I’ve had this urge lately to go home and visit Mom for a weekend To laugh and talk and hear her voice and maybe sing a song or two with her To go downstairs and see what new project Dad has going on in the basement – he was always up to something
I feel them near -Karen Molenaar Terrell
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
Excerpt from Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021:September 17, 2020 : Here’s what I need tonight – I need to remind myself that we can’t always see how things will work themselves out – and sometimes salvation comes in completely unexpected ways. I need to remind myself of the amazing things that I’ve witnessed and experienced in the last several years during times when I saw no solution and things looked pretty bleak.
Back in February 2017 I found myself in a position that seemed impossible. Mom was in the hospital with congestive heart failure and Dad soon followed her there with a UTI. They were on two different floors, both struggling to stay alive. I’d visit one and then the other – and then go home, on high alert, waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to drop some new crisis onto me.
Just two days before Mom was going to be released from the hospital into hospice care, a hospital social worker told me that it looked like the assisted living care facility wasn’t going to accept Mom back into her and Dad’s home because of her medical issues. I told the social worker that the assisted living place hadn’t told me anything about this, and surely they would have let me know, right? But she seemed pretty sure about this. So I called the assisted living place on Saturday and was told that Mom was going to be evaluated on Monday morning to determine if she could be brought back to her home. Which. Hospice needed to set things up for her – and they needed to know right then where they should send the equipment. I needed answers immediately. Finally, the assisted living lady told me (under her breath) that if she was me she’d be looking for another place for my mother and father.
I had two days to find a new home for my parents.
In a panic, I started calling other assisted living places and soon realized that the cost of the care my parents were going to need in the facilities would clean out their savings in a couple months. I thought maybe I could use my retirement savings to help them – but that wouldn’t last too long, either. And – honestly, I didn’t want to send my parents to some strange, unfamiliar place that looked like an institution. The thought came to me, then, that I should bring Mom and Dad into my home when they were released from the hospital, and provide the care myself. Scotty agreed to this plan and agreed to help. (I married an incredible man.)
I was still teaching full-time then – so this was going to be tricky.But I told the social workers at the hospital that I wanted Mom brought to my home when she was released on Monday. She asked me if I was sure – I think she was concerned about me – but I told her yes. It felt right. Hospice got in touch with me – bless them! – and, when Mom was brought by ambulance to our home, a hospice nurse came over and showed Scott and I how to care for her.
I’m so very glad Love guided me to make this decision for Moz. I’m so glad she was brought to our home, surrounded by our love. We spent the whole day telling each other how much we loved each other – and in the wee hours of the morning, while I dozed on the couch next to her hospital bed, she passed. I felt myself brushed by joy and peace and love, and woke to find she was gone.
So now I had to find a home for Dad – I’d promised Moz that she didn’t need to worry about him – that we’d make sure he was alright. Originally the plan had been to bring Dad into our home where he could be with Mom – but, now that she was gone, our home wouldn’t be the right place for him. He needed the kind of care that someone with skills greater than my own could give him. The social worker asked us if we’d ever looked into adult family homes, and gave us a booklet with names and phone numbers.
When I got home from the hospital after my visit with Dad and the social worker, I went for a walk – at this point I was completely emotionally and mentally stretched – feeling out of my depth and scared about the future – and I needed to find some peace for myself. And suddenly a rainbow arched across the sky – and it felt like a promise! – like Moz was there with me, reassuring me, telling me everything was going to be alright. I began making phone calls to adult family homes – and on the second call I felt I’d found the right place. My brother and I went over to check it out – there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs – and I knew the woman who answered the door would have been someone Moz would have felt an instant kinship with. AND the cost of care for Dad would fit his budget!
I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. We had found Dad’s new home – a place I didn’t even know existed a day before!
Back on New Year’s Eve 2015 I bought my little Ford Fiesta, Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich. Today she reached 100,000 miles on the odometer. I found myself tearing up – thinking back to all the adventures Rosalita and I have shared in the last five years, and all the memories that are packed inside my little car. Rosalita still has the red scrapes from the times we shoved Mom’s red walker into her hatch. I can still picture my centenarian father (Dee Molenaar) sitting in the passenger seat, his head turning as he took in the scenes on our drives together. I remember taking Dad up to Mount Rainier in Rosalita, and the adventure Dad and I had going to the Big Four Inn (see the story below).
Thank you, Rosalita, for helping me care for my parents. Thank you for helping me get Mom and Dad to doctor’s appointments, and epic celebrations. You’ve done well, little one. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
I stop by to see Dad while I’m in town on an errand. My plan is to take him for a quick drive to get him a root beer float, if he’s up for it. He says that sounds like a good idea. Meagan puts his alpine hat on his head, gets him in his sweater, and puts shoes on his feet. He is still wearing his pajama bottoms. That puts a smile on my face. I tell him he is a fashion plate. Meagan points out that Dad can actually pull this look off, and I have to agree.
When we get in the car Dad asks, again, where we are going.
Karen: I thought we’d take a quick drive and I’d get you a root beer float.
Dad: That sounds good. But what I’d really like to do is go to the Big Four Inn.
The Big Four Inn would be a major trip. I hadn’t planned on this today. But… Dad has been mentioning the Big Four Inn for a year now. Maybe two. I’ve always managed to brush this idea off, and suggest we do it another time. But… this might be our last drive before I start another school year. And I don’t really have anything else planned for today – and there’s nothing else I really want to do with my day. So. Maybe. Maybe today we’ll drive to the Big Four Inn – or to where the Big Four Inn used to be before it burned down. I’m going to think about this on my way to Big Sisters Espresso for Dad’s root beer float.
As we’re driving through town…
Dad: We used to dance in that building on the left. On the second floor. We’d come down from the Big Four Inn and dance there.
Karen: Do you like to dance?
Dad: I’m not very good at it. I started too late. All my friends used to go dancing every Saturday in Los Angeles. I didn’t. (Thinking.) Do you like to dance?
Karen: Yes! You used to dance with me when I was a little girl.
Dad: (Smiling.) Did I?
Karen: (Remembering.) Yes. You’d pick me up and dance with me. I loved dancing with you.
Dad: I love doing everything with you.
As we head out of town…
Dad: This isn’t heading towards the mountains.
Karen: I’m going to get you a root beer float first and figure out how to get there.
When we get to the Sisters Espresso, I order Dad his root beer float. As I’m waiting for the float, my neighbor and friend, Denice, shows up. Denice is a mountain woman, too. It occurs to me that she might know how to get to The Mountain Loop Highway.
Karen: Hey Denice, the sons and I used to go hiking along The Mountain Loop Highway all the time when they were growing up – but I can’t remember how to get there anymore. Do you know how to get on The Mountain Loop Highway?
(And sure enough, Denice knows exactly how to get there! She quickly gets out her phone, taps in some words, and reads me the directions.)
Root beer float in Dad’s hand, Dad and I head out for The Mountain Loop Highway.
Dad: Are we going to the Big Four Inn now?
I head east up the South Skagit Highway. I am feeling a happy, blissful freedom as we travel along the Skagit River, through maple trees and cedars. I am on another adventure with Dad.
Dad is observing our route…
Dad: The old route was on the other side of the river. (He’s right.)
A little later…
Dad: Now we’re going to cross over the river and get on the other side of it. (He’s still right.)
At one point I stop to take a picture of the river and I snap a quick photo of the sedimentary layers in the cliff next to the road. Dad has noticed the layers, too…
Dad: You see that white layer there? I think that’s ash from a volcanic eruption…
When we get to the Darrington Ranger Station I stop to take a little break. I ask Dad if he wants to get out of the car and he says yes – he wants to go into the Ranger Station and look at maps.
Dad: (As he struggles to get out of the car, laughing…) I wonder if the rangers can see me trying to get out of the car. This doesn’t look very good.
Karen: (Laughing.) Don’t worry about it!
We manage to get into the ranger station and I help Dad over to the big 3D map in the corner. I position a chair for him if he needs to sit down while I use the restroom. When I come out he’s sitting in the chair next to the map, talking with the ranger ladies. He’s already asked them about the Big Four Inn, and Erika is looking at Big Four Inn postcards with him. I buy the cards for Dad (25 cents apiece) and ask the rangers how to get to the Big four Inn. I’ll need to go straight through Darrington, they tell me, and follow The Mountain Loop Highway – at some point it’ll turn into a gravel road – and somewhere on the other side of the gravel road we’ll pass the field where the Big Four Inn used to be.
Erika has been enjoying Dad and his stories. She confides in me that her great-aunt lived to be 106 – she passed on just last spring. I let Dad know that Erika’s great-aunt was 106. Dad nods and says he’s just a kid. Erika says that her great-aunt just started using a walker in the last year or two before she died. I tell her Dad doesn’t like to use his walker. He can be pretty stubborn about not using it. Erika smiles and says her aunt could be stubborn, too. I observe that’s probably why she lived so long, and why my Dad is still alive at 100. Erika laughs and agrees.
