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Thursday, September 27, 2012

In spite of having purchased the length recommended by the chart on the back of the package of shoe laces, the laces were about ten inches too long.  I should have taken a photo of the clown-like bows that topped off Dad’s shoes before I cut the laces down to size.

New laces and polished shoes

While I was in the polishing mood, I gave his hiking boots a good oiling, getting them ready for our fall and winter walks through the swamp.

Ready for adventure

My visit with Dad was short.  Jane was scheduled for her shot in the eye at 2:30 and I had the honor of being her chauffeur.  Technology and medical advancements continue to allow our bodies to do the simple things we love to do, like walk and see.

The Black Hole

Unfortunately, we’ve found no way to reverse the tragedy of dementia.  Today was not one of the good days for Dad.  I think that changing the laces and polishing the shoes pushed him over the edge.  His world of words was as blank as the page of his green sketchbook.  The pencil and paper could not connect and Dad was lost in a vapor.

Apples and Oranges

While Dad struggled with to find a word or two, I counted the fruit in his room.  Apples and oranges were everywhere.

Orange sections

Orange sections in a bag in the bathroom with a toothbrush and toothpaste.  I was concerned that Dad wasn’t making it to any of his meals and that the fruit was left over from the trays of food brought to him when he didn’t show up in the dining room.   Much to my relief, Jane explained that he picks up a piece of fruit from the bowl next to the coffee pot every time he gets himself a cup of coffee from the coffee/snack area.  Whew!

I grabbed his pile of newspapers, kissed him goodbye and headed to Jane’s.

pencils, baskets of fortune cookies and a stack of trays

I joined Jane in the waiting room until she was called for her treatment.  At that point I had at least two hours to myself.  Having skipped lunch, I drove to the China Wok and ordered steamed broccoli and brown rice.  With my take-out lunch I returned to the parking lot of Greymark to wait for a call from Jane.

View from the parking lot beneath a giant shade tree.

Lately, I find myself drawing in parking lots quite often.

A view of the back parking lot

My phone rang.  I stashed my pen and paints and drove around to the front of the building where Jane, with patch over one eye, stood smiling.  She is such an inspiration and a great example of the power of positive thinking!  In spite of back pain and wet macular degeneration she is headed to Texas in a month for a tennis tournament!

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The name Lawrence Pitzer came up on one of our earlier walks.  Lawrence was the father of Dad’s classmate.  Dad mentioned that Lawrence was the National Corn Husking Champion.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On our way to Natirar we stopped and bought wraps for our picnic.  Dad appeared to be disoriented, both in the car and in the deli.  He surprised me with his rapid choice of wrap.  “I’ll have a Veggie Wrap”, he declared.  Usually has meat.

Tracking down sounds

The sounds of children and cars parking next to the picnic area distracted Dad in a way I haven’t noticed before.  Fortunately, the disorientation and distractions didn’t detract from his appetite.  During lunch I mentioned to Dad that I had been going through a box from the house in Martinsville.  I reminded him that he had told me that his friend’s dad was the National Corn Husking Champion.

“Yup….. Lawrence Spitzer.  He was my classmate’s father.”

“I found the program for the Pitzer Jubilee Banquet in 1939!”

Program for Pitzer Jubilee Banquet, 1939

“Yup …. the invention of the corn picker put an end to those contests.”

And so began a fascinating conversation that brought me back in time when all of the gathering of corn for livestock was done by hand!  The farmers walked the rows picking and shucking simultaneously.  The trick was to watch the weather and make sure the husks would be dry enough to break off and husk (or shuck) in one motion.

The banquet was quite the affair ….

Banquet Program

The menu consisted of tomato juice, fruit juice, combination salad, baked ham, green beans, candied sweet potatoes, hard and soft rolls, butter, coffee, ice cream and cake.  There were musical performances and speeches.  The reception committee numbered thirty: twelve at the door, five at the east aisle (my grandfather was one), six at the west aisle, seven for distinguished guests.

Lawrence Pitzer’s Record

It turns out that Lawrence won many championships between 1932 and 1939.

I googled his name and found the history of the Corn Husking Competitions online.  Lawrence, of course, was mentioned.

Another farm just across the field from NFS hosted the 1932 state corn husking contest, and boasted local farmer Lawrence Pitzer as the winner. He was amongst the five top national finishers in 1935 as they shucked to new world’s records. In 1939, Pitzer won the national contest held in Kansas in a town fittingly named Lawrence.” (from online history of corn husking events)

My grandfather and Owen, the farm hand, shucked corn from dawn to dusk for three weeks straight.  Workers would often come up from Kentucky to help with the shucking.  My grandfather would hire one of them for one dollar a day.  He thought that was a pretty good deal.  He would brag about it to the uncles at the family reunions.

My grandmother cooked enormous meals during shucking time.  It was women’s work to keep plenty of food on the table, three times a day.

“I remember Dad and Owen coming in for dinner with holes in their gloves from shucking corn.”

Eventually all the farmers had corn picking machinery and the contests died out.

After the wraps were gone and the story told it was time to write and draw. I met with the usual resistance.

Pencil to paper

To write a poem

Is the aim

If it doesn’t happen

I’m the one to blame

Putting pencil to paper, —

That alone won’t do it.

Putting the brain in gear

Let’s say —– how do we do it?

Look up to the sky, —

Scan the trees, —

Put pencil to paper casts a shadow

For Chris to sketch, don’t you see?!

We set out on our walk.  Dad’s stamina was low.  We walked the short loop, stopping at every bench and sitting on each bench for a long time.

Resting

Clouds sweep the sky

While breeze airs the armpits

As we sit on the bench —

Chris and I

On to the next bench:

Resting from a walk

Less than 3 minutes in length

More to follow

As we gain gain strength

Cumulus clouds gliding

Slowly cross the sky

Feet throbbing our heartbeats

We lean back with a sigh

Several benches later:

Another short walk

Another short stop

Sitting on a bench

Feeling our hearts throb

The last bench of the day:

Reading the words

I have written before

I find less than remarkable

Surely I could do better!

But at least we are trying

Daughter Chris and I

These hot summer days

Are relished, I say.

08/09/12

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Dad has just returned from spending a wonderful week with Jane and her family in Cape Cod.  On their last day, as Jane signed the guestbook, Dad wrote this incredible poem!

