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I didn’t think finding a small, plain, fabric gym bag would be so difficult.  Not being a “shopper” made the task even more difficult. Today was my last opportunity to find the only gift Tom requested for his birthday on Saturday, but Thursdays are the day I spend with Dad.  After the recent Home Depot experience of losing sight of Dad, I panicked at the thought of taking him to the Bridgewater Commons Mall, my last hope after a dozen fruitless trips to other stores.  Luke saved the day by offering to join us on our trip to the mall.

After a failed attempt to open Dad’s safety deposit box at the bank, we headed to Luke’s for lunch before our shopping excursion.

Portrait of Luke and water glasses

The sunlight streaming through the window and striking water glasses stole my attention.  More Water Glass Still Life photos are posted on my other blog Third Time Around.

While the pierogies cooked on the stove, Luke made us seltzer in a fancy contraption he bought Carrie for Christmas.

Luke making Seltzer Water

Water Glasses in Sunlight

Did I just post another photo of the water glasses?  Ahhhhhh ….. sorry …… I couldn’t resist.

Still Life with Dad

Oops…. there I go again.  But Dad’s in this one, so I can get away with sneaking it in.

Luke and Dad

I brought a fistful of salad greens and some left-over chicken thighs from home to add to our luncheon feast of pierogies and Texas Toast.  After lunch we moved into the living room to entertain ourselves with a bit of music and dancing.

Luke setting up the player piano roll

Dancing Keys

As the keys danced, playing Has Anybody Seen My Gal, Dad sang along.

Dad singing along with the player piano

Still Life With Water Glass

Oh my …. another water glass still life …. I wonder how that happened ……..

Valentine's Day Still Life with Water Glass

Heavens….. this one is getting a head start on next month’s holiday.  Okay.  I will try to focus on the events of the day.

Blue Danube Waltz

When Luke switched to Blue Danube Waltz, Dad and I danced around the room.  I reminded Dad that he taught me how to waltz when I was a little girl.  In turn, I taught Alexis, Nicole and Mike to waltz when they were young.  I wanted to spend the afternoon listening to the piano and dancing with Dad.  Unfortunately, we had a mission.

Too big, Too bright, Too vinyl

Luke knew of three local stores to try before we tackled the Mall.  No luck finding the right kind of bag at the first store. Dad’s delight in the assortment of odd exercise paraphernalia surprised me.  He had been so bored in the electronics store a couple of months ago.  Being an electrical engineer, I thought he would have been fascinated with all the gadgets.  He wasn’t.

Core Stability Disk

Dad wondered why anyone would pay money for a core stability disk.  His amusement was topped only by Luke’s demonstration of the technique used for working out with the Official Shake Weight.  We headed to the next store.

Shake Weights

Two stores down and one to go before we would have to bite the bullet and go to the mall.  Eastern Mountain Sports did not let us down.  While I conversed with a salesclerk Luke investigated the Leatherman knives and Dad puzzled over the peculiar snowboards.

Dad's new sport

He was pretty keen on trying out that double  board, thinking it looked like it could be a lot of fun.  He was like a kid in a candy shop.  The salesclerk returned with the perfect gym bag.  I paid for the bag as Dad joined Luke at the Leatherman display.  He found the prices completely out of line with his thoughts on how much a good knife should cost.

Glued to the bike

The three of us headed to the door.  Our exit was delayed by Dad’s investigation of a racing bike.  It was impossible to tear him away from the bike.  He tested out the handles, wondering about the little gear levers and the odd downward curve.  While Dad stuck to the bike like a magnet, Luke browsed the bike apparel and found a cute little pair of shorts.  He thought he might start biking on weekends to have a good excuse to wear them.

Luke's new shorts

Fortunately, I talked Luke out of buying them.  We pried Dad away from the bike and left the store.  My thoughts flashed back to the challenge of gathering up the kids when it was time to leave a playground.  We drove back to Luke’s where we picked up my car and headed back to Chelsea by way of North Bridge Street.  In 1952 we rented the first floor of a house on North Bridge Street while Mom and Dad built the house in Martinsville

286 North Bridge Street

The house has been renovated and Dad refused to believe it was the house we had lived in.  I drove down the side street to see if he would recognize it from the back.

286 N. Bridge St. from the back

He didn’t.

“What looks different, Dad?”

“Let’s just say ….. nothing looks the same.  I am sure the house we rented was closer to the highway.”

I pulled back around and we drove passed the front of the house toward the highway so that Dad could see that it was only one house away from the highway.  He agreed that it had to be the right house.

“Things really change, don’t they …..”

We hadn’t written or drawn all day.  As we approached the quarry we talked about how that, too, had changed drastically since we moved to New Jersey in the early fifties.

Quarry as seen from Chimney Rock Inn

 January 19, 2012

The Quarry

Chimney Rock Inn (across the road)

An afternoon with Chris, The Dad-Daughter Combo

Chris and I are in her car, down the road and around a corner or two from where we lived for over 50 years.  They were good years,  —- very good years.

We bought a lot across the street from a Revolutionary War cemetery, built a brick house (mixing the mortar in a wheel barrow and laying the brick ourselves.  I have a photo of “Mom” laying brick.)  We moved in, from Somerville, before we installed the inside wall boards.  The first meals were cooked in the fire places.  The neighbors called us pioneers.

Dad worked hard getting the words into his green sketchbook.  It was a struggle.  It was an emotional struggle, I believe.

As we pulled into Chelsea, Dad mentioned that he had been looking at the croquet set in his room next to his door.  He had been thinking about how he hasn’t used it in a while.  He remembered his uncles playing croquet in the shade of the oak trees on the farm in Indiana.  He remembered Uncle Ken bringing his mallet with him.  I parked the car and pulled out sketchbooks out of my bag once more.

Sketching while Dad writes in the car

Some Sundays in Indiana

Farmers worked hard on week days, but Sundays were considered a “day of rest” (rest being interrupted to milk the cows, feed the pigs and cook meals over a hot, wood-and-coal-burning stove).  Most commonly the main dish was lots of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and various vegetables and fruits.  Generous second helping were not uncommon for that huge noon dinner meal.

After dessert the men disappeared to the living room or under the shade trees in the front yard and talked while the women gathered in the kitchen to wash the dishes and talk.  As I remember, it was a day that all members of the families looked forward to.

The uncles would gather in the front lawn and play croquet.  Uncle Ken was the best player, the athlete in the family.  He played basketball in his high school first varsity team.  The woman prepared food and washed dishes over the hot, wood-and-coal-burning stoves.  No one had air conditioning in those days.

Abstract Still Life of Water Glass

Thanks, Luke, for a fabulous day!

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Luncheon Invitation

No poetry or drawing today.  We were invited to Rosibell’s for lunch and what a spectacular lunch it was!

Cooked with love

When Dad lived in the house in Martinsville, Rosibell cleaned the house once a month.  Her daughter, Sheily, joined her and drew lovely pictures while her mom put Dad’s house back in order.  Rosibell also cleans Jane’s house and often asks how Dad is doing.  I was delighted when I heard that Jane, Dad and I were invited to lunch.

Beans, chicken and rice, salad, beets in egg salad and plantains were set before us.  Sheily and her older brother Brian joined us.  I was warned by Brian that if I drank too much of the pineapple drink it would make my throat feel funny.

Pineapple Jarritos

I don’t know why I don’t cook plantains at home.  I absolutely love them.  Sour cream with a bit of salt mixed in dolloped on top turns them into an extra special treat.

While Rosibell brewed extra strong coffee and fried up a bit of sweet dough to have with the coffee, Sheily treated us to a demonstration of how she makes doll clothes out of napkins held together with circular, self-adhesive chair floor protectors.  Sorry I didn’t snap a picture!

Barbie's winged high heel shoes

I did get a shot of Barbie’s Fairy Shoes, hidden beneath one of Sheily’s fashion creations, a napkin wedding dress.  Barbie will be getting married in October as soon as Sheily receives the boy doll for her birthday and Rosibell crochets a black tuxedo for him.

Rosibell, Jane, Dad, Sheily and Brian

After coffee and sweet bread we finished the meal with vanilla ice cream cones!  It’s going to be a hard act to follow when I pack the picnic lunch next week.  I’m hoping Dad will forget how delicious Rosibell’s cooking is and be happy with odd combinations like cheese and rhubarb jam.

I feel honored that Rosibell invited us to share her home, her cooking and her family.  She and her family have become a part of our family thanks to Dad and Jane.  Sheily and Brian won my heart.  I hope I see them again soon.

