Claire’s Wedding

Claire’s Wedding

Flashback
Thirty years ago I was at a wedding –
a beautiful bride and handsome groom
exchanged vows and rings and began
their new life together – not sure what
lay ahead – beginning a new adventure.

Flash forward
And now here stands their daughter
at her own wedding to her perfect groom –
and there’s love here – filling space
to the moon and the stars sparkling
silently above us as this precious day
comes to its happy ending.

The first wedding brings us to the second
wedding – an unending line leading from
love to love to love to love…

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

shine that light

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Family, Friends, and Food

I just realized how often food reminds me of dear ones in my life –

– Buttered toast with avocado always reminds me of Dad. He’d grown up in Los Angeles back when it was still orange groves (he was born there in 1918) and, as a youngster, picked avocados right off the tree in his backyard.  He knew avocados before avocados were “in.” I remember the first time he prepared avocado toast for me – I must have been about six or seven – and I remember my surprise that such a slimy-looking food could taste so sumptuous.

– Cheese souffle and tuna casseroles remind me of Mom. Mom wasn’t the world’s best cook (growing up, she’d had seven older sisters who always shooed her out of the kitchen), but she knew how to make a mean tuna-Chinese noodle-cashew casserole, and she knew how to make an awesome cheese souffle.

– Cream cheese dip reminds me of my beloved Aunt Junie. I must have been eight or nine when she visited us and whipped up some cream cheese dip with diced green onions. My life has never been the same.

– Banana bread reminds me of my childhood friend, Rita. I remember going to her home and helping her as she made banana bread from scratch. Now whenever I make it (from the recipe Rita gave me all those years ago) I think of Rita and it makes me smile.

– Bacon tomato sandwiches and lemonade with ice cubes reminds me of a lady from church, Betty Lay. Betty was cultured and educated and well-spoken. I can’t remember what she did for a living – but I know she was a career woman long before most women had careers outside the home. I think she may have been a librarian. Or a professor. She was smart. I don’t think she’d ever married, and I don’t think she’d had any children of her own – but I remember she knew how to talk to children without condescending to them. I remember Mom bringing us over to visit Betty in her home near the Sound. I remember sitting out on a deck in the sunshine, feeling peace all around me. And I remember Betty bringing out a fresh, cold glass of home-made lemonade and a bacon and tomato sandwich – the first bacon and tomato sandwich I’d ever eaten, and pretty sophisticated fare for a youngster. Isn’t it funny that after all these years I still remember that afternoon with Betty?

– When I was living in a house near the University of Puget Sound one summer (I was working on my fifth year for my teaching certificate) my next-door neighbor was a single young mother who was studying to become a dee-jay. I don’t remember her name anymore. But I remember her friendly smile, her great raspy dee-jay voice, her little daughter, and her recipe for pie crust. Her pie crust recipe is the same recipe I use today – and my youngest son says that the food he associates with ME are my pies. Isn’t that cool?

– I associate two foods with my husband – no one makes a better poached salmon than Scotty. And – even though I’m not much of a pasta person – even I like Scotty’s spaghetti.

-My friend, Laurie, introduced me to hot roasted garlic squeezed onto freshly-buttered sourdough bread. Enough said.

-I associate the smell of baking bread with my sister-in-law, Lori, who used her bread-making machine to fill her house up with the smell of yeasty wonder. I’m salivating right now thinking about that smell.

-My sister-in-law, Bev, can work wonders with kale. She dribbles olive oil and spices on the kale and bakes it in in the oven for a few minutes – et voila! Crunchy goodness.

– Any food wrapped in grape leaves reminds me of my beautiful neighbor, Rachel, who used to come to our grape arbor to collect leaves for her Greek cooking.

– My friend, Kathi, an amazing chef, served us a dish with peppers, fresh Bocconcini mozzarella, olives, olive oil, butter, pine nuts, and garlic when we visited her and her husband in Nova Scotia nine years ago. I still have not forgotten that dish. And I still try to replicate it in my own kitchen. (When the youngest son and I were talking about foods and people yesterday, he brought up Kathi and her roasted pepper dish – and I told him I’d been thinking of her and her pepper dish, too! – yes, it was that good.)

