book cover

“I missed you!”

I’ve been traveling and Dad and I hadn’t seen each other for almost two weeks. Dad hears I’m there and comes quickly 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 over the last couple weeks. After he’s done with the cards, we put his mountaineering hat on his head and Dad and I head out for a drive.
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 smokey 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 there before. He feels up to a short walk to a bench and we sit there in companionable silence for a while – just gazing out at the tidelands and the seabirds together. 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 breakfast 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 back in the car one more time and take him back to his home.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen

Dad at Bayview State Park

“I don’t think she’s really gone.”

Dad was brilliant today!

Amanda sent word that Dad was up and feeling chipper. So I stopped by to see if he’d like to go for a drive. He was finishing breakfast when I got there, but he soon had his alpine hat on his head and his shoes on his feet, and was moving (at a rapid pace) towards the door…

My original thought was that I’d swing by the Sisters Espresso for his shake and then take him up to Bayview State Park for a quiet sit on a bench. But on the way to Sisters Espresso Dad said he thought he remembered a painting he had to finish at my home. So I got him his vanilla shake and then brought him to my house to see if he wanted to work on the watercolor of Rainier he’s been painting since last winter.

He settled into a seat at the table. I pulled out his paints, sponge, watercolors, brushes, and his latest watercolor project, and he set to work.

He had his hearing headset on today, so we could have a conversation. His hearing headset makes all the difference. I had my camera with me and recorded some of our conversation. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. There were times when he would say the most profound things – but I hadn’t been recording – so then he’d have to repeat himself for the recording. Sometimes there were things he said and did that were so precious to me I decided I didn’t want to remember them as a recording…

Karen: You’re not a prejudiced person. You must have had good parents. Where you grew up – in Los Angeles – did you live in a part of town with people from a lot of different cultures and backgrounds? Was there racism where you lived?

Dad: There was racism in Los Angeles – but (smiling) we lived in the opposite part of Los Angeles. I grew up with mostly Japanese farmers. Most of my friends growing up were Japanese.
(recording)
Karen: Daddy, tell me about the part of Los Angeles that you were raised in.
Dad: Are you recording this?
Karen: Yeah. Is that okay?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I lived in southwestern Los Angeles – which was mostly related to the Japanese truck farmers. We were kind of on the edge of the developed part of Los Angeles city, so we just walked a couple blocks and we were out in the fields.
Karen: Most of your friends were Japanese?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: So you grew up in a place that didn’t have a lot of prejudice?
Dad: Yeah. There are places that I’ve never had an interest in visiting because…
(recording)
…they are still very prejudiced and the Civil War is still in their blood.
(I watch Dad paint for a while.)
(recording)
Karen: You’re 100! That’s crazy!
Dad: You tell anybody you’ve got a father 100 years old and they’re going to think you’re just…
Karen: Exaggerating?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: When you paint do you know ahead of time what you’re going to paint in the foreground?
Dad: (shaking his head) No.
Karen: So it just evolves?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: What are you going to do with this one? What do you see?
Dad: Over here I’m going to paint some trees. And over here an island of trees. And up here a sub-ridge of the mountain. (Thinking) You kind of want three points of interest, but not one dominating.
(Of course I hadn’t recorded any of Dad’s thoughts on painting – so now I make him go through the whole conversation again. He is very patient with me.)
Karen: Daddy, I really love spending time with you.
Dad: (brings his head up and smiles and gives me the focused, penetrating look of someone who is really listening) I was going to say the same thing to you earlier. I love the drives we take together.
(recording)
Karen: Were you the only artist in your family?
Dad: In my immediate family, you mean?
Karen: Were your grandparents artists? Were your parents artists?
Dad: No.
Karen: (laughing) How did that happen?
Dad: (thinking) I’ve always enjoyed drawing. And I enjoy drawing foregrounds for mountains.
Karen: What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
Dad: Paradise Valley.
Karen: Wow! Mount Rainier. Was that better than the Alps?
Dad: Well, the Alps have more history…
Karen: But Paradise Valley is the best.
(stop recording)
(I watch Dad for a while, debating with myself if I should ask what I want to ask…)
Karen: Daddy, I want to ask you a hard question…
Dad: Okay. I may give you a hard answer.
Karen: Do you think we’ll see Mom again?
Dad: (thinking) I don’t think Mom is really gone.
Karen: Do you feel her here?
Dad: (thinking) I wasn’t surprised that she was gone. For the last year or two she talked about friends who had died, and I think she knew… I think she was trying to prepare me.
Karen: Yeah. I think she knew. When you were both in the hospital she didn’t want to leave because she loved you and wanted to take care of you. You didn’t want to leave because you wanted to take care of her.
Dad: (smiling sadly) I was shocked when you told me she was gone… but I wasn’t surprised.
Karen: (feeling sad for him, and guilty, and unsure what I should do) Would you rather I not tell you Mom is gone when you forget? …Was it bad of me to tell you?
Dad: (emphatically) No! You need to tell me. And I need to deal with it.
Karen: We carry Mom around in our memories of her, don’t we? She’s always with us.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah.
(recording)
Karen: I’m glad we’re neighbors, Daddy.
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.
(end recording)