I turn to help Dad out to the car, and he wants none of it. The ranger ladies are watching.
Dad: No. Don’t help me! I’m not a cripple. I can walk on my own!
Karen: Okay, Daddy. (I keep my arms ready to catch him if he falls, but he manages to get himself to the car on his own. He is a stubborn Dutchman. He is also my hero.)
We drive into Darrington and I stop for gas.
Dad: Where are we?
Dad: (Looking around him in wonder.) Darrington. I’ll be damned. Darrington.
Karen: (Pointing to the Mountain Loop Road sign.) The Mountain Loop Road.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. The Mountain Loop Road.
The road becomes narrow at spots – but every time there’s a car coming from the opposite direction there always happens to be a place for me to pull over.
Dad: You’re a good mountain driver. (Thinking.) It’s nice to come up here when there are roads to travel on. This used to just be a trail. (A little further…) It’s nice to finally be back here. I never dreamed that one day I’d be back here as an old man with my daughter driving me in her own car. (Thinking.) All the rangers at that ranger station were women. Women are fighting for their rights. I don’t blame them. (More thinking.) It’s hard to drive with all the shadows on the road – hard to see the ruts.
The road becomes more primitive now – in places there are ruts and pot holes in gravel – in some places the gravel disappears and the road becomes a little slippery and muddy.
Dad: I never dreamed that someday I’d be up here – an old man gripping the door handle.
We pass the trailhead for Mount Pugh and I stop to let Dad see the sign. I’m wondering if he’ll recognize it. I am not disappointed.
Dad: Mount Pugh. I climbed that one.
Eventually we roll onto asphalt again. We pass the trail to the Ice Caves, and I remind Dad that we hiked up there once with Pete Schoening. Dad nods his head, remembering. Not far beyond that is a sign that says “Big Four Picnic Area.” On a hunch I turn to follow the road to the picnic area and sure enough…
Dad: This is where it was!
(I park in front of the site of the old inn. I’m blocking the road, but there haven’t been many cars today, and I want Dad to be able to get out here and not have to walk too far.)
Dad: (Getting out of the car.) Ohhh… this is where it was… (There are tears in his eyes. His voice is choked up.)
Dad makes his way to the display that shows pictures from the Big Four Inn. He spends time there, looking at each picture, remembering his days in the Coast Guard in World War II, when he was stationed here for a time. This was a good time in his life.
Dad: What’s that…? Oh… the old fireplace. And the chimney. Yeah. I wish I’d brought my camera…
Karen: I brought my camera. I’ve been taking pictures.
(A car pulls up behind my car and I scurry back to drive my car out of the way so the other car can get past. I want to explain to them that my dad is 100 years old and I just parked there so he could walk to the site of the old inn. But I know they don’t care about any of that – the straight-lipped looks on their faces tells me that. So I pull out of their way and then loop back to where I was so I can load Dad back up in the car.)
Dad: What’s your hurry?
Karen: We’ve been gone a long time, Daddy. I need to get you back. (I’d told Dad’s caregivers we were going for a short drive, and I haven’t been able to call them because we’ve been out of cellular phone range.)
Dad: (Looking at his watch…) Oh yeah. 3:30. Okay.
As we’re driving away from the Big Four Inn…
Dad: Thanks for finding The Big Four Inn for me.
A little further…
Dad: Mom won’t be worried about us this time.
As we’re getting near his home…
Dad: We saw some pretty country today.
Karen: Did you enjoy our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
We pull into his driveway and I come around to help Dad out of the car. Dad shifts his body around, trying to get in position to get out of the car. This is not easy for him. He looks up at me and I look down at him, and we both start laughing. Then Dad manages to get his feet on the concrete and I heave and he’s up.
Dad: Thank you for the drive today.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, too. We blow each other kisses and I leave him on the lounge chair in front of the television.
Missing Dad and Moz today, but so glad they’re not here to see what’s happening to our poor country.
I spent an hour today driving around to the places Dad and I used to go on our drives together – feeling the echo of his presence still there, talking to me. I had a flashback of a time when a young black man in a hoodie stopped to open the door for Dad, and I remember how Dad took the time to stop and thank him before he went into the building. It was a brief exchange – very quick – but the power of the brotherly love I felt being exchanged between Dad and the young man is still with me.