– I associate tofu with my vegetarian friend, Heidi. She is the only one I know who can make tofu taste edible.

– My cousin, Debby, introduced me to home-made yogurt years ago – before yogurt was a common thing – and showed me how to use it on baked potatoes and in salads. (I still remember walking through Debby’s little backyard vegetable garden in San Francisco and being impressed by all the colors I saw there, and the way she just plucked things out of the ground and turned them into a meal.)

-I associate dark chocolate with my friend, Teresa, who took me to a chocolate shop for my birthday and gifted me with a box of chocolates of my own choosing. “Try this!” she’d say, pointing enthusiastically to a dish of dark chocolate samples. “And this!”

-Whenever I use my bottle of chili powder I think of the time my friend, Christine, whose family had originally come from Mexico, invited us over for home-made enchiladas from an old family recipe. I don’t think I have ever tasted better enchiladas than the ones I ate that night.

-Apple slices and caramel dip reminds me of my friend, Marissa, who surprised me by having a gift basket sent to my home when I really needed a nice surprise in my life.

I’m sure I’ll think of more food associations right after I hit the “publish” button. But I guess that’s it for now.

All this talk about food has made me hungry. Time to go down and make some avocado toast…

“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!

Driving to the Daffodils with Dad

Dad was resting in his bed when we got there.

Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yes. Am I allowed to leave here?
Karen: (laughing) Of course! Are you ready to go?
Dad: Yes!

(Scotty and I situate Dad in the front passenger seat and I sit behind Dad in the back seat. I reach forward and pat Dad’s shoulder and he reaches for my hand and holds it.)
Scott: Where should we go first?
Karen: Sisters Espresso.
(Scotty heads for the Sisters Espresso. As we pull into the parking lot…)
Dad: Good! (smiling) Karen takes me here all the time when we go on our drives…
(I order the usual ice cream float for Dad, and a couple coffees for Scott and myself. I hand Dad his float through the car window…)
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: Is it good?
Dad: (gives the thumbs up)

We head out to the daffodil fields.
Dad: This is beautiful country. (Thinking) I used to be stationed out here – in the Coast Guard… Have you ever been to the Big Four Inn? They turned it into a Coast Guard place during the war. (Note: Dad had also been stationed in the South Pacific during The War – but today he wanted to talk about the Big Four Inn.)
Karen: (to Scott from the back seat) We went up there with Dad, remember? The Inn burnt down – there was just a foundation there.
Scott: (remembering) Yeah. (turns to Dad) We hiked up there together, remember? We went hiking with Pete Schoening to the Ice Caves.
Dad: (nods, remembering)
Scott: (talking to me) That was one of the last hikes Pete Schoening went on, wasn’t it? Do we still have the picture of Pete with the boys?
Karen: Yes. I think I have it on Facebook.
(The daffodil fields appear on the right.)
Karen: (pointing) Look at the daffodils!
Dad: The field is glowing.
(Scotty pulls over so I can snap some quick photos.)

Dad: What are we doing for New Year’s tonight?
Karen: It’s April. We’re looking at the April daffodils.
Dad: Oh. (Pause) When did I think it was?
Karen: I don’t know.
Dad: (to Scott) I used to live at the Big Four Inn. Have you ever been to the Big Four Inn? The Coast Guard took it over during the war. Where did you live during the war?
Scott:(smiling) I didn’t live anywhere. I wasn’t born, yet.
Dad: (starts laughing) Oh. Yeah.

(We pass Tulip Town…)
Dad: There’s going to be a lot of traffic here when the tulips bloom. You’ll want to avoid this area when it’s tulip time. When do the tulips get ripe?
Scott: Another couple weeks, probably.
Dad: (making an observation) It’s easier to see things when it’s raining. There’s not as much shadow.
(As we reach our turn-around point on our drive…)
Karen: Wayne said he was going to visit you. Did he stop by?
Dad: Yeah. We had a nice visit.
Karen: Did his wife visit you, too?
Dad: Yeah, she was there, too. It was nice.
Karen: Some more of your friends are going to visit in a couple weeks – Tom Hornbein, Bill Sumner, and Jim Wickwire.
Dad: (smiling) Good! That gives me something to look forward to!

