The Last Visit with Daddy

“Karen”
January 18, 2020

Dad is in bed. His eyes are closed. He’s very still, but I see his chest moving. He’s still with us. I lean over and kiss his forehead and say into his ear, “Hi Daddy. It’s Karen.”
(There’s no response at first. Then his eyes open and he looks at me.)
Dad: (Weakly.) Karen.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: (I can feel the effort he’s making to mumble the words.) Ah uv you.
Karen: (Smiling at Dad – my heart filled with tenderness.) You old mountain goat. (That’s what Mom had always called Dad – and it comes to me – out of the blue – to call him that. Dad smiles at me. And now I find myself singing to him – that old Jeannette McDonald-Nelson Eddy song that he and Mom used to sing to each other…) When I’m calling you-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh… (I see Dad perk up a little. I get this sense that Mom is calling to him.)

We don’t say much after this. I stay for a while, stroking Dad’s forehead, and watching “Maverick” on Dad’s television. Every now and then Dad opens his eyes and checks to see if I’m still there. Eventually he falls back to sleep. I leave to go home and fetch my husband and son for a return visit. When I arrive home and describe Dad’s condition, the husband and son immediately let me know they’re with me and we go back to Dad’s house.

We enter Dad’s room and approach the bed. He’s sleeping. We pull up three chairs and watch him for a while. His foot is moving back and forth. I approach Dad’s bed.
Karen: Hi, Daddy. It’s Karen. And Andrew is here. And Scotty.
(Dad opens his eyes and looks at me.)
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
(Dad’s eyes are locked on mine and he nods his head at me once, twice. An affirmation. I nod back at him. He reaches up and holds my arm and squeezes it gently. I hold his hand and squeeze. He squeezes my hand back.)
Karen: Here’s Andrew, Daddy.
(Andrew sits close to his grampa. This is his time with Grampa. Love is exchanged. This time belongs to them and it’s not mine to share in words.)
Karen: And here’s Scotty.
(Scott grips Dad’s hand and receives a strong grip in return. They both grin at each other. Male bonding.) We all feel when it’s time to leave and let Dad get back to the business of sleeping. I get up and kiss Dad’s forehead and tell him I love him. Scott says his good byes. Andrew is the last to leave – he gets a strong good bye handshake from his grandfather before he leaves him to sleep.

(Excerpted from The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.)

Adventures with Dad

Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad has 14 ratings now and 5 stars! 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.

Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

My Contribution to Cyber Monday

It’s that magical marvelous magnificent season of giving – the season of shameless plugs.

So here’s what I’ve got…

My most recent books are Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad and The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad. Those of you who have enjoyed reading the stories of my drives with Dad will probably recognize some of the stories in these books. Between the two of ’em there are 15 ratings now – all five stars!

I have two books of poems out there – A Poem Lives on My Windowsill and The Brush of Angel Wings. Here’s a poem from The Brush of Angel Wings:

Two Earthworms

I came upon two earthworms on the sidewalk today –
their noses suspended in the air, frozen by the heat
of the sun – dried out and stiff
and I reached down and plucked up the first
and carried him to the dirt.
I dug a little hole for him and covered him
with earth – a grave to bring him back to life.
Gently I used my fingers as tweezers and pulled
the second worm from the sidewalk
and lifted him to the moist soil, laid him down,
and covered him with a wet leaf.
Fare thee well, my new friends –
May you revive and spend the rest of your days
happily leaving a trail of rich earth in your wake

I am also the author of The Madcap Christian Scientist series. The first book in the series, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist, has 33 reviews and 4.7 stars! Here’s the beginning:
:
Years ago an old boyfriend said to me, “I can’t see that Christian Science has made you any better than anyone else.”

“I know!” I said, nodding my head in complete and happy agreement, “But can you imagine what I’d be like without it?!”

He raised his eyebrows and laughed. What could he say? He was looking at a self-centered, moralistic, stubborn idealist who saw everything in terms of black and white. But I could have been worse. I believe without Christian Science I would have been worse.

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I am not the best example of a Christian Scientist. I’m not as disciplined as I could be. I have fears and worries and doubts. I’m a little neurotic. I am the Lucy Ricardo of Christian Scientists…

***
The second book in the series is The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book. Here’s an excerpt:

At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it…

If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people. Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?

Yeesh.
***
The third book in the series is The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New. Here’s an excerpt from that one:

Two years ago I would never have been able to guess where I’d be today, what I’d be doing, and what new people I would be calling my friends and colleagues. Two years ago my youngest son was close to graduating from high school, my 20-year career as a public school teacher was winding down, and I was looking for a new job and a new purpose to fill my days. Two years ago I was starting over.

It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was absolutely awesome!
***
To find any of these books you can go to my Amazon Author Page.

The_Brush_of_Angel_W_Cover_for_Kindle
Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad
book covers 3

Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom

Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 8):
Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom

I published this one in 2016 – shortly after Moz and Dad (Dee Molenaar) moved to La Conner to be closer to me. They were very brave during this time – leaving their home of 48 years, moving to a retirement community in Tacoma, and then to an assisted living place in La Conner – leaving their community and friends to be near me. I am in awe of them.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:
I learned a lot of lessons from the folks on my visit this weekend, but there’s one moment I’d especially like to share. To be honest, I debated whether I should share this one or not. It seems almost silly for me to share it, in a way – because it SHOULD be just a matter-of-fact thing – a “no big deal” thing, really – but… after some other news I’ve heard tonight, I feel impelled to share this moment.

So I’d helped my dad out of the car, and was helping my mom out, when I heard Dad say, “Thank you!” to someone. I looked to see what was going on back there and saw that these two young Black men with Seahawks hoodies were holding the door for Dad so he could maneuver his walker into the building. Dad nodded to the young men, and smiled, and thanked them again as I watched him go through the doors, and the young men smiled back and said, “You’re welcome!” and then went on their way.

A small, insignificant moment, really. But… and I can’t even explain why… I find myself getting teary-eyed as I sit here recalling that simple, unremarkable, sweet exchange between a 97 year-old White man, and those two young men in the hoodies.

There are a lot of really good people in this world who want to do right by each other.

The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad

The Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 2):
The sequel to Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad is The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad, published in March, 2020 – a couple months after Dad (Dee Molenaar) passed. Putting this book together gave me something to focus on while I was grieving the passing of Pop and trying to deal with the uncertainty of the new pandemic.

An excerpt –

“Can’t You Do Something About This?”
March 1, 2019

Dad is stretched out on his bed when I stop by, Skittles curled up next to him.
Dad: Karen! (He reaches out to hug me.) Are you stopping by on your way to see Mom?Karen: (I don’t know how to answer this. I decide to change tacks.) How are you?
Dad: What? What did you say?
Karen: How are you?
Dad: I’m bored. It’s boring waiting around for someone to take me home. Can’t you do something about this? You’re my daughter. Can’t you ask for my senior rights?
Karen: (My heart breaks. I rest my head on his chest and hug him.) Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: YES! Where will we go?
Karen: How about I get you a root beer float?
Dad: Yeah. Let’s go to the little stand where we always go.

As we drive to the espresso stand…
Dad: I love seeing your face come into my room. I love when you take me on drives.
Karen: I love going on drives with you.
(We pull into the parking lot for the Sisters Espresso.)
Dad: Here’s where we get the root beer floats.
(I order a root beer float and a lavender iced tea from Courtney. While she’s making them I turn around and wave to Dad and he smiles and waves back. I bring him his float, and we continue on our drive.)

I drive to the post office and pick up the mail, and then back down Chuckanut, onto Thomas, onto Benson, and left on Josh Wilson. Dad’s head is turned to the window, watching as the scenery passes by. Neither one of us is talking. When we get back into Burlington, Dad asks me if I like living in Burlington. I’ve never lived in Burlington. Burlington is where HE lives. But…
Karen: Yeah!
(I drive the route back to his home and park in front of the door.)
Dad: Are we going to eat dinner here?
Karen: Yup.(I help him up the stairs and he makes his way to the recliner in the living room.)