Dad is tired now. He’ll come back and work on this painting another time. Right now it is time for his afternoon nap.
As I’m helping Dad get into the car, he turns and looks at me and reaches out to give me a hug. “I love you, Karen,” he says.
I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, too, Daddy.”

Youtube clip of the conversation with Dad.

dad painting (2) this one

“I finally know your name!”

I got a call that Dad was having a difficult time of it and wanted to see me. He’d remembered that Mom was gone and was grieving.

He was in the recliner in front of the television when I got there. His eyes lit up at the sight of me. The first words out of his mouth were “I love you.” I told him I loved him, too, and suggested to him that we move to a table where we could talk.

We got him hooked up to his hearing headset so he could better hear while we talked. This was the first time that I ever felt able to explain to him the sequence of events that had brought him to his current home.

Dad: Mom is gone?
Karen: Yes.
Dad: Did she suffer?
Karen: No, she was being medicated for the pain.
Dad: How did it happen?
Karen: You and Mom were both in the hospital at the same time. She was on the floor above you. She had congestive heart failure. You were on the floor below her with a urinary tract infection.
Dad: We were both in the hospital? I don’t remember any of that. Why was I in the hospital?
Karen: For a urinary tract infection.
Dad: Oh. I don’t remember.
Karen: You were delirious because of the infection.
Dad: (nodding) Oh.
Karen: I’m told that someone brought you up to her room in a wheelchair so you could say good bye. But I didn’t get to see that.
Dad: I don’t remember saying good bye to her.
Karen: No, your memory of that time is gone. (pause) When Mom was released we decided to bring her to my home to care for her. We thought we had months – but when they brought her to our home we realized that she was near the end. We spent the whole day telling each other we loved each other. She told me how much she loved you…
Dad: (tearing up) Was she in pain?
Karen: No, she was under medication. I was sleeping on the couch next to her bed when she passed. In my dreams I felt this joy and peace brush past me. When I woke up she looked to be sleeping quietly, and I started to go back to sleep… then I realized she was too still. I checked on her and she was gone. I went upstairs to Scotty and told him I thought Moz was gone and he came downstairs and checked her pulse, touched her – she was cold. He affirmed that she’d passed. But… I felt when she passed… I felt like she’d touched me with love and joy as she left…
Dad: (tearing up) Where was I?
Karen: You were still in the hospital. A doctor let us use her stethoscope to tell you Mom was gone – and you grieved, but the next day you didn’t remember she’d passed. So then we sort of lied to you. You’d ask how Mom was doing and we’d say she was fine. But then I asked how YOU were doing and you said you’d be doing a lot better if we told you how Mom was doing.  (Dad laughs at himself – but there are tears in his eyes.) I decided I needed to respect you by telling you the truth… but… it hurts you. When you forget that Mom is gone would you rather we tell you the truth or say she’s fine…?
Dad: Tell me the truth.
Karen: You’re very brave, Daddy. (I give him a hug.) And now we needed to figure out where to bring you when you were released. Before Mom died, your assisted living place told us they couldn’t take you and Mom back. We only had a couple days to find a new home for Mom and you. That’s why we’d brought Moz to our home. And when you were released – we didn’t want to put you in some institution full of strangers…
Dad: (shaking his head vehemently) No.