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I was later than normal picking up Dad. The reason?  Shelley, Jessica and Lily came to visit .  Jessica and Lily live in Florida.  Shelley was my next door neighbor for thirteen years (I think).  We spent every morning running either the 2 mile or 4 mile loop, regardless of the weather.

Lily

Knowing my schedule was tight, I had planned on a simple picnic…. peanut butter sandwiches.  Having no peanut butter, I hoped to have time to pick up a jar on the way to Dad’s.  I sliced the bread and smeared it with the only jams I had in the fridge, Blackberry Jelly and Rhubarb Jam.

Picnic Preparation

Naturally, time ran short and stopping at the store was out of the question.  I slice up Jarlsberg cheese, grabbed a fistful of tiny tomatoes, filled my water bottle and hoped for the best.

I arrived at Chelsea at exactly 11:30….. just as I had told Dad I would.  Whew!

As usual, Dad was asleep in his chair, wearing long pants in spite of the phone call I made to remind him I was coming and to suggest he change into shorts.  While he was changing, I dashed back to the foyer to snap a shot of the quilt square that had been made by a Watchung Regional High School student in the AP History program.  After one on one interviews with a few of the Chelsea residents, short bios had been written as well as lovely squares made for the Chelsea Quilt.

The Dave Carter Quilt Square

I will ask Anna how to obtain a copy of the bio that inspired this square.

After snapping photos of the quilt I returned to Dad’s room to find him wearing shorts and smiling.  We made sure he had his keys and off we went to Lord Stirling Park.  This week’s walk would be shorter than usual. Nancy Miller’s father passed away earlier this week and I needed to leave Chelsea in time to get to the wake.  Nancy and I attended both High School and Commercial Art school together in the sixties and early seventies.  Fortunately, we are neighbors once again.  Nancy’s father was a great supporter of our adventures and crazy ideas.  He will be sorely missed.  He lived in the neighborhood next to Spring Run where my father lived until earlier this year.

When we arrived at Lord Stirling Park we headed first to the herb and flower garden to eat our lunch and to see how it had changed since late Spring.

Purple Coneflowers and Great Lobelia

First we explored the aromatic herb garden, rubbing and sniffing until our fingers and noses couldn’t tell the difference anymore between lemon scent and rose scent.

Dad sniffing herbs

After sniffing we had our picnic.  Dad, of course, thought that Jarlsberg Cheese and Rhubarb Jam on seven grain bread sounded wonderful.  I am grateful that he is so easy to please.

An odd picnic menu

“You know, Chris, the power of suggestion is pretty remarkable.”

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“Well, these grapes taste just like tomatoes, just because they look like tomatoes.”

“Dad, they taste like tomatoes because they are tomatoes”

“But they are the size of grapes!”

Dad checking the date on his phone

After lunch it was time for the pencil and paper.  While I snapped some photos of the garden herbs and flowers, Dad walked around writing down all the names of the plants, labeled in the beds.

Cardinal Flowers; White Pussy Toes; Jack in the Pulpit; Common Horsetail; Dwarf Scouring Horsetail, Hidcote Lavender; Logee Blue Rosemary; Gray Santolina; ruby Heart hens and Chicks; Lambs Ears; Sensitive Plant (I’ll have to check on that one when we visit the garden again…. it was the last on his list.)

He then checked his phone so that he could document the notes with the proper date.  I suggested he write down a few words describing how he felt about being in the garden again.

Chris’s camera and Dad’s pencil and paper,

record flowering plants surrounding the six-sided patio.

It is 6-sided, 6 feet from center post to each of the six perimeter posts.

Sandwich wrappings lie on the bench as Chris takes pictures and as I write.

The sun shines brightly,

casting vivid shadows on

the concrete and wooden-plank floors.

White billowy clouds decorate the deeply – blue sky.

the gentle, cool breeze

nudges the leaves.

In all this silence,

it is exhilarating.

We talked about what he had written.  The simple facts of our surroundings had begun to transform into beautiful imagery.  We talked about how he now wrote in prose rather than rhyme.  I asked him if he thought about rhyme anymore.

“I think I am concentrating more on what I am saying rather than how I am saying it.”

Dad searches for words

I began to draw as he began to write again.

