Trumpeter swans in the snow.
Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.
Every year I put together calendars for friends and family as Christmas gifts. Here are the photos I used for one version this year. These photos were all taken in 2019. It was fun to go through the photos I’d taken during the year and remember all the beauty I’d been able to witness.
(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)
When I arrive at Dad’s house he’s still in bed and looks to be sleeping. I lean over and kiss his forehead and his eyes flutter open. He squints up at me.
Dad: Is it time to eat?
Karen: Yeah. Are you hungry?
Dad: Yeah. I’ll get up.
I let Amanda know that Dad’s ready to get up. I ask her if she thinks he’d be up for a drive today and she tells me she thinks he’d like that. She says he gets bored staying at home all day. It’s harder now because he needs to use a wheelchair – but Amanda tells me she and Dietrick will help me get him in the car.
Before long Dad appears from his room, sitting in the wheelchair – he looks kind of majestic – like a king on his throne. He’s dressed and shod and is wearing his alpine hat. Dietrick and Amanda roll him down the ramp and out to my car, and, together, manage to get him in the seat. I buckle him in and we’re good to go.
As we’re driving out of town and onto Chuckanut…
Dad: I haven’t had breakfast, yet.
Karen: Let’s get you a breakfast sandwich. (I head down Chuckanut Drive for Sisters Espresso. On the way, Dad says something that I can’t quite hear. I lean over and ask him what he said…)
Dad: I love you.
Karen: Oh Daddy! I love you, too!
(We arrive at Sisters Espresso and I order Dad a cocoa and a sandwich. I hand him his breakfast and we get back on the road.)
There are no volcanoes visible today, but I figure Dad will just like cruising through the countryside for a while. As I’m driving along Field Road I spot some waves of snow geese taking off and landing – it looks like they might be off Sunset Road – so I head that direction. Sure enough! Soon we come upon a lively flock of snow geese doing snow geese stuff. I pull over to the side of the road and roll down Dad’s window so he can hear them and watch them performing their flight maneuvers, and I grab my camera and take some photos. Then it’s back on the road again – heading for Dad’s home.
When we get to his home I wheel the wheelchair over to Dad – I’m going to try to get him in the chair without bothering Amanda – I know she’s having a busy morning. I have some trepidation about this, but Dad seems to understand what we need to do together, and I know I have a good partner in him. I hold out my hand to give him something to leverage himself on and he manages to turn himself in the seat a little. I gently grab one foot and help him lift it over the car’s side and onto the ground. I know it’s his other leg that gives him some trouble – so I am especially gentle as I help him lift the other foot over the side of the car. He winces and groans a little. I look up at him anxiously and touch his cheek with my hand. He holds my eyes with his and says, reassuringly, with quiet conviction, “I’m fine.” I know he doesn’t want me to feel bad. I have learned some tricks for lifting him up in the last few years and, together, we manage to get Dad standing and then sitting in the wheelchair. I feel inordinately proud of us.
I wheel him around the house to the ramp, tilt him back, and push him up the ramp and into the house. We settle down in front of the TV – I’m sitting on a chair behind Dad, rubbing his shoulders. He reaches up and grabs my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. When Amanda comes out to take Dad into the bathroom I know it is time for me to leave.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
I was really hoping all the candidates would be there that night so I could finally meet them and make new friends and shake their hands. If I lost (the most likely scenario, in my mind) I’d graciously congratulate the winners and wish them luck in the general election, and then go home and begin my retirement. If I made it to the general election myself I’d … well, I didn’t actually have that scenario figured out in my mind. I mean – what were the odds, right?
There were four of us running for this position, but the only other candidate to arrive at the courthouse that night was Rich, the incumbent. I was so glad to see him! We shook hands and chatted for a bit – talked about where we’d learned we shouldn’t put signs (do not put signs along state highways, or in parks – they will be confiscated), and our campaigns – this was the first time Rich had actually had to run against other people, so it was all kind of new to him, too. Bill was there, too – Bill is an incumbent, running for another school board position (he was the only candidate for his position to show up). There were also some candidates there for a local mayor’s race, and positions on the hospital board, and their supporters and families were there to celebrate with them if they won, and bolster them up if things went the other direction. It was a wonderfully convivial atmosphere. That was the thing that struck me most about it – everyone was so friendly and cheery – even the folks who were running against each other. And it struck me that this is how elections SHOULD be.
The position I was running for – school board director – is a non-partisan position, and the people on the school board have to work as a team to make decisions – no one person holds all the power and can make decisions by himself/herself. I think this is great. I got in a lovely conversation with a commissioner for the local port authority and we talked about that for a while- his position is non-partisan, also. He said he never endorses other people, and he never asks for endorsements, either, because he doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone or any party. His words really resonated with me. Right now our nation is so polarized between right and left, conservatives and liberals, that it was really refreshing to be able to talk to someone in a way that wasn’t divided between this thing and that thing.
When the votes were counted, Rich handily mowed all the rest of us down in the primary, but I managed to come in second and will be going on to the general election with him.
I had fun that night. I met some really wonderful people whose whole motivation for running seems to be to serve others. School board members and port commissioners don’t get paid for their work – it’s all voluntary – and I really enjoyed hobnobbing with other folks who have that service mentality.
