“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!

“Tell her I love her.”

It was a challenging day in a challenging week. I was at school, working with a student on an essay. My phone rang. It was Hospice calling. When I know a call is from Hospice, I always answer. The caller introduced herself as Trish, the nurse who was visiting with Dad today. She said Dad was doing well – she said she was with Dad at the kitchen table and he was eating a good breakfast. I heard her turn to Dad and tell him she was talking to “Karen.”
Dad: (A happy sound in his voice.) Karen? You’re talking to my daughter, Karen?
Trish: Yes. I’m talking to your daughter.
Dad: Tell her I love her.
Trish to me: He says he loves you.
(I started tearing up – there’s just something so touching about hearing his quavery 100 year-old voice coming through the line.)
Karen to Trish: Tell him I love him.
Trish to Dad: Karen says she loves you.
(I heard Dad talking in the background…)
Trish: (To me.) He wants to know if we’ve met. (To Dad.) No, I’ve never met Karen.
(I heard more talking in the background.)
Trish to me: He says if I ever meet you I’ll love you.
(And now I was all choked up. I felt myself begin to sob. Oh Daddy. You gave me exactly what t needed today.)

The Balcony Where You Used to Wave

I pick up your mail at the retirement inn –
it still comes there nearly two years after
your passing – almost entirely requests
from charities – veterans, environmental
groups, help for homeless people and
animals – and I see your name on the
envelopes and remember your generous
heart and I smile. As I get in the car I glance
back to the balcony where you used to wave
good bye to me and I feel a tug on my heart.
You’re still there. I can see you clearly, smiling
your love at me from the second floor.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“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

Grandmozzy’s Blue Sweater

Warmth and peace, gentle
laughter and playful exchanges
father mother son daughter
niece nephew brother sister
friend grandpa nestled around
the dining room table in
a cozy glow of love and
grandmozzy’s blue sweater
on the back of a chair adding
to the sweetness of this
Thanksgiving.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

moz blue sweater

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Better than Christmas.
Better than Easter. Better than Halloween.
It’s pies made from berries I picked myself, and golden
squash Scott grew in the garden, and healthy food smells
filling the kitchen. It’s family and friends and love
and laughter over old memories and memories in-the-
making. It’s Aunt Junie’s china and Aunt Elsie’s teacups
out of Grandma’s old maple china cabinet. It’s the sons
playing music on the piano I learned to play on fifty years
ago. It’s improv in the living room, and board games
on the dining room table after the food’s been cleared.
It’s wearing Moz’s sweater and feeling her arms around me
and Dad watching football while he eats his pie
with ice cream on top. It’s a fire in the woodstove and a cozy
room filled with amber light as it grows dark and cold outside.
It’s being filled up with gratitude so rich I want to cry
with the joy of it.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell