“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.

 

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“I have to finish my avocado first.”

Karen: You’re going to your doctor’s appointment now.
Dad: I have to finish my avocado first.
Karen: (Laughing.) No, we have to leave now to get you to your appointment.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
(Scott and I help Dad down the stairs and into the car.)
Karen: (Wanting to make sure Dad understands where we’re going.) We’re going to your eye doctor now.
Dad: Oh. I didn’t know anything about this. (Re-thinking that.) I guess I forgot about it.

As we drive to the doctor’s office Scott points out the snow to Dad and Dad turns his head to look out the window at it. We get to the clinic and help Dad out of the car and into the reception area. A lot of patients have, apparently, cancelled because of the snow – the waiting room is empty. Dad is immediately ushered into the exam room.
Karen: Do you recognize this place?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I relay the technician’s requests into Dad’s ear…)
Karen: You need to uncross your legs. She’s going to take your blood pressure. Good. Your blood pressure is 110 over 87. That’s really good!
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
Karen: (The technician points a beam of light into Dad’s bad eye.) Do you see the light?
Dad: (Shaking his head.) No.
(Dad reads the eye chart now with his good eye and does really well – he adds two whole lines to what he did last time! The technician asks Dad to look straight ahead so she can touch his eye with a pen-thingy that measures the pressure in his eyes. The big letter “B” is still showing on the eye chart and Dad thinks the technician is trying to get him to read that…)
Dad: B. B. B. (Starting to crack up. Grinning and shaking his head at me.) B. B.
Technician: Good!

We help Dad into the room where he’s going to have his eyes photographed. He remembers this room and immediately puts his chin in the chin cup so the eyeball-photographer can take pictures. Then it’s up and into the final room where we’ll meet with Dr. Saperstein. Dr. Saperstein comes in…
Dr. Saperstein: (Smiling.) Knowing you guys, I figured you’d make it in today.
Karen to Dad: (Laughing.) Dad, Dr. Saperstein is a mountain climber, too.
Dad: He is? (Smiling. He looks at Dr. Saperstein like he’s just met a new friend. He and Dr. Saperstein shake hands.)
Dr. Saperstein to me: Thank you for your book! I enjoyed it!
Karen: Did you read the parts about you?
Dr. Saperstein: (Laughing.) I did!
(Dr. Saperstein looks at the photographs of Dad’s eyes, and the chart. He tells me that Dad’s good eye looks really good – Dad is doing really well. He says we shouldn’t have to come in for another eight weeks – that Dad should be fine for that length of time. We shake hands and I thank him for helping Dad with his eyesight.)

We help Dad back in the car and head back to his home. Amanda meets us at the top of the stairs and helps Dad into the kitchen – from here he can go into the living room to watch some television, or back to his own room for a nap, or… Dad heads for the dining room table.)
Karen: (Guessing what’s on Dad’s mind.) Do you want to finish your avocado now?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(Dad’s avocado is placed in front of him. He’s going to pick up where he left off before we interrupted him.)
Karen: (Laughing.) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

“What day is this?”

Dad is sitting at the kitchen table eating his breakfast when I stop by. He looks up and sees me and his face lights up with a smile…
Dad: Well!!
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: What day is this?
Karen: It’s Friday. (I go into Dad’s room to fetch the calendar I gave him for Christmas. I point to the day on the calendar.) It’s Friday, February eighth. (I point to the year.) 2019. You’re going to turn 101 this year!
Dad: (Nodding and thinking about this. He points to the calendar’s picture.) Did you take that picture?
Karen: Yes. Trumpeter swans.
Dad: Did you take all these pictures?
Karen: Yup. (Explaining why I’m here on a Friday.) We got out of school early today because of the snow. (Dad looks out the window to see what’s going on out there.) It’s supposed to snow six to eight inches. 
Dad: (Smiling.) It used to snow six to eight FEET at Rainier.
Karen: I know! (Grinning.) People prepare for a blizzard here when six to eight inches are predicted. Did you ever get snow in Los Angeles?
Dad: (Smiling.) Once. They closed school for a week.
Karen: Well, I should probably get to the store. I just wanted to stop in and see you.
Dad: I’ll come over tonight…
Karen: No, it’s okay. Let’s all stay safe in our own homes tonight.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I kiss the top of his head. He smiles and waves at me as I leave.)

swans reflection 3 this one

The photo of trumpeter swans on on Dad’s calendar. (Karen Molenaaar Terrell)

“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!

“Love – to Karen – Daddy Dee”

Dad is sitting at the kitchen table, finishing breakfast when I get there. I rub his back and ask him if he’d like to go for a drive.
Dad: Yes, I would. (Pause.) I love it when you rub my back.

We’re in the car now. Just before I pull out on our adventure…
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: Hi, Sweetheart!
Karen: (Smiling.) Let’s go on our drive!

We drive a different route this time – up old Hwy 99, over I-5, and down the hill. We make a quick stop at my house. It has occurred to me that, for all the books I’ve asked Dad to sign for other people, I’ve never asked him to sign my own book about our adventures together for me. I fetch a copy of the book from inside the house and bring it out to him. I feel a weird shyness about asking him to sign the book for me, but I hand it to him – point out the title, point out the picture of him on the cover, point out my name on the bottom of the cover. He takes off his hat and compares it with the hat he’s wearing on the cover.
Karen: (Smiling.) Yes! That’s you on the cover and that’s the very same hat!
Dad: (Smiling and reading my name on the cover…) Karen Molenaar…
Karen: Yes. I wrote this. It’s about our adventures together. (Pause.) Will you sign this for me, Daddy?
Dad: (Opens the book to the title page and writes: “Love – to Karen – Daddy Dee” – and I find myself tearing up a little – touched by his sweet inscription.)

I drive to the Sisters Espresso and park in front of it. Dad and I turn to each other at the exact same time and utter the exact same words: “Root beer float.” We start laughing. I go up to order the root beer float for Dad and a lavender green iced tea for me.

I drive down Thomas Road – knowing there will be a view of Mount Baker from there – and right away Dad spots it…
Dad: There’s Mount Baker!
Karen: Yes. There’s a lot of smoke in the air today, but there it is!

I drive Dad back to his home and park in front of the door.
Karen: Thank you for this drive today!
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: I love you, Daddy!
Dad: I love you, Karen!

“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)

“Tell her I love her.”

It was a challenging day in a challenging week. I was at school, working with a student on an essay. My phone rang. It was Hospice calling. When I know a call is from Hospice, I always answer. The caller introduced herself as Trish, the nurse who was visiting with Dad today. She said Dad was doing well – she said she was with Dad at the kitchen table and he was eating a good breakfast. I heard her turn to Dad and tell him she was talking to “Karen.”
Dad: (A happy sound in his voice.) Karen? You’re talking to my daughter, Karen?
Trish: Yes. I’m talking to your daughter.
Dad: Tell her I love her.
Trish to me: He says he loves you.
(I started tearing up – there’s just something so touching about hearing his quavery 100 year-old voice coming through the line.)
Karen to Trish: Tell him I love him.
Trish to Dad: Karen says she loves you.
(I heard Dad talking in the background…)
Trish: (To me.) He wants to know if we’ve met. (To Dad.) No, I’ve never met Karen.
(I heard more talking in the background.)
Trish to me: He says if I ever meet you I’ll love you.
(And now I was all choked up. I felt myself begin to sob. Oh Daddy. You gave me exactly what t needed today.)