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!

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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

 

Dad’s Backpack

Tomorrow will not only be Father’s Day, it will be my dad’s 97th birthday. My dad, Dee Molenaar, has lived a most amazing 97 years. He was born at the end of World War I, was alive when women got the right to vote, lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, saw men walk on the moon, and teared-up with pride for his country the night the first African-American was elected President. He has traveled on six of the seven continents (the only continent he somehow missed was Africa),  climbed on the highest mountains in the world (and, with his climbing team, almost made the first summit of the second tallest one), painted paintings, written books, created maps, had his photos published in National Geographic, and hobnobbed with presidential candidates.

He and Mom are currently in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years. This has involved some down-sizing. Last weekend when I was at their place to help them pack up, Dad gave me the little backpack he’d bought in 1973 for his journey to Europe to climb in the Alps. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be able to bring that familiar little pack home with me. I always knew I was safe when I was climbing with the man who wore this pack. This is the pack Dad wore to the summit of Rainier when we’d climbed it together in 1977, and the same pack I’d followed up to the top of Mount Baker ten years later. This is the pack Dad wore when he’d taken hikes with my young sons and myself. There are a lot of fond memories attached to that pack.

For now, it is hanging from a hook in our family room. I know it doesn’t have any special magical powers or anything, but somehow just looking at it makes me feel safe.

Dee Molenaar's pack

Dad’s pack

Reluctant Heroes and Reluctant Leaders

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
– William Shakespeare

 “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve always enjoyed the “reluctant heroes” and “reluctant leaders” of literature and film, and real life – the people who don’t really seek to be heroes or leaders; who don’t really want to risk their lives; who have some concept of what might happen to them if they step forward and do the right thing, and sigh and take a deep breath, and do it anyway. These aren’t the people who are seeking the limelight. They aren’t looking for glory. They don’t want medals and awards and accolades and power. They’re doing the right thing in spite of their trepidation. They’re doing the right thing simply because they don’t have it in them to NOT try to save someone else’s life, or rescue the puppy, or stand up for what is right and fair, or to lead when there is a need. They are, in my mind, the best kinds of heroes and leaders.

In literature, one of my favorite “reluctant heroes” is Frodo Baggins. Frodo clearly does not want the responsibility of The Ring. He’d much rather have given that responsibility to someone else, and gone home to his quiet life in the Shire. But he realizes that he’s the only one equipped – mentally and emotionally – to take on the responsibility. He’s the only one humble enough. In short, his very reluctance to be the hero is exactly why he’s the best one fit to BE the hero.

In “Are You a Reluctant Leader?” Walt Grassle writes: “…often, reluctant leaders are the best leaders. They lead from a desire to serve, not a desire for power.” And in “The Reluctant Leader” Lainie Heneghan writes: “Adaptability, humility, a capacity to bring others along in their efforts, and a plain old willingness to listen are defining qualities of reluctant leaders.”

In thinking about reluctant leadership, the death of one of my dad’s climbing friends in an avalanche on Mount Rainier comes to mind. Dad’s friend, Willy, had been leading a group of climbers from Evergreen State College up Mount Rainier when an avalanche struck the team.  Willy and another climber were buried under the avalanche. The other team members were able to uncover the snow from the two victims’ bodies, and tried to resuscitate them, but without success. The team’s leader, Willy, was gone, and the remaining members were in a perilous situation – exhausted, traumatized, and in shock. It was then, according to Dad, that Ian, one of the student-members of the climbing team, stepped forward and assumed leadership. As I understand it, this student had been one of the quieter members of the team until that moment – a strong climber who had earlier helped Willy scout out the route to the summit – but not someone who had sought attention for himself. I’m sure that Iain would rather not have been in a situation where he had to assume leadership.  But, as Dad tells it, Ian was an observer and he’d seen there was a need – recognized that someone needed to step forward and give direction to the team – and he had done what he knew needed to be done to get the surviving members of the team safely off the mountain.

I’m guessing the world is full or reluctant heroes and leaders – people quietly making the lives of other people better; people stepping up to the plate when a leader is needed, or a hero; people who recognize that in their neighborhood, or workplace, or political organization they are the ones best equipped to create a positive atmosphere or lead in a positive direction – and then quietly go about doing so. Without fanfare. Without hope of recognition or credit. Just because it’s the right thing to do.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…” – Matthew 20: 25-27

Walt Grassle’s article: http://researchcareersblog.com/2014/12/08/are-you-a-reluctant-leader/#sthash.ifYrR64X.dpbs

Lainie Heneghan’s article: http://www.jmw.com/assets/JMW_Reluctant_Leader.pdf

reluctant heroes

Photo of cannon at Fort Ticonderoga, NY (Karen Molenaar Terrell)