Purple Coneflowers

The coneflowers were beginning to fade.

Blue False Indigo

The dark, hard pods of the Blue False Indigo contrasted sharply against the late-summer green of the leaves.

Cardinal Flowers

Cardinal Flowers still screamed their color of fire and passion in spite of some withering.

Dad searched for the words he thought I wanted to hear…..

On a Walk In The Woods

Chris looks to her Dad for poems

Pencil and paper are even on hand

Imaginative phrases would really be grand

The breezes are silent

The shadow from waving leaves do beckon

But the words being sought are oblivious

Nowhere at all to be found.

But wait, did I hear a couple just now?

I had better write them down.

They just might work, somehow.

View from the herb garden

We left the garden behind and followed the trail into the woods.

Leaving the garden

Once we were off the wooden path, surrounded by trees, Dad slowed down.

“These shadows are pretty tricky.”

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“It’s hard to know where I’m stepping.  The shadows are like a camouflage.”

We walked carefully and slowly along the uneven path spotted with light and shadows.

Clouds and Sky

Each time we left the woods and entered a clearing, we would stop ….. hand on hips, face to the sky, in awe of the shapes of white and blue.

The Blue Blue Sky

We made our way over to the North Tower. In the late Spring, the weeds had only been about a foot high.  Now they were taller than Dad.

Grasses taller than Dad

I mentioned it to Dad.  About twelve steps later he corrected me.

“Grasses, Chris. These are grasses, not weeds.”

"Anything But Costumes" water bottle

The metal water bottle that Lowell gave me with the Prop Shop logo is perfect for our walks.

In need of repair

Our progress was extremely slow.  We wound our way back toward the Sugaring Shack, past the storage sheds and this old, brick building that Dad felt was in need of a bit of repair.  When we finally reached the grove of trees behind the Sugaring Shake we rested on the benches in the shadows of the trees.

Shadow Camouflage

I suggested we put pencil to paper again and play a rhyming game.  Be forewarned …  playing rhyming games with Dad is a bit like playing Hink-Dink with Dad.

I came up with the first two lines.  Dad followed with two more, two more from me, one from Dad …. joint effort from there on…

Maple Sugar Candy

Wouldn’t that be dandy?

I can almost taste it now

But now it’s gone, somehow.

Marshmallow Fluff

Great tasting stuff

Mixed with berries and cream

Is a young farm boy’s dream.

I stepped in a hole

And dropped the bowl.

Sticky and gooey, I slipped on the slop,

Stepped in the goo, and teeth did drop.

Dad came up with the last two lines.  He commented,  “This is not very intellectual.”  But, every other line we came up with to replace them was “not very dramatic”. We settled for the drama rather than the intellect.

Dad took a break and began to swing from the limb of a nearby tree.  The motion of the limb as it bent back and forth toward the ground reminded me of the giant fan above the dining table at Longwood, an Antebellum home near Natchez, Mississsippi that we visited back in the early 60’s.  The memory of that trip inspired our next rhyming poem.

Bending branch like ancient fan

Cools the flesh as best it can.

Natchez heat in mid June

Court of Two Sisters to hear a tune.

Paper mill fumes

Filled the rooms

We held our noses

And thought of roses

But, alas, to no avail

We vomited into the pail.

Sorry.  Maybe we will do better next week.

It was getting late and I needed to be at the Funeral Parlor by seven.  We left the grove and headed to the car.

A dragonfly led the way along the path.

“Ahhh, a Snake Doctor”

“The dragonfly, Dad?”

‘We called them Snake Doctors”

“Why”

“Oh… if a snake was sick, a dragonfly would land on it.”

“And then what would it do?”

“I don’t know, it was just an expression.”

“But what did the expression mean?”

“I don’t remember.  It must have meant something.”

Our rhyming game had not produced quality poetry but it had made us laugh so hard that our sides ached and tears ran down our cheeks.  We giggled and we guffawed.  The day, though short, had been spectacular.

Hours later I held my friend, Nancy, in my arms. Her Dad will no longer share our adventures, our laughter, our tears.

Even though, at the end of the day, Dad doesn’t remember our walks together, he is 100 percent there while we are together.  Wonderful memories are still being created even though I am the only one who can pass them along.  Maybe Nancy will join us on one of our walks together. We always shared our Dads.

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