Seen from the porch

The Scene is serene

It’s where sea and sky blend

And sailboats bob by.

The breeze ruffles Jane’s hair

As she reads, then looks up and smiles

Ah, that smile that so beams

Almost always, it seems.

Lift pencil from paper

For no more need be said

Too many words hide the story

Detracting from the glory.

I’m about to leave my house to pick Dad up and bring him for his B12 shot before we take our walk.  I couldn’t resist posting this poem first, along with some photos I found while he was away.  We have been going for walks together, as adults, for a very long time!

The Great Swamp. Gramps with Mike on his shoulders

Always the teacher, pointing out interesting things….

The boardwalk at The Great Swamp, 1987

Nicole exploring at The Great Swamp, 1987

 

A walk through the woods, 1995

Sharing Curiosity, 1995

At the Reservoir, 1995

Always curious, always excited about discovering new treasures that nature offers us!  What a Dad!

 

 

 

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It has been a difficult week…..

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I drove my brother to the train station this morning.  I handed him a pencil and Dad’s green sketchbook. Dad is in Amherst, Massachusetts with Anna prior to joining Jane and her family in cape Cod.

Thinking of what to write

Pencil to paper

she says

or no lunch

too many thoughts

none simple

time is so special —-

I’ll hug my sister

Perhaps I should backtrack to last Thursday …….

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I picked Dad up early.  I was distracted by the fact that I would be visiting with the kids’ Dad after having lunch and a nice walk with Dad.  Michael was diagnosed with lung cancer last November and was not doing well.  We had a date to play music together, something we hadn’t done for about eighteen years.  Michael and I met rock climbing in 1977.

Rock Climbing in Boulder Canyon

In addition to rock climbing, we both loved playing music.

Michael playing banjo

Dad’s was ready to go when I arrived.  We stopped in at the physical therapy room so that I could find out what the adjustments are on the machine he can work out on every day if he wants to.

Dad working out

After a short, ten minute work out, we drove to Hofheimer Grotto.  But not before a serious photo shoot of the fish tank.

Goldfish No. 1

Goldfish No. 2

We decided to walk the trail backwards, starting at the grotto.  Of course, Dad had no recollection of seeing the grotto before.  In fact, he didn’t really know what it was.

Puzzling over the geology

“You look puzzled, Dad.”

Hofheimer Grotto

“I’m wondering about this strange geology.  This must have been created by changing water levels.”

I remembered our visit to Watkins Glen State Park many years ago.  Every twenty steps Dad would give another geology lesson to the kids, telling them how many billions and billions of years the layers of rock represented.

“Dad, this is a man made structure.”

Cement and Rocks

He didn’t believe me until I pointed out the cement that holds the rocks in place.  We moved on ……

The theme for the day turned out to be Tree Graffiti.

Tree Graffiti No. 1

Tree Graffiti No. 2

Dad waited patiently as I veered off the path to snap dozens and dozens of photos of wounded trees.  Notice the initials “KS” in the upper right corner.

Dad waiting patiently

“Hmmmmm…..”KS” ……… that reminds me of a girlfriend I once had….. Katherine Stokes.”

Katherine Stokes and Dad were twelve years old.  Katherine was blonde, short and of medium stature.  Her father owned one of the two general stores in Odell, Indiana.  Odell was small and could support only one general store.  Katherine’s father went bankrupt.  John P. Hatt’s general store did not.  Katherine had a half-brother named Carl Dinwitty.

Katherine’s best friend was Lucille Schultz.  Lucille’s boyfriend, John Borum, was a friend of Dads.  the four of them would go behind the church and kiss.

Fascinating Tree growth No. 1

I continued to be distracted by the trees.

Natural Tree Sculpture

When we arrived back at the car I handed dad his book and sketched the trees as Dad wrote about Odell, Indiana.

Not very fascinating trees

Odell, Indiana

It was a little village, about 3 miles from the farm.  John P. Hatt owned the only store there and I believe he sold ice cream cones (as well as eggs, flour, gloves, etc.)  For a little while, a second store was owned by Russell Stokes, my girlfriend’s father, but two stores was probably too much for one little po-dunk village to support.  I wonder where she is now, — if she’s still around — an old lady in a rocking chair ?!

I remember being told to hurry up and eat the ice cream cone — it was melting (Wow!  the things that you remember !)

We stopped at the grocery store to buy our lunch and had a picnic in Dad’s room before I left for South Orange.

My visit with Michael was wonderful.  We talked and laughed and played music together …. Will the Circle Be Unbroken, John Hardy and one that I didn’t know.  It was just two chords, G and D, mostly D.  Mike then played me Tennessee Waltz on his pedal steel guitar.  Though he clearly was weak, I understood why he and Karen were still hoping for the best.  He was due to have another scan in a week’s time to see if he was responding to the third treatment.  We agreed to get together again in a week or two.  He asked me to bring my fiddle the next time.  There would be no next time.  Michael passed away two days later.

My brother caught a train from New Hampshire to come to the service. He and Michael had always enjoyed one another.  They both were rock climbers and woodworkers.  I was climbing with my brother  when I first met Michael.

Climbing with Michael in Boulder Canyon, 1977

I am grateful for my family, friends, siblings, for my children and for my husband, Tom.  I am fortunate.

I dropped Howard off at the train station this morning …….

Memories mingling with words

Pencil to paper

she says

or no lunch

too many thoughts

none simple

time is so special —-

I’ll hug my sister

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Patience is not one of my strengths, especially on a hot, humid day in the middle of July in New Jersey.  I do my best to keep a sense of humor throughout the weekly, bizarre visits with my dad.  His eternal optimism and positive outlook on every aspect of life saves the day every time.  If he wasn’t so damn much fun to be with I might just strangle him to get it over with.

If you have a judgmental look on your face right now, you have not yet dealt with a loved one suffering from dementia of one sort or another.  Hopefully, you will be spared that challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

Feltville General Store, Church and School

I emptied my refrigerator into the big yellow, thermal bag and tossed in a few ice packs.  Peanut butter and jelly is easy and lightweight.  Dad loves whatever I bring for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was out of bread.  It gave me the opportunity to make up for the lousy lunches of the last few weeks.

Where would we go today?

Criteria #1 …. (really the most important criteria of all from now on) …. Restrooms!

Criteria #2 ….. picnic table for the fancy picnic

Criteria #3 …. somewhat even ground and trails that offer a small enough loop to get back to the car before fatigue changes the odds for falling.

