Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Dementia is baffling.  The workings of the brain are beyond anything I can understand.  I am simply in awe of it’s power and flexibility.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dad was a bit more than reluctant to take a shower and change into clean clothing.

“I already showered this morning, Chris.”

That might have been true, but unlikely.  I wasn’t going to take his word for it.

“Two showers a day is simply ridiculous.”  Grumble, grumble, grumble.  Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle……

Panic Button and Electric Razor

Panic Button and Electric Razor

Jane found Dad’s new electric razor in pieces on the floor earlier in the week.  I put it back together. Luckily, it still works!  Amazing.  While Dad showered, I sketched his panic button necklace and his razor.

Dad came out of the bathroom smiling.  Embracing the mood change, I suggested we draw together before playing cards.

Playing Cards waiting to be dealt

Playing Cards waiting to be dealt

For the first time in months, he offered no resistance at all.

“Oh, you mean a drawing where I don’t look at the paper?”

“Yes.”

I was stunned that Dad remembered how to do a contour drawing.  It’s been more than a year since he’s known what a contour drawing is.  I asked him to pick one of the three objects on the table.

Dad's contour drawing

Dad’s contour drawing

He drew all three, the clock, the panic button and the electric razor.  He even drew the numbers on the clock without looking once at his paper.  He was on a roll.

“Dad, do you think you could write a short poem next to your drawing?”

“Sure.”

Again….. no resistance.  I began to wonder if I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone.

While Dad wrote, I drew the nail clippers purchased on one of our Indiana Trips by way of the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountains Nail Clippers

Smoky Mountains Nail Clippers

Though Dad’s hygiene leaves a lot to be desired these days, he still takes excellent care of his fingernails.

Dad-writing-poem-in-green-sketchbook-011213-web

Dad writing a poem for his drawing

Looking in space

With pencil and paper

Leaves some sense

Perhaps

It just remains

To be seen

Hm-m-m

To end an exceptional day together, he won playing Rummy 500.  Amazing Dad!

Read Full Post »

While I was checking with Ashley to see how Dad made out at Chelsea during the three days Chelsea was without heat during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Dad slipped into the dining hall for lunch.  I panicked when there was no response to my knocking on his door.

“I think he went to lunch” remarked a woman in the hallway.  She was correct.  The dining hall had been empty when I arrived. Dad now sat alone, reading his paper.  I whisked him away before he could place his order.

Deciding on a suitable outer garment for the day’s adventure presented more of a challenge than I might have expected.  We settled on his red sweater and his yellow sweatshirt in spite of the fact that the sweater is missing three buttons.  Fortunately, there are four extra buttons sewn to the collar ????  I’ll cut off the extra buttons and use them to replace the missing ones.

We stopped at Muscle Maker Grill for lunch before exploring the condition of the Hofheimer Grotto trail.  Dad quickly decided on a chicken breast sandwich as well as a baked potato as his side dish.  Wow!  No indecisiveness today!

“And would you like a beverage?” asked the woman behind the counter.

“Coffee, please.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here, would you like water?”

“What?  No coffee?  That’s impossible.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here.”

“They have to have coffee …. everybody has coffee.  What kind of a place doesn’t have coffee?  How can a place stay in business if they don’t serve coffee?”

I grabbed a bottle of lemon water and led Dad, still carrying on about the coffee, to a table where I distracted him by pulling out his green sketchbook and pencil.

“Dad, please write a poem about not being able to order coffee.”

No Coffee?

What? No Coffee?

Unheard of, —

What is a restaurant like, —

That has — NO COFFEE?!

I do not ever, ever

Remember going to a restaurant

That does not have

coffee!

Woops. — Chris tells me

That we have been here

Seven (well at least five) times, —–

And they have never had coffee.

(Hey, —- how do they

Stay in business? Hmmmmm?

Men at the Muscle Maker Grill

While Dad wrote, I drew the men sitting at the counter enjoying their food and non-caffeinated beverages.  He finished his poem in record time.  I hoped to burn off the remainder of his disgruntled mood by asking him to draw the bottle of lemon water.

The DASANI bottle of lemon flavored water

Dad devoured his lunch, all but the potato skin.  I thought it best to squeeze one more poem out of him before we took our walk.

Opportunities

Opportunities

Minutes of each day

Are full “to the brim”

With opportunities.

We can write

We can sleep

We can sit and think, –

But once the minutes are gone, –

They’re gone.

“Are you done?”

Chris asks.

“I’m not done.’

That’s my answer.

I’m still at it.

Thankfully

Dad

Opportunities

Staying “at it”

Is the key.

Always having a goal.-

Is food for the soul.

Food for the soul.

We left the Muscle Maker Grill and drove up the road to the grotto trail.  In spite of the multitude of trees fallen from the winds of the hurricane, we made it to Hofheimer Grotto by starting at the end of the trail loop rather than the beginning.

Trying to make sense of the fallen trees

Dad has a habit of knocking off dead branches and attacking limbs that are in the way of paths.  I imagined Dad creating a domino effect of falling trees with his good intentions of clearing the path.  I’ve become more cautious while walking with Dad, hoping to keep him safe from falls and injury.  Rather than walk the trail through the woods, climbing over fallen trees and risking more trees falling on top of us, we walked around the five ball fields.

Ball fields

“Did I ever tell you I used to pitch softball?

Thinking about pitching softball

“I practiced by throwing the ball at a knothole in a board on the side of the barn.  I got pretty good … until someone accused me of throwing sidearm.”

“What happened then, Dad?”

“I didn’t know I was throwing sidearm, but you’re supposed to throw underhand.  I lost both speed and accuracy.”

“How old were you?”

“Oh, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.”

We made our rounds of the ball fields and ended up back at the bleachers.  I suggested to Dad that he write a little bit about pitching softball.  I had jotted down a few notes about him pitching sidearm.  Instead of writing in my sketchbook, I had written in his by mistake.  He appeared baffled by my notes.

Reading and re-reading my notes

After a lengthy spell of reading my notes, Dad put pencil to paper.

Reviewing his words

He wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  He reviewed his words and wrote more.  He turned the page and wrote more.

Dad writing about pitching softball …. or so I thought

What a strange day.   Dad fought me tooth and nail, not wanting to write at lunch, not wanting to write after our walk, yet there he sat scribbling away.  Occasionally he stopped and looked as if he had finished.

“Could you read me what you wrote?” I asked.

“No, I’m still at it.”

I picked up my pen and sketched Dad’s gloves peeking out of his pocket.

Gloves in Dad’s Sweatshirt Pocket

Somehow, Dad had switched gears…..

Softball Pitcher at age Fifteen

Trapping For Muskrats in Indiana

A near-one-mile-long creek ran through our farm in Indiana.  It ran through our corn and wheat fields.  The banks were 1-3 feet high, perfect for muskrat “runs”.  I would set steel traps at the base of these runs.  They were very effective in catching the muskrats.  A chain would run from the trap to a stake driven in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would start down the run, get trapped at the base of the run, and get tangled up with the chain wrapped around the stake in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would drown trying to escape.  I would sell the muskrats for $1 each.  Our hired -hand, Owen Connor, lived in an upstairs bedroom, ate three meals a day with us, and was paid $1 per day.  He was a bachelor who was born and raised in Kentucky, and smoked Tuxedo tobacco in a pipe.  He wore out two or three pairs of gloves a year, “shucking corn”. He would “shuck” a wagon-load in one day, working perhaps 10 hours, – drive the horse-drawn wagon to the corn crib, – come in the house to eat supper, then go out after supper and shovel the load of corn from the wagon to the corn bin on the barn.  It was a long day – a typical day.  My job was to feed and milk the cows, and run the milk through the “separator” (separating its cream from the milk). About once a week, I would churn a batch of butter from cream skimmed each morning and evening from the milk.  I loved the taste of the buttermilk from the butter jar.

Well then ….. walks with Dad get more interesting all the time.  Maybe next time, after we talk about trapping muskrats, Dad will write something about pitching softball.

Read Full Post »

October 25, 2012 ….. Happy Birthday, Jane!  With love from Dad and Chris.  Poems written by Dave Carter.  Drawings by Chris Carter

Jane reading the collection of love poems to Dad

Dad and I combined our skills and presented Jane with a handmade, coptic bound collection of love poems Dad wrote specifically for the special woman in his life, Jane.  I added drawings I’ve done of Dad writing while on our Thursday walks.

page 1

page 3

page 5

page 7

page 9

page 11

page 13

page 15

page 17

page 19

page 21

Happy Birthday, Jane!

