A Real Life Hero

It has been a year and a half since Mom died. Dad had been in the hospital, suffering from delirium caused by an infection, when Mom passed. When he was released from the hospital after her death, he never returned to the apartment they’d shared together before he went into the hospital. He, basically, woke up from his delirium to find himself in a new home and without his companion of 62 years. I know he’s been working hard in the last 18 months to make some sense of it all. His courage since Mom’s death has been awe-inspiring for me to witness. I always knew he was brave – his mountaineering adventures are proof of that – but I never realized the amazing depth of his steely inner resolve until the last year and a half. I think I finally understand now how he survived those weeks on K2. I finally understand why so many people look on him as a hero. He is one. A genuine real life hero. And he’s my father.

 

 

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“I don’t think she’s really gone.”

Dad was brilliant today!

Amanda sent word that Dad was up and feeling chipper. So I stopped by to see if he’d like to go for a drive. He was finishing breakfast when I got there, but he soon had his alpine hat on his head and his shoes on his feet, and was moving (at a rapid pace) towards the door…

My original thought was that I’d swing by the Sisters Espresso for his shake and then take him up to Bayview State Park for a quiet sit on a bench. But on the way to Sisters Espresso Dad said he thought he remembered a painting he had to finish at my home. So I got him his vanilla shake and then brought him to my house to see if he wanted to work on the watercolor of Rainier he’s been painting since last winter.

He settled into a seat at the table. I pulled out his paints, sponge, watercolors, brushes, and his latest watercolor project, and he set to work.

He had his hearing headset on today, so we could have a conversation. His hearing headset makes all the difference. I had my camera with me and recorded some of our conversation. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. There were times when he would say the most profound things – but I hadn’t been recording – so then he’d have to repeat himself for the recording. Sometimes there were things he said and did that were so precious to me I decided I didn’t want to remember them as a recording…

Karen: You’re not a prejudiced person. You must have had good parents. Where you grew up – in Los Angeles – did you live in a part of town with people from a lot of different cultures and backgrounds? Was there racism where you lived?

Dad: There was racism in Los Angeles – but (smiling) we lived in the opposite part of Los Angeles. I grew up with mostly Japanese farmers. Most of my friends growing up were Japanese.
(recording)
Karen: Daddy, tell me about the part of Los Angeles that you were raised in.
Dad: Are you recording this?
Karen: Yeah. Is that okay?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I lived in southwestern Los Angeles – which was mostly related to the Japanese truck farmers. We were kind of on the edge of the developed part of Los Angeles city, so we just walked a couple blocks and we were out in the fields.
Karen: Most of your friends were Japanese?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: So you grew up in a place that didn’t have a lot of prejudice?
Dad: Yeah. There are places that I’ve never had an interest in visiting because…
(recording)
…they are still very prejudiced and the Civil War is still in their blood.
(I watch Dad paint for a while.)
(recording)
Karen: You’re 100! That’s crazy!
Dad: You tell anybody you’ve got a father 100 years old and they’re going to think you’re just…
Karen: Exaggerating?
Dad: Yeah.
(end recording)
Karen: When you paint do you know ahead of time what you’re going to paint in the foreground?
Dad: (shaking his head) No.
Karen: So it just evolves?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: What are you going to do with this one? What do you see?
Dad: Over here I’m going to paint some trees. And over here an island of trees. And up here a sub-ridge of the mountain. (Thinking) You kind of want three points of interest, but not one dominating.
(Of course I hadn’t recorded any of Dad’s thoughts on painting – so now I make him go through the whole conversation again. He is very patient with me.)
Karen: Daddy, I really love spending time with you.
Dad: (brings his head up and smiles and gives me the focused, penetrating look of someone who is really listening) I was going to say the same thing to you earlier. I love the drives we take together.
(recording)
Karen: Were you the only artist in your family?
Dad: In my immediate family, you mean?
Karen: Were your grandparents artists? Were your parents artists?
Dad: No.
Karen: (laughing) How did that happen?
Dad: (thinking) I’ve always enjoyed drawing. And I enjoy drawing foregrounds for mountains.
Karen: What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
Dad: Paradise Valley.
Karen: Wow! Mount Rainier. Was that better than the Alps?
Dad: Well, the Alps have more history…
Karen: But Paradise Valley is the best.
(stop recording)
(I watch Dad for a while, debating with myself if I should ask what I want to ask…)
Karen: Daddy, I want to ask you a hard question…
Dad: Okay. I may give you a hard answer.
Karen: Do you think we’ll see Mom again?
Dad: (thinking) I don’t think Mom is really gone.
Karen: Do you feel her here?
Dad: (thinking) I wasn’t surprised that she was gone. For the last year or two she talked about friends who had died, and I think she knew… I think she was trying to prepare me.
Karen: Yeah. I think she knew. When you were both in the hospital she didn’t want to leave because she loved you and wanted to take care of you. You didn’t want to leave because you wanted to take care of her.
Dad: (smiling sadly) I was shocked when you told me she was gone… but I wasn’t surprised.
Karen: (feeling sad for him, and guilty, and unsure what I should do) Would you rather I not tell you Mom is gone when you forget? …Was it bad of me to tell you?
Dad: (emphatically) No! You need to tell me. And I need to deal with it.
Karen: We carry Mom around in our memories of her, don’t we? She’s always with us.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah.
(recording)
Karen: I’m glad we’re neighbors, Daddy.
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.
(end recording)

Dad is tired now. He’ll come back and work on this painting another time. Right now it is time for his afternoon nap.
As I’m helping Dad get into the car, he turns and looks at me and reaches out to give me a hug. “I love you, Karen,” he says.
I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, too, Daddy.”

