Posts Tagged ‘Dealaman Trails and Pond’

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.”


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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Dad is forgetting to charge his cell phone.  Fortunately he has a land line back-up and he answered that one right away.  By the time I arrived he had made his bed and shaved.  He either hadn’t plugged his cell phone into the charger or he had unplugged it shortly after plugging it in, thinking he charged it during the night.  Either way, his cell phone was in his pocket, dead as a door nail.

Dad insisted on wearing his new blue coat.  I’d planned for us to work at the community garden for a short time before our walk.  Not wanting to get his new coat covered with dirt, I altered the plan and drove to Dealaman Pond.  I knew the terrain was level and the trails clear of rocks and roots.  With Dad’s inconsistent balance in mind, I wasn’t planning on crossing the dam as we did on our last visit to the pond.

Reliant,” he read aloud as soon as he settled himself in the car.  “That makes me think of the Stinson Reliant.  That’s a single engine airplane. Glen Goddard had one of those……. landed it, probably foolishly, in our clover field.”

Dealaman Pond was only a few miles from Chelsea.  We continued the conversation the entire ride, tossing it back and forth between Stinson Reliants and clover fields.  I parked the car, pulled Dad’s green sketchbook out of my pack and handed it to him.

“What’s this for?” he asked.

‘To write a few words down about the Reliant.”

“Reliant? …….. Why would I want to do that?”

I pointed to the small metal sign on the dashboard of the car.  “Reliant, Dad ….. what does the word Reliant remind you of?”

He looked puzzled.  “I don’t know ….. nothing that I can think of.”

I reviewed the conversation we had shared only moments before handing him his book.

“Oh ……. okay.”

As Dad’s pencil began to move, I pulled out my own sketchbook to make a few notes.

Sketchbook notes and scribbles as Dad writes

The “Stinson Reliant” Airplane owned rented by my Uncle Glen Goddard.

He landed the plane in our hayfield in Indiana and offered to take me back to Valparaiso, Indiana.  That is where my cousin Dick Davison lived.  His mom was Aunt Avanelle, my dad’s sister.

We landed at Purdue airport on the way back, to get gasoline.  The attendants at the airport looked askance at the weeds hanging from the landing cavity, telltale signs that Uncle Glen had foolishly landed the rented plane in a hayfield to pick me up.  Dad told me later that we had barely cleared the telephone lines when we took off.

With backpack and picnic lunch in hand, we began our walk.  Dad appeared to have difficulty on the trail.

“I don’t seem to be able to decide where to put my feet,” he told me when I asked if he was alright.  The sun was behind the clouds.  The lighting was fairly even.  There were no confusing patches of sunlight and shadows. When we reached the open area around the pond I suggested we stop there and have our picnic.  I didn’t think it was a good idea to cross the dam.

“I don’t see why not, Chris.”

“Dad, you’re unsteady on your feet today.  I don’t think we can make it across safely.”

“That’s ridiculous.  I know I can do it.”  Dad was persistent.

“Let’s test it out first, Dad.”

He gathered his wits and proved that he could find safe footing on the two-foot wide cement ledge.

“Okay, Dad, but we’re going to cross together, very slowly.  I’m going to be right behind you keeping your hips steady.”

We moved across the dam, one slow step after another.  Dad was focused and doing well.  With only eight feet left to go before reaching the grass on the other side, Dad began to sway.  His feet stuck like glue to the ledge, but his upper body kept changing directions.  I tried to hold him steady, frantically deciding whether it would be better to direct our fall into the water on our left or onto the rocks on our right.  There was no doubt in my mind that we were going down on one side or the other.  Dad made the decision as he suddenly lifted his right foot and stepped off the ledge.

My most dreaded fear became a reality as we left the ledge and fell onto the rocks.  The best I could do was resist the force of the fall by pulling Dad back towards me as we went down.  He resisted my effort and pulled himself forward in an attempt to catch himself.  The result was a face down landing on the rocks with feet tangled behind him.  I didn’t start moving his body parts around until after taking stock of the bad situation.  He lifted his head slightly.

