Too Big a Day

Ten years ago I started my own religion on the Amazon Discussion Forums. Here is the opening post on the Humoristians thread:
On Aug 20, 2007 2:18:41 PM PDT
Alph Wingoov Karen says:
I’ve decided to create a new religion. People belonging to this religion will call themselves “Humoristians.” Here are the 5 tenets:
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe. (Editor’s note: Don’t let this one scare you. None of us is quite there, yet.)
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).
5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).

Not long after my initial post a poster who went by the handle “Golden Oldie EK” joined our fledgling church with this comment:

Hello, nice people. I would like very much to join your church. But I do have a question. Is it okay in your religion to also love the comedy of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Bird, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and The Flintstones? Will you please accept my application for membership? (Actually, when I was a little kid, I always thought they should have made Walt Disney god. I mean, after all, here was a man who made the whole world fall in love with a drunken, lying frontiersman from Tennessee, and a little, black rat that wore white gloves and shoes. Church would have been so much fun: The Virgin Snow White and the Seven Apostles; “Our Father who art in Orlando, hallowed be thy name…”)

And if I am accepted for membership, do I have to be immersed in anything?

And so began my friendship with Randy, aka Golden Oldie EK. For several years Randy and my other fellow Humoristians did improv with each other on the Humoristian thread – playing off each other – sharing our beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and lives with each other. In some ways my friends in Humoristianity knew me better than a lot of my friends in my off-line life, even though we’d never actually met each other in the person. And eventually, as the Amazon forums began closing, we all met up again with each other on Facebook, and together authored a book, The Humoristian Chroniclesabout our experiences meeting each other on the forums.

Like me, Randy was a writer, and he shared his writing projects with me – looking for my editorial input – and I shared my writing projects with him. He was a wonderful support for me as a writer, and his encouragement meant a lot to me.

And this morning I learned, through a message from someone I’d never met, that Randy had died.

I needed a walk.

***

I went to nearby LaConner to pay my internet bill, and, after paying my bill, was drawn towards the Swinomish Channel on the west side of town. “I’m going to take you on an adventure with me, Randy,” I told my dear Humoristian friend. He’d always talked about visiting me out here. I decided today I’d bring him along with me – in my thoughts, if not in the person.

I walked along the boardwalk there, past all the touristy restaurants and gift shops. When I got to the end of the boardwalk I kept walking. I skirted an old warehouse, turned right on a side street, walked to the end of the street, and kept walking. I found myself at Pioneer Park. Stopped to check out the fish slide. And kept walking. I found a long driveway with a sign in front of it saying it was open to the public from 8:30 to 4:30, and turned onto the dirt road.

When I’d gone maybe 100 yards I passed a man coming from the other direction. “Am I walking down a private driveway?” I asked him. He told me yes, and no. It was a private driveway, but the general public had access to it. He told me that if I went further I’d come to a boatyard, and soon after that a trail that split – if I went left I’d find myself in the marshes where the hunters were shooting at birds – but if I went right I’d go on a trail that would take me to the top of a bluff and down to a beach. He suggested I go right. 🙂 I thanked him and…. yeah… kept walking.

A little further on I caught up with another walker. Like me, she had a camera with her, and I noticed her stopping along the road every now and then to take pictures. Not far beyond her there was a “boat graveyard” – weathered old boats piled up along the side of the road with blackberry vines growing over them. I began snapping pictures with my camera, and she joined me. We began talking then about photography, and the boats, and I asked her if she knew about the trail that would take me to the bluff. She did, and offered to take me there.

I’m glad I ran into her because I’m pretty sure I never would have found the trail without her – or I might have found myself on the bird marshes with bird shot flying around me – which would have made for an interesting experience, to be sure, but not the kind I needed today. We introduced ourselves to each other on the way – her name, she said, was Annabelle. She is from Paris, and works as a dance instructor and translator. As we talked we found we had friends in common – which is always fun – as well as a shared political perspective – which is, also, fun.