(We head for Dad’s home, and pass a retirement community where one of his friends used to live…)
Karen: Norma used to live there, remember?
Dad: Oh… yeah. We visited her there once, didn’t we?
Karen: Yes.
Dad: I think she lived in the house right there – right next to the fence.
Karen: Yes, I think so.
Dad: This was the best time to go for a drive. I wouldn’t want to be driving around on a weekend when the tulips are blooming.
Karen: This was a nice drive, wasn’t it?
Dad: Yes, it was. A nice drive.
(We turn into the driveway of Dad’s home.)
Dad: I recognize this place. There’s that long bedroom…
(We help Dad out of the car, up the stairs, and into Moz’s old recliner in the living room.)
Karen: Thank you for going on a drive with us, Daddy.
Dad: Thank you for the drive!
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you!

I felt her loving me back.

A year ago tonight we were gathered outside, looking up at the stars, and saying good bye to Moz. It’s been cloudy all day – snowing as I came home – but just now I went outside and the skies were clear and the stars were sparkling. My eyes were drawn to one star in particular – it seemed to be shining just for me – and I told Moz I loved her. I felt her loving me back.

“In Science, individual good derived from God, the infinite All-in-all, may flow from the departed to mortals…”
– Mary Baker Eddy

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Year Ago

A year ago today I was your midwife
as you labored through the transition
from this room to the next.
You worked hard to pass through
those doors – there was fear
about what lay on the other side –
but in the end you smiled and said,
“Okay.” And when you passed by me
as I slept I could feel your love and joy.
As the doors opened for you
I was touched by the light streaming
from the room beyond. Such peace.

It has been a year now. The time
has gone quickly. And someday it will be
five years, then ten, then twenty years
since I last saw you in this room. But
your presence will be with me still. Then
and now and forever.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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Moz and Einstein.

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

A Drive with Dad: “Social history?!”

When I get to Dad’s home to pick him up for his doctor’s appointment he’s finishing breakfast. I lean over and shout into his ear that he’s going to a doctor’s appointment for his eyes now.  He nods his head and says he hasn’t seen his eye for awhile. For some reason this strikes me as funny, and I start cracking up. Dad looks over at me and smiles. He finishes his breakfast, Amanda fetches a jacket for him, and we head out. Before we get to the door, Dad says, “I don’t need this thing,” and shoves his walker off to the side. I retrieve it and stick it in the back of the car – just in case.

We get Dad situated in the car and then he realizes he doesn’t have his hat. Dietrick goes to fetch his alpine hat for him – and while he’s gone Dad starts thinking about his hat – thinking maybe he didn’t bring one to “this place” – but I tell him this is home and he has a hat in there, and Dietrick is getting it for him. When Dietrick puts it on his head, Dad thanks him. He has his faithful old hat on his head now, and everything’s alright with the world. We set out on our grand adventure…

Dad: I forgot my wallet! I don’t have my ID.
Karen: I have your wallet.
Dad: Oh, good. I don’t think there’s anything in there, anyway. (He’s right.)

When we get to the doctor’s office I go in to see if it’s alright if we wait in the car until it’s our turn. (Sometimes there have been complications when Dad is in a waiting room too long.) The receptionist smiles and says that would be fine. She just needs to make sure all the information they have on Dad is up-to-date. I read the form she hands me and I sign it for Dad – then I think maybe I should bring it out to him and let him sign it, too – just to keep him from getting too bored out there.  I hand him the form. Near the bottom there’s a heading called “Social History” – I had no idea what that meant when I saw it, and apparently neither does Dad…

Dad: Social history?!
Karen: (laughing) Yeah, don’t worry about that one. (I bring the form back in, signed by Dad, and deliver it to the receptionist. I mention that my dad was a little confused by the “social history” question and make some joke about asking Dad about the sororities he belonged to and stuff. The receptionist laughs and tells me she’ll come and get us when they’re ready for Dad.)