Here are a couple pictures from that night…
(Photos by Scott Terrell.)
Dad is sitting at the dining room table eating breakfast when I come in. He sees me come in and smiles. I pull up a chair next to him and sit down.
Dad: (Said in the voice of someone who’s just awakened from a nap.) Where am I?
Karen: You’re at your home in Burlington. I live 15 minutes away.
Dad: Good. (Thinking.) How’s Mom?
Karen: (Thinking. Trying to decide what direction to go with this…)
Dad: (Watching my face.) Is Mom not alright?
Karen: Daddy, Mom passed on two years ago. (Knowing from experience the questions he’s going to ask…) She passed on peacefully in her sleep. She was in my house and I was sleeping on the couch next to her bed. You told her you loved her and she told you she loved you before she left the hospital.
Dad: (Tears are running down his face.) Was she in any pain? What did she die of?
Karen: No, she wasn’t in any pain. She had congestive heart failure. Her heart got tired. She passed peacefully while she was sleeping. (I wipe Dad’s eyes and the tip of his nose.) We had a memorial service for her…
(Amanda quietly slips the photo album of Mom’s memorial service to me and I open it and show Dad the photos. Dad recognizes the faces – his family and friends.)
Karen: A lot has happened in the last two years, Daddy. You’ve been very brave and very strong. Last year we took you up to Mount Rainier to celebrate your 100th birthday.
Dad: No, I’m 92. I was born in 1918…
Karen: And this is 2019.
Dad: (Thinking – doing mental computations.) Oh.
(Amanda has now brought the photo album from Dad’s 100th birthday celebration at Rainier. Dad and I go through the pictures together and talk about the people who came to his celebration.When we’re done looking at the album…)
Karen: Would you like to go for a drive? Or would you like to stay home and rest today?
Dad: (Thinking.) A drive would be nice.
Amanda helps me load Dad up in the car and buckle him in. Dad thanks her and she kisses him on the forehead. He thanks her for that, too.
We drive to the Sisters Espresso. I park and point to the stand…
Dad: (Nods.) Vanilla.
(I interpret this to mean “vanilla shake” and go up to order one for him, using the gift that was left for him there by David Waka.)
We continue on our adventure – heading down Allen West Road, up Farm to Market, down Josh Wilson, up Edison Bayview Road, left and back to Farm to Market. Dad’s head is turning from left to right, taking it all in. He periodically sucks through the straw on his vanilla shake. I park in front of his home.
Dad: Do I get out here?
Karen: Yup. This is your home.
(Dad thinks about this and then opens his door. I come around to help him out. Amanda comes to the top of the stairs and helps me get Dad up them. She leads Dad to a recliner in front of the TV.)
Karen: I really enjoyed our drive today, Daddy. I love you.
Dad: I love you, too.
Dad: Hi, Karen!
Karen: Hi, Daddy. How are you feeling?
Dad: I’m bored stiff. I can’t move around here…
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Alpine hat on his head, I help Dad out of the house and into my car. First stop: Sisters Espresso for Dad’s root beer float.
Dad: Thank you! Have you ever been to the Big Four Inn? I lived there for a while when I was in the Coast Guard.
Karen: Yeah. You and I went there last summer, remember?
I drive to the post office to collect my mail and then head through Edison…
Dad: (Looking at Edison Elementary School.) I gave a talk there, didn’t I?
Karen: Yup. You gave your K2 talk there.
Dad: (Nodding.) I remember.
We cross over the slough and soon come upon four or five eagles in a field, fighting over dinner. I pull over and get out of my car to snap some quick photos. As I’m taking pictures of the eagles a flock of snow geese flies overhead – soaring and swooping and honking – it’s glorious. I take some photos of them, too, and then get back in the car. Dad has been waiting patiently for me, slurping on his root beer float.
Dad: Have we been to Bayview State Park before?
Karen: Yes! We’ve been there many times.
Dad: Yeah. (Thinking.) I always think of the Annens when we get close to Bayview Park. They used to leave near here.
I drive Dad past Bayview Park and then up the hill, and down it, and through the flats. Dad is quiet, looking out the window, watching the scenery go past his window. We’re on the route back to his home now.
Dad: We’ve gone on this road many times recently.
Dad: We visited Scotty at a place on one of these side roads.
Karen: (Not sure how to respond to this.) Yea…ah.
I pull into Dad’s driveway and in front of his door.
Dad: What are we doing here?
Karen: This is where you live, Daddy.
Dad: I don’t believe that.
I come around to help Dad out of the car and help him into the house and up the stairs. He heads for a recliner in front of the television, and Amanda helps him sit down in it. I lift his hat from his head and put it back in his room. As I’m coming out I hear him asking Amanda about the house and what he’s doing there. Amanda tells him that this is home.
Dad: When did I buy this one?
(Amanda and I both smile.)
Karen: (Kissing Dad’s forehead…) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: Does this mean you’re going to leave now?
Karen: I need to get home and walk the dog and feed the cats.
Dad: (Nodding.) Good bye. I love you.
More stories like this can be found in Karen’s book, Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad.