The Last Visit with Daddy

“Karen”
January 18, 2020

Dad is in bed. His eyes are closed. He’s very still, but I see his chest moving. He’s still with us. I lean over and kiss his forehead and say into his ear, “Hi Daddy. It’s Karen.”
(There’s no response at first. Then his eyes open and he looks at me.)
Dad: (Weakly.) Karen.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: (I can feel the effort he’s making to mumble the words.) Ah uv you.
Karen: (Smiling at Dad – my heart filled with tenderness.) You old mountain goat. (That’s what Mom had always called Dad – and it comes to me – out of the blue – to call him that. Dad smiles at me. And now I find myself singing to him – that old Jeannette McDonald-Nelson Eddy song that he and Mom used to sing to each other…) When I’m calling you-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh… (I see Dad perk up a little. I get this sense that Mom is calling to him.)

We don’t say much after this. I stay for a while, stroking Dad’s forehead, and watching “Maverick” on Dad’s television. Every now and then Dad opens his eyes and checks to see if I’m still there. Eventually he falls back to sleep. I leave to go home and fetch my husband and son for a return visit. When I arrive home and describe Dad’s condition, the husband and son immediately let me know they’re with me and we go back to Dad’s house.

We enter Dad’s room and approach the bed. He’s sleeping. We pull up three chairs and watch him for a while. His foot is moving back and forth. I approach Dad’s bed.
Karen: Hi, Daddy. It’s Karen. And Andrew is here. And Scotty.
(Dad opens his eyes and looks at me.)
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
(Dad’s eyes are locked on mine and he nods his head at me once, twice. An affirmation. I nod back at him. He reaches up and holds my arm and squeezes it gently. I hold his hand and squeeze. He squeezes my hand back.)
Karen: Here’s Andrew, Daddy.
(Andrew sits close to his grampa. This is his time with Grampa. Love is exchanged. This time belongs to them and it’s not mine to share in words.)
Karen: And here’s Scotty.
(Scott grips Dad’s hand and receives a strong grip in return. They both grin at each other. Male bonding.) We all feel when it’s time to leave and let Dad get back to the business of sleeping. I get up and kiss Dad’s forehead and tell him I love him. Scott says his good byes. Andrew is the last to leave – he gets a strong good bye handshake from his grandfather before he leaves him to sleep.

(Excerpted from The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.)

When I Thought Climbing Was Normal

At the time it all seemed kind of matter-of-fact normal. I climbed Mount Hood at 15. Climbed Rainier the summer before I turned 21. Climbed Baker the summer before I turned 31. Climbed Adams the summer before I turned 41. And I felt challenged by these climbs, for sure – felt like I’d had to push myself to get to the tops of these peaks – but this is what the people around me did. I guess this was my “normal.” It’s not been until recently that the significance of those climbs has really hit me. And I’m kind of astounded by myself, to tell you the truth. I mean… who did I think I was that I would even CONTEMPLATE climbing those mountains?!!

I’m reading a book by Joe Wilcox right now about his climb of Denali back in 1967. He references Mount Rainier several times in his book – talks about how Rainier is often used to prepare climbers for major expeditions and how it’s used to test the strength and ability of climbers to see if they are fit to climb in major expeditions. A lot of expedition climbers are from the Pacific Northwest because of their experience on Rainier. And most folks who come to Rainier to climb it have probably been preparing for that climb for months or even years. It is a big deal. Apparently.

Here’s how I got to climb Rainier: I was working in the gift shop at Paradise – hiking around up there before and after work – my body was used to the altitude. I was sitting outside after work one evening – looking at the mountain. My friend, Perky Firch, who also worked at the Paradise Visitors Center, was sitting next to me. I said to her, “We’re going to climb that mountain.” She said okay. I called my dad to ask him if he could guide us to the summit, and he agreed to be our guide. Two weeks later we were standing on the top of Rainier.

And the sheer naive confidence of my young self – the fearless innocence of it all – astounds me!

What a blessed life I’ve enjoyed! What opportunities came from being Dee Molenaar‘s daughter! I don’t think I fully appreciated that until now.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Excuse the quality of the photo. I was too lazy to take it out of its frame on the wall.)

Karen on the summit of Rainier – with her father, Dee Molenaar on the left, and her brother, Pete Molenaar, on the right.

Bringing Dad’s Ashes Home to Rainier

We brought Dad’s ashes back to his home – the slopes of Rainier. Afterwards, down below, a breeze swirled around us – enveloped us in the fragrance of the forest – and I could feel Moz and Dad in the breeze – celebrating with us – surrounding us in love and joy.

Here’s a link to a video of the marmot.

(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

“Nisqually Icefall… I love you…”

Dad was in his bed, sleeping, when I entered his room. I leaned over and touched his forehead and he woke up.
Dad: (Smiling at me) … Nisqually Icefall…
Karen: Nisqually Icefall?
Dad: (Mumbling) Nisqually Icefall… I love you…
Karen: I love you.
Dad: Did you take time off work to be here?
Karen: I’m retired.
Dad: Oh! So you can be here to send us off on our climb!
Karen: Yes. You can go back to sleep now and rest for your climb.
Dad: (Nodding.) Okay. (Closing his eyes and going back to sleep.)
 
***

I think this must have been what Dad was talking about – his first ascent of the Nisqually Icefall with Bob Craig in 1948:
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12194913800/print

(Photo of Rainier by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)
Rainier up close this one

“Do you know where my hat is?”

I sit down at the table next to Dad.
Dad: Are we going now?
Karen: Going where?
Dad: Going to your house.
Karen: I stopped by to see you on my way home from school.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh. (Pointing to a photo of a man in the newspaper.) Have you ever met him?
Karen: (Looking at the picture. It’s a photo of an actor named Ventimmiglia.) No. (shaking my head.)
Dad: How do you pronounce that?
Karen: Ven ti mi glia maybe?
Dad: (Nodding.) Do you know where my hat is?
Karen: (Nodding.) Yes. (I go into Dad’s bedroom and fetch it for him. I show it to him and put it on his head.)
Dad: Where did you find it?
Karen: It was on top of the lamp in your room.
Dad: Where?
Karen: On top of the lampshade.
Dad: Oh.
(I grab Dad’s hand and he squeezes my hand and grins at me.)
Karen; I love you, Daddy.
Dad: And I love you, Karen.
Karen: How are you feeling?
Dad: I’m okay. How should I be feeling? I’m good.
Karen: Tomorrow will be the first day of February. Spring is coming soon.
Dad: Yeah!
(For a while we don’t talk. He is busy folding the newspaper this way and that way. I am busy watching him. I watch his hands and think how they saved me from drowning when I was a toddler. I think of how those hands have belayed ropes on some of the highest mountains in the world, and probably saved other lives. I look at his eyes and try to imagine all they’ve seen in his 100 years. I feel myself tearing up, wondering how much longer he’ll be here. Dad looks up then and smiles at me.)
Dad: I love you.
Karen: I love you.

(More stories like this can be found in Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

adventures with dad book cover

Latest book!

Another Review for *Are You Taking Me Home?*

Another five star review on Amazon for Are You Taking Me Home Now?! 

Heidi writes: “This is a delightful book and Karen is a gifted writer. She lets us listen in to the conversations she and her 100 year old Dad have on their car trips, which had me laughing and crying. Interspersed are memories of earlier times. Having a relationship with an older person whose body and brain don’t work as well as it used to requires patience, humor and love. As someone else here said, ‘Karen shows us how to do it right.’ I enjoyed reading this very much. I highly recommend this book and will be giving it out for gifts.”

adventures with dad book cover

Latest book!

New Book!

In loving memory of Moz.
For Gwen Black and her crackerjack team of caregivers.
For all the friends who encouraged me to publish this book.
And for Dad – my hero. 

A new book, my friends! This one is a collection of the conversations and escapades Dad and I have gotten ourselves into since Moz’s passing. I think Moz would be proud. 🙂

In print form: Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad
In kindle form: Are you Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

adventures with dad book cover

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.

 

 

Epic Afternoon

Epic afternoon. Dad (Dee Molenaar, aged 99 and 10/12) was visited by three of his old mountaineering buddies – Tom Hornbein, Jim Wickwire, and Bill Sumner – extraordinary climbers all. Dad arm-wrestled Tom (Tom and Willi Unsoeld were the first men to ascend Everest from the West ridge), looked at a K2 book with Jim (Jim and Louis Reichardt were the first Americans to ascend K2), and had a good laugh with Bill (who was a member of the expedition that included the first one-legged person to reach the top of Denali). They talked about old friends, old climbs, and the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award Tom is going to receive tonight. (Tom picked up the award for Dad last spring when Dad was in the hospital, and says that helped him prepare for accepting his own award tonight.)

Watching these old pals reunite – men who have shared adventures together that most people probably can’t even imagine – men who are living pieces of history – brought tears to my eyes. What a privilege to be there with them…

 

 

 

Dad Turns 98 Today!

Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is so little time that your youth will last – such a little time.
– Richard Halliburton

God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Dad turns 98 today. A couple months ago he thought he’d be turning 100 today. A month ago he thought he’d be turning 97. We finally got it all sorted out when I reminded him that he was born in 1918 and that it is now 2016. I saw him do the calculations in his head. A few minutes later we were sitting at the dining room table with my mom and husband, when Dad announced, kind of shocked, “I’m going to be 98 in a month! I never thought I’d make it to 98.” Later he told me that 98 sounds a lot older than 100. Apparently he just skipped over 98 and 99 and went right from 97 to 100 when he’d been trying to figure out his age.

Think about this: When Dad was born women didn’t have the right to vote, yet. Radios, telephones, and cars had just been invented. There were no CDs, televisions, cellphones, or computers. There was no internet. There was no Google. There was no Wikipedia. To find information people often went to the library and did research in these things called books – and sometimes the research might take days or even weeks! (Today if you want to find out more about Dad, all you’ve got to do is go to his Wikipedia page – et voila! There he is!)

People also read those things called books just for fun. The book that Dad has said most influenced him was a book called The Rolling Road to Romance by an adventurer named Richard Halliburton. Halliburton exonerated his readers to “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is so little time that your youth will last – such a little time.”

Dad took those words to heart.

Dad was born at the end of World War I. He survived The Great Depression with his family, served in World War II, has climbed on the highest mountains on earth, went to the South Pole, and close to the North Pole, has been on six of the seven continents, has moved easily among world leaders, and traveled the world with a close group of fellow adventurers and explorers. At various times he’s worked as a photographer, cartographer, geologist, hydrologist, artist, mountain guide, ski instructor, and author. He’s moved through life with no sense of limitation about what he might accomplish or where he might go or who he might meet, and that – what I guess some might call “naïve” – sense of freedom has served him well in his life.

And today he turns 98. He’s still engaged in his life – still enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of Life’s highways and by-ways. He continues to live “the wonderful life” that is in him.

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Dee Molenaar