Karen: I enjoyed our drive today. Thank you!
Dad: Thank YOU for taking me on the drive.
Karen: Peter is coming in a couple days and Dave is coming in a week.
Dad: (Nodding.) Good!
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you!

Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

Season of Shameless Plugs:
Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad

Some of you may remember the stories I wrote about my visits with Dad, Dee Molenaar. I eventually ended up putting the stories into two books: Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad and The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.

Here’s an excerpt from the first book, Are You Taking Me Home Now?:

“I Wouldn’t Mind”
May 22, 2017

Karen: Daddy, do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: I wouldn’t mind.
(In the car.)
Dad: Thank you for taking me for a drive. You’re a good daughter.
Karen: It’s my pleasure.
Dad: Do you prefer to call me “Dad” or “Father”?
Karen: I call you “Daddy.”
(We turn into the Sisters Espresso. Dad recognizes this as the place where I buy him root beer floats.)
Dad: Oh good! This is exactly what we need right now!
(Back on the road – Dad’s got his root beer float and I have my lavender iced tea.)
Dad: This is the longest time I haven’t seen Mom. I think she’s in Kansas City… or somewhere in the Midwest… helping the government.
Karen: I know she’s doing a good job.
(We reach the Chuckanut Hills.)
Dad: I used to do water rights surveys out here when I worked for the USGS.
Karen: That was a fun part of your job, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes. I always took little detours when I went on these survey trips. (He looks around and studies the landscape.) This is a beautiful part of the world.
(We’ve gotten to Fairhaven now.)
Dad: I wonder how many places are called Fairhaven. It’s a good name. It has a happy sound to it.
(We get all the way to Boulevard Park. For some reason, every single parking space is taken today.)
Dad: Are we going to park here and walk around?
Karen: There’s no parking today. We’ll try to do that another day.
(Dad nods his head in understanding.)

As we drive up from the park I spot my old friend, Darryl – Darryl and I made acquaintance on the boardwalk several years ago when we saw each other taking photos and struck up conversation. In the course of our conversation we’d realized that Darryl’s Aunt Gladdie was one of Mom and Dad’s good friends in a town four hours to the south.I stop now and roll down the window and introduce Dad to Darryl – and try to explain that Darryl’s aunt is Gladdie. I’m not sure Dad can hear what I’m saying and I’m not sure he understands what is going on, but he smiles and shakes Darryl’s hand and we move on. A minute later he asks, “Was he related to Gladdie in some way?” I tell him he’s Gladdie’s nephew. Dad asks me how I discovered this – “Did he have a sign on him that said he was Gladdie’s nephew?” he joked. I explain how Darryl and I had met by chance and discovered we had his Aunt Gladdie in common. Dad nods. In his world, this kind of coincidence is probably perfectly normal. He knows a lot of people.
(We head back down Chuckanut.)
Dad: Do you take a lot of drives with Mom?
Karen: Yes. (I take my late mother on all my drives with me.) But I like taking drives with you, too.
Dad: We don’t talk much. (I can tell he’s thinking about his hearing problem.)
Karen: No, but it doesn’t matter.
Dad: It doesn’t matter because we’re with each other.
Karen: Right! (Smiling.)

We get back to his home. He has a hard time getting in and out of the car these days. He tries to shift his feet out of the car and onto the pavement. This is hard work. He sighs and laughs and looks up at me.
Dad: These days it’s just hard getting up the energy to get out of the car.
(I can tell he’s gathering his energy to lift himself out of the seat and I reach under his armpits to help him. “One-two-three!” And he’s up!)
Dad: Thank you for the drive today.
Karen: It was fun, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes, I enjoyed it very much.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you, too.

(Are You Taking Me Home Now? has 14 ratings on Amazon – all five stars!) 🙂

Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

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.