Annabelle led me to the bluff – which offered an amazing view of the Skagit Bay – and then down to the beach. After we snapped some pictures, Annabelle led me back up the trail and back into “downtown” LaConner – the two of us chatting like old friends the entire way.

Eventually we came to her house, where we hugged as old friends do, and I continued on my journey back to my car parked in front of the place where I’d paid my bill earlier. “How was that for an adventure?” I asked my friend, Randy. “We met a new friend today and found a new beach,” I told him.

As I drove home, with Randy still in my thoughts, I tinkered with the idea of just spending the rest of the day processing Randy’s death – trying to come to terms with it. But then I realized there was more good I could do for someone else today – I could take my Dad for a drive in the sunshine – and while I could still do some good for someone else, I might as well do it. So I put off processing Randy’s death for a little longer, and went to pick-up Daddy for a drive.

It wasn’t until maybe 3:00 or 4:00 that I finally found myself back home.

But the day – all of it, from start to finish – was just too much to process. I still can’t wrap my head around it – from the deep sense of loss that started my day, to the excitement of meeting a new friend later on. Today was just too big.

***

Dear friend – I brought you with me on an adventure today. We saw trumpeter swans and boat reflections, we made a new friend, and you talked with me about your latest story, and I talked with you about what I’m working on, and memories of you flashed into my head – your first appearance in the land of Humoristianity, the messages of support you sent me, your comic (and sometimes really profound) interjections on my FB posts, the night we all celebrated Obama’s win together, and the night we all realized that 2017 might not bring us the leader we’d hoped. I cherish all of the writing you sent me – I cherish your book of poems – I cherish everything you shared with me. I feel a deep loss right now. The world is not going to be the same without you in it. My FB posts are not going to be the same without your comments attached to them. I love you, brother.
Karen

 

 

 

 

A Box With My Name on It

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

The last two years – as Dad and Moz downsized from the three-story homestead to the apartment to the assisted living place – and now to Dad’s new residence – my brothers and I have been storing what we can in our own domiciles. I don’t think any of us have really had much time to go through the things we’ve brought into our own homes. Today I tried to sort through a few more things. I came upon an old wooden sewing kit of Moz’s and opened it up to see what she had in there before I decided what to do with it. And sitting on the top of one compartment was a little box with my name written on it in Moz’s handwriting – she’d drawn a heart next to my name. Just seeing her handwriting – seeing she’d set aside something for me – oh man. That really touched me and I started tearing up. I opened up the little box and there were all these pieces of jewelry – nothing terribly expensive, but things that were very sweet – butterfly earrings and cat earrings and a ring with the birthstones of my brothers and me. I started sobbing. Over cheap jewelry. And a box with my name on it. And I felt a rush of love all around me, and I thanked Moz for thinking of me.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

box from Moz

Not Distance Nor Time Nor Death

I heard the news today and thought how unfair life is –
and, for a moment, I didn’t want to be part of it, anymore.
And then, in the next moment, I was filled with gratitude
for life – gratitude that I’ve been given the opportunity
to know you here – to experience your beauty and
kindness and love. Nothing can take you from us –
not distance nor time nor death. Your love will live on.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

poem for Rachael

 

The Last Echo

Hush.
It’s alright now.
That was just the last echo
from a past that was healed
long ago. It can’t touch you
or hurt you anymore.
The past brought you
to where you are now.
Be grateful for it.
And let the last echo
bounce harmlessly off the wall
and fade to nothing.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

The Dream About the Real World

Dad: Let’s head out into the open countryside, head towards the coast.
Karen: Let’s do it!
Dad: I don’t want to go into the city. I don’t want to run errands with you.
(Karen nods her head in understanding.)
Dad: (his voice cracking) I love you.
Karen: I love you, too.
Dad: It’s nice that we have each other to love.
Karen: Yes, it is!
Dad: Thank you for including me when you take these drives. (Karen smiles – she takes these drives FOR Dad.)