Dad: (waiting in the car) I should have brought the book I got from the library.
Karen: What book did you get from the library?
Dad: Oh, one of those books I enjoyed reading when I was a teenager. A book by Joseph Altsheler. A book about the frontier and adventure. (thinking) Do you have any of my old books?
Karen: Yes! You gave me one that is really precious to me – The Royal Road to Romance.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. That’s the one that got me into adventuring. I still remember the opening line: “May had come at last to Princeton.”
(It tickles me that he still remembers the first line to a book he first read when he was a teenager.)

(The receptionist comes out to get Dad pretty soon and we go in to begin his appointment. The eye-lady takes his blood pressure – she says it’s good and I give Dad the thumbs up. Then she asks Dad to cover his good eye to see if he can see anything out of his bad eye.)
The eye-lady: What do you see there?
Dad: I don’t see anything! You told me to cover my eye!
(The eye-lady and I start laughing. The eye-lady covers up Dad’s bad eye and sees what tricks he can perform with his good eye. He reads the letters on the wall, and then she brings a card up to him to see how close he can see. He reads the letters he’s supposed to read and then starts reading the fine print on the bottom that’s meant for the eye people…
Dad: “The redistribution of…”
Eye-lady: (laughing, she takes the card away from him) Okay. That’s good.

(We go into a second waiting room to wait for the rest of Dad’s appointment. There are a lot of really cool people waiting in this room, and I start chatting to them. One of the people in there tells me that he’s 90. I shout in Dad’s ear that the man next to him – and I point – is 90.)
Dad: (laughing) He’s just a kid! I’m 100. (Dad is 99 – he’ll be 100 in a few months – and 99 is hard for anyone in that waiting room to beat.)
Dad: (after talking about eyes for a bit) It’s my hearing that’s the worst part of me right now.
(I hand Dad a travel magazine and he starts flipping through the pages. When he gets to a picture of Machu Picchu he stops.)
Karen: You’ve been there.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I’ve been there. Right at the top (he starts pointing out the trail to the top). It’s a steep trail up to the top.

(Dad gets called back into the inner office for a check-up by the doctor.)
Karen: (shouting into Dad’s ear) Dad, this is Dr. Sappenstein.
Dad: Dr. Frankenstein?
Doctor: (laughing) That’ll work.

(The check-up’s over now and we’re back in the car.)
Karen: Do you want to get an ice cream float now?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I’m lucky to have you.
Karen: I’m lucky to have you.

(We’re driving down Burlington Boulevard now, and Dad asks which direction we’re heading. I think about this and say I think we’re heading north, or maybe east. He mentions Hwy 9 – “runs along the foothills of the Cascades” – and I realize that Burlington Boulevard actually use to be a part of an old highway, but I can’t remember what it was called anymore. As I’m thinking about this…)
Dad: Is this Old Highway 99?
Karen: (Dad remembers what I’d forgotten) Yes!

(We head towards the place where I usually buy Dad his root beer float, and I pull into the parking lot in front of it.)
Dad: (recognizing) This is the usual place!
(I go up to fetch Dad’s root beer float and bring it back to him.)
Dad: Thank you!

(I decide to take Dad on a short drive before I return him home. Dad is thinking – and I know he’s going to start sharing whatever comes to his thoughts. I enjoy listening to him…)
Dad: I have the TV on 24 hours a day now. There are some really interesting shows that come up.
Karen: Old movies?
Dad: Not old movies. Shows about everything. I keep it on the same channel and all kinds of shows come up. The Olympics.
(We drive down country roads, the windshield wipers pushing aside the drizzle landing on the windows. Snow geese and trumpeter swans in fields of green beside the road.)
Dad: When I was young I used to think about what my old age would be like… Back when my mind was clear.
Karen: How did you picture your old age?
Dad: Eating simply. Hobbies. Reading mountaineering history.
Karen: Do you enjoy your life now?
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I do.
Dad: I was lucky – I have a good family. My older sister and younger brother did everything with me. My mother and father took us on drives. I probably saw more of Los Angeles than most people who lived there. My dad worked seven days a week – got up early in the morning and came home late at night, but he found time to take us on drives.

(I drive Dad back home. Dietrick comes out to help Dad into the house. I retrieve the walker – Dad never used it – and follow behind. Dad heads for the lounger in front of the TV. He asks about the Olympics. I kiss his forehead…)
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you!