Karen: But I didn’t have the know-how to take care of you in my home. You have memory problems (I see the distressed look on his face and quickly reassure him) – you’re still brilliant and smart and wise and funny – and you have no problem remembering what happened forty or thirty years ago – but you have a hard time remembering yesterday or last week… I think when Mom passed that got worse for you. So we needed some place with people who knew how to take care of you and could love you like we do.  The social workers at the hospital suggested we look into adult family homes and so I started calling around. The second place I called was this place…
Dad: This place where I am now?
Karen: Yes. Dave (my brother) and I decided we’d check this place out. We decided if we didn’t like the look of it we’d just drive right by. But there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs, and… it felt like Moz had led us here for you.
Dad: (nodding and smiling) To this place?
Karen: Yes. I saw a rainbow that morning – and it seemed like a sign to me that everything was going to work out. And then we found this place and we met Gwen…
Dad: Who’s Gwen?
Karen: Gwen’s the woman who owns this place. She takes care of you. When we met her we found out she was related to your favorite author, John Muir, and that she likes the mountains, too. She and I took you up to Mount Baker last summer. And she came with us when we took you up to Rainier for your 100th birthday. Do you remember going up to Rainier for your 100th birthday? You had a ranger escort, and they blocked off some parking spaces for you, and there was a camera crew making a documentary of you – it was epic!
Dad: (shaking his head) No. I don’t remember any of that.
Karen: I’ll go get the pictures! (I go into his bedroom and find the photo album of pictures from his 100th birthday weekend.) See? Here you are arm wrestling with your grandson, Andrew (Dad smiles). And do you know who that is?
Dad: That’s Bob Ader.
Karen: Yeah. He came all the way from Colorado to celebrate with you. And here you are at Longmire. There’s Pete Schoening’s grandson and great-granddaughter… and there’s Kristianne Schoening – remember her? (Dad nods.) And see – there’s Gwen!
Dad: (By this time Gwen has joined us at the table. Dad looks up at her and recognizes her. He points to her and smiles.) I finally know your name! (Gwen starts grinning.)
Karen: (pointing to a picture of Dad with his face in the photo hole of a sign) Michael, your granddaughter Claire’s new husband, found this sign that had 100th birthday on it inside the Visitor’s Center – it was to celebrate the National Park’s centennial, but we thought it would be perfect for you, too. So we had you stick your head in there. (Dad starts grinning.)
Karen: Do you know who this is?
Dad: (nodding) That’s your son. That’s Alexander.
Karen: Yeah, he was up there with us. And there’s Casey and his girlfriend… Oh! This was a special moment – do you recognize this person?
Dad: Kenny Foreman, my old Coast Guard buddy.
Karen: Yeah. You and Kenny held hands and sat next to each other in your wheelchairs. It was epic!
(I start pointing out all the people who came to join Dad for his 100th birthday. Most of his old friends he recognizes – some he doesn’t at first, but quickly remembers after a prompt.)
Dad: (concerned) How was I? Did I carry on conversations…?
Karen: You were brilliant! You were smart and funny and wonderful!
Dad: (smiling with relief) Good.
Karen: Gwen’s grandson was with us, too – here he is pushing you around in the wheelchair at Paradise. You didn’t want to get in that wheelchair – you said you had friends up there and you didn’t want them to see you in it… (Dad starts laughing at himself) but you finally sat in it and let us roll you around.

(After we go through the album I put it back in Dad’s bedroom and ask him if he would like to go for a ride. He says yes. So we get his shoes on his feet and his hat on his head and load him up in my car.)
Dad: Let’s head for the beach.
Karen: Okay.

(We drive through Burlington for a few minutes.)
Dad: (thinking) I haven’t seen Mom for about a year.
Karen: Daddy, she’s gone.
Dad: (thinking) Was there a service for her?
Karen: Yes.
Dad: Was I there?
Karen: Yes.
Dad: Did I speak at her service? Was I… alright?
Karen: No, you didn’t speak. But you took care of us. You were wonderful.
Dad: Good.