Karen turns onto Samish Island Road, thinking maybe she’ll go to Bayview State Park with Dad.
Dad: Have you ever been to that little island that’s connected to the land?
Karen: Samish Island? Do you want to go there?
(Dad nods his head, and Karen heads out to do the loop around
Samish Island.)

Dad: Is Mom alive?
Karen shakes her head no.
Dad: I had a dream that she’d died. (He starts tearing up.) I think I’ve already mourned her. (Dad’s quiet for a bit. They’ve almost finished the Samish Island loop now.) Let’s go some place where we can walk on a beach.
Karen heads for Bayview State Park.

After parking, Dad and Karen make their way to a bench near the beach. When she’s getting Dad’s walker out of the back of the car, Karen sees the cans of root beer she put in there months ago – she’d bought them for Dad, and had forgotten about them. Now she grabs one, joins Dad on the bench, and hands it to him. His face lights up and he smiles and takes it from her.

Dad: Do you ever dream about Mom?
Karen: Yes. I had a dream that she was sitting on the top bed of a bunk bed, dangling her feet over the edge. She had a happy, mischievous smile on her face. There was an open casket on the bed behind her. She said, “I’m done with this!” And hopped down. I felt like she was done with the whole dead-thing, and was happy. Have you had a dream about Mom?
Dad: Yes. I dreamed she died.
Karen: She loved you, and loves you very much.
Dad: She was such a wonderful person.
Karen: Yes, she is!
(Dad and Karen are quiet for a while, just enjoying the sunshine.)
Dad: This is nice here. I’m glad we made this stop. That’s a nice, gentle breeze. It smells like saltwater. (He belches and laughs at his own belch.)

When they get back in the car, Dad says he had a dream where he had to fart once, but there was no place to fart. He starts laughing – cracking himself up. Karen’s laughing, too. Then Dad asks, “Do you and Mom have a lot of nice conversations?” And she tells him that she does.

As they’re heading back to Dad’s home, he turns his head and points, “That would make a happy picture! That house all covered in flowers! But I don’t have my camera with me…” Karen turn the car around and heads back to the flower-bedecked house, and gets out her camera for Dad to snap a photo.

They get back to his home, and Dad doesn’t recognize it at first – he has moved three times in the last year, and it’s all a little confusing. Karen explains that their last home couldn’t take Mom and him back when Mom got sick. And then when Mom passed, they had to find another home for Dad. She tells Dad that they felt that Mom had directed them to this place for Dad – a place with hummingbird feeders and cats and dogs. Dad asks, “So Mom knows these people then?” And Karen thinks about this, and then nods her head yes. (Karen believes Mom does know these people, even if they never actually met in the person.)

Dad gets back in the house and doesn’t recognize anything. Karen asks him if he wants to go to his room – and he asks, “I have a room here?” Karen points the way, and once he enters he says, “Oh! I remember this place now!” He sees his paintings on the walls, and pictures of his friends and family. He realizes he’s home. He starts grinning at himself and says, “I’ve been thanking these people for allowing me to stay here.”

Dad points to a book by Leif Whittaker about Leif’s father, Jim. “I think I got that book for Christmas.” Karen tells him that she thinks Jim Whittaker gave him that book when he came to visit him here. “Jim visited me here?!” Yes, Karen tells him, also his friends Rick and Cindy, and Tom Hornbein, and Mary from the Mountaineers… Dad is shaking his head in amazement now. He says, “The things I’ve forgotten would fill a book!”
Karen: Are you going to take a nap now?
Dad: Yes, I want to make that transition into the dream.
Karen: What dream is that?
Dad: (tearing up) The dream about the real world. (And Karen knows he’s thinking about the world where Mom is still with him.)
Karen: I love you, Dad.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

 

“Daddy, Mom passed on peacefully…”

Update on Dad:
I stopped in to see Dad this morning and he asked how Mom was. (Yesterday he’d asked if she was back east. He’d said he hoped she didn’t think he’d abandoned her.) I told him fine. He looked at me, skeptically, and said, “It feels like people aren’t giving me a straight answer to this question.” He is very sharp. At that point it was impossible to lie to him, so I got close to his ear and told him Mom had passed. He asked me what I’d said. I told him I loved him and hugged him and left.