Criteria #4 …. somewhat close to Chelsea so we aren’t driving around in a hot car too long.

Criteria #5 …. someplace we haven’t been in a while.  I needed a change of scenery. Dad doesn’t.  We could go to the same place every week and it will be new for Dad.  He doesn’t remember going to any of the trails we’ve explored over the past year, even the ones we go to on a regular basis.

We headed for Feltville. (read more about Feltville from the post of our first visit to this fascinating place.)

Meeting Criteria One

Modern, clean restrooms are located at the back of the main building, the General Store.  I checked to see that they were unlocked and in service before we walked further down the road to the picnic area.

Picnic Tables, Criteria Two

Dad thought the bottle of dressing was a juice drink (I think).  When I explained that it was dressing, he poured it over his pasta and vegetables rather than his salad.  I’m sure it tasted yummy.

Salad, Pasta and veggies, Cherries

Unlike last week, Dad initiated conversation, of sorts, on the drive to our destination.  Last week he was utterly silent and relatively unobservant of the surroundings as we passed them by.  Today, his dial must have been set to Standard Conversation Number Two – Clouds in Sky, Large Trucks and Tall Towers.  After our lively car conversation I was hopeful that our after-lunch brain games might be less frustrating for me than last week.  I began with a few follow-up questions.  I wanted to know if he really did meet Amelia Earhart and I wanted to know if his degree in electrical engineering was essential for his research and development of building materials for Johns-Manville.

No, he doesn’t think he ever met Amelia Earhart.  He did touch the controls in her plane when it was on exhibit at Perdue.  He turned the knobs to watch the dials move and was reprimanded by a guard.  The connection between electrical engineering and building material research and development left me sinking into the abyss of frustration.  I opted to redirect the conversation with a variation on last week’s brain stimulating game of tapping into the area of imagination.  At one point he had said that he would like a job that would allow him to travel with his family.

“If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go.”

“Indiana, I guess.  Back home to Indiana.  It would be nostalgic.  I’m familiar with Indiana.  And maybe the South Pacific.  That’s familiar to me, too ….. and Australia.  And I wouldn’t mind going back to Indiana and visiting some of my old, familiar places.  Maybe I could find some of the people I used to know.”

“Anyplace else?”

“I think I would like to go back to Indiana.  I know Indiana.”

“Are there places you haven’t been that you would like to visit?”

“Hmmmmmm.  I’d probably like to go back to Indiana.….. Oh, places I haven’t been?  Maybe China.”

“Any other places?”

“Hmmmmmmmmm…….hmmmmmmmmmm……..hmmmmmmmmm…..hmmmmmmmmmmm.  What was the question?”

I repeated the question.

“Places I haven’t been?  hmmmmmmm …. I’ve always enjoyed action.  Maybe a place where business is prospering, maybe parts of Europe and places I don’t know about…… and China ……  and I think Indiana.  What was the question again?”

I could cut and past the above conversation half a dozen times more.  I tried to move it along.

“What are my options, Chris?”

“We’re playing a game, Dad.  You have ten seconds to tell me to buy a ticket to anyplace in the world.  If you don’t pick a destination, you will sit on this bench for the rest of your life.  Those are your two options.”

“What was the question?”

I repeated, several times.

“Indiana, I guess.  It’s familiar.”

At some point, Dad clicked into another part of his brain.

“China.  Maybe the Himalayas.  And maybe, if I didn’t have to stay there too long, the Sahara Desert.  If I could stay a little longer, I’d pick a place where I could meet and chat with the people.”

“Where would that be, Dad?”

“China.  Maybe South America…. or China.  I have curiosity …. not to live, but to visit Africa.  I’m interested in how the people live and how I could improve their way of living.  I used to do that.  I sold Real Estate to help people better their lives.”

“You didn’t sell Real Estate for very long, Dad.  If you liked helping people that way, why did you stop selling Real Estate?”

“I don’t know.  What did I do after that?”

Dad definitely seemed stuck in Indiana.  I gave him a hint.

“I was born in Indiana, Dad, but I didn’t grow up there.”

“Hmmmmmmmm.  I went to work for Johns-Manville, didn’t I?”

The conversation turned to Dad’s transition between selling Real Estate and his job at Johns-Manville.  I was exhausted and pulled out the sketchbooks.

“Time to write, Dad.”

First poem of the day

It Is What It Is

The silence is deafening

In these woods —

Ah, now there’s a plane overhead

And the pattering of footsteps

As joggers

Go jogging by.

Chris contributes to the silence as she sketches away, —

While sitting at the picnic table, —

Across from me this warm summer day.

I pop another grape in my mouth, —

And sip a sip of Poland Spring water

Hoping more exciting words

Will come for me to write down, soon.

It might be a quite long wait

For words that somehow make some sense

Until then it seems a bit wasteful

To sit here pushing pencil on paper

It is what it is

Dad … a day in the woods with Chris

Dad’s illustrated poem

I asked Dad to draw a few cherries (we didn’t have any grapes) on the page with his poem.  That led into more drawing.

Cherries and Words

We played with writing words along the cherry stems in our drawings.

bending words along cherry stems

The expression on Dad’s face changed as he wrote the words along the cherry stem.  I presented another graphic word game to him.

Dad’s second attempt at word game

Dad’s third attempt at word game

I think he would have been happy to be stuck on the bench for the rest of his life playing this game.  Maybe he would choose that next time instead of sending me to buy a ticket to Indiana or China.

Waiting for my return

We packed up our picnic and continued our walk, stopping first at the restrooms.  The yellow, thermal bag, filled with pottery bowls, ice packs and bottles was too heavy for me to carry through the woods.  I left Dad on a bench while I brought the bag back up the steep hill to the car.  I left him with pencil in hand and green sketchbook open on his lap, hoping I would see words on the page when I returned.  Even more importantly, I hoped I would see Dad still sitting on the bench when I returned.

The wooded area speaks history

Of trees reaching high

Search for Sun’s rays

Coming down from the sky

The green grass below

Carpets the ground

And prevents rains from the skies

Leaving big ditches all ’round

I can’t help but believe that drawing helps Dad to put words together poetically.  There is a dramatic difference between this poem and his first poem.

Lost somewhere between tree tops and sky

The afternoon light distracted me and I snapped dozens of photos of a pipe while Dad drifted into the tree tops.

Beautiful pipe

It was getting late.  After a very short walk through the woods, we trudged up the hill to the car.  Dad needed to stop only once to rest.

Dad with pencil in hand

Next week I’ll tuck a few sheets of graph paper into Dad’s sketchbook.  We’ll play the word game again.

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This post is written mostly for my siblings.  It may become tedious for others, and perhaps for my siblings, too.  After this conversation with my father last Thursday, sitting on a bench gazing out over Dealaman Pond, I hope to live my life a little differently, a little truer to myself.  Perhaps this post is more about me than it is about my father.

Dad gazing out over Dealaman Pond

I wanted to try tapping into a different part of Dad’s brain.  Rather than dig into the past, I wanted to see where his imagination might take him.

“What do you think the world will be like in another ten years?”

“I’d like to think it will be better.  It will be good.  I think we’ve learned how to get along better with one another …. without wars.”

“What about the wars that are going on right now?”

Dad looked at me, surprised. “I guess I’m really out of touch.”

We talked for quite a while about human nature, going all the way back to neanderthals.  We talked about advances in technology, sanitation and health.  We talked about the unchanging challenges of communicating with loved ones, referring back to our earlier conversation about listening and talking.  Dad, as always, is an optimist.

“We certainly have more choices now than we did before.”

“Some people do …. some people don’t.  I’m thinking about the whole world.”

A look of confusion crossed Dad’s face.  I tried another path toward his imagination.

If  there is such a thing as reincarnation, of being born back on the earth again, what would you choose to be?

“Do you mean would I want to be a dog?”

“You can choose to be any plant or animal, including a human.”

“I would, of course, be human again.”

“Man or woman?”

” …. man, I guess.”

“What nationality?”

“American”

“What religion would you be.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Pretend we are filling out a form and you have to fill in all the blanks.”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose then, not now.”

“What’s the difference between choosing now and choosing then?”

“I want the freedom to choose and the freedom to change my mind.”

“Okay.  Let’s say that you have to choose the religion of the parents you are born to.  You will be able to change your religion at any point in your life, but you have to choose the religion of your parents.”

“Well, I know about Christianity.  I guess I might want to choose something different.”

“And what might that be?”

“Oh, any one would be okay.”

“Dad, I’m giving you a choice.  We are filling out your order form and we have to put something in the box labeled “Religion”.”

Grumble, grumble, grumble….. “Okay, I guess Hindu.”

“Great.  Okay….. what race would you want to be?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.  Any one is okay.”

“Dad, just like the religion.  You have to choose.”

“It really doesn’t matter.  They are all fine with me.”

“Dad, you won’t be able to change your race the way you can change your religion.  Again, you have to choose what race your parents will be.  Maybe they will be the same, maybe they will be different.  Right now, you are choosing your future parents and you have to decide.”

Long pause ………..

“Well, if I am honest, I will say White. ………………….. but really, it doesn’t matter, any of the others will be okay…………”

Dad smiled.  “Now, that was a good answer, don’t you think?”  He looked quite proud of himself.  To me, his added comment felt like an attempt to make his real choice a bit more politically correct.  I gave Dad a bit of a hard time about thinking his answer was such an acceptable one.

“The important thing is to be alive and healthy.”

I thought I grew up in a household without prejudice.  In many respects, I still feel that’s true.  I also feel that it’s impossible to grow up without the influence of prejudice in one form or another.

The last question was the most difficult.  The struggle for the answer was illuminating in that it cast a brighter light on the choices and absence of choices I have made in my own life.

“What would your occupation be?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose it then, not now.”

“What would you base it on then, that you can’t base it on now?”

“I would want to see what I know how to do.  I made choices in my life based on my background.  I was a builder.  I built my own house.  I think I would want to build my house again.”

“You could build your house again, Dad.  But what would you want to do for a living?  To support yourself and your family if you had one?”

“I would want a choice.  If I couldn’t make a choice, I would be looking for a way to change things so that I could make a choice.  I would probably follow the same route I took in this life because I had the freedom to choose.”

“If you based your choice on things you like to do, what might you choose?”

“A builder.  I like to see I’ve done something.  I like to be creative, productive ….. not destructive.  Maybe something that would help improve the world.”

“Would you want to build buildings? bridges? roads?  houses?  Would you want to be an architect? a mason? a carpenter?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you that choice, now.  Imagine that you had to sign up for a specific training, now.  The training for a carpenter is quite different from that of a mason.  To be a builder is not specific enough.”

“I would want to be something that would allow me to continue to learn and to grow.”

“Okay.  You want to be creative, productive, improve the world, continue to learn and grow.  Most occupations provide the opportunity for all of those things.  You could be a musician, artist, dancer, chemist, botanist, engineer …….. When Mike was little he would say “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”  I’m asking you not what you want to be when you grow up, but what you want to be the next time around.”

“It would depend on the situation.  I would want to be able to choose.”

“What would it depend on?”

“It would depend on what was available and what was needed.”

By now, my frustration level was getting close to explosive.

“Dad.  You keep saying you want choices, you want the freedom to choose.  Every week when I visit, I give you choices throughout the day and you resist making any decision at all.  I give you a choice of food to eat.  You ask me what I’m eating.  I ask you which path you want to take and you say “whichever way you want to go”.  I ask you what game you want to play and you want me to decide.  You say you want choices, yet you never choose.  What good is being given a choice if you don’t choose.  What good is the freedom to walk safely at night beneath the moon, if you don’t take advantage of that freedom?  I’m giving you a choice of what you will be in your next lifetime and you refuse to make that choice.”

“How can I make that choice if I don’t know what jobs will be available? How can I tell if I’ll be successful?”

“Dad, we are playing a game.  It is a dreaming game … anything we want can come true game.  Next time around, I want thick, curly red hair and an incredible voice to belt out the Blues.  Maybe next time around people will all be deaf, but I still want to sing!  Dad, in this game, I will guarantee that you will be excellent at what you do, top in your field.  You will love what you do and be financially successful, you will be healthy, you will be happy, you will do wonderful things for the world and the world will need you to do exactly what it is you love doing.  Dad….. what do you want to be the next time around.

