Taking Dad for a Drive

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 local espresso stand. 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 ice 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’re driving 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. I stop and roll down the window and introduce Dad to Darryl – and try to explain that Darryl’s aunt is Gladdie. Dad is profoundly hard-of-hearing and I wasn’t sure he understood what was going on, but he smiled and shook Darryl’s hand and we moved on. A minute later he said, “Was he related to Gladdie in some way?” I told him he was Gladdie’s nephew. Dad asked me how I discovered this – “Did he have a sign on him that said he was Gladdie’s nephew?” he joked. And I explained how Darryl and I had met by chance and discovered we had his Aunt Gladdie in common. Dad nodded. 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!

(We get back to his home. He has a hard time getting in and out of the car these days – he will, after all, be 99 in a month. 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.

I still have all my teeth…

Life and goodness are immortal. Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight.
– Mary Baker Eddy

A few years ago there was a news story about an “elderly woman” who got swept away in a flood. I felt so terrible for this poor elderly woman when I started to read the story – I could picture her frail elderly arms struggling helplessly against the flood and my heart went out to her. But when I got to the end of the story, the writer wrote, “The sixty year-old woman…” and… yeah… although I still felt horrible for the poor lady… WHAT THE HELL?!!!… the writer considered this sixty year-old woman ELDERLY?!!!… SERIOUSLY?!!!!!

That story stayed with me.

Last week I turned sixty.

None of my other birthdays freaked me out – 40? I had a two year-old at home – who had time to think about getting old?? 50? Piece of cake – I’d just gotten my Master’s, published my first book on Amazon, and was about to have a story featured in *Newsweek* – the fifties were looking good. But 60 – the prospect of turning 60 was freaking me out big time.

Coincidentally, I’d been asked to do the readings at church on the eve of my birthday. Seeing as how my readings are usually “all about me,” the topic I chose was – duh – “aging.” I read the story of Abram picking up and moving cross-country at the age of 75 and his wife, Sarai, giving birth at the age of 90. In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, I found: “The measurement of life by solar years robs youth and gives ugliness to age… Manhood is its eternal noon, undimmed by a declining sun. As the physical and material, the transient sense of beauty fades, the radiance of Spirit should dawn upon the enraptured sense with bright and imperishable glories.” And: “Never record ages. Chronological data are no part of the vast forever. Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood. Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.” And in the next paragraph: “Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof. Life and goodness are immortal. Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight.”

I thought of my 98 year-old dad. His life didn’t stop unfolding “wisdom, beauty, and holiness” for him when he hit 60. He’s continued to paint his watercolors, and explore the world, and learn. He’s grown in wisdom, patience, and appreciation for others through the years. His life hasn’t been marked by borders of delineation between “young” and “old” – it’s been one continuous, flowing unfoldment. I believe that, had he appeared to “pass on” at 60, his life would have continued to unfold on “the other side” and brought him to the same place he is here and now at 98. I don’t believe death could have stopped his unfoldment, any more than age has.

Putting together those readings was really helpful to me.

I like to think that as the distractions of youth – vanity, ego, and so forth – fall from me, I will find a freedom and lightness I didn’t have earlier in my life. I like to think Mary Baker Eddy is right about aging, and that I will continue to unfold in “wisdom, beauty, and holiness.”

And here’s some good news:  When I woke up the morning after I turned 60 I was delighted to find that my teeth hadn’t all fallen out during the night and I appeared to still be ambulatory and stuff.

So there’s that…


“Sixty is the new thirty!”

“… progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil.” – Mary Baker Eddy

Ahem. At this time I would like to present to you the 600 year-old tree of Deception Pass, Washington. I’m pretty sure there is no one out there who believes this tree was better at 300 than 600, right? I bet there’s no one who would try to “compliment” this tree by telling her she looks just like she did when she was a sapling. I mean, who would want to see this tree go back to her seed? Isn’t she beautiful in her fullness of age?!


photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

It would be an understatement to say that I am now closer to sixty than thirty. And as I openly contemplate what this means to me, more than one person has informed me that “sixty is the new thirty” – like this is a good thing. But – oh lord! – I do not want to be thirty again.Seriously. I mean, really, who WOULD want to go backwards? Who would want to take retrograde steps? Who would want to regress? That person I was at thirty – I liked her – she was well-intentioned, sweet, idealistic – but I wouldn’t want to be her again – I wouldn’t want to have to go through those same lessons again or deal once again with the vanity, insecurity, and female rivalries. I have finally reached a place where I no longer spend my days worrying about ridiculous stuff like wrinkles on the brow and pounds on the scale. I have made it to the other side of caring about that crap. And there is a lovely freedom in that.

I love my spiritual development – why would I want to wish away the progress in my life?

        “In Christian Science there is never a retrograde step, never a return to positions outgrown.” – Mary Baker Eddy