We drive by Padilla Bay and then turn back to his home. Gwen comes to help us and I ask Dad if he remembers her. He nods and smiles and says, “Gwen.” We bring him back to the recliner.

Dad: I love you!
Karen: I love you, too, Daddy!

Dad and 100th birthday rainier this one

“I was surprised by how painless it was…”

When I got to Dad’s place I learned a friend had just sent him the obituary for author Ruth Kirk. Ruth had been a dear friend of Dad’s and Dad had tears in his eyes when I arrived to visit with him. He was having a hard time of it. He’d told the care-giver that he’d illustrated some of Ruth’s books, and the care-giver had tried to find one of Ruth’s books on Dad’s bookshelves – but hadn’t been able to find one – so, instead, she’d pulled out Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier and they were looking through Dad’s illustrations in his book when I got there.

His care-giver made room for me to sit next to Dad so we could talk. Dad shared how sad he was about losing his friend, Ruth. I told him that this had been a rough year, and we talked about other friends he’d lost. He said at this point whenever he gets a card in the mail he expects to find an obituary for one of his friends inside it.

Some people he remembered were gone – climber Fred Beckey, and his brother, K (although he thought K had just passed away a couple years ago, when actually he’s been gone since 1994). He was surprised to learn that other friends were gone – “I wondered why I hadn’t heard from them,” he said. I think he was wondering why no one had told him about his friends’ passing – so I let him know that we’d shared these passages with him, but that he’d forgotten. I suggested that maybe he forgot because it was too traumatic for him to process – and I told him that would be understandable. He seemed to accept this.

I always follow my intuition in these conversations – sometimes I don’t bring up Mom’s passing, and sometimes – like today – it seems the right time to talk about it. I know talking about Mom’s passing is very hard for him – but… there are times when I think it’s helpful to him, too. So I held his hand and shared with him, again, Mom’s last week with us – I told him that he’d been able to say good bye to her in the hospital before they brought her to my home; told him she’d died peacefully in her sleep while I slept on the couch next to her; told him I felt her presence brush passed me as she left – I felt her love and joy. I told him that she’d loved him very much – that she still loves him – and that we’d promised her we’d take care of him. Dad nodded and wept quietly.

I observed that when you live to be 100 you lose a lot of people along the way. “But fortunately,” I said, “you have a lot of friends who are younger than you.” He smiled and nodded.

I asked him if he’d ever expected to live to be 100. He said he’d never thought about it.

Then – “Is it time for a drive?” he asked, hopefully. So his care-givers helped me get him ready – got him in his sweater, put shoes on his feet – and I put his alpine hat on his head – and we loaded him up in my car. I asked him if he’d like me to take him for a root beer float, and he nodded his head.

On the drive to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: I’ve been thinking this week that I needed to get out of here and get back home to Mom. But now I realize she’s gone.
Karen: Yeah. That place where you’re living is your home now.

As we turn onto old Hwy 99…
Dad: Now we’re heading north. Parallel to the Pacific coast.
Karen: Yup.
Dad: How are the boys?
Karen: They’re both graduated from university now.
Dad: (taking this in) Time goes fast. I was in school a lot longer than them. Or… that’s how it feels, anyway.

As we turn onto Chuckanut Drive…
Dad: Last month when I thought I was dying I was surprised by how painless it was. It’s just getting sleepy…
Karen: You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What?
Karen: (louder) You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What? I can’t hear you. Let’s talk when we get to where we’re going.

I pull into the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (smiling) I remember this place!
Karen: (turning off the car and speaking into Dad’s ear) Did you think you were dying last month?
Dad: I dreamed I was. I was surprised by how painless it was. It was just like going to sleep.
Karen: Do you feel like you’re dying now?
Dad: No. I’m good.
Karen: Good!

I get him his root beer float and hand it to him. He thanks me and begins drinking it. I head the car back to his home. As we pass a field bursting with little yellow flowers (maybe mustard seed flowers?)…
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I’m not sure he can hear me, but I feel the need to say it.)
Dad: (turning to me) And I love you!

We pull into the driveway and next to the front door, and I help Dad get out of the car and up the stairs. The care-giver helps him get situated in the living room in Mom’s old chair.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! Thank you!
Karen: Thank YOU!