Without any hesitation at all, Dad replied, perhaps a touch of regret in his voice “an aviator …. a pilot”

I have known his answer for as long as I can remember, yet somewhere along the path of life, the passion was buried, long before the dementia took hold.  I am left wondering when the pursuit of choices replaced making choices.  I think it happened early in my childhood.

Sitting on the bench at Dealaman Pond

Looking back, I have often made choices to have more choices rather than making a choice and acting upon it to completion.  I have put off choosing, always working up to a choice, but avoiding it by taking a path that led to more choices that I could eventually avoid.  Thanks, Dad, for waking me up.

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I started my day with a quick (and overworked) watercolor sketch of Dad using a rather bizarre photograph as reference.  It looks like a studio photo.  He’s dressed in a suit and has an odd haircut.  I was going to add his glasses, but didn’t.  Getting lost in my painting, I ran late and decided to call Dad when I stopped at the post office.

Dad at an awkward age

Having somehow deleted all my contacts from my phone, I could not call Dad before arriving at Chelsea.  He was not in his room.  Much to my surprise and delight, his bed was made!  I found him with Danielle, having just completed his physical therapy session.  He will be meeting with Danielle three times a week.  He did so well this morning that he will be allowed to go in on his own to work out on one of the machines.  I doubt he will think to do that, but perhaps if we call him and have him walk upstairs while still on the phone, he will do it.

First stop was a quick visit to Dr. Frisoli’s for the vitamin B12 shot.  While waiting, Dad stared at the painting on the wall.

Sketch of Dr. Frisoli’s painting

“What are you thinking about, Dad?”

“I’m thinking about the view from the bench.”

Sitting on the bench

As the river goes flowing by

And as time passes, too

We ponder, never to have a chance

To visit those moments again.

New opportunities arise, however, —

New events around the bend;

Grab the moment, take the time, —

To receive the signal, or send.

It’s harder to listen, then to send.

I asked Dad about that last line.

“It’s always easy to talk.  It’s never really easy to listen to people talking to you — to really listen.”

I probed a bit more.

“When you listen, you have to think about what the other person has said.  It’s easier just to talk.  You don’t have to think as much.”

Probing still deeper …..

“In conversation, you often listen just enough to be able to respond and start talking again as soon as there is a pause.”

Wow!

After the B12 shot we drove to Dealaman Nature Trail for a picnic and a walk.  Dealaman Pond is where Dad stepped off the dam, falling onto the bed of rocks.  Crossing the dam was not part of today’s plan.

Dealaman Nature Trail

The weather was extremely hot and sticky. I thought a short walk through shaded woods would be perfect.  What I didn’t remember was the abundance of roots crossing the trail.  I hadn’t taken notice of them before.  Now, after Dad’s recent falls on level ground, the roots looked like an obstacle course…… and they were.

Roots everywhere along the trail

Fortunately, Dad had his walking stick.  Several times, it saved him from losing his balance.  The combination of flickering sunlight through the leaves and the roots crossing the trail, challenged his footing.  I had to keep reminding him to slow down.

Walking the path with care

The benches are plentiful along the trail.  That has become an important consideration for us.

During our lunch of sandwiches and apples, we talked about his childhood picnics.

“Mother did fix picnics.  I think she put all the food into a basket.  I think we might have had picnics in the front yard.  We also went to State Parks, Turkey Run and THE SHADES.”

Every time Dad said The Shades, he said it quite emphatically.

“We had deviled eggs, sandwiches …. once in a while we had angel food cake, Kool-Aid.”

When I questioned the Kool-Aid he said maybe it was lemonade.  However, it might have been Kool-Aid.  Edwin Perkins created Kool-Aid in 1927!

“We went to two parks, Turkey Run and THE SHADES. It was very common to go as a family reunion … Mom got really sick of family reunions …… chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. (Dad was referring to my mother, not his mother.) Sometimes we might have brought a ball to play with, but never the croquet.  There wasn’t enough room for croquet when we went to the parks.  We used to go to Turkey Run and THE SHADES.”

“Most of the time we had reunions at the home of one of the relatives.  There would always be a croquet game. The uncles all played croquet.”

“Did any of the women play?”

“Seldom.  The uncles played croquet while the women talked and prepared the food.  The women enjoyed talking and cooking …. I think they enjoyed it a lot.”

“Did any of the uncles help with the food?” …….

“I wonder where the aunts and uncles are now.  Do you know, Chris? …….. We’ve totally lost touch with the Wonsons, haven’t we?”

Dad and I made a list of old friends that we will start writing notes to on Thursday’s when I visit.

Post Picnic Poem

All the people

We no longer see

Friends and relatives

We saw at reunions

Sundays, usually were

When farmers

Took a break

Except for chores

Attended night and day.

Cows had to be milked,

Hogs had to be fed.

Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria vulgaris

As Dad wrote, I painted the little Lady’s Thumb on the ground in front of our bench.

We put away our books and continued along the trail to the pond where we played a new mind game.

View from the bench

While we were talking, a pair of blue heron flew in and landed on the pond.  One flew off before I could snap a photo of both of them.

The game was to imagine what you might want to be Next Time Around.  If Dad has the opportunity to be born again on earth, what would he be?

I will post the answer in a second post ……. stay tuned!

We returned to Chelsea, safe and sound.

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A bit of backtracking ….

Father’s Day BBQ on June 16th, 2012

Jane, Gramps, Alexis, Nicole and Tom

What a treat to have both Alexis and Nicole join us!

Hot Dogs, Coleslaw and Deviled Eggs

The picnic feast.  Tom managed to catch the inside of his new smoker on fire and bubble the paint off the outside of the smoker.

Smoker Meltdown

Needless to say, the turkey dogs were a bit singed to say the least.  While we discussed the temperature tolerances of a smoker, Gramps enjoyed the similarity between his wine glass and the sky.

A blue, blue wine glass and a blue, blue sky

A good time was had by all.  Unfortunately, we did not play croquet.  Alexis and Nicole had to head back to Philadelphia.

The following Thursday ………

Somerset Medical Center’s Senior Advantage in Life (SAIL) Program , Exercises for the Brain …. June 21, 2012

Dad and I didn’t take a walk.  Instead, Jane, Dad and I attended the SAIL program.  Dad was amazing at working through the puzzles and finding mathematical patterns.

Brain Games

I found it interesting that many of the games used to exercise the brain and keep it healthy are the exact same exercises Mike and I did to retrain his brain so that his eyes worked properly together.