I came back later with a new pair of pants for him. Mary from The Mountaineers was there and Dad was busy at the dining room table drawing a picture of Rainier on some watercolor paper she’d brought him. He asked how Mom was. I told him fine. I asked him how he was and he said he’d be happier if he knew how Mom was. I asked him if he’d like me to write him a note about Mom and he nodded his head yes. I wrote something like this:

“Daddy, Mom passed on peacefully in her sleep at my house last week. She loved you very much. She still loves you. She knows you love her, too. We all love you, Daddy. You’re not alone. We’re all here for you.”

He asked how “the boys” were doing. I said the boys were doing fine and wanted him to be happy.

I wrote to him that he had been able to see Mom before they brought her to my house. I told him an attendant had wheeled him up to Mom’s room so he could say good-bye. The attendant said it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Mary and I were hugging him and he was holding my hand. I found a paper napkin and dabbed tears off the end of his nose. He asked if Mom had died in pain, and I said no, she’d died peacefully at my house. I’d been sleeping next to her. He wanted to know what she’d died of, and I told him her heart had gotten tired and stopped.

I told him about the memorial celebration for her, and he nodded his head that he wanted to come.

I asked him what I could do to help, what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to go to bed. So Mary and I helped him get back to his room. He told me he loved me before I left.

I think he might ask again – and I think we’re going to have to continue to be truthful with him, and help him get through this. He won’t let us not tell him the truth. He is very brave.

moz-and-dad-wedding-day

Sharing a Child with the World…

 Sharing a child with the world is the absolute in love — he will be in contact with more love than he has ever had in his life. And will of course share it all with you. It’s time to sharpen your intuition and other heartfelt communications skills. If you stay in tune with him, you’ll see how easy it will be to have him experiencing the whole globe and still be connected to your heartstrings. Try to stop mourning something that you did not lose. This “graduation” into adulthood will pay back endless dividends to you and to him. So — I know that I am sounding like a big smartypants….but it is true, I AM a big smartypants! Congratulations on this essential step in parenting. Don’t worry, you have job security. Forever.                      – Linda Sola

***

My oldest son left home yesterday to return for his final year at the university. This time felt different, to me, than the three times he’s returned to school before. This time it felt so… well… final. At the end of this school year he graduates, launches off into his “own life”, and maybe returns to us once a year at Christmas.

As the son was getting himself packed up and ready to go, I was trying to figure out what I could give him to send him on his trip. If I had a daughter leaving to go back to university maybe I’d give her a card, or some little sentimental trinket, or flowers… but the son is a very male male… still… I had a sudden memory of the son at about the age of three, sweetly offering me a fistful of yellow dandelions… he’d always liked flowers when he was little.

Was it my turn to give him a flower? How would a manly man feel about his mother handing him a rose?

Oh bother. I still wasn’t sure how to proceed, but my rose bushes needed pruning, anyway, so I decided I might as well start clipping off some of the buds – and if, when the time came for the son to leave, it didn’t feel quite right to offer him roses, I’d just keep them and put them in a vase.

And then a cool thing happened: As I was bringing the rose buds inside, the son looked over and saw them. “Pretty flowers,” he observed.

And suddenly it was the most natural thing in the world to say,  “I’m going to give one to you to take on your trip,” He smiled and thanked me – kind and generous in the way of a man grown – accepting my little floral offering with the same look on his face that I’d probably had when he’d once offered me his little fistful of dandelions.

The husband and I smiled and waved as our son pulled out of the driveway and headed back to school. And then I made my way to the solace of my Secret Garden, and remembered…

Andrew and dandelion