“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

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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

 

“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

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.

The One Important Thing

Every time I go down to visit with Moz (87) and Dad (97) I come back with one stand-out moment. Here’s today’s: I haven’t slept well the last couple nights and was feeling really drowsy. I laid down on the bed in Dad’s room and closed my eyes and… I didn’t fall asleep, exactly, but I went to that half-way place. And then I felt my dad stroking my forehead and I looked up at him, and he said, “I love you.” And that – right there – that puts everything else in perspective, doesn’t it? Love is the one important thing.

climbing boots Karen Dad

These are my dad’s boots and mine – I think this was taken on our climb of Mount Hood when I was 15.