The following Thursday …… June 28, 2012

Dad’s calendar has vanished.  Perhaps he threw it away without realizing it.  I wanted him to write Physical Therapy on his calendar so he would know that it was something he agreed to do.  Fortunately he had a few more photo calendars in his room and chose a new one to be his “Brains”.  The next thing he had to chose was a walking stick.  After falling twice on our last walk, I’m not leaving Chelsea without one.

Bananas or Watermelons?

Our first stop was Kings Market.  Dad had run out of toilet paper again and I forgot to restock the trunk of my car to have it handy in case he was running low.  We decided to grab food for a picnic rather than go to the Muscle Maker Grill.  Dad has such a difficult time making choices.  He simply doesn’t want to make a choice.  He wants me to make them for him.  I refuse.

We stood before the display of sandwiches, wraps and salads.

“Dad, what would you like for lunch?”

“What would you like?”

“Dad, you can pick whatever you like, we don’t have to get the same thing.”

“What are you getting?”

“I’m getting  sprouted brown rice with veggies and feta cheese.”

“Oh.”

Turkey Club Sandwich

Dad ended up with a turkey club sandwich.

I wanted to get a photo of him in the store and asked him if he would like his photo with the bananas or the watermelons.

“Where would you like me to be?”

“Wherever you want to be, Dad.  Which do you like better?  Bananas or watermelons?”

“Watermelons.”

Snap…..

Hofheimer Trail is less than a mile from the grocery store.  The trail is relatively even and a port-a-john is located near the parking lot.  I’m taking fewer chances as the weeks go by.

Poor Dad.  I am relentless.

“I’d like you to write something before we eat.”
Dad threw me a mischievous grin and grabbed his sandwich.

“Nope.  Not til you write something.”

Not wanting to write

I reach for a sandwich

But “No, no, no —-“

Words before food.

(Now may we eat?)

Happy Dad!

After lunch, there was one more piece of writing I wanted Dad to do.  I wanted him to write a note to himself that would remind him of why he needs to go to physical therapy.

Writing the note to himself

June 28, 2012

I have been falling — and should start doing physical therapy at Chelsea.

Dave Carter

I am sitting at a picnic table with daughter Chris, and we have discussed this.  It’s a good idea.

I also agreed to start using a cane — to help me with my balance.  On my last walk with Chris, I fell twice on even ground.  the 1st time I grabbed onto Chris and pulled her down to the ground with me, hurting her hip.  I want to get stronger, so that I can continue going on walks with Chris.  I do not want either of us to get hurt.

Another necessary stop before we head out on the trail.

Playing it safe

Finally we were ready to take our walk.  Dad appeared to be pretty steady.  The walking stick helped, I’m sure.

On the trail

Conversation was minimal.  We had exhausted our topics during lunch.  Dad told the story of Dr. Potter, Head of Engineering at Perdue, presenting a beaker filled with a blue liquid, liquid hydrogen, to the class to illustrate why the sky is blue.  I had heard the story before.  I heard it three more times during lunch.  Dad alternated between asking me how the family was and telling me about Dr. Potter’s beaker of blue liquid.

Dad grew silent.

“What are thinking about, Dad?”

“I was thinking about making conversation ……. and how that’s done.”

The loud little stream

We followed the trail up the hill, skirted the golf course and headed back toward the grotto.  Dad lost his balance twice, but caught himself with the help of the walking stick.

We came to a small wooden plank bridge that crossed a trickling stream.  Dad stopped on the bridge and stared down at the water, puzzled.

“That’s a mighty loud noise for a little stream like that!”

The water fountain

What Dad heard was the fountain in the middle of the pond that the stream trickled into.

A little further along the trail we came to the grotto.  The surface of the water was completely covered in algae.

Algae in the grotto

Strange patterns criss-crossed the water.

Odd patterns

“What do you think made those tracks?”  Dad asked.

“I don’t know …. what do you think?”

After a long pause ….. “Ducks.”

I wonder if it could be turtles.  I’ve seen plenty of turtles in the pond.  I haven’t seen a duck anywhere near the pond.

Taking a rest

On the way back to the parking lot we saw a brightly colored bench in the corner of a paved area beyond a locked gate.  The bench was inside of the corner, marked off with a red line.

Designated Smoking Area

Turned out to be the designated smoking area for the workers who worked in the building beyond the locked gate.  I’m not sure how they got to the designated area.  Maybe they climbed over the fence.

Dad was quite content sitting on the bench, not at all anxious to continue our walk.  Eventually, we moved on.

Baseball Fields

As we approached the car, Dad gazed past the car to the baseball fields.

“I always feel good when I see baseball fields.  They were good times.  It makes me think of David.”

Though the walk had not been a long one, Dad was fatigued.  We returned to Chelsea.

Black-Eyed Susans

The gardens at Chelsea are stunning.  A blanket of Black-Eyed Susans soak up the heat and the sunshine.  Dad instructed me as to how I should take the photo of the happy looking flowers.

As we walked to his room, we passed a woman fast asleep in a chair in the hallway.

“This is a good place for old people,” Dad said, then laughed at his remark.

Before leaving, I asked Dan to make a copy of the note Dad had written after lunch.  I gave the copy to the physical therapist in case she needed to show it to him the next day, his first day of physical therapy.  I hope it went well.

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Tra-la, tra-la ….. a spectacular day with Dad!

View from our picnic table

Dad was awake and perky when I arrived this morning.  Within ten minutes we were on our way to Natirar in Far Hills.  The day was sunny with a cool breeze that freshened the air and chased away the humidity.  A quick stop at Country Picnic Deli provided us with a delicious picnic of paninis (Southwest Melt for Dad and Fire Roasted Vegetables for me), a small container of curried chicken because we couldn’t resist, coleslaw and a brownie for dessert.  We forgot to eat the brownie.  I’m eating it now as I write.  Yummm!

On the drive to Natirar I played the Dust Off The Cobwebs game with Dad.  I bombarded him with questions about people, places and things. Had it been a television quiz show he would have been eliminated in the first round.  The poor score did nothing to dampen his spirits or diminish his sense of humor.

“Why do you have a pencil in your pocket, Dad?”

“I guess I’m going to write.  I don’t think I’m going to pick my teeth with it.”

Dad’s hands as he writes his first poem of the day

A Pause in the Woods

A deep blue sky

And a cool, gentle breeze

Are very much enjoyed

While sitting in the shade

At a picnic table, —

With Chris.

