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Posts Tagged ‘Family History’

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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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dad was in a deep sleep when I arrived.  He stumbled as he wandered over to his card table and began asking me what the different papers were on the table.  He opened his cell phone to check the date and time.  The cell phone was dead.  No wonder it transferred to the phone message when I called him to tell him I was on my way.  He looked to his calendar as if to locate himself.

“Ah…. it says it’s Grand Daddy’s Birthday!  He was born in 1898.  Is it June 7th today, Chris?”

We had a few minutes before we left to drive to Dr. Frisoli’s for Dad’s vitamin B12 shot. I handed Dad his green notebook and a mechanical pencil.

Extrusion

Words squeezed out

Of a sleepy brain

Trying to make sense

Seems in vain.

During the ten minute drive to the doctor’s we played the Dust Off the Cobweb Game again.  This time he remembered whom I was married to, how many children I have, as well as their sex and names!  When we arrived at the doctor’s, we had to wait again.  Out came the pencil and the book.

Illustrated Birthday Poem

Grand Daddy’s birthday

Is today

Born June 7th

1898

How LUCKY we are

To have been born

How great a world!

How great a day!

6/7/12

From Dr. Frisoli’s we went to Benny’s for an early lunch.  I wanted to let them know the house sold.  Again, we found ourselves seated and waiting.  This time we were waiting for our delicious lunch to arrive.  Dad asked his favorite question (for the fourth time already that morning).

“So how’s the family?”

I told him again that Alexis and Nicole would be coming to see him next week and I repeated what each of the kids are currently doing.  When I mentioned that Mike is paragliding, Dad smiled.

“I always had a love for flying….. I always loved flying!”

Out came the book and the pencil.

Trying to remember what he was going to write about.

Flying

Flying was a dream of mine

As I watched the birds in flight

that may be one reason why

I joined the Air Force, to fly on high

It was a good choice

It took me to Yale

I received gold bars

To The Pacific took sail.

He put down his pencil and stared intently at the glass display case.

Cookies for Sale

“Why, that’s pretty darn close to thirteen dollars if you ask me.”

Helen arrived, looking gorgeous in turquoise blue.  She and Benny already knew about the house.  They had seen Jane and Dad just a few days before.  Helen shared the good news of her daughter’s recent employment as a writer.

Helen and Dad

During lunch we played a new memory game, Name the Livestock.

BOVINES:

Guernsey – White faced, brown bodies

Jersey – Brown – almost solid brown, white nose, feet and tail

Angus – Black

Hereford – white face, brown (the description was later changed to “a young female cow of any kind.”

A pause …… “Are we talking about cows?”

“Yes, Dad, you are naming the different kinds of cows.  What about the black and white cows? Not the ones with the band around the middle, but the spotty ones.  Do you remember their name?”

“I can’t come up with it.  Pigs …. New Hampshire …. Black and White.”

Clue – “H”

Another clue – “HO….”

“Holstein”

“Are they black and white, Dad?”

“I’ll have to think about it.” ………….”What am I fishing for?”

We moved on to pigs.

PIGS:

Duroc – Red pigs

New Hampshire – Black with white band and tail

“That’s all I remember.”

“What are the white pigs called?”

“Maybe Berkshire.”

“What are the black and white spotted ones?”

“Poland China. I had a Poland China, a gilt (young female).”

“What kind of pig was the one that died because you forgot to water it?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do pigs cross mate?”

“I don’t recall that they did.  The farmers probably made sure they didn’t.”

“I’d like to see a red one with a white band.”

“I don’t think the farmers would go for that.”

“Artists would.”

“Artists ….. and the pigs probably would.”  Dad smiled.

SHEEP:

“What about sheep?”

I don’t know if I can remember.  I don’t believe I can come up with that. Hmmmmm. Nope.  Don’t remember.”

We didn’t move on to POULTRY.  Instead, we drove to Lord Stirling Park.  We passed a gas station on the way up the hill. Dad chuckled again, seeing a sign for Premium gas at $3.99 per gallon.

“That’s pretty darn close to $4.00.”