Youtube clip of the conversation with Dad.

dad painting (2) this one

We Have to Keep Trying

We have to keep trying
keep loving, keep vying
with hate, bigotry, and greed
We need to be kind in word
and in deed
We have to keep singing,
keep dancing, keep bringing
our gifts to the world’s table
and give what we’re able
We have to keep hope alive,
and laughter and joy, dive
into Life’s celebration –
it belongs to all nations
We have to keep trying –

because what’s the alternative?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Thou shalt have no other gods but Love

“Love Is the Fulfilling of the Law”

 “It is very biblical to enforce the law,” said Sarah Sanders in reference to children being separated from their parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about the law:

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
– Romans 13:10

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22, 23

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
– Matthew 22:36-40

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

She had known him for years –
mutual interests, politics, and friends
had made for conversation filled
with laughter at the absurd,
and a shared concern about
the state of the world.

She had known him for years –
had enjoyed brief, happy encounters
with him on her favorite walk
along the bay, beside the rocks –
– their cameras at the ready –
as they clicked photos and talked.

She had known him for years –
then one day he asked if she’d heard
of the Dominionists. She said no,
she didn’t think so.
He reminded her she was a Christian
and he said she must know.

(She had known him for years.)
“The Dominionists are Christians
just like you are,” he said.
“They think the more children bred
the closer the men are
to God after they’re dead.”

(She had known him for years.)
“You know all Christian religions
are just exactly the same, ”
he said, “Patriarchal and lame.”
She told him her way of life
was actually founded by a dame.

(She had known him for years.)
She said the teachings she followed
believed God was, literally, Love.
An old geezer sitting in the clouds above
was not her idea of God, she said.
(And she wondered to herself
why he didn’t know this about her…

…She had known him for years.)
“We have the same thoughts about fears,
greed, over-population,” she named
the things they had both blamed
for the current state of the world. But
“You and I are nothing alike!” he exclaimed,
his face turning red.

She had known him for years –
this friend from her walks.
Now she laughed out loud because
that is what she does
when something strikes her
as completely ridiculous.

She had known him for years –
and her feelings of friendship towards him
weren’t going to change because this time
he’d chosen to see what made them different.

Love is what is true;
the rest is just nonsense.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

love is what is true

 

“Rudeness is merely the expression of fear.”

“Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”
– M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel

What is it that makes us, as human beings, proud of our anger – proud to have “told someone off”? I’ve come to believe it’s all about ego, really – wanting to prove we are somehow better, braver, stronger than other people. And I’ve come to see that a) in my own experience, yelling at other people has never seemed to convince them I was right, or changed their ideas about stuff, and b) it doesn’t take a whole lot of courage, really, to spout off one’s opinions and beliefs, and cuss and swear and be rude.

It is my belief that it takes a lot more chutzpah to love – it takes a lot more courage to trust in each other’s good will and humanity, than it does to scream obscenities at each other. In fact, when I think about it – the times when I’ve been the rudest are the times when I’ve been the most scared that I wasn’t going to “get my share” or I was going to be left out somehow, or forgotten or over-looked or harmed in some way.

And something in that last paragraph just made me think of a time when I found myself trying to break up a fight in a parking lot – one guy sitting on top of another punching his face bloody, banging his head into the concrete, and a ring of other guys around them – I found myself in the middle of the circle trying to yank the one guy off the other one, screaming, “Stop it! You’re going to kill him! Stop it!” Instinct (and, in retrospect, a kind of foolishness) had put me in the middle of that circle – there’d been no thought given to what I was doing, and so I can’t claim any special kind of courage there. But – and here’s the part that still gives me a kind of awe when I think about it – after security guards had hauled away the brawlers I stepped back and found that another woman – the parent of one of my former students – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember saying to her, in a kind of wonder, “You’re here, too!” And she said, “I wasn’t going to let you stand here all alone.” She HAD thought about what she was doing – she HAD made a conscious choice to put herself in harm’s way for another human being. She hadn’t screamed. She hadn’t yelled. She’d just stood there beside me. Now THAT was courage. Oh gosh. I’m tearing up right now as I think about it.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“There is too much animal courage in society and not sufficient moral courage.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
– Gandhi

“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” 
– Gandhi

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
– Gandhi

(Originally published November 2014 under the title “So, like, when did bitchy become a good thing?”)

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