“I think I’ve cut my head.”

Glass scraped, not broken … gash and bruise on forehead … cuts on hand …. bruised finger …. lots of blood on his face and in his hair, scrapes on his legs ….. but surprisingly no blood on his new blue coat!

Untangling his limbs was difficult.  Eventually he sat safely on the ledge. I cleaned up the blood with my supply of watercolor water and paper towels.

“Did I just step off this ledge? Why would I have done that? ….. Did I just step off this ledge?”

The trooper that he is, he wanted to continue our walk.  What a relief.  As I saw it, we had five options:

1. Cross back over the dam (I didn’t see this as an option at all.)

2. Cross back over the rocks and boulders (I had my doubts about being able to do that without at least one more fall.)

3. Leave Dad in the parking lot of a nearby office building with a note to remind him that I would be picking him up in the car.  I would run back over the dam, down the trail to the car, drive a mile around to the parking lot where I left him. (I thought this was terribly high risk and erased it immediately from my mind.)

4. Use my cell phone to call for help. (hmmmmmm)

5. Continue our walk on the other side of the pond and hope that we could make our way back without sinking in the bog like we did the last time.

Dad took his handkerchief out of his pocket to clean his glasses.

“Do think this is a permanent scratch on my glasses?”

“Yes, Dad, it is.  We’ll get you a new pair of glasses.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary.”

We continued our walk, stopping at a bench in the sun to have our lunch.

Lunch in the Sun

While eating sandwiches Dad noticed the label on my backpack.

“What does that word, caribou, mean?”

“A caribou is similar to a reindeer.”

“Why does your pack say caribou mountaineering?” …

I brought homemade cookies for dessert.

Cookie Monster Dad

Even though the sun had come out from behind the clouds, the wind was brisk and we felt chilled when we weren’t walking.  Dad, dressed in his hooded blue coat, reminded me of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster as he took his first bite.

Our picnic calmed my nerves and gave Dad a chance to gather himself together.  By the time we finished eating he had cleaned his glasses at least a dozen times.

“Do you think this is a permanent scratch, Chris?”

We walked arm in arm, navigating fallen branches side by side, one slow step at a time.

Steeplechase Hurdles

At one point along the trail, it switched to a set of vehicle tracks.  Trees crossed the path at regular intervals, a bit too regular to be the result of the wind storm the day before.

“It feels like we are on a fox hunt, Dad ….  jumping hedges.”

“I was just thinking the same thing.”


I stopped to take a photo of the lovely hedgerow.

“Make sure you get part of that branch in the upper corner, Chris.  It will make it a better composition.”

Dad's better composition

Out came the handkerchief again.

“Do you think this is a permanent scratch, Chris?”

With cleaned glasses he gazed upward to breathe in the beauty of the sky.

Taking a moment enjoying the blue sky.

The path appeared to curve around toward the car.

The Dealaman Pond Trail

I’d taken a different path from the one that led through the bog.  Unfortunately, it didn’t lead back to the car.  Instead it lead to a busy road without a shoulder.  We could have bushwhacked our way to the car through the woods but it  would entail crossing a small brook on stepping stones  …. not an option.  Arm in arm we walked along the edge of the road, stopping and stepping back from the road into a bit of a ditch each time a car came by.  It was tedious, but safe.

First thing we did when we returned to Chelsea was visit Vicky, Chelsea’s resident nurse.  I wanted to make sure Dad was okay, that the gash wouldn’t become infected as well as make sure that there is a record of the incident.  She agreed that Dad appeared to be fine.

Back in his room, Dad creamed me in a game of Rummy 500.  After having hit his head, he looked more alert, less in a fog, fewer veils surrounding him.  If it had helped his memory I might consider hitting him on the head more often.  Unfortunately, the memory is still gone.

Dad keeps score when we play card games.  At the end of each hand he asked me if we were starting a new game.  After about eight hands, he spilled an entire cup of coffee onto the table.  I attempted to save books and papers from the tidal wave of brown liquid while Dad grabbed a towel from the bathroom and wiped up the flood.  I took two minutes in the bathroom to rinse the coffee out of the towel and returned to find Dad looking at the deck of cards in his hands, a perplexed expression on his face.

“What’s wrong, Dad?”

“These cards are wet, Chris.  How in the world did they get wet?”

Drying Cards

I lay the cards out on the floor to dry thoroughly before stacking them again.  Dad was scheduled to take a scenic bus tour in a short while and I was sure the cards wouldn’t be dry before he left.  One can only imagine what he might think upon his return.  I asked him to write a note to himself about the coffee spill and the cards.

Dad's note to himself, "Cards drying from coffee spill."

His phone rang.  It was time for the bus tour.  We walked together to the bus.  As I turned to leave I saw Dad pull his handkerchief out of his pocket and hold his glasses up to the sunlight.  I knew he was wondering about that scratch.

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Fortunately the mercury rose enough for Dad and I to bundle up and explore another nature trail in Warren Township. The ground crunched as we crushed the frozen leaves beneath our feet.

Dad with his walking stick

We stopped at a fallen tree for Dad to fashion himself a walking stick. He used it first as a weapon to smash the beautiful layers of frozen ice that had formed in footprint puddles and to whack at the thorny bushes beside the trail explaining to me that he couldn’t resist the temptation. Later he would find the walking stick helpful to steady himself over difficult terrain.

Trail to Dealaman Pond, Warren Township

The trail often disappeared, blocked by broken and fallen limbs from the heavy snowstorm last month. A bit of bushwhacking put us back on the trail toward the pond.

Startled by a whoosh above us I looked up to see a huge Barred Owl spread its wings and take flight from a tree directly overhead. Dad, concentrating on his footing, missed the barrel chested, furry flier.

Priorities are a funny thing.  Until I began spending my Thursday’s with Dad, benches had not registered on my radar as being of much importance.  After our walk along the trail skirting the reservoir in Martinsville where benches are non-existent and fallen trees are scarce, I realized how important benches are to us.  They provide a place to pause in comfort, to rest, to reflect on our conversation, to write and to draw.  We discovered an abundance of benches along the Dealaman Trails.

Counting the boards on the bench

I watched, curious, as Dad examined the bench.

“Ten 2 x 4’s were used to make this bench” Dad announced before testing it out.

The presence of benches has become as important to us. We have decided to rate the trails with the same spirit we rated the hotels during our Indiana Trips with Alexis, Nicole and Michael.  After today’s walk we decided to begin a notebook rating the trails according to our specific requirements.  During the winter months we will create our criteria for trail ratings, benches being top on the list.

Tree bent and broken by the weight of the heavy snow from the storm last month.

Just past the first bench, and a bit more bushwhacking, we found the pond.  Dad marveled at the tree along the bank, wondering what had caused it to grow in such an extraordinary way.  I reminded him of the severe snowstorm that had broken so many of the trees throughout our area.  The same storm that had brought down the trees that blocked the trail to the pond.

Testing another bench

Dad decided that the ten-board benches were a boy scout project.

Crossing the dam

To continue around the pond we had to either walk along the rim of the dam or cross the small field of rocks adjacent to the dam.  Dad opted to walk the rim.

A redoubt?

On the far side of the pond we found several mounds of earth, possibly redoubts from the revolutionary war?  Perhaps a far fetched idea.  Growing up in Spring Run, it is not so far fetched.  As a child, I played in one of George Washington’s redoubts in the woods behind Spring Run.  The hill in the phot0 above was the largest of the earth mounds we found  along the perimeter of the pond.  The  depressions adjacent to the smaller mounds had been used as dump sites over many decades, chunks of rusted metal exposed, half-buried in dirt.

Fallen trees

The weight of the wet snow of last month’s storm had uprooted trees throughout Norther New Jersey.  The sight of the forest, the trees broken and strewn about, continued to puzzle Dad, having forgotten that the cause was a severe snow storm.  Every few steps we encountered a blocked trail, a fallen tree, a multitude of large, broken limbs.  It was as if each fallen tree we encountered was the first.  I still have a difficult time putting this experience into a context that both Dad and I can accept and move forward from.  The film Ground Hog Day comes to mind.

a two-board banech

On the far side of two huge trees fallen and frozen into the pond, we discovered a two-board bench.

“This one was not part of the boy scout project,” Dad observed before testing it out for comfort and view of the pond.  It was the ninth bench along the trail.

We continued around the pond… or so we thought.  Crossing over streams and bushwhacking through brambles we managed to get lost, ending up in a backyard of a house at the end of a cul de sac.  Rather than take the easy way back to the car by following the road, we headed back into the forest across a marshy clearing covered with thorny brambles.

Young trees

Eventually we came up Raspberry Trail.  It cut along the edge of a young forest, the trees being no larger than four inches in diameter.  Having forgotten to bring the trail guide with me, we circled back around to the far side of the pond rather than circling the pond back to the path leading to the parking lot.  We recognized the giant earth mound we had climbed to the top of earlier in the day.  My first thought was that Dad would have to walk the narrow rim of the dam one more time.

Pipes and Air Vents

Rather than stop to contemplate the blue, blue sky, Dad requested a halt in our walk to observe and appreciate the pipes and air vents on the building to the left as we walked toward the dam.  This is a common thread of the fabric of Dad’s life.  Building materials; plumbing, wiring, and siding are all part of the programming that triggers thoughts and memories.

Re-crossing the dam

I felt mighty irresponsible documenting Dad’s crossing of the dam rather than being right there with him, hand extended to prevent disaster.  I couldn’t help wanted to share the moment.

Bench designs

We counted twelve benches along the path, three different designs.

Nature's Abstract Patterns

I couldn’t resist the gorgeous patterns of ice, rock and grass.

The frozen pond

One last look at the frozen pond before heading back to the car.

Writing at the Muscle Maker Grill

No sooner had Dad written the date and location of our adventure than our lunch arrived.   Though he commented constantly on how much food was on our plates, he managed to eat it all.

Water Brush and Watercolor Palette

Back at Chelsea, I find his water brush, watercolor palette and sketchbook.  It is buried beneath piles of newspapers beside his chair.  I place the three objects on the seat of his chair hoping that maybe this week he will, as he is moving them off the seat of his chair, be inspired to make a mark or two in the book.

Dad's & Jane's watercolor paintings

Propped up on his bookcase are two watercolor paintings, one painted by Dad and the other by Jane during a watercolor class at Chelsea.  Dad’s is the barn, Jane’s is the lighthouse.  Both, I think, are quite good.


Words are hard to find, today.  I offer help, but Dad is determined to find them on his own.  I pull out my sketchbook, feeling equally as uninspired.

Harry & David's Moose Munch

Chocolate covered caramel popcorn helps a bit to distract me from the veil I am seeing more often, separating my father from the world we share together.

Moose Munch

I finish my sketch and look up to see Dad many miles and years away, pencil poised and eyes focused.  I start to draw again, his hands far more inspiring than the Moose Munch.

My father's hands

January 5, 2012

Chris & Dad after Dealaman Nature Trail and Pond hike – at The Muscle Maker Grill, Warren, NJ …….

Trail and ponds (frozen)

Tree had fallen

Waled around pond

Walked through squishy forest

Found car

Then back to my room

Coffee with Chris

Pencil to paper

Eyes to space

Pencil to paper

My father called it “Thoaks”

The homestead

Where I was born

A two-story, white house was there

And a large front yard

Shaded by huge oak trees.

Hanging from one large, high limb

Was once a dangling rope swing

With a precarious, hard board seat.

Swinging on it high was this boy’s delight

During those very hot, summer days

In the shade of the old oak tree.

Where the swing used to hang

And so ends another Thursday with Dad.

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