I parked the car and we headed directly for Boondocks Boardwalk at the far end of the park.  Dad was feeling wide awake now and confident that he had the stamina for a long walk.

Honeysuckle was in full bloom along the path.

Dad picking the honeysuckle blossom

Extracting the nectar

Tasting the Honeysuckle

Dad had never tasted honeysuckle.  I taught him how to extract the nectar from the blossom.  Sadly, he couldn’t taste the sweetness.  Just as his sniffer isn’t working so well anymore, neither are his taste buds.

Further along, white wings filled the air, flitting from blossom to blossom.

Butterfly or Moth?

I still hadn’t taken the time to research whether this white-winged insect that we saw each week was a butterfly or a moth.  Dad insisted it was a moth because it didn’t have any colors.  Today, his opinion remained the same.

A diversion from journaling the day’s walk ……

During this past weekend’s Keyport Garden Walk Plein Air Event one of these winged creatures landed on a bush beside me.  I asked my friend if he thought it was a butterfly or a moth.  He, like my Dad, grew up on a farm.  “I’d call it a moth,” he said.  “Why?” I asked.  “It doesn’t have any color,” he answered.

I finally took the time to find a more definite answer.  Both butterflies and moths are classified in the order of Lepidoptera.  Butterflies and moths differ from one another in five basic ways:

1. Antenna – (Butterflies – rounded clubs on the end) (Moths – thin, often feathery)

2. Body – (B – thin and smooth) (M – thick and fuzzy)

3. Active – (B – usually during the day) (M – usually during the night)

4. Pupal Stage – (B- chrysalis) (M- cocoon)

5. Wings – (B – held vertically when resting) (M – flat against body when resting)

Only two of the above can be attributed, definitely, to the insect in question.  We definitely observe the activity during the day and the wings are definitely held vertically during the very brief moments of rest.  I believe the butterflies we see on our walks are in the family, Pieridae.  Pierids are rather conspicuous white, yellow, or orange butterflies, with around 1000 species worldwide.

I’ll never convince Dad that it is a butterfly.

Halfway to our destination I noticed an odd expression on his face.

“Are you doing okay, Dad?”

“I could use a rest stop.”

Bench

“Perfect timing, Dad.”  I pointed to the bench about four feet ahead of us.

“Not that kind of rest stop, Chris.”

We turned around and headed back toward the Visitor’s Headquarters, but we had walked too far.  Nature demanded immediate attention.  Dad tromped off into the woods.  He returned with a smile on his face.  He was determined to resume our hike to Boondocks Boardwalk.  We turned around again and headed, once more, for the far end of the park.

Picking up the pace

Dad was walking surprisingly well.  His balance was good, his gait strong and posture straight and tall.  As we walked, we shared with one another our first experiences with shitting in the woods.  I remember learning my own personal technique from my mother.  I passed the technique on to my campers when I found myself a camp counselor at Camp Speers / Eljabar, in charge of twelve girls rafting or canoeing down the Delaware River for five days straight.

Black Snake basking in the sun

We were not the only ones enjoying the heat of the day.

Left behind

It’s not unusual for us to discover abandoned equipment among the trees.

“Looks like it was used for hauling logs.  Looks like something heavy was on it.”

It seemed to me that a car would be just as heavy as logs on the frame.  I asked Dad why he thought it hauled logs instead of being the frame for a car.

“It has springs on it.”

Taking a break

A Walk In The Woods

With Chris and bugs

Sweat dripping down

Off of the chin

She’s taking pictures

And writing a bit

I’m writing too

While on a bench I sit

The day has no sound

It’s as quiet as can be

Blue sky and green leaves

Is all that I see

No it isn’t,

There’s nature all ’round

Including mosquitoes

Interrupting me now

.. Dad ..

Silence of the birds

“Don’t you hear the birds, Dad?”

“No, I don’t.  I have ringing in my ears.  Maybe it’s the same frequency and I can’t tell the difference.  No …. I don’t hear birds at all. Do you hear birds?”

“Yes, Dad, they are louder than that plane….. Do you hear the plane?”

“Yes, I do hear the plane.  But I don’t hear birds.”

Boardwalk to Nowhere

We reached the beginning of Boondocks Boardwalk!

A bloom between the boardwalk boards

The swamp plants are varied and spectacular.

Swamp Plants

I can’t resist snapping photos of the variety of shapes.

Dad’s shadow shape

“Don’t you want the shape of my shadow in your photo?”

“Sure, Dad.”

Around the next curve, the boardwalk was blocked by golf carts filled with tools.  Beyond the carts were several men rebuilding a section of the boardwalk.  Ever so carefully we navigated our way around the carts.

Boardwalk Repairs

The men were a bit startled by our arrival and our desire to continue our walk.

“Do you think we can make the step across?” I asked.

They looked even more startled.

“How about if we lay a plank across,” they offered as they warmed up to our adventure.

“Excellent!”

Laying the plank

“So …. you’re going to make your Dad walk the plank?  What kind of way is that for you to treat your Dad?”

Now everyone was totally into the adventure.

“How about two planks?”

“Sure, that’s even better.”

Laying the second plank

As they lay the second plank they warned me about the topsy-turvy nature of the boardwalk up ahead.

“Thanks.  We’ve walked it before.  I hold my Dad’s hand while we’re on the roller coaster section.”

“You wouldn’t mind then, sir, if we hold your hand while you walk the planks?”

“No….. not at all.”

Walking the Planks

A good time was had by all.  Dad and I continued along our way.

Tipped pilings

Gentle tips and turvies

Check the earlier Boondocks Boardwalk post to see photos of the extreme slants of the boardwalk as it winds its way through the far end of the swamp.

Dad’s energy level was starting to drop.  We stopped for another rest at what is called The Dance Floor.

Writing the last poem of the day

I see that I’ve written

about mosquitoes and sweat

well, both are still here

A’plenty, you bet!

We left the boardwalk behind and started back toward the car.  The path was level and without obstructions.  No need to hold Dad’s hand.  We paused every now and then to drink more water.  Dad’s fatigue was beginning to show by the shuffle of his feet.  His posture was a bit more stooped, but his balance was still quite good ….. or so I thought.

For no apparent reason Dad lost his balance.  In an effort to catch himself, he grabbed my arm with both of his hands and jerked me to the ground, much to the displeasure of my titanium hip.  We both lay still for a moment, neither one of us able to get up.  Slowly, I managed to stand.  My hip hurt, but I was pretty certain it was okay.  I think the muscles were wrenched in an unusual way and they were letting me know.  Dad still lay on the ground.

“What just happened?  Why did I fall?  Did I trip on something?  Why can’t I get up?”

“Relax, Dad.  Just give me a minute.”

I tried to help him up, but he wasn’t doing anything on his own.  He grabbed onto me and pulled.

“Dad, let go!  You’re going to pull me down again!”

He let go.

“Okay….. let’s do this carefully.  You’re going to have to stand up on your own, Dad.  I can help balance you, but I can’t hold all of your weight.”

It took at least five minutes for him to make the necessary maneuvers.

“Why can’t I do this?  I can’t believe that I fell.  I can’t believe it is so difficult for me to get up…………”

When he was finally standing.  We waited another few minutes before moving on.

“Dad, we are going to hold hands and we are going to walk very, very slowly.”

I didn’t dare let go of him even to get a walking stick for him to use.  Had I thought about it, I would have grabbed a stick before he stood up.

We made it to the parking lot and almost to the car.  He started to lose his balance again and grabbed my arm with his free hand.  Fortunately, there was a parked car in front of mine.  We fell against the parked car instead of landing on the sharp gravel.

Once again, I brought my Dad back to Chelsea covered in blood.  He had scraped his arm badly when he fell in the woods.  Vicki cleaned him up nicely and scheduled an evaluation for him.  Hopefully, he will begin to get physical therapy to maintain and build strength that he has lost by spending most of his time sleeping in his chair instead of taking his seven mile daily hikes and maintaining a one acre yard and a crumbling house.

Walking sticks will be our constant companions from now on!

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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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Dad and I had a fabulous day!

Be forewarned ….. this is a long post.