Read Full Post »

Thursday, September 20, 2012

When Dad opened his door I was glad I’d taken my vitamins.

Dad writing a poem in his big black chair

He seemed quite content to return to his big black chair.  I handed him his green sketchbook and mechanical pencil.

Nothing ……

We headed for Lord Stirling Park.

Pushing for Poems

Pushing for Poems, –

May not work well, –

Good poems flow, –

Without a push – or a pull

I could write more words

But these words about

Say it pretty well

Adding more, would be dull.

***

“Those words are OK,

But don’t you have more?”

I am sure that I do,

But, — where did they go?

Walking the Trail, Lord Stirling Park

Though not a great day for writing, it was a wonderful day to walk the trails.

An incredible sky

Dad concentrates on his footing, often forgetting to turn his head from side to side.  I remind him to look at the autumn colors and the beautiful sky.

Dad stopping to admire the sky

When reminded, he stops to soak up the beauty of the clouds, calculating the speed of them as they make their way across the sea of blue.

autumn begins in New Jersey

Each new moment is more beautiful than the last.  When I ask Dad if he knows what season it is… he doesn’t.  When I ask him what year it is he replies, “2014”.

Lost in a world of autumn grass

One foot in front of the other.  One foot in front of the other.  No stories, no questions.  One foot in front of the other.

A winding path

We weave our way through the fields of grass.  The insects, birds and frogs scream loudly but Dad hears only the roar of a distant plane.  That, too, becomes silent.

Retracing our steps

In spite of precautions, nature calls and Dad heads into the woods.  I call to him when he fails to return.  He is making his own way, deeper into the woods.  We call, back and forth, until he has returned to me.

Turning back

I decide to turn back, knowing that Dad needs a rest.  We return to the herb garden where our journey began.

Black-Eyed Susans, past their prime

We sit on the benches

Chris and I – Resting from our fresh

walk through the woods

Clouds drift by

While we both write.

The clouds seem the same

As they did years ago, –

When I, as a kid

Looked up at the sky

I could write more

But the words, above,

Seem to say all, —

That I have to say, today.

Sept 20, 2012

Birdhouse at the edge of the pond beside the fragrant herbs

The silence is awesome

The leaves are still

The clouds in the sky

Seem to be frozen pell mell.

No movement at all

Can be seen, even when

Clouds are lined up with branches

Hanging down, quietly and still.

Some days are better than others.  Today was beautiful.  I will remember the sounds, the light, the smells and walking beside my father as his memory slips away.  As long as he is able, we will walk, side by side, enjoying the feel of the ground beneath our feet, the wind caressing our cheeks and the blue, blue sky above.

Read Full Post »

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One of the best days Dad and I have had in a long while!  Dad’s energy was high and his writing poured out onto the pages. The weather was glorious and our spirits were high.

Carefully parked K-car

When I park the car I try to find a spot where Dad can throw the door open without hitting anything, such as another car.  I try to avoid problems whenever I can so that we have the best chance possible to have a wonderful day together.

Dad gently rubbing the fragrant herb leaves

I drove to Lord Stirling Park.  Dad surprised me when he remembered that before our picnic we rub the leaves of the herbs to see if his sniffer is still working.  It wasn’t.  The only scent he could detect at all was a subtle whiff of camphor.

Gramps writing first poem of the day

I waited until after our picnic lunch … then handed him his green sketchbook and pencil.

Dad reading his poem aloud

Poems emerge

From images within

Of times gone by.

It seems that just

As we try to grasp one

It slips through our brain waves, –

And splashes away.

That is sad, because, –

Times have been good

Very good, indeed.

Dad walking the trail

We headed into the swamp along dry, level trails.

A world of beauty and mystery

For the first time in a long while, the weight and worry of my father’s dementia lifted from my shoulders.  We walked together, bathed in the beauty of the moments.

Another bench …. another poem

We stopped at each bench along the way.  Dad wrote a lovely poem …. his muse was enjoying the beauty of the day, too.

One last bench, one last poem

The poems are meant to be shared at another time ……  you’ll just have to wait.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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!

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »