“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