Thinking of Moz and imagining her shaking with indignation and anger at the injustice and racism we’re seeing – just as she did when I was a little girl and we encountered a racist at the Sears store. The man had nodded his head towards a little black family and said they should be shopping in their own store. When Moz understood what he was saying she was furious – “They have as much right to be here as you or me!” she told him, trembling with rage. The man realized, then, who he was dealing with in Moz and got all red in the face and scurried away. That was a moment I will never forget – it had a huge impact on me. I remember feeling very proud to be Moz’s daughter.
I remember how Moz and Dad celebrated the night Obama got elected – they were both so happy. Dad said he never thought he’d live long enough to see an African-American in the White House – his whole face was lit up with pride in his country. Moz had tears in her eyes with the joy she felt that night.
I’m so grateful I was raised by these people – so grateful I was brought up to see beyond the color of someone’s skin to what was in the heart of people. My parents gave me a kind of freedom with that.
For all the brave parents out there who are helping their children with high school math:
After a Day Spent Teaching Math
Function notation of a linear equation
Integer, whole, irrational, and real –
What would it cost to buy this meal?
Multiplying this, and factoring that –
How many cats would fit on that mat?
Parallel and perpendicular lines in a plane
When you subtract you lessen,
When you add you gain.
Exponents and polynomials and parabolas and lines
Angles and triangles, tangents and sines
Distributive, reflexive, transitive props
Substitution really just means doing a swap.
Slope intercept form and Pythagorean theorem
how many people would fill the museum?
The minimum’s the low point, the maximum’s the high
Mathematical equations are as easy as pi.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, twitchy-eyed sometime math teacher
I got word that Daddy had a difficult night. Went over to his home to give him a quick hug and tell him I love him. He smiled at me when he realized I was there and mumbled something about the “holiday weekend.” I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me. And then I got up to leave. Made it all the way to the stairs before I stopped. Turned. Went back. Pulled up a chair next to his bed and sat in it. It had occurred to me that there may come a time soon when I will wish I could be with Daddy for even one more minute.
I took Dad’s hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back. I squeezed his hand twice. He squeezed my hand twice. We just sat there holding hands for about ten minutes – watching the old black and white movie on his TV together. I sang some hymns “to” him – but… I knew he couldn’t hear what I was singing – I was really singing the hymns to myself as I held his hand –
“In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But Love is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
(words by Anna Waring)
Tears started running out of my eyes and down my face. I sniffled and wiped them away.
When I finally felt it was time to go and let Dad rest I leaned over to tell him good-bye. Daddy said, “Happy Fourth of July!” And I thanked him.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.
*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.
Took Dad to an eye doctor appointment today. The eye doctor place lets us wait in the car until they’re ready for us. This gives Dad and I a chance to talk in a quiet space.
Karen: Dad, you’re going to be 101 in a couple months.
Dad: (Nodding.) How old are YOU going to be?
Karen: I’m going to be 63 in September.
Karen: (Laughing.) I know, right? Isn’t that crazy?!
Dad: How can that be?! (Thinking.) Time goes faster the older we get.
Pretty soon the eye technician comes out to fetch us. I’ve forgotten Dad’s walker, but I walk backwards in front of him and let him use my arms as a walker. We head into the exam room and Dad takes a seat in the examination chair. As the technician gives directions I speak them into Dad’s ear. “This is Shay. She’s going to take your blood pressure now. Put your arm across your chest. Good! How’s your vision been? Okay. Do you see the dot? Good! Do you see the lines? Are the lines straight?”
Dad: (Thinking this might be a trick question, I guess.) The lines appear to be straight.
Karen: (Laughing.) Good.
(Shay sees that Dad’s nose is dripping and grabs a tissue and wipes his nose. Like all the people at this clinic, she is kind to Dad.)
After the exam is done, we head to the room where they’ll take a photo of his eyes. Dad knows the routine now and sits in the chair and puts his chin in the chin cup. After photos are taken we go to the room where he’ll meet with Dr. Saperstein. Before the doctor comes in I remind Dad that the doctor is a mountain climber. When Dr. Saperstein enters, he greets Dad and Dad reaches out his hand for his special mountaineering handshake – it starts as a regular handshake – strong and firm – and then their hands move into position like they’re about to arm wrestle. They both grin at each other. Dr. Saperstein has passed Dad’s test. )
Karen to Dr. Saperstein: That was Dad’s special mountain-climbing handshake. He knows you’re a mountain-climber.
Dr. Saperstein: My climbing is nothing compared to what your Dad has done. (He looks at me and grins.) In fact, my climbing is nothing compared to what YOU have done. You’ve climbed a lot more mountains than me.
Karen: (Laughing, and kind of embarrassed. I guess I HAVE climbed a lot of mountains – Rainier, Baker, Adams, Hood – but…I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought of myself as a climber.) I just followed Dad up the mountains and then followed him back down.
Dr. Saperstein: (Laughing.) Well, you’ve done a lot more climbing than me. (He looks at the photos of Dad’s eyes.) His eyes look good. We won’t have to give him a treatment today. Let’s plan on seeing him again in three months.
I help Dad out to the waiting room and help him sit in a chair. I tell him I’m going to make another appointment for him and then we’ll go and get him a root beer float. He nods. He thinks a root beer float is a good idea. After I make our next appointment I help Dad up and we begin our slow journey to the door. I let everyone in the waiting room know that Dad will be 101 in a couple months. They are impressed – and I feel them sending Dad their support as he works his way towards the door. “Dad’s a mountain climber,” I say. “He’s in Wikipedia. K2.” I can see that at least one of the men in the waiting room knows what “K2” is – his eyes get big and he smiles a big smile. He says he’s honored to be in the same room with Dad.
I’m incredibly relieved when Dad has finally reached the car. At the end it looked like he might collapse – but he made it! Step by step – never giving up.
Dad: Let’s go find a place with a root beer float.
I drive Dad to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (Looking out the window.) The Skagit Delta. Beautiful country.
I pull into the Sisters Espresso parking lot.
Karen: Do you remember this place?
Dad: (Nodding.) I’ve been here many times.
I order him his float. When I bring it to him he smiles and says thank you. I head west – stop for some eagle pictures, and then drive by daffodil fields.
Karen: Daffodils! Aren’t they beautiful?!
Eventually we end up back at Dad’s home. I park in front of the door.
Karen: Do you know how much I love you?
Dad: How much?
Karen: Infinitely much.
Dad: (Nodding.) Infinitely.
I help Dad out of the car and reunite him with his walker.
Dad: (Looking at the house.) Do we know these people?
(Just then Amanda comes out of the house…)
Dad: (Smiling.) Hi!
Amanda: (Smiling back.) Hello!
We help Dad up the stairs. Today he chooses to go right to his bedroom. He’s ready for a rest.
Karen: Thank you for the drive today, Daddy.
Dad: Thank YOU for the drive.
Karen; I Love you!
Dad: I love YOU!
Dad is lying in bed watching “Gunsmoke” on television. He looks up and sees me and smiles.
Dad: Hi, sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
(He reaches up to pull me into a hug…)
Dad: I love you!
Karen: I love you, too!
(I pull a chair next to Dad’s bed and sit down to watch Matt Dillon outfox the bad guys. Dad reaches out and clasps my hand and we hold hands companionably for a while.)
Dad: Did you stop by to see Mom on the way over?
Karen: (Keeping my eyes on the television.) Nope.
(We watch the show together for a time – Newly has escaped being held hostage by the bad guys, been shot and left for dead, and then managed to make it to the stagecoach in time to warn Matt Dillon that the bad guys are waiting for him.)
Dad: Are you going to see Mom and Pop when you leave here?
(This is the first time Dad has ever asked me if I’m going to see “Pop” – I’m thinking he must be referring to his mother and father – but I’m not sure who he thinks I am now. I contemplate how to answer his question, but come up nada. Scott enters the room…)
Dad: Hi, Scotty!
Scott: Hi, Dee!
Dad: How’s your wife?
Scott: (Without missing a beat.) She’s fine!
“Gunsmoke” ends. It’s time to go.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.
When I stop by to see Dad I find him eating his “breakfast” at the table. I ask him if he’d like to go for a drive and he says yes, he’d like that. Megan helps him get his shoes on and brings me a jacket in case Dad gets cold. We help Dad out to the car and help him get into his seat.
Before I start on the drive I turn to Dad. He has come to associate me telling him I love him with me saying good-bye. So I decide that today I will tell him I love him at the very start of our adventure.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! (He crinkles up his nose and we give each other Eskimo kisses.)
Dad: I like the drive we took last time – to the west side.
Karen: Yeah, that was nice, wasn’t it? (But I have other plans for us today. )
(I go around the round-about and exit onto I-5, heading north. I know this isn’t what Dad is expecting – we usually head straight onto Chuckanut – and I hope that he will enjoy the idea of doing something different today. As we head out onto I-5 we pass the huge American flag that waves from the pole next to the freeway…)
Dad: That is the biggest flag I think I have ever seen.
I exit onto Lake Samish Road – I’m going to take the back way to Bellingham…
Dad: Les Laird died last week. I wasn’t in the office when it happened. I’m not sure why he died. (Les Laird was Dad’s old boss. Dad has been retired for 35 years.)
My plan is to take Dad to Boulevard Park and maybe buy him a vanilla milkshake. I’ve found that parking at the park is usually limited, but I’m hoping that maybe today something will just miraculously open up for us. It could happen, right? And sure enough – there’s one spot! – right there in front of the children’s pirate ship playground. I help Dad out of the car and we make our way to a picnic table near the playground. We’re about half-way there when a man and a young woman start to sit at the table – but the man looks up and notices us and graciously tells us we can have the table. I tell him we can share it, and he and the woman smile and agree to that plan.
A couple youngsters of about six-years-old come up and join us then – the man introduces them as his grandsons. I give a quick intro – tell them all that Dad is 100-years-old and a “famous mountain-climber” – and settle Dad in with our new friends. I go to buy him a shake. After I order the shake I come back to check on him. The man tells me his grandsons were really excited by the idea that they were with a famous mountain-climber.
When I go back to the shop the shake is ready – perfect timing!
The man and woman introduce themselves to me – they are Gary and his daughter, Shelby. Gary tells us that he lives in Arizona and brought one of his grandsons with him to come up here and visit Shelby and his other grandson.
We talk about the beauty of Arizona and the beauty of Washington State. I ask Gary if he’s ever been into the Grand Canyon, and he said he walked along the bottom of it once. I tell him I once got half-way down to the canyon bottom – to a place called Indian Gardens – and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. I turn to Dad then…
Karen: Dad, did you ever go to Arizona?
Karen: Did you ever go to the Grand Canyon?
Dad: Yeah. I hiked down to the bottom and back.Ten miles. In one day. I think that’s the most tired I’ve ever been.
Karen: (This is hard for me to imagine – Dad has, after all, climbed on K2, but I’m thinking maybe it was really hot when he was there.) Was it hot when you went down there?
Dad: No, it was winter.
Gary: (Smiling.) Well, sometimes it can get pretty hot in the winter, too. (Thinking.) We’ve had a lot of rain lately – Arizona is covered in flowers right now.
Karen to Gary: I bet it’s beautiful! (Thinking about Dad’s southwest roots.) Dad grew up in Los Angeles. He was born there in 1918. He hiked around in the Sierras when he was young.
Karen to Dad: Was Mount Whitney the first mountain you climbed?
Dad: I don’t know. (Thinking.) It was one of the first.
(I notice Dad is buttoning up his sweater and ask him if he’d like me to get his jacket out of the car. He says yes. I get the jacket out of the car and bring it back to him. I help him put his arms into the sleeves.)
Dad: (Zipping up the jacket.) That’s much better.
After a while it seems like it’s the right time to head back to Skagit County.
Karen to Dad: Are you ready to go?
Dad: Not really.
Karen: (Having a flashback of those times when the sons were toddlers and didn’t want to leave the local park. I realize I’m going to have to finesse this. I rephrase it… ) Are you ready to continue on our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(We say good bye to our new friends and make our way back to the car.)
Back on the road. I decide to get Dad back to his home by way of Chuckanut Drive. This is a beautiful drive along cliffs over-looking the bay.
Dad: (Looking out the window.) This is a nice drive. There are the San Juan Islands.
When we get back into the Skagit flats I stop at the post office to pick up my mail.
Dad: We usually stop here, don’t we?
(I get the mail and find a letter to Dad from my cousin, Deborah. I hand him the letter and he opens it.)
Dad: (Pointing to a picture of Debby with her partner.) Is that you?
Karen: (Smiling – Debby and I have often mistaken ourselves for each other in photos.) Nope, that’s Debby Davidson.
Dad: Oh. I’ve always really liked Debby. She’s a nice person.
Karen: Yes, she is!
Mount Baker has been in clouds most of the day, but now – as if to greet Dad – it comes out of the clouds and Dad notices it right away. He keeps his eyes on Baker as we drive down backroads on the Skagit flats.
We cross over the freeway and enter into Burlington.
Dad: There’s that big flag again.
I help Dad into the house and he heads for the recliner in front of the television. I decide that I will tell Dad good-bye BEFORE I tell him I love him again…
Karen: Good bye, Daddy.
Dad: Good bye, Karen.
Karen: I really enjoyed our drive today!
Dad: *I* really enjoyed our drive! Thank you!
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!
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.
Karen: This is your home.
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.