She is sketching

As I write.

The sky, deep blue,

Holds a single white cloud

And a noisy single-engine plane, –

As it goes passing by.

The noiseless leaves falling

From the trees overhead

Are ignored as we write, —

This almost totally silent

Wonderful, warm

Fine summer day.

Natirar 5/31/12

Dad as he writes at the picnic table after lunch

We headed up the hill to the path along the river.  I pointed out the strange lighting on the trees. Dad explained the reason for the odd illumination of the trees.

“That’s because the sun’s sending a ray through that hole in the cloud.” He pointed to the cloud directly above us.

The hole in the cloud

We didn’t get very far along the path before we came upon a bench.  Naturally, Dad wanted to stop for a rest.  I handed him his green sketchbook.

“What do we do when we sit on benches, Dad?”

What do we do?

“What do we do

Each time we sit on the bench?”

Was the question put to me

By daughter Chris.

“Write? I asked.

“Right,” she answered.

So here I sit, —

Writing.

the wind futily tries

To turn the page

But I cannot let that happen

I have more to say.

Opportunity abounds

And good health allows

Time to write a word or two

About the things we do.

Like taking walks

On a gorgeous summer day

And parking on a bench

To write what we may.

If only the words could begin to relay

The joys brought to us

This most wonderful day.

Wow…. Dad was on a roll.  While he wrote his poem, I sketched the odd lighting from the hole in the cloud.

Trees and grass lit by rays of sun through the hole in the cloud

We moved on ….. a little way ….. and came upon another bench.

Bench by the side of the stream

In the shade, by the stream

Is a good place to write

Or so it would seem.

Especially, with a silent breeze

And a silent stream passing by

A noiseless, beautiful scene.

And the event is well worth remembering, —

A walk in the woods with daughter Chris

And a pause to sit, and to write a bit.

View from the bench by the stream

Onward ….. past the stream, stopping along the river to pose, repeating the photo on the cover of Walks With Dad.

Reliving a forgotten moment

Dad showed no signs of fatigue.  Perhaps because we stopped every five minutes to sit on a bench.  Rather than circle back to the car, we took a left at the fork and climbed the hill to the upper meadow.  Half-way up the hill we rested on another bench.  No poetry writing this time around.  Dad was trying to figure out the brother, sister, husband, wife connection of Grandmother Carter, Grandfather Carter, Uncle Lafe (Lafayette) and Aunt Tiny.

Carter Wilson Connections

The Carter brother and sister each married a Wilson brother and sister.  I haven’t checked the family tree to see if that’s right.  The topic came up when Dad told the story of the uncles coming to the farm from the city (West Lafayette) to visit.  Dad and the two uncles would go fishing at the gravel pit.  The uncles didn’t know where to drop their lines because they didn’t know where the fish were … but Dad did.  The fish hung out on the far end where they dumped the old wire fencing.  “The fish must have fooled around in the fencing.”

The story became more complicated when I asked Dad which uncles they were.

“Well, Uncle Lafe always came to visit.”

“Who was the other uncle?”

Dad couldn’t think of who it was or who it could be……  “Uncle Lafe was married to Aunt Tiny.  They lived right next to us.”

“Next to the farm?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you said Uncle Lafe came from the city to visit.”

“He did.”

“But I thought he lived right next to you.”

“Hmmmmmm.”

One confusion led to another.  We were glad to find the bench to rest on to sort through the story.

Dad looking at the barn in the meadow

Dad looking at the barn in the meadow

The barn in the meadow usually brings back memories of moving hay on the farm.

The barn in the meadow

You had to have three people to get the hay into the hay mow.  One to work the fork that grabbed the hay, one to drive the horse on the other side of the barn to lift the hay bale up into the hay mow and one to release the hay bale once it was in place.

“Usually the kid in the family was the one with the horse. I was always the one with the horse on our farm.”

Dad rests as I chase butterflies

At the far end of the meadow we saw little white butterflies flitting about.  They were the same type of butterfly we had seen last week at Lord Stirling Park.

“Dad, do you think those are butterflies or moths?”

“If you ask me, they’re moths.  Butterflies have color on them.”

I had a feeling his answer would be the same as last week.

“But Dad, moths fly around at night, butterflies fly around during the day.”  I don’t know if this is really true or not.

I couldn’t get a photo of the little white winged creatures, so we moved on.

Dad stopped, startled by the sight of a train going by in front of us.

“I didn’t think we would have a train cross our path!”

Wires for the train

Train tracks run along the far side of the meadow.  It looks as if the train is running along a path in the woods.

With our backs to the train tracks we took another rest on a bench.  Dad wrote, I drew, and we both re-hydrated.

An isolated tree on a hillside

Reaching for the great blue sky

Catches sunlight and breezes

And certainly enriches the scene.

the isolated tree in the meadow

Dad re-hydrating

Still Dad was showing no fatigue.

Climbing the last hill of the day

Nearing the top of the hill

Unbelievable.  Dad hasn’t had this much energy in months!

Our favorite bench is at the top of this hill.  We didn’t write, we didn’t sketch.  We sat and smiled at the expanse of meadow that lay before us.  After a bit, reluctantly, we moved on, leaving the meadow behind and entering the woods between the high meadow and the Raritan River.  We crossed back over the cement bridge and out into the sunshine of the open grass below the mansion.  There we found another bench.  It was getting late.  We didn’t write, we didn’t sketch…. even though that is what we do when we sit on benches.

Another bench

What do we do?

We always have a marvelous day together.  Today was exceptional.

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Our walks together have changed dramatically in the last couple of months.  Rather than adventures, our walks have taken the form of explorations.  Moving at a slower pace through the woods allows us to observe the plants and creatures of the woods more carefully.

To backtrack a bit, I want to include photos from the walk we took a couple of weeks ago when Lou and Dave were visiting from Seattle.  Lou, Dave, Jane, Dad and I walked the trail to the Hofheimer Grotto.

Dad and his sweetie, Jane

Louise at Hofheimer Grotto

Dave at Hofheimer Grotto

Louise and I playing photo tag

Artsy Fartsy photo of old egg vending shack

“Where are we?”

A good time was had by all …. even if it isn’t remembered.

After returning from a week of painting in Maryland, I took Dad to the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, NJ.  The gardens were spectacular, flowers in bloom and a few trees still heavy with blossoms.