I got out of bed at 3:30 am.  By 10:00 I’d already accomplished a great deal.  My sense of satisfaction gave me a totally optimistic attitude about the day.  I made two giant sandwiches, grabbed two bright yellow napkins, two water bottles and the blue suede sketchbook that I’d given Dad to use at Chelsea … but he never did. I had one page left in my black ‘Walks with Dad’ sketchbook and I had a feeling I would need to start Book II.

I called Dad to remind him to make his bed and to let him know I was on my way.  Today was the day for Dad and I to walk the complete trail at Lord Stirling Park.  For one reason or another, we never made it to Boondocks Boardwalk.  In another week we might be battling with thousands of inchworms hanging from the trees and mosquitoes eating us alive.

Dad hadn’t made his bed and he had shaved only half his face.  I was delighted to see him anyway.  We both were in excellent spirits.  Together we made the bed, Dad shaved the rest of his face, grabbed a sweater, checked his pocket for his key and his neck for his alarm.  I grabbed the week’s newspapers to recycle …. and we were off.

The fragrance garden at Lord Stirling Park

It was a bit early for lunch, but it made sense to visit the herb garden first, eat lunch, then set out for Boondocks Boardwalk.  I reminded Dad to rub the leaves gently, then smell the fragrance on his fingertips.  He proceeded to mutilate the plants without the reward of the pleasant fragrance.

“As my Dad used to say, I don’t smell so good anymore.”

I handed Dad his green sketchbook and asked him to write a few words before we ate lunch.  I’m such a dreadful taskmaster.  I’m surprised he puts up with me.

The columbine are just beginning to bloom.  It was just about this time last year when I began to chronicle our walks together.

Virginia Blue Bells, Lord Stirling Park, NJ

As Dad wrote, I made a quick sketch of a blooming Virginia Blue Bell.

Enjoying the Day 4/19/12

Sitting in the sun

In New Jersey

Enjoying the day

With Chris

Solid blue

is the sky

Comfortable temperature, —

If wearing a sweater.

Silent breeze

Moves the leaves

This is the moment

We can cease (seize).

A bird flies over

Emitting a raucous caw

Is he, or she, claiming territory

Or just enjoying the day

…. Dad with Chris …

The sketchbooks were traded for two giant sandwiches.

“I made us something much better than the open-faced banana sandwiches we had a couple of weeks ago.”

“Mmmmmmmmmmmm.”

“What kind of sandwich do you think it is, Dad?”

“Well, it’s not tuna fish ….. but it is some sort of fish.”

“No”

“Is it turkey?”

“No”

“Is it chicken””

“Yes.  It’s curried chicken salad with cucumber and baby arugula on incredibly delicious whole grain bread. I guess you could say you don’t taste so good either.”

“Why? Because I didn’t compliment you on your sandwich?”

“No, Dad …. because you thought it was fish!”

“When?”

I don’t know if I will ever really get used to Dad losing track of the conversation so quickly.

I was without mercy.  Before heading out on the trail I handed Dad his green sketchbook again and asked him to write a few words about lunch.

About my Lunch

One half of a sandwich

Was ample it seems

It is now time to consider

Walking the woods and streams

Some say rhyming doesn’t matter

“It’s really not that important”

In fact it can often be

Quite distracting

We headed to the far end of the swamp, Boondocks Boardwalk!

The trail to Boondocks Boardwalk

We entered another dimension, somewhere between a sci-fi movie and the land of faerie folk. A blanket of Spring Beauties covered the ground.

Spring Beauties

Occasionally there were flecks of purple from the wild violets.

Violets among the Spring Beauties

A shaggy barked tree loomed over us as if to warn us that we were not in Kansas anymore.

Shaggy Barked Tree

We then came upon a beech tree that one might see in a Faerie Tale, the home of little creatures.

Storybook Beech Tree

Dad followed me off the trail toward the peculiar beech tree.  He then continued on into the woods away from the trail.

“Dad, that’s not the path!”

“What is?”

“It’s over here.”

We continued on our way through a bizarre grove of mutated trees, mostly beech.  I really need to investigate how trees manage to mingle with one another and even growing back into themselves.  I noticed the first two trees because they looked as if they were waltzing together.  I didn’t realize how attached they had become.

Waltzing trees

Two trees grown together

Limb growing back into another branch of the same tree

Branch growing into trunk of another species

And there were more mutations in every direction.

Growing together

A fashionable flare

Dramatic angles

We left the odd trees behind and ventured deeper into the woods.  We found an old car that apparently veered off the trail many years ago.  Dad thought it might be an old Studebaker from the shape of it.

Car wreck... Did it hit a tree?

The woods changed, the blanket of wildflowers became denser and a sweet fragrance filled the air.

Faerieland

“This truly is like a faerieland, Dad.”

“Much of the world is like a faerieland” was his response.

At one point the trail left the woods and led us around a meadow.

Lenape Meadow

“The south-side is better.” Dad announced.  I hadn’t a clue as to what he was talking about.

“The brambles are all reaching south to the sun.  I’m having to dodge thorn bushes because I’m walking on the north-side of the the trail and you’re walking on the south-side of the trail.”

The blue, blue sky and a long, long trail.

As soon as the trail widened Dad stopped to admire the sky.  I told him that if I were ever to make a sculpture of him, I would carve him in the position he takes when admiring the sky.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the sky…. ”  He started singing a song:

There’s a long, long trail a winding

unto the land of my dreams,

Where the Nightingales are singing

And the moonlight gleams.

He went on to explain ….

” I was thinking what a long, long trail this is and the words to the song just followed that thought.”

“Are you tired, Dad?”

“I’m fine.”

I told him I hoped we would make it to the far side of the swamp.

“That’s pretty ambitious.  I hope you can carry me back.”

“If you can’t make it back, I think I’ll just leave you there.”

“It’s a good way to go.”

“There are certainly worse ways.”

A little further up the trail, the boardwalk began.

The boardwalk through the swamp

We walked ….

More boardwalk

And we walked ….

Quickening his pace

And we walked …..

Path to nowhere

“I guess we won’t go that way, Chris.” Dad pointed to the boards that led to nowhere.

And we walked some more ….

Approaching The Dance Floor

Until we came to The Dance Floor, an observation deck above the swamp.

Almost at our destination

We climbed the stairs to the observation deck and rested.  I sketched Dad as he wrote in his book.

Dad writing while resting on the observation deck

The Woods

With a stream running through

With the trees reaching

For the clear, clear blue sky

With their branches’ new sprouts

Announcing that summer is near

And that shade will soon appear.

The floating white clouds

Glide silently over our heads.

Their reflections gleam in the stream.

While Chris and I write

I hope our lines will reflect

some of the beauty here seen and felt.

Dad 4/19/12

We continued on, passing through a “Gateway to Somewhere.

The Gateway to Somewhere

And finally we arrived at our destination, the Boondocks Boardwalk, a roller coaster of a boardwalk.

Boondocks Boardwalk

The slant of the boards was so extreme at some points that I insisted on holding Dad’s hand.  It seems inevitable that I lead him into danger on our weekly walks.  When he moved too close to the edge I mentioned that he had stepped off the edge of the dam a couple of weeks ago and cracked his head on some rocks.

“I remember looking at the ground up close.”

Sometimes Dad’s memory works!

We reached the far end of the swamp and circled back.  Along the way we rested.

Bench Number One

Bench Number Two

Between Bench Number One and Bench Number Two I found a snake on the trail.

Snake

“I think you better move it off the path, Chris.  We wouldn’t want it to get stepped on.”

I carefully lifted the stiff, already dead snake, off the path.

Dad was weary and his feet shuffled a bit along the trail.  But his eyes were bright and he wore a smile.  He had done it.  He had walked to the far end of the swamp and back.  I was relieved.  I really didn’t want to leave him to sleep on the topsy-turvy planks of Boondocks Boardwalk.

We returned to Chelsea.  In the parking lot I handed Dad his green sketchbook one last time.

One last entry for the day.

April 19, 2012

What a great, sunshiny day with Chris!  Not a cloud in the deep, blue sky.  We enjoyed riding in the car, chatting about this and that.  My 88-year old joints ache a wee bit, but walking in the woods is what the joints and the mind need.  I ponder what Louise, Ann and David and families might be doing at his moment.  It’s been 89 great years, working on the 90th! Wow.

