Dad and I and a Flock of Snow Geese

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.
Karen: Okay.

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.

“When did I buy this one?”

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?
Dad: Yeah!

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?
Dad: Yeah.

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.
Karen: Yes.
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.

They Got You Through the Winter

They got you through the winter, Karen
They got you through the grey, the rain, the cold
They got you through dreary days and showed
you beauty in the muck, grace in the mud
And now it’s just dawning on you that they’re gone
they’ve left your valley, returned to their summer
homes. As the fruit blossoms bloom and bud
and the earth grows green again with new life
and you celebrate the joys of spring, there’s a part
of you still feels a little the loss of them. But they’ll
return when the nights grow long again, when
the earth freezes and hardens and loses color
They’ll get you through the winter, Karen.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Snow geese and trumpeter swans in Skagit County, Washington. Photos by Karen Molenaaar Terrell.

Jeweled Sky and Winging Things

This.
This moment stands alone on the edge of time’s shore
– worth an entire lifetime of whatever came before.
Clouds of ruby, zircon, amethyst – a sky of jewels
reflected in a flooded field’s mirroring pools.
And winging things take to the sunsetting sky –
snow geese sounding a holy cacophony as they fly.
A moment shared with loved ones, unplanned,
unfettered, spontaneous, an unscheduled landing.
A jeweled sky and winging things.
This.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Beauty is a thing of life, which dwells forever in the eternal Mind and reflects the charms of His goodness in expression, form, outline, and color.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health

videoclip of snow geese here

(photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

 

A Sweet Sadness

When I left work I felt impelled to turn right instead of left and found myself heading towards LaConner. Tracy Spring’s CD, Looking Forward – Looking Back – was playing in my car – bluesy and poignant – and I felt myself going to that place where I find Moz. I carried her with me in-between fields filled with snow geese and trumpeter swans and I could see her in my thoughts, smiling at the beauty around us, enjoying our drive together.

I stopped at the LaConner Inn (where Moz and Dad used to live) to pick up any mail that might have been sent there. Whenever I go to their old place I always look up at the deck where I used to see Moz waving at me as I arrived and left.

I picked up the mail from the nice lady at the desk – the mail all came from charities that Moz used to give to. Sometimes it’s kind of disconcerting to see her name on all these envelopes from people still asking her for money – but today it made me smile.

As I left town I decided to stop at the coffee shop I used to go to all the time when I visited Moz and Dad. There was a man who looked like he could use a warm cup of coffee outside the shop, getting on a bike. I asked him if I could buy him a coffee and he smiled and said he’d just had a cup, but he’d take me up on the offer another time. He said he was sorry, he didn’t remember my name. I laughed and told him we’d never met. And then he laughed, too, and introduced himself.

I went into the coffee shop and asked the barista behind the counter if she had any pumpkin lattes. She said they didn’t have the pumpkin pulp anymore, but she could give me a pumpkin spice latte and that sounded perfect. We began talking – and I learned her beloved grandmother had just passed on. We talked about her grandma for a bit – she was very dear to her grand-daughter – and the barista teared up as she talked. I shared Moz with her then, and told her about the drive I was having with Moz. She came around the counter and we hugged. And there was a kinship there.

She mentioned the man I’d just met outside her shop – apparently she provides him with a coffee every day and sometimes he’ll spend three or four hours in the shop. She’s told him that if he ever needs anything – a trip to the doctor or whatever – he just needs to let her know. I told her I’d just offered him a cup of coffee, too, but he’d said he’d just had one – and I realized she’d been the one who’d provided him with the coffee. Again, I felt a kinship with her. We introduced ourselves to each other – her name is Judy – and I told her I knew I’d see her again.

I got back in the car with my pumpkin spice latte and drove back home, passing flocks of snow geese and trumpeter swans on the way. Tracy Spring’s music filled my car, and I found myself sobbing – not with grief, exactly – I felt a good kind of sadness, if that makes any sense. A sweet kind of sadness, remembering Moz and feeling her with me.
– Karen

(I’m not sure I’ve written Tracy’s lyrics in the right form, but here are some of the words to her song *Remember*.)
“It’s so hard to say good-bye…
All things pass,
of this I am sure,
love and music will endure,
and when I’m gone
remember the song,
remember how I loved.”
– Tracy Spring