Stopped dead in his tracks

Dad’s fascination with the Primula Japonica “Candelabra Primrose’ made it difficult to move past the variegated pink flowers.

Taking another look at the perfect geometry of the primrose

“A near perfect one here ……..  And look at the variety of colors!”

Perfect Geometry

Dad marveled at the shape of the clustered blossoms. “Look at the geometry! …… the perfect spheres!”

Every few steps he would find another half dozen of perfect spheres.

“Look at that geometry!”

When Dad finally lifted his head to look up rather than down at the perfect little spheres, he found he was dwarfed by a Metasequoia glyptostroboides Taxodiaceae, “Dawn Redwood”

Dad dwarfed by the Dawn Redwood

His next delightful discovery was each and every white azalea bush that we passed.

“What’s this, Chris?”

“It’s a white azalea bush, Dad.”

“Wow …. it’s beautiful.”

We walked a few steps further to another white azalea bush.

“What’s this, Chris?” ………….

There are dozens of white azalea bushes bordering the Helen R. Buck trail that winds its way through the hilly part of the garden.  Each one we passed was a new discovery and joy for Dad.

When I’m not totally in the moment with Dad, this repetition of comments and questions can get pretty annoying.  However, when I let go and allow myself to enjoy his ability to experience something over and over again as if for the first time, I find it pretty remarkable.  Watching the expression on a child’s face when something is seen for the very first time is a unique moment that can never be repeated….. snow, the ocean, an elephant ……. With Dad, I get to experience an instant replay of that unique moment of discovery, over and over again.  I think that’s pretty cool …. most of the time.

Marveling at the construction of the bridge railing

the twisted vine

Dad lost his balance making his way to this tree with the twisted vine.  The path was steep with shallow steps.  I watched from below as he teetered, then tottered, then teetered again before catching his balance and reaching the tree.  Whew…

I am now confronted with becoming alert to a new level of dangers.

Relatively safe walking terrain.

Level, gravel walking trails are still pretty worry free.

High Risk Danger Zone

A beautiful set of stone steps such as these are hazardous.  Dad allows me to hold his hand while making our way up or down any sort of steps along the path.

High Altitude trail

When the trail has a steep drop off one side, Dad walks on the inside and I walk on the outside between Dad and the drop off.  He loses his balance more frequently when there is a significant change in the spacial relationship of the ground.  Fortunately, Dad doesn’t object to any of my less than ladylike suggestions that go against his ingrained rules of manners such as “A man always walks on the outside to protect the woman.”

A pause to write a poem

We stopped to rest on a bench at the top of the hill.  Time to write a poem.

Many colors

Are sprinkled throughout.

But the greens of the woods

Predominate the view.

The steady sound of traffic

From distant highways

Beyond the hills

Engulf the silent trees.

Not a breath of air

Even wiggles a leaf.

The peacefulness of the forest

Dominates the scene

5/3/2012

Buck Garden

An odd feeder

Along the trail we found this peculiar feeder.  Neither one of us could figure out how the bird gets to the food. It reminds me of Dad’s squirrel-proof bird feeder that hung from the beech tree outside the living room window.

Dad’s stamina was good and we were able to walk all of the trails.  The weather was perfect.  We inhaled the beauty with each cautious step.

Before leaving the garden we stopped at the restrooms.  I didn’t have to worry about Dad not flushing the toilet.

Composting Toilet

What I did worry about is whether or not he would be confused by the toilet in spite of the directions posted on the wall.

Rules for using the composting toilet

“Dad, what did you think about that composting toilet?”

“What composting toilet?”

Maybe things were different in the men’s room.

We drove down the street to the restaurant in the old Far Hills Train Station.

“Dad, what do you remember about your life?”  I thought it an odd question to ask, but friends of mine who had recently lost a relative to Alzheimer’s had regretted that they didn’t ask that question and urged me ask it.  Dad and I spent the next two hours sipping coffee and talking about fragmented memories.

Things Dad remembers:

Building the house – laying the bricks – mixing a batch of mortar every night

The old car that looked like a Model A but it was a Pontiac (Lou, he said it was a Pontiac this time around and he insisted that it was when I questioned it.)

Applying for the job at Johns-Manville.  They showed him Spring Run and he picked out the lot.  He doesn’t remember if he picked it out with or without Mom.

“We hired the man who lived upstairs from us on North Bridge street to dig the hole and lay the concrete.”

Dad remembers his sister Ruth Jane ….. and being close to her.

“Hmmmmmmmm …. Let me see if I can remember anything more about my sister or about my mother and father…….. that’s odd …… I don’t remember anything more about them.”

“I vaguely remember when Louise was born.”

“Do you remember where was she born, Dad?”

“Sure I do ….. Somerset Hospital.”  (Louise, Anna and I were all  born at Home Hospital in West Lafayette, Indiana. David was born at Somerset Hospital in New Jersey.)

“I remember graduating from Yale as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corp.  Dad pinned his gold bars on my shoulder.  He was a 2nd Lieutenant, too.” (Eventually Dad said that he wasn’t sure his father attended the graduation and he thinks that someone else pinned his father’s bars on his shoulder.)

Near the end of our remembering game Dad said “I do remember going through this with my mother and she was doing the same thing I am doing.”

On the way back to Chelsea Dad started tapping on his thighs.

“Are you thinking of a song, Dad?”

Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.  I can’t get it out of my head.”  Dad sang the song to me.

The sweetest girl in all the land

of all the girls I know

Is the sweet coed with the rainbow trail

born on the 4th of July

The blue of her eyes and the gold of her hair

are a blend of the western sky.

the moonlight beams on the girl of my dreams

She’s the sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

Dad learned it in High School.  (Not quite the lyrics I found online, but close.)

“We had quite a nice glee club in high school.  I sang baritone.  I sang in a quartet, too.”

He went on to tell me a story about the quartet that he sang in, but made sure I put my notebook away first.

“I don’t want you to write this one down.”

Dad is cooperative about almost everything.  I felt I had to respect his wishes and not tell the whole world about his High School Quartet.  Sorry folks.

I am so grateful for the trees, the flowers, and the blue, blue sky.  Dad awakens to the sounds and sights and smells of nature.  His heart opens and he embraces the magic and mystery of all living things.  Dad is always so happy to be alive.

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