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Two weeks have passed without posting the experiences of my Thursdays with Dad and tomorrow is Thursday again. I’ve had an emotional block, unable to find enough joy and humor to balance the grief I am experiencing as I watch the rapid decline of my father.

So now I will try to catch up …

April 5, 2012

The day began with a quick visit to Dr. Frisoli for Dad’s Vitamin B12 shot.  From there we drove to the house.  The buyer’s metal scanning crew found what they thought might be an oil tank buried in the yard.  The oil tank was removed in 2009.  I brought Dad to the house hoping he might remember what sort of propane tanks were used to fuel the gas stove before the natural gas line was installed two decades later.

Searching for clues

We circled around the house four or five times.  Each time I tried to trigger Dad’s memory in a different way.  Each trip around the house he asked what it was we were doing.  Each time around he emphatically stated that we never had two tanks buried in the backyard.  Other than that, I wasn’t able to retrieve any useful information.

After the previous week’s bloody mishap I though Hofheimer’s Grotto might be a safe place, a flat, pleasant walk on soft dirt.

Picnic Lunch without the protein

We started with a picnic lunch.  Unfortunately, I left the almond butter on my kitchen counter.

Banana Sandwiches

Instead of eating almond butter and banana sandwiches, which would have been odd enough, we had plain banana sandwiches instead.  Dad, of course, loved them.  He especially liked the yellow flowered tablecloth that matched the banana peels and the napkins.  He is so easy to please!

After lunch we walked to the grotto.  Dad’s balance was fairly poor.  I decided to do the trail backwards, starting at the grotto instead of ending at the grotto.

Hofheimer Grotto

The warm weather had stimulated the growth of algae, but beauty of the spot was not diminished.  Dad wanted to join me walking the rim of the grotto.  I hesitated.  The path was fairly even, but a bit narrow.  I agreed as long as we held hands and walked slowly.

Hofheimer Grotto Reflections

After walking the rim path

We arrived safely on the other side.  Dad was pleased to have different vantage point.

“How are we going back?  Are we walking across that?”  He pointed to the narrow, perhaps ten inch wide, cement wall that acted as a dam.

Crossing the damn?

Remembering the bloody result of crossing a much wider damn the week before, I told him absolutely not!

“Dad, did you want to walk across that?”

“No, not really.”

We had to cut our walk short to return to the house for more investigating.  During lunch I had a conversation with my brother and we thought it best to check out a couple more things.

Dibs on the small one!

We made a pit stop before leaving the park.

“Dad, do you want the big one or the little one?”

“Oh, I think I’ll take the big one.”

Dad laughed on the way back to the car.

“Reminds me of when I was a kid ….  We had a two-holer at the farm.  One hole was big and one hole was small.  When my cousin and I would have to use it, we’d call dibs on the holes, hollering ‘Dibs on the small one! or Dibs on the big one’ ….. but we were small ourselves so we usually wanted the small one.”

I hadn’t heard that story before.

After we finished our detective work at the house we took a walk around the neighborhood.  We ran into two neighbors, both delighted to see Dad.

The blue blue house that matches the blue blue sky

One neighbor recently painted their house.  It stopped Dad dead in his tracks.  The house matched the sky perfectly.  Dad looked bewildered, as if his favorite blue, blue sky had dripped all over the house.

We headed back to Chelsea….. no poetry or sketches today.

April 12, 2012

I spent the morning digging for the ghost tank…… and finding nothing.

When I arrived at Chelsea, Dad was asleep.  The remains of his lunch were on a tray on the floor beside his chair.  On the table was his new copy of  Atlas of World Aviation.  The book had vanished three days after it had arrived as a birthday present from Louise and Dave.

Atlas of World Aviation

Whereas a month ago Dad became totally absorbed by the book.  He appeared a bit confused by it this time around.

I was relieved when Jane joined us for a game of cards.  I needed a distraction from my sadness.  We played one to ten and back again.  By the end of the game Dad had managed to do quite well, as he usually does when playing games.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.  I’m hoping for good weather.

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