“There is no way I’m going to be able to explain the Chicken Parade…”

Dad is eating breakfast at the kitchen table when I arrive. He looks up and smiles…
Dad: Hi, sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy! Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I wait while Dad finishes his breakfast and then Gwen helps load him into my car, and off we go on today’s adventure…)

Dad: (Pointing to a snow-covered hilltop to the right.) There’s Mount Baker.
Karen: No, we might be able to see Mount Baker up ahead, though.
Dad: (Still looking at the snowy hilltop…) There’s Baker just poking out behind those hills.
(We stop at the Sisters Espresso.)
Karen: Do you want a root beer float?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
I go up to order Dad’s root beer float and a breve for myself.

There’s a group of men standing in a circle as they wait for their drinks – young man, a man that might be his father, an older gentleman. The older gentleman is regaling everyone with a story of being honored for long years of service somewhere. I instantly like him – he’s exuberant and happy about life – and I become part of his circle.

Now he’s telling us his secrets to living as long as him (“I’ve never smoked,” he says). And I can’t help myself – I’ve got to bring Dad into this conversation, right? I point to Dad, waiting in the car, and tell them all that Dad is 100 years old – a mountain climber – and that’s probably why he’s so long-lived. There are some oohs and ahs then, and everyone sort of pauses for a moment – maybe contemplating the wonder of living to be 100. I turn to look back at Dad and see him wave at me through the front window. I smile and wave back. God, I love him.

Then someone mentions snow – and I say that I’m probably kind of weird, but I like the snow. The young man nods his head and agrees – he likes it, too – but especially when he can drive TO it.  The man who might be his father hands him a coffee, and then turns to the older gentleman and myself and smiles and wishes us a good day – like we’re all old friends – and the young man and he head to his car. Now it’s just the older gentleman and myself at the espresso stand. He tells me a little more about his life, and then mentions his wife and points to his car. His wife smiles and waves to me and I wave back. Then the older gentleman leaves, too, and I’m the only one left.

Courtney knows exactly what I’m going to order for Dad – she’s been making him his root beer float for a couple years now. I bring Dad his float. He opens his door so I can pass it to him. He smiles and says, “Thank you.”

I was going to try to avoid Edison today – but as I approach the turn-off to Edison I see a line of cars leaving the town and figure maybe everyone’s pretty much cleared out of there now, so I turn and head towards the town center.

I am wrong. The place is packed with pedestrians and cars trying to get out of there. I stop to let a car turn in front of me – the driver waves and I wave back – then I wait for a line of pedestrians to cross in front of me.
Dad: (Observing all the traffic in this little town.) Is there some event here?
Karen: The Chicken Parade.
Dad: What? A church service?
Karen: The Chicken Parade.
Dad: A church service?
Karen: (Pointing to a little kid dressed up as a chicken.) The Chicken Parade.
Dad: (Turning to see where I’m pointing.) A church service. Small towns can be really active places.
Karen: (I silently admit defeat. I realize there is no way I’m going to be able to explain the Chicken Parade to him.) Yup.

I drive through Edison and turn on Bayview-Edison Road. Dad is looking out the window, watching the landscape roll past…
Dad: I love going on these drives with you.
Karen: I love going on drives with YOU.
(I pat Dad’s leg and he holds my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze.)

I meander around the Skagit Flats for a while and pull over when Mount Baker finally emerges from the clouds. I point to the mountain…
Dad: (Nodding.) Mount Baker.
(I take a few photos of the mountain and then continue until I come to a field puddled by rain and filled with trumpeter swans. I pull over to snap some pictures. Dad waits patiently for me, slurping his root beer float.)

I drive a little more and then begin heading back to Dad’s home.
Dad and I don’t talk for a while, then…
Dad: I love you.
(And the way he says it – not casually, but with thought behind it – really touches me.)
Karen: I love YOU!

As we pull in front of the front door to his house…
Dad: Who are these people?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: What?
Karen: This is your home.
Dad: Oh!

I help him out of the car and up the stairs and, once inside, he makes his way to one of the recliners in front of the television. I hand him his root beer float…
Karen: Thank you for going on the drive with me.
Dad: Thank YOU for taking me on the drive.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: And I love you.

“I remember we’ve visited here before.”

February 16th
Xander and I go to Dad’s for a quick visit. Dad is sitting in the living room when we arrive. His face lights up when he sees us. Xander gives his grandpa a hug and I kiss Dad on the top of his head and ask him how he’s doing.
Dad: Oh, I’ve been watching television all day. Sports. Football. Basketball.
Karen: Are you enjoying that?
Dad: Yeah, it’s good.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you guys, too! Thanks for stopping by.

February 17th
Dad: (Looking around at the scenery passing by him.) It’s a beautiful day for a drive!
Karen: Yes, it is! (I pat his knee.)
Dad: (Clasping my hand.) I never knew I’d have such a loving family. Beautiful daughter. Handsome sons. Wonderful wife.
Karen: We love you!
We stop at the Sister’s Espresso.
Karen: Are you hungry?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
Karen: Do you want a root beer float?
Dad: Yeah.
(I go up and order Dad a root beer float and a breakfast muffin and bring it all back to the car for him.)
Dad: Thank you!

I drive us west, then north and stop at a field with trumpeter swans.
Dad: Canada geese.
Karen: Trumpeter swans.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh, swans.
(We watch them for a while and then I meander my way to my home and pull into the driveway.)
Dad: (Smiling.) I remember when Scotty first saw this property. He said he was going to own this land and build a home on it. And he did.
Karen: Yes! (I go in to fetch Scott and bring him out for a quick visit with Dad.)
Scott: Hi, Dee!
(Dad and Scott share a manly handshake.)
Dad: Hi, Scott!
(Dad and Scott have a quick conversation about guy stuff and then I pull back out of the driveway and we continue on our drive.)
Karen: (Pointing to the piles of snow on the side of my street.) We got a lot of snow!
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah!

I drive us through Edison, over the slough, and down country roads framed in red blueberry bushes and snow and crowned by Mount Baker in the background.
Dad: The clouds are starting to lift off Baker now.
Karen: Yes, they are!
Dad: We climbed Mount Baker together, didn’t we? With Scott?
Karen: Yes, we did!
(At some point we pass the Sister’s Espresso again…)
Dad: Oh! That’s the store where we go…
Karen: Yup!

I pull my car next to the front door of Dad’s place.
Dad: I remember we’ve visited here before.
Karen: Yes.
(I help Dad out of the car and into the house. He goes to his recliner in the living room.)
Karen: Thank you for the drive today, Daddy. I love you.
Dad: Thank you for the drive! I love you.

 

“Go to your happy place.”

Breathe, Karen. Go to your happy place.

You’re in a meadow at the end of the Skyline Divide trail. Mount Baker is right in front of you. Shuksan is to the left. Scott and the sons are with you. Dad is painting a picture just a few yards away from you. Moz sits on a log. A bird has just landed on her finger and she’s smiling at it. There are alpine butterflies – lots of those little blue ones, and the orange ones, too – flitting around in the lupine and Indian paintbrush. It’s warm, but not too warm. There’s a nice little breeze up there. You are surrounded by Love. You’re at peace with yourself and the world. All is well.

Breathe.

Hey! That really works!

“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)

“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!

It Was a Good Choice

We’d been waiting for a sunny weekend to go for our Table Mountain hike – and it just didn’t happen – so we finally gave up the whole idea of sunny skies and just went up to Mount Baker, anyway. It was a good choice. 🙂

 

 

Annual Skyline Divide Hike

I was really surprised by how many people were up on the Skyline Divide today. And (although it kind of made it difficult to take photos) it gave me hope to see all these people – willing to push their bodies up to alpine meadows to enjoy what the mountains could give them.

As I was looking at Mount Baker today from the Skyline Divide – and realizing how HUGE it is – I thought to myself: “What in the heck were you thinking?! Whatever made you think you could climb that mountain?!” And then I reminded myself that I did, indeed, climb that mountain. And then it dawned on me that if I hadn’t been born with the parents I was born with – and I’m not just talking about Dad here – Moz was a pretty formidable adventurer in her day, too – I probably WOULDN’T have climbed Baker (or Rainier, Adams, or Hood). How lucky am I that I had a father who took me up all these peaks? I’m so very grateful for the opportunities my parents gave